Swatting Mosquitoes in the Northwest Territories

Trip Start Jun 01, 2009
Trip End Jun 31, 2009

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Flag of Canada  , Northwest Territories,
Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This morning we experienced one of our rare days of rain. It wasn't much, but enough to wash the dust off the windshield and reduce the dust from the road.  Dust is a major issue on the Dempster Highway.  It is very fine and infiltrates easily into the crevices of one’s vehicle.  When it rains, the dust turns to mud and can be very slippery.  You lose either way.

We passed the Eagle Plains airstrip which is a widening of the road.  We didn’t see any planes but we kept to the side of the road just in case.  There is no terminal, no fuel facilities, no shelter, just a flat area.  Signs announce the beginning and end.

At the Arctic Circle there is a big sign and most first timers stop and take a photograph.   The Arctic Circle marks the southern extremity of the polar day (the 24-hour day of complete sunlight) and happens to be at Latitude 66 33′ 44″.  It was our first crossing and we enjoyed the moment.  Just after the photograph, the wind blew over my tripod and it fell to the ground and broke on a rock.  Fortunately my camera was not on it at the time.

There were so many mosquitoes in the Rock River Campground that we didn’t stop there for lunch.  It was our first major encounter with them and we made an attempt after that to stay in windy areas.  So we crossed the Richardson Mountains, and left Beringia and the unglaciated plains behind us.

There was a sign on the side of the road as we crossed into the North West Territories.  The inscription was moving.  "The people of the Northwest Territories invite you to enjoy the natural beauty and blessings of this part of the Trans Canada Trail.  It is a lasting living legacy to our love of nature and our love of our land.  The Northwest Territories is a land of ancient trails woven through a landscape of incredible natural beauty and diverse geography.  We are a place rich in culture with strong links to the natural rhythm of the land.  We thank our ancestors who travelled before us on these trails; whose gentle footprints remain to guide us safely on our journey.  We honour those who show humility and walk softly on our land.  We welcome you to explore and enjoy the beauty of our territory."

A free ferry took us across the Peel River. Soon after we greeted by an elder in the Gwitchin interpretive centre.  He was a wonderful ambassador to the area and spoke of previous times (before we upset his environment).  The Gwitchin (or Gwitch’in) were the major culture in this area.

In Fort McPherson (population 900) we tried to find Margaret who was known to make beaded leather slippers and Mukluks but she was in Inuvik for a trade fair.  It was the first time I noticed that I was pronouncing Inuvik wrong.  There is an accent on the second syllable, not the first.

Tsiigehtchic, a Gwitch’in community, (I couldn't pronounce it either) was the next place on the road until we came to Campbell Lake where there was a lookout.  We attempted the path up the hill to the lookout but we were driven back by the mosquitoes.

At the end of the day, we found the Gwitch’in Territorial Park and stayed there for the night.  A French Canadian fisher caught two pike but I caught nothing in Campbell Lake.  Janie found a caribou leg (from the knee down) but we discouraged her from eating it.  Hard to imagine how the caribou managed without it.  We walked past a hare sitting motionless which, along with his camouflage, made him hard to spot; and it worked because Janie didn’t even see it.  The breeze was sufficient to keep the mosquitoes away.
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