Road Home

I think I’ve avoided publishing these last entries so to prolong the sense of being in the road-trip dimension. Handwritten notes that I made through our journey call me to expand into posts. There is a meridian of poetry still pulsing. And photographs or video to share–which takes time to curate.

We’ve started back to work but I’d like to keep connected here with you for a little longer as Karen and I circle back mentally to regular home, regular routine while trying to keep the heart-road-map present in our minds.


Our southern Ontario autumn reminds me of the light of the Midnight Sun. A good long warm, and the hot is strong but not overbearing. Ontario’s summer is accentuated by dense haze, steamy fields and pavement, and humidity drooping thousands of leaves so that even the greatest of trees appear parched and weary.

The Arctic summer has a precise sun. It’s marvellous sustenance through what-would-be-night, inspires anytime action, play, and exploration. Viewlines are drawn to an owl swooping to prey or a bear travelling across tundra foothills. Ravens clamour and keen, their language circling back to us like excited words calling connection.

Having been North means I check Inuvik, Tuk, and Whitehorse weather occasionally and am more attuned to North of 60 media that manages to seep into our southern news. Here in Toronto, we all LOVED our mid-November 15º. It was -22º in Inuvik.

Karen I and continued to enjoy adventures and beauty as we drove south through British Columbia then east to home after visiting dear friends on Vancouver Island and the mainland. Some photos:

A whale takes a dive in the inside passage, mid-way down the coast of B.C.
A whale takes a dive in the inside passage, mid-way down the coast of B.C.
Bear Glacier. northern BC
Bear Glacier. northern BC

Wireless Roads & Wilderness Highways

Time in the Midnight Sun feels endless and unmoored. Night undifferentiated from day, the light is music without metronome. Karen and I inhaled the sunlight’s energy and enjoyed setting camp at 10 pm whenever we decided to travel long past supper — just the two of us on wireless roads and wilderness highways. And when we were on the Yukon River, the long light lent us respite from pitch black fear.

Time clocked longer, slower –and it was palpable. We talked about being on leave from our regular lives, being under midnight sun, just being in a qualitative different way of being. Indeed all such factors contoured our journey map. Turns out, time is measurably different depending on where, on Earth, you stand.

Illustration image
Earth at the June Solstice

Time is variable. For one thing, we humans measure time in a 24-hour cycle. However, a solar day –the time from one sunrise to the next sunrise–is never exactly 24 hours long. Its length varies throughout the year. Further, our earth moves in an elliptical path around the sun. And because of the earth’s tilt, if we were to visually chart the sun at the same time every day for a year, we would see a figure 8 or infinity symbol. This is called the solar analemma. And even then, the  would sport one loop wider than the other with precision imbalance.

The Equator is 2.3 times longer than the Arctic Circle–where the distance around the earth is 17,662 km. Earth rotates every 24 hours. At the Arctic Circle, you travel 736 km/hr and at the Equator, 1669 km/hr. With Earth’s curve, sunlight strikes the Arctic at a different angle than the equator. I felt this lovely light like Ontario’s autumn. And the Arctic darkness is also different. How does this influence the experience of time and the universe?

In the Arctic and sub-Arctic, the Noon-Moon is winter’s phenomenon — the celestial sister to summer’s Midnight Sun. Karen and I visited Whitehorse YK early December 2014 to see the Northern Lights (photo below) and we experienced 10 am sunrises and 3:30 pm sunsets. But I’d love to travel further into the shimmering darkness that follows the winter solstice.

Aurora Borealis December 3, 2014
Yukon Aurora Borealis Dec. 3/14

The masthead for this site has another photo of the Northern Lights taken from that trip.

This country we call Canada is unfathomably vast and diverse–geologically, culturally, and celestially.

The North gifts and challenges us with the extremes of change. Being North lets us open shutters to the dance and stillness of sky that in other parts of the world, simply go unseen.

Southbound under Midnight Sun with Grizzlies

On a high from our Tuktoyaktuk adventures, Karen and I decided to seize the daynight and we departed Inuvik, NWT at 7pm to travel the 766km dirt road south to Dawson City, YT. We had our full 26-litre gas can, spare tires, food, water, and eager desire to revisit our university days and pull a true all-nighter.

The road took us from the flatlands of the Mackenzie Delta into rolling Richardson Mountains and thoughtful vistas. Fields of snowy cottongrass bordered the rise of tundra foothills hosting summer golden grasses and orange lichen outcrops.The standing sun honeys exposed soil, burnishes rock outcrops and highlights the pools of lichen.

A few north-bound trucks and pick-ups had passed us early in the evening but by the Arctic Circle rest stop, we’d been road-alone for hours. By 1am we arrived in Eagle Plains. The motel and humming transport trucks slept while our little hatchback drank up our emergency fuel.

Throughout the Yukon, we’d read bear warnings at trailheads, outhouses, gas stations, and rest stops. Motorcyclists taking the Dempster had reported being chased by grizzlies. Even in Inuvik, residents warned us off hiking the parks and hillsides because of encroaching bears. While we’d had black bear encounters through each province, we were wondering if all the grizzly hoopla was just territorial hype.

Uh. Nope. Wrong.

By 1 am we saw our first –heavy deep brown fur traversing the eastern tundra rise, his shadow fattening behind him. Speed-rambling, he paused over  dwarf shrubs of green arctic willow to snout the air. By 2:30 am, we stopped again to watch and film a hunt  as another bounded up and down trying to grab her prey (likely hoary marmot or Arctic ground squirrel). Later, yet another Yukon blond was gorging on wildflowers alongside our car.

Grizzly at 1AM Yukon
“Kodiak” Grizzly at 1AM Yukon
Yukon Blond Grizzly at 2AM
“Yukon Blond” Grizzly at 2AM

In all, that overnight drive under bright blue sky and steady sun gifted us 7 grizzly sightings, owl, golden eagle, ravens, dall sheep, porcupine, snowshoe hares, Arctic ground squirrels, loon, merganser, and, at 6am, a lone moose swimming in Two Moose Lake about 100 km from the end of the road.

To get an idea of the road and the grizzlies, you can check out our VIDEO Dempster Highway Overnight with Grizzlies. And here’s a link to Yukon Grizzly info.

The next day we tried to set camp in the southern Yukon to find that tents were barred from the campground because the high protein, grizzly-loving soapberries were in bloom. We photographed the warning sign with said plant and then slept by the roadside, bear spray by our heads.

Southern Yukon roadside sleep
Southern Yukon roadside sleep