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

8 thoughts on “Southbound under Midnight Sun with Grizzlies

  1. Wendy Peebles November 3, 2015 / 2:52 pm

    Wow! Thanks for sharing your video and photos, Catherine. The scenery is spectacular and the wildlife is awe-inspiring. Fabulous shot of the eagle. I was aware of the midnight sun phenomenon but it’s different actually seeing broad daylight in the middle of the “night”. Thanks also for naming the singer. I knew the voice and songs were familiar but had been having trouble recalling who she was until I saw the credit.

    Wendy 🙂

    Date: Tue, 3 Nov 2015 11:51:36 +0000 To: wendy.peebles@bell.net

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    • catherinelake November 4, 2015 / 2:16 am

      Thanks Wendy! So glad you enjoyed it. Yes, it was amazing to see and experience the midnight sun.Utterly immersive.

      Like

  2. Sandy November 3, 2015 / 5:15 pm

    That is so cool! Not sure I would have been able to sleep there though….

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    • catherinelake November 4, 2015 / 2:13 am

      The light was exhilarating and energizing.But with eye masks we had good sleeps. I can see why, with their long dark winters, people would just stay up all hours through the 56 days of light. Like the wildlife and flora, I wonder if children grow and adults bloom more during the summers.

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  3. art.brewer@sympatico.ca November 3, 2015 / 6:03 pm

    Thanks, Catherine. Really enjoyed this. I wonder what that second grizzly was after – some kind of rodent? He was chewing on something after a few minutes.

    You’re such a good writer, Catherine. I hope you may be planning on a book!

    Art

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    • catherinelake November 6, 2015 / 5:58 pm

      Hi Art
      Thanks for reading and your encouraging comments. Grizzlies eat arctic ground squirrel and marmot so she was probably one of those. The yukon blond grizzlies are usually female.

      Like

    • catherinelake November 6, 2015 / 5:59 pm

      Hi Art
      Thanks for reading and your encouraging comments. Grizzlies eat arctic ground squirrel and marmot so she was probably enjoying one of those. The yukon blond grizzlies are usually female. So amazing to watch! See you soon.

      Like

  4. Walter ryan November 6, 2015 / 4:44 am

    I couldn’t access the video in this peice. But I did come across the Algonquin park video and Karen’s 50th. Video. What a pleasure to see and hear you Karen and Catherine.
    I did get the pictures of the Whitehorse Inn. Thank you so much for sending them along to me. It has certainly changed since the days when Cornelius Creighof Painted it. Catherine you have a fantastic writing ability. Charles Dickens comes to mind when I read your posts.
    Keep on keeping on you two …. Awesome 😀
    Walter

    Like

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