A little while later, I was turned away from the Peel River ferry landing, south of the marginally larger Gwich’in settlement of Fort McPherson – the last town I’d see before Dawson City, some 580km south. I was told that the summer meltwater had raised the water levels in the river and this ferry could not dock. “When will service resume?” I asked. The man shrugged. “Maybe tomorrow, maybe not.”
Like the locals, I’d found myself at the mercy of nature’s caprices. Unlike the locals, however, it was not a matter of life or death for me. Imagine having a medical emergency in Fort McPherson during the freezing (November to December) or the thawing (March to April) of the two rivers, when ferries aren’t running but the ice road isn’t open either.
I spent the night at the Peel River Inn, the settlement’s only motel, returning to the car ferry landing the following day. By this point, I was racing against time. Having used up one of my two “just-in-case” reserve days, I had little room for error if I wanted to make my flight out of Whitehorse. This time, I was in luck. The summer meltwater had receded sufficiently for the car ferry to dock, and I gingerly drove my SUV onboard.
Dense evergreen forest hugged the road on both sides and gravel flew from beneath my wheels as I pressed on south. There was a meditative quality to the monotony of the landscape; within hours, I’d left the craggy hills, snow-flecked tundra and glacial rivers behind and the world outside my car had been reduced to a green blur of spruce.
“I should make my flight as long as I don’t break down again,” I thought to myself. But besides the hassle of having to rearrange my travel plans, there was a more compelling reason I didn’t want to be stranded in these parts. It was not hunger or thirst that worried me, and by now I was even relatively phlegmatic about potential grizzly bear encounters. But I was frightened of wildfires, which have become increasingly common in the Canadian Arctic in the summer, caused by lightning storms. Having had to drive through the smoke of a wildfire elsewhere in the Northwest Territories, I discovered that the smell of burning triggered visceral, primal fear.
Join Our Telegram Group : Salvation & Prosperity