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Mozzies, lorries, backhoes and bulldozers

*Pictures to come later

Back in Fort McPherson…

We were hopeful. We woke up to the news that the road was finally open. Now the pressure was on the ferry men to get the boat going. We could see the traffic starting to stack up on the other side of the banks. This was wonderful! The banks had been empty for days. Now, it appeared that it was possible to move pass the road washouts.

However, the log-jam was not cleared out completely. There was one resistant pile hanging on, with one very larger tree still hanging on the cable. Earlier, they had loaded a backhoe onto the ferry, drove to the other side of the boat, hung the arm over the water, and tried to clear debris that way. This was very exciting, as they did not counter weight the other end of the ferry, and the whole ferry was weighted down and heavy on one end, causing the boat to be way low on that end.  This cleared some of the jam, but not all.

Finally, a ferry man climbed on top of the woodpile with a chain saw. Talk about getting paid to do stupid things! It was sort of like standing on pick-up sticks and removing the sticks. I shook my head. I wanted out of there, but not at the expense of someone getting hurt. A reminder of how you just need to do what you need to do this far north. He climbed back in the boat and they rammed the woodpile again. Most of it broke up and floated down stream. The northern peanut gallery broke out in cheers.

Image of a boat next to a pile of debris in the water with a man with a chainsaw atop the pile

Playing dangerous with a chainsaw

The next thing that needed to happen was to complete the load ramps. The high river had washed away the dirt loading ramps on both sides. They were having difficulty in making a stable dock on the south side. Too much of the bank had eroded away, and all the gravel they were putting in was falling through and getting washed or saturated to where there was no stability. They worked on it for hours, and finally ended up with a bank they hoped would work. We spent the entire day watching them push dirt around with machinery. The best we could hope for that late in the day was Eagle Plains.

Now, all the people who wanted to get out of there were not so sure they wanted to go first! Dave the truck driver, said he would rather wait until it was more compacted down. We hemmed and hawed. With skinny motorcycle tires, we would certainly sink further than a lot of folks. I told Michael I would rather drop my bike on the other side of the bank and have people around to help me up, then to be stuck in FM another night. We volunteered to go. It turns out this was a good move.

We waited for the entire ferry to empty. The ground was like oatmeal. We approached the south ramp and the ferry guys’ eyes got real wide.

Michael went first and dropped into the slop, and sunk. He throttled it to get through and fishtailed to the top. I went next, the ferry guys’ eyes got even wider. I swam through the oatmeal, got purchase, and made it to the top and didn’t look back. We were finally on solid ground on the sound side of the Peel River.

We heard later that this was a very smart move on our part. When they tried to reload the ferry right after us, a truck pulling a trailer got stuck and tore the ramp up. Even with repairs, it was too soft. The first car off on the south side ripped its bumper off completely, and several motorhomes scraped the undercarriages trying to get off; some doing extensive damage. Dave, whom we met up with in Eagle Plains for a beer later that night, said when his front two tires of his diesel hit the soft ground, he felt it sink and could only mutter, “Oh crap.” He had a vision of his truck being stuck half on the ferry and half on this soft-sinking bank.

Once on the road, we discovered it was a smooth ribbon winding through the bush, with only minimal ruts. We passed Rock River and couldn’t even tell the road was nonexistent just the day before. Every time we stopped the mozzies (mosquitoes) fed. The dragonflies kept hitting my windscreen with loud thunks.

We were told to keep an eye out for the porcupine caribou herd; it was migrating in the area. We kept an eye out, but didn’t see the herd. We did catch sight of more moose, and several folks saw grizzlies. But, with my eyes focused on the gravel, it was hard to watch the road and the scenery consistently. Several hunters were successful with caribou.

We rolled into Eagle Plains and got the last room available. We had Lead Dog Ale in the bar, and Dave joined us for road stories. We exchanged addresses and plan to stay in touch. I said hi to Jaz’s favorite friend in the bar.

Carved by the tires of other travelers
FM4
About Maya

My name is Maya, and I wander.

Comments

  1. Congrats on getting onto the ferry! Such an amazing trip.

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