We have officially been living in Wabi-Sabi Overland for over 3 months now, and it definitely feels like home. There are a few things I occasionally want that are impossible to have in our 75-square foot environment (like a place large enough to stretch out my lower back), but there have been solutions to all those desires so far (go outside!). It has been a freeing experience to be a human on the earth. The sound of rain on the roof (something rather unheard of in poor, dry California these days), fresh air, wildlife, people we have met, and miles upon miles of uninterrupted wilderness have been a balm for my spirit.
We had the pleasure of enjoying a stunning double rainbow just a few miles south of the arctic circle along the Dempster Highway in Yukon, Canada. While the sun never truly set, the sun just sort of skims the horizon all day, so from one end of the rainbow to the other was a very short span. This was also my favorite spot to camp along the Dempster – in total we spent 3 nights there – because there were Dall sheep in the area.
This Dall sheep walked right by our truck as part of his daily routine every day we were there. We only saw 2 male sheep on our drive up the highway, but on the drive south we saw females with their young along the hills. They were much more cautious about our behavior and would quickly scamper away if we ventured outside at all.
We drove the Dempster Highway because it is one of only two roads in North America that cross the arctic circle and go to the Arctic Ocean. We were some of the very first people to drive the road this summer. In the winter, there are river crossings that are frozen over that can be driven across. Then there are months where the passage across those rivers is too dangerous as that ice thaws. After the thaw, there is a cable pulled barge and ferry to get vehicles across. We camped by the Peel River crossing for 36 hours and watched as the cable used by the barge was strung and tensioned for the summer season this year. We think we were the 3rd or 4th vehicle to make it all they way to the Arctic Ocean in Tuktoyaktuk this summer. When we arrived in early June, the ocean was still frozen solid, which I was not expecting at all!
You can read all about how we made Wabi-Sabi Overland, our home away from home, on its own blog, but we put a lot of care, thought, and planning into making the truck and living environment everything we would need. As you know, my sewing machine has come along for the journey with me and I have been enjoying the sewing I have been able to do while we travel. One aspect about living in a vehicle is it needs regular maintenance, just like a house does; the maintenance tasks are just a bit different. So, when your truck needs its tires rotated just after you’ve crossed above the arctic circle, it’s time to dig in and get the work done. Besides, how many people can say they’ve done their own full tire rotation above the arctic circle?
After driving the Dempster Highway, we made our way into Alaska. We have spent about 2 months driving almost all of the accessible roads in Alaska, including the second road in North America that crosses the arctic circle and reaches the Arctic Ocean, the Dalton Highway. The Dalton Highway was built for the oil pipeline and we weren’t sure what to expect, but the pipeline is underground for just about half of the distance.
The Dalton Highway goes through the Brooks Range and we thought the Brooks Range was a beautiful place to slow down and spend time. We saw a wolf at one of our camp sites in the Brooks Range, and we spent an hour watching a large grizzly bear eating berries from that same camp site. Not to worry – the bear was quite far away and on the other side of the Dietrich River. So far that my husband couldn’t get a clear photograph of the bear, but it was fun to watch it amble and clearly move from bush to bush.
In total, we spent almost 3 weeks above the arctic circle this summer. We were able to stop and help out several other travelers along the roads. From using our onboard air system to blow rocks out of the brakes of a car to help it continue on the dirt road to stopping in the rain to help change a tire in the cold and mud, it is all wrapped up in the memories I’ll carry with me about the trip.
The most magical time in the arctic for me was the afternoon we were able to spend with a herd of about 30 musk ox. They were resting for the afternoon on a rocky island along the Sagavanirktok River. It was a privilege to get to spend those hours watching them rest and socialize.
I’m grateful for my awesome Wellies that I’ve used to stay drive and explore rivers.
I’m grateful for the hikes and walks we have taken in the wilderness. I may be slow to cross a cable suspension bridge with wooden planks above a gushing glacial melt river, but when it’s about to rain after hiking to a glacier, you can bet I move a lot more quickly than when I crossed over the first time. Plus, I knew I could do it, right?!?
And I’m very grateful for our cozy and homey living environment. My husband and I both agree: it wouldn’t be the same without the quilts and pillows I made!