• A week of chance encounters led to this picture in Tuktoyaktuk, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, with pingos in the background. On the right, local gal Shelby sits on her kitted-out 2014 JK Jeep Wrangler. In the middle, Jason, a top-notch Canuck who rode his BMW 650 GS Sertao up from the Lake Louise area. Yours truly to the left, in a perfectly toasty Inuvialuit parka stuffed with goose down and wolverine fur. 
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Going back a bit: After finishing the Trans-America Trail I took a break in Seattle, enjoying a day-trip to the San Juan Islands with a friend, and this sensational cove. 
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • I spoiled myself to everything I couldn't get on the Trail and wouldn't get in Alaska: Crab Benedict, BBQ oysters, clam chowder, and a lazy sunset cruise across the water.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • I took the Cassiar Mountain route north through British Columbia instead of the Al-Can Highway. By the time I reached Kitwanga Junction, I realized the drive would be SPECTACULAR. Even knowing that, I had no idea. Western Canada is stupendously, mind-numblingly beautiful. It's got mountains...
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • And evergreens and mountains...
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  • And giant, azure lakes and mountains...
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  • Then rolling hills of evergreens with mountains in the background...
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  • And flat stretches of evergreens with mountains in the background...
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  • And Upper Gnat Lake. Whoever named this lake told the truth - ALL the gnats are here.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Then more lakes. Everywhere. This was one angle of Dease Lake.
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  • This was another.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • I made it to Teslin, Yukon Territory in the middle of the night. BC is so dark at night that you never know what you'll see when the sun comes up. I woke to this, Teslin Lake, behind the Yukon Motel & Restaurant. 
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • I camped next to the lake for too many days. Being almost the end of the season, I had power, water, and a view all mostly to myself.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • The bridge into Teslin, carrying traffic over the Alaska-Canada Highway. Juanita, the local who owns the hotel and one of 450 Teslin residents, told me the lake is 90 miles long and at this time of year there might be five people on it. Wild, quiet, beauty.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • I took a walk one day, working off a plate of pierogies and Klondike elk sausage, discovering more spectacular angles of Teslin Lake. There was a canoe on the shore. I sat on a bench right here and thought about it...
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • But I kept on walking. About 2.5 miles out of Teslin the trees opened up again, I strolled down to the rocky beach, and voila. Another slice of nature masquerading as a master's canvas. It never stops. Everywhere you look, BC is a thousand miles of Bob Ross paintings.

  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • But I had to leave - Alaska and the Dalton Highway needed me. On my way out of Teslin, I looked in my outside mirror and saw another gorgeous site. Happened all the time. So I turned the Jeep around to get a photo. Which is why it took forever to get anywhere.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Johnsons Crossing, about 30 minutes north of Teslin. The whole province is a wilderness paradise.
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  • I crossed into the Yukon Territory, and after Whitehorse things get higher, moodier, more dramatic. No less outstanding, though.
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  • The closer I got to Destruction Bay, the more temperamental Mother Nature got. Notice this scene, and the corner up ahead...
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  • After turning that corner, the world looked like this. The road dips and turns left ahead...
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  • And once I made that left-hand bend, the world looked like this again. Temperamental grandeur. If BC was 1,000 miles of Bob Ross paintings, the Yukon was 1,000 miles of computer-generated beer commercial backdrops and Ridley Scott movie stills.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • And mountains. Not the green kind, anymore. The punishing, handsome kind.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • And then Alaska, with its yellowing harlequin tundra. This is the Tetlin National Wildlife Area, an Important Bird Area (IBA), just over the border from Canada. The quietest place I've ever been. Not. A. Sound. I stood outside and waited for anything to make a noise. A bug. A breeze. Anything. But nothing.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • The road to Tok, Alaska where I'd find one of the few Shell stations north of the border, and a hot meal at Fast Eddy's Restaurant. I napped in the parking lot of the Shell across from Fast Eddy's, because Fast Eddy wanted $55 to park in their lot.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • I got more than a nap. This is car tuning, Alaska style. A 1941 MB Jeep with dual wheels front and rear (only the rear dualies are fitted) for better flotation, an 8,000-pound electric winch, the original engine swapped for a 75-hp four-cylinder OHV with a 24V sealed ignition.

  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Note the three giant gas cans. It can be a long way between fill-ups, as I'd find out when I returned to Canada...
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  • Then a Power Wagon, a 1949 civilian model with a 250-cu-in six-cylinder flathead.
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  • Then this, an M-37 Dodge 3/4-ton Power Wagon from the 1950s, with a 250-cu-in L-head six-cylinder, a 2,000-pound payload capacity, and deep-water fording thanks to that wacky Chutes-N-Ladders snorkel. Remember the Jeep and Power Wagon trio; we'll get to this again down the road.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Bohemian Brew mobile cafe in Tok. After another five-mile walk down Tok's gorgeous pedestrian path, I had a surprisingly good latte and a rest on a glorious day.
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  • The Alaskan tundra just north of Tok, getting into its fall turn. This and high mountains kept me company all the way to Fairbanks.
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  • More mountains. Everywhere, more mountains.
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  • Alaska's so beautiful everywhere that the state doesn't need to hold any in reserve. This was a rest stop. Next to me, on the left, there are two toilets. If you kept the door open while you sat for your constitutional, this would be your view. Better than old issues of Time and Omni, methinks.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Alaska doesn't stop with the harshness and brutality come winter, either. It gets so cold outside that you need multiple heaters to keep your car's fluids flowing, so everyone has a few inches of extension cord dangling from their grilles. At the Fairbanks library, this is how to park to get all the cars plugged in.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • I've been doing so many other things that I never considered the Northern Lights. I got to Fairbanks, and the owner of the hostel I stayed in said I could join him on the hostel's back porch to watch them. I did that for a while, then he said I should head to Creamer's Field, about a mile away, for a better view. I got two nights of shows. Stellar.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • I met a English woman in the hostel, she convinced me to skip the Dalton Highway and do Canada's Dempster Highway to the Arctic. So before leaving Fairbanks, I had a waffle only to say I'd been to the northernmost Denny's in the world. Worth it.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • From Fairbanks, I zipped back through Tok, then made a left on the Taylor Highway to get to Dawson City in Canada's Yukon Territory. The tundra grows less lush and colorful the further north you go.
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  • Yet it does have its spots. Somewhere on the Taylor Highway, headed for Chicken, Alaska.
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  • The town of Chicken. Originally called Ptarmigan, which is the state bird of Alaska, residents decided they couldn't spell ptarmigan, so they renamed it to the rodent of birds.
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  • High above the hills on the Top of the World Highway, a few hundred yards from the Canadian border and the world's northernmost border checkpoint.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • After filling up in Dawson, I turned onto the Dempster Highway about 11:30 pm. I kept thinking I saw clouds outside. Then I realized I was seeing the Northern Lights. This made three times in five nights. So I stopped and admired them again, along with the stars and the Milky Way.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Proof: Canada isn't always nice. Just because I skipped the Dalton didn't mean I could skip a flat tire. It was 3:45 am, 19 degrees outside. I was driving at night because there were no trucks, and I figured that was the best way to avoid a chipped windshield from rocks thrown by tractor-trailer. But the Dempster will have its due.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • The Dempster also knocked my bugout rack loose, which meant I'd come close to losing both my gas cans somewhere in that nocturnal emptiness. That would have been disappointing. So the flat did me a favor.
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  • Jeep engineers, however, did me no favors. Watch the Short Cut for the full story, but freezing my parts off while diddling around with the spare tire cover trying to get it to slide off the rearveiw camera housing made me a very unhappy boy.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • On the road again, I crested Wright's Pass during the lengthy Arctic dawn. On the north side, the tundra runs to the end of the world, marked by a constellation of pools and lakes glimmering in the early light.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • I got to the Peel River ferry at 8:10 a.m., the first ride didn't commence until 9:30 a.m. So I pulled to the side and napped for a few hours.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Just before reaching the second ferry at the MacKenzie River, a truck going in the opposite direction threw up a rock. "TapTAP!" A cracked windshield. It slowly worked its way from the edge toward the center of the windshield.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • It grew when it wanted, how it wanted. Sometimes when the Jeep was parked, I'd find it had grown. I wouldn't get to a dealer for a while, so...
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  • The back of almost every vehicle in the Northwest Territories looks like this. Check out the bear-shaped license plate. Can't read anything on them, though.
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  • Autumn tundra, lakes and rivers, low ridgelines - the end of the world is a magnificent place. 
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Cresting the hill that descends into Inuvik, facing the distant western mountain ranges that straddle the Alaska-Canada border.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Alestine's, a restaurant in a bus in Inuvik. I'd been told to have a meal here, but it was closed. Before I arrived, the chalkboard sign in front read, "Gluten? We put that s*** in everything!"
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • North of Inuvik, as the trees thin out before the Arctic treeline, the 92-mile, $300M CAD Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway navigates tundra hillocks and perfect blue Arctic pools.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • It all looks like this - a BBC Earth documentary. You've never seen aquamarine so... aquamarine.
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  • The pools get larger as you near Tuktoyaktuk...
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  • And more numerous.
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  • And then there it is, the toil of all these weeks: Tuktoyaktuk, a village of 900.
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  • The obligatory picture to prove I'd made it. Pingos are earth-covered mounds of ice that Tuk is known for; Tuk and Russia have the highest mounds.
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  • After the group photo and sitting on John Steen's porch again, I watched the sun go down over the Arctic with a Kokanee beer and some homemade chicken strips and french fries.
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  • That evening, I got to see the Northern Lights again. They stretched from one horizon to the other, hanging over Tuk at one end, and here, over the Arctic Ocean at the other end.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • John offered me his man cave garage as hotel room for the night. Well after 4 a.m. I made myself at home among the tools, snowmobiles, and hockey posters. Why no spare tire? Because I'd left it with John's friend Kevin, who said he'd fix it in the morning. Until then, I slept like a moose.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • I started the next day with another photo in John's back yard, next to the Arctic Ocean. Out of frame, a sea kayaker had got up well before me and was making his way south down the MacKenzie. Makes me cold thinking about it.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Then I went to Kevin. That fine man gave me a perfectly patched tire, and the sharp piece of Dempster Highway that had run all the way through the BFG All-Terrain KO2. I pledged to go a bit slower on the way south.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Then came the obligatory photo with the Arctic Ocean sign. Lest anyone doubt.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Then I turned for home, but not alone. This was given to me in Tuk. Her name is Dynamite. I'm going to show her the world, starting with a muddy, Muskeg good time in Alberta with the gang from MudBuz Wheelin'. Let's get it.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
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