Fellow travelers

While traveling throughout the far northwest we came across some incredible fellow travelers. Many of them were from Germany. As Americans we tend to see western history through “ethnocentric” eyes. We think only Bostonians, Chicagoians, and New Yorkers settled the west, discovered the gold, civilized the untamable. This was not the reality. Sure Jack London, Zane Grey, Max Brand, and Louis L’Amour told us how great American expansion was but just how many were really Americans?

What we learned from our new-found German friends was that there was a great western literary history from an author from Germany named Karl May. Karl May never visited the “wild west” but his stories fueled westward travel even today. Every German tourist we met got their “western travel bug” from reading Karl May. May created the characters of Winnetou, the wise chief of the Apache Tribe, and Old Shatterhand. German movie westerns were made following the exploits of these characters. May contributed to the popular image of Native Americans in German-speaking countries. Many well-known German-speaking people used May’s heroes as models in their childhood. Even Albert Einstein once said, “he [May] has been dear to me in many a desperate hour”.

When we meet our fellow travelers, listen to their stories, learn their histories we become a friendlier world, a peaceful world. I would like to thank my two new friends, Kai Otte and Sabrina Schmetter for teaching me that. And to the many other German travelers we met whose names went unknown to us. I hope we meet again!



The Dempster

Yup, this is the highway, it’s called the Dempster and is the most northern highway in North America and the only one to cross the Arctic Circle. (The Dalton crosses it in Alaska but that road has a lot of pavement and ends up in an oil town that is pretty horrible to visit). The Dempster follows the old dog sled paths used by trappers and miners. It’s 457 miles one way to it’s end in Inuvik, NWT with only one service station/hotel about halfway at Eagle Plains, YT. Truckers own this road and will kill you if you don’t pay attention. Ask my windshield. Round trip, which you have to do if you want to go home, is close to a 1000 miles on dirt, rock, gravel. and the worst mud you’ve ever driven in, we called it moose snot which seemed appropriate, all the while dodging 18-wheelers. It is an adventure I highly recommend.dempster1

Fort McPherson

The Gwich’in people of Fort McPherson are very welcoming of strangers and go out of their way to make them welcome. The population is 792, with 715 people identified as aboriginal, 650 as North American Indian, 30 as Métis, and 30 as Inuit or Inuvialuit. The St.Matthew’s Anglican Church, Diocese of The Arctic.



Almost every place has these little certificates for driving that far north, drinking a toe, sticking a toe in the arctic, etc… It’s sort of fun collecting them all. They also have “passports” for the historical routes that you can get stamped. It’s really challenging collecting all the stamps because some are in very hard to reach locations. Here are some of our little certificates for driving to the Arctic.