Inuvik Notes

Miscellaneous notes from our 4 days in Inuvik.

The sun doesn't set here for 57 days this year.

I'm up at 3am. Of course it's bright outside, but the thing that gets me are the sounds of people... outside, partying, talking, moving around, whatever. It sounds and feels more like 9pm on a Friday night. Perhaps we all have the same need to socialize, play, party. Down south, in the land of daily darkness, we tend to spread things out. Up here, it feels like they're making up for the days during the winter when the sun is nowhere to be seen.

Satellite dish antennae look like they're pointed at the tree across the street, or the neighbors house. Studying a globe shows that a direct line to a geosynchronous satellite over the equator does indeed require an almost flat shot at the horizon up here. Take that flat-earthers... how do you explain that?

The warmest weather we've experienced on our trip has occurred at the highest latitude. When we arrived in Inuvik yesterday, it was 81F degrees, a much warmer than usual temperature. As I write this at 3:30am, it's 64F. We've been disappointed by the amount of wildfire smoke in the air that's hampered visibility. On the way up yesterday, often we could see the outlines and shadows of what was sure to be spectacular scenery... but the smokey haze left us, sadly, with only those outlines and shadows. I'm sure we missed some more distant views altogether.There's a glimmer of hope that the weather pattern will change in the next few days, bringing winds from the north and clearing out this stagnant air. We certainly hope for that. It would make the drive back south so much more interesting.

This visit to Inuvik is our first, and , considering all the other travel we want to do, it could be our last. Both the expense and the ordeal of getting here are substantial. It's not the kind of trip one does on a lark. But I wouldn't have missed it either. It has, so far, been a trip of lifetime memories.

A few miles outside of Inuvik the surface of the road suddenly turned from gravel to asphalt. Slow down Bunkie, turns out that's not necessarily a good thing. While I'm sure the residents of Inuvik take pleasure in the lack of dust and dirt provided by the asphalt surface, and they probably like being able to keep a car clean for more than just a few minutes after a washing, I don't think they like the undulating wavy up-and-down asphalt pavement. Permafrost beneath the town makes paved roads susceptible to frost heaves and a generally unreliable roadbed that unpredictably sinks over here and rises over there. Those last 5 miles or so of beautifully paved road was the wildest ride of the 460 miles.

Just up the street from our campground is a little restaurant called Alestine's. Not something you'd expect in a more urban place like Beaver Dam, it's a tiny building with 5 tables downstairs, a few tables on the upper deck, and a few more scattered about on the yard of the owners home in a residential area of town. Who needs zoning anyway? The owners, Brian and Pam MacDonald, are fulfilling their dream of having a good non-chain restaurant that serves as much local food as they can get their hands on. They offer local fish, including fish tacos to die for, reindeer chili, Eskimo donuts, and a few other offerings I don't remember as I write this. It quickly became our favorite restaurant in town, and other locals we talked to feel the same. Oh, I forgot to mention that they do all the food preparation inside an old retired school bus that's parked on their front yard. You know, something this quirky and "out there" might just work in Portland OR, our other favorite weird town.

There's one big store in town... Northern something-or-other?... that is the go to spot to shop for everything from soda crackers to outboard motors and snowmobiles... and just about everything in between. I'm not up on prices down south for such things, but I do remember a 40 hp outboard motor going for almost $8,000. Food prices are higher than down south, as you'd expect, but it's not uncommon for things to run double what I'm used to seeing in large competitive stores in the States. There's a price to be paid for living up here.

Because the town is built on permafrost, all houses are built on pilings that isolate the ground from the heat of a house. Cold air must be able to circulate beneath the house in order to keep the permafrost solid. Dawson, down south, has examples of what happens when a building is built right on top of the ground. Over time, the permafrost melts a little here, and a little there... and the house starts to settle, slowly sinking into the ground, uncontrollably, like a torpedoed ship in slow motion. Permafrost also keeps them from having a successful system of underground water and sewer pipes. First, the relative warmth of the material inside the pipes would melt the ground and cause the system to sink and break. Second, the permafrost would also freeze the material inside the pipes, which is never a good thing considering the importance of keeping whats inside moving.

We also found a little cafe near the library called Cafe on McKenzie, where we spent hours savoring their coffee, homemade scones, and pretty awesome free WIFI. A couple times we also used the WIFI at the library across the street, but they limit visitors to two hours per day. Sometimes that's not enough.
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