Temperatures dropped substantially over night and by early morning it was minus 20 I really didn’t want to get out of my sleeping bag but had no choice. After boiling up a pot of snow and taking camp down I set out into the cold frozen north, but there was a brilliant blue sky above so it was going to be a good day. Almost immediately I was climbing , the Windy Pass summit, 1,100 meters an area where the alpine tundra has been unchanged in 100,000 years; this area is part of the east Beringia — the vast refuge that escaped continental glaciation during the last ice age. Getting closer to Engineer creek by the end of the day and I could see the difference in the terrain, jagged rock faces and spruce trees instead of hills of alpine grass and tundra. At Red Creek; the smell of sulphur was evident as this area is highly mineralized, the water is high in calcium, magnesium, sulphate and bicarbonate, sodium and chlorine, hence the odor. Reminded me of Cold Sulphur Spring.
It had already been a long day and I still had the dreaded 7 MILE HILL ahead; a fairly extreme climb on a loaded fat bike and the second spot where the Dempster highway crosses the continental divide. This is where I met 3 friendly folks in a pick up truck who offered me a ride up to Ogilvie Ridge, the top of 7 Mile Hill some 40 km away, I accepted. (gratefully)
I was dropped off at the top of the Ogilvie Ridge where I got my first taste of the power of the Dempster wind, and an incredible view of the Ogilvie Mountain chain. It was getting late so the pressure was on to find a spot to camp, preferably out of the wind. For some reason I thought that because I was at the Ogilvie view point the next miles would be all down hill but that was not the case, for the over an hour I pedaled along the high ridge through a crazy head wind on icy roads and could not find a sheltered place to pitch the tent so I made my nightly sat phone safety call to Val from the side of he road prior to finding a decent camp spot.
Finally a half hour after dark and with the temperature dipping down to -25 and the wind picked up substantially I came across a small pull-out where the snow plow had pushed a bank about 15 feet off the road. I dug into the wind ward side of the bank and set up my tent with great difficulty as my hands were freezing and kept having to warm them, I elected to skip a hot supper and climbed in to the tent and ate a couple of granola bars and fell asleep. I awoke in the middle of the night feeling wet and claustrophobic, apparently I hadn’t fastened the cross poles on the properly and the sides of the tent where collapsed inward, causing all the condensation to soak into my sleeping bag, (lesson learned) needless to say getting mobile in the morning was a miserable experience.
I cycled all morning without out seeing much traffic, at one point I was passed by two large tow trucks from Cliffs Towing in Edmonton which I thought was a rather long way for a wrecker to be dispatched? At mid day a tractor trailer pulled over in front of me and the driver offered me a cup of coffee, my feet were starting to freeze so I accepted and joined him in his truck where he proceeded to make me not only a coffee but also two baloney sandwiches and a big bowl of soup.
By 7:00 I was within 80 k of Eagle Plains so I started looking for a camp spot which turned out to be in a wide pull-off with two out-houses and a picnic table, looked like a great spot. At about midnight I was awoken by a noise outside the tent, some little critter was scratching around, I could see shadows of what appeared to be a weasel, every time it came close enough I punched the side of the tent to scare it away. Finally I fell back to sleep only to be woke again this time by something crawling under the tent; mice or vole’s? I spent the next half hour slapping the tent floor trying to scare them off, finally I gave up; again I fell asleep and was again woke up this time by a flying squirrel that landed on the top of the tent I looked up and could see the perfect outline of the critter spread eagled on the tent fly so I brought both my feet up and gave a tremendous kick and launched the squirrel back into space never to be seen again; or so I thought. The morning was cold but clear.
After a sleepless night I didn’t have the energy to fire up the stove to boil snow water, I packed away my tent and wet sleeping bag, that was when I noticed that one of the critters from the night before had chewed into my handle bar bag, eaten my cell phone charger cord and a granola bar.
I arrived at Eagle Plains around 6 o’clock and went straight to the restaurant and ordered the daily special, best meal in days, lol After eating I booked a room and took all my gear out including my tent and sleeping bag and hung everything up to dry. They call the Eagle Plains Motel the Oasis in the Wilderness, which it truly is after spending 5 days of winter cycling, boiling snow water and eating freeze dried food.