Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Winter Road in Summer

My dad had seen an episode of Ice Road Truckers, and so we had to go see what the winter road looked like. Heading out of Fort McMurray, we drove towards Fort Chipewyan. The first 60 km are paved. Then you have about 20km of a nicely compacted unpaved road. Then you have the winter road, which closed in March — it’s hard to keep ice roads functioning in above freezing temperatures.

The road bed is a single lane of gravel road paired with a single land of a sand road (the natural soil of the area). The first 25 km are currently under construction with crews working to convert it to year round use. We stopped to talk to some surveyors who were out working on the Victoria Day holiday. They were restaking the shoulder. Apparently, an engineer in the head office had discovered an error after they had originally staked it and now they had to move the road over a bit.

We didn’t drive as far as we could have down the winter road. It eventually deteriorates to a sandy bog that is only passable by all-terrain vehicles. Then you hit a few rivers and a lake or two. We are betwixt and between seasons. The ice bridges have closed, but ferry operations haven’t begun to cross some of the rivers in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, hampering our plans to drive to Yellowknife and Inuvik.

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