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The Beginning of a Journey: the Dempster Highway

Friday, June 5th, 2009 at 8:44 am

This summer I will be embarking on a 700 kilometre (435 mile) self supported trip on a long and lonely stretch of gravel, in Northern Canada, known as the Dempster Highway. Starting from Dawson in the Yukon Territory I will be following this winding, wild stretch of road all the way to Inuvik in the Northwest Territory; believe me it doesn’t get much more remote than this. With staggering elevations changes and unpredictable weather it will be quite the ride. You’re probably wondering why anyone would put themselves through this, and some days I do too.

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The Dempster Highway

I turned 50 this past January and wanted to do something significant to celebrate this milestone. A high school reunion is being planned this summer, at the Yukon school I attended in the late 70’s so I thought a trip in the Yukon would be a great way to see some people I haven’t seen in a few years and accomplish something I had been thinking about since I was 25.

In the twilight of my teens I moved to the Yukon and during the late 70’s and early 80’s I had always wanted to travel the length of the Dempster. Twenty-five years ago I almost did when I ended up in Fort MacPherson after a 16 day canoe trip down the Bonnet Plume River, a long and wild river starting high in the northern Yukon. We had to fly into the start of the river and when we were done we managed to get picked up by a friend who gave us a ride heading back to Whitehorse. But I got out along the way, at the Eagle River, and paddled another 7 days solo; never seeing the rest of the Dempster highway. I plan on changing that this summer.

For my 50th year bike ride, I could have just gone back to the Yukon…done the bike trip…and gone home. But, I thought I would do my best to gather support for other deserving charities by developing a website as an information portal. I wanted to use the event of turning 50 for “good instead of evil”.  I am a firm believer that you need to participate in life to make a difference for yourself and others.

I am participating in the Ride to Conquer Cancer in support of cancer research for the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. This is a 2 day 200 km event that starts in Toronto and ends in Niagara Falls. In order to participate, I am required to raise $2500.00. The ride takes place on the second weekend in June and I fully intend to make that mark.

I am also riding in support of Cameron Helps. This is a charity that supports suicide prevention and families who have suffered because of this tragedy. The son my best friend in high school committed suicide a number of years ago. He started this charity, to help prevent others from going through similar ordeals, and has gathered a lot of support since its inception.

The third charity I am supporting is the CPAW Yukon Chapter in support of the Three River Project. As mentioned above, I had the good fortune of paddling the Bonnet Plume River. This river is one of the three. This is an area of Canada that is completely undeveloped and needs to be preserved for future generations and to protect the water quality for the folks who live downstream.

In less than 2 months now, I will be on the Dempster Highway. Right now my time is spent training, planning and getting more excited each day. I’m watching the date on my calendar get a litter closer with each passing day. Don’t you love it when a plan comes together!

Cheers and Happy Biking!

David Raithby