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Old 08-25-2018, 06:26 PM   #1
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Dempster and "Top of the World" Highway reports

Thought I would start a new topic where we can report our trips to way up North.

The Dempster Highway (Yukon #5) is a 725 km dirt/gravel road from just outside of Dawson YT to Inuvik NWT (on the Mackenzie River). It crosses the Ogilvie and Richardson Mountains and the Artic Circle. From Inuvik there's a new 144 km dirt/gravel road to Tuktoyaktuk on the Beaufort Sea in the Artic Ocean. Much of this route is above the tree line, especially in the mountains, and the scenery is just spectacular.

After the Dempster, we returned to Dawson YT and then took the "Top-of-world Highway" (more gravel and poor paved road) over to Chicken and Tok, Alaska (yes, we went from Tuk to Tok), then back to Whitehorse YT on the Alaskan Hwy past Kluane National Park which was totally unknown to us and which also has magnificent scenery. We are now returning to Ontario through smoke-filled NE British Columbia.

We took our Timber Ridge up to Inuvik NWT on the Dempster, but left it there at the campground and just did a day trip to "Tuk" with the truck. It rained before our trip and drizzled much of the time while traveling so mud was more of a problem than dust. When dry the mud turned into cement and pretty much required a pressure washer to get off. The mud and gravel thoroughly jammed up the slider window tracks and trailer's hitch clasp/lever. I didn't even try the stabilizer jacks until I had a chance to pressure wash them.

The mud made the Dempster very slippery in places so I was glad to have 4x4 and new Goodyear Duratracs on the truck. Although not a good highway tire, they easily pulled the ~8500# trailer through a lot of thick muck without too much sliding around. But we saw a small motorhome and a car overturned in the ditch, and was told about a couple of motor bikers who had gone down. Also met a fellow with a dually 1 ton who turned around because of the mud, but he only had highway tires and 4x2. Still, we saw a lot of smaller 4x2 motorhomes and motorcycles that did make it somehow; but most were 4x4 truck campers with a few 4x4 trucks with trailers.

Another issue with the Dempster, besides mud or dust, was the numerous potholes and washboards. The road crews were out fixing mudslides and filling/grading the worst mud holes, but there were many sections of generally rough road, in part created by the tractor-trailers hauling fuel and goods to Inuvik. We saw two disabled trailers (Bullet and Jayco), one with broken spring hangers and one with what looked to be a broken spring. Our trailer has a GVW of ~8500# and ~1300# TW leaving 7200# distributed across 2x5200=10400# axles; that axle under-loading prolly helped us. All our truck and trailer tires (Carlisle Radial Trail HD ST-Es) are newer and also under-loaded and monitored by TPMS; no flats on this trip, so far.

The paved roads in mid to North Yukon (generally North of Whitehorse) and Alaska can also be in bad shape because of permafrost melt. They can have bigger dips and sags than the more frequently graded dirt roads, and these can do great damage if hit at high speed. We survived one such dip on the Alaskan highway near the Alaska border, and then saw an Open Range Light trailer that didn't make it. The front A of the frame was bent upwards at a 45 degree angle. We figured the Northwood frame under our ORV trailer saved us from such misery.

Compared to these disabled trailers, our Timber Ridge had only minor issues:

- The worst was a freshwater tank support bar breaking loose on one end. Treated/Potable water is only available in the major Yukon towns, so we often traveled with a full FW tank. It appears that the under-tank support bar should rest on the bottom lip of the trailer's I-frame, but the bar is about 1" too short to reach the lip. So ORV bolted on a too-thin piece of flat steel strap and bent it up to the inside of the frame and welded it on. The cheesy flat strap broke. Others here have reported problems with this support bar. I replaced the strap with a short section of heavier steel angle that rests directly on the I-frame's lip and is double, grade 8, bolted to the support bar.
- Another piece of too-thin flat steel strap is used to help hold the spare tire in place. It bent, and for now rope is doing it's job. Another piece of thicker steel angle is planned.
- One of the puck light LED circuit boards literally fell apart!
- And it seems like every loose screw and nut in the trailer managed to work itself free. Screws from the drawer sliders, the shower panels, and window valences all came loose. The rear dump valve handle unscrewed itself requiring an access hole to be cut in the coroplast to fix it. Pot handles and the bar-b-q handle unscrewed and fell off.
- All our upper cabinet doors were tied shut, but we had to be very careful when opening them and the frig door.

By the way, the main reason we left the trailer in Inuvik was that the road to Tuk had even worse mud and potholes than the Dempster. It's a new road and apparently they were not prepared for all the traffic. We just didn't want to abuse the poor Timber Ridge anymore. And besides, Tuk only had a small area for camping with few facilities.

All in all, a great trip; but we are taking a break from rough and muddy roads for a while.
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Old 08-25-2018, 06:43 PM   #2
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Thanks got the report.....

How was the section between Jack Wade Junction and Chicken AK? When we were on it in mid June 2016 it was bad. Luckily it was dry for our whole 5 day Top of the World section. We’re planning on doing it next year again in our new Timber Ridge.

In 2016 we saw two Highland Ridge units with broken spring hangers. Go figure. Where the spring hanger is welded to the frame is the weak point on most trailer suspensions.
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Old 08-25-2018, 06:54 PM   #3
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Wow! Amazing trip! Thanks for sharing.
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Old 08-25-2018, 06:57 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Superslif View Post
Thanks got the report.....

How was the section between Jack Wade Junction and Chicken AK? When we were on it in mid June 2016 it was bad. Luckily it was dry for our whole 5 day Top of the World section. We’re planning on doing it next year again in our new Timber Ridge.

In 2016 we saw two Highland Ridge units with broken spring hangers. Go figure. Where the spring hanger is welded to the frame is the weak point on most trailer suspensions.
The paved Alaska section of TOTW was bad, except for a little bit of new highway just past the Border. They were working on it but the permafrost melt and frost heave made it difficult. The gravel on the Canadian side was recently graded and much smoother and faster. And little dust for us as it had recently drizzled. You pick your poison I guess.

I hear you about the spring hangers. Hopefully Northwood puts some care into theirs.
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Old 08-25-2018, 07:00 PM   #5
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A picture of the mud

To give you some idea of what it was like.
Attached Thumbnails
Click image for larger version

Name:	Muddy Trailer Truck.jpg
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ID:	216430  
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Old 08-25-2018, 08:50 PM   #6
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Great report, would like to do this trip someday. We've only gone as far as White Horse as we only had a short time. Keep on posting pictures, love to see more of the travels.
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Old 08-25-2018, 09:06 PM   #7
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Old 08-25-2018, 09:10 PM   #8
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When we drove the Dempster about 25 years ago, the gravel road was very smooth, but made of crushed shale that was rough on tires...many flat tires. Is it any better today?
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Old 08-25-2018, 10:38 PM   #9
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Great report! This is a trip I really want to do someday.
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Old 08-25-2018, 11:52 PM   #10
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Sounds like fun, but,,,, I'll pass.
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Old 08-26-2018, 06:33 AM   #11
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Quote:
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Wow! Amazing trip! Thanks for sharing.
X2, Thanks brulaz, now I don't have to even think about making that trip!

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Old 08-26-2018, 06:42 AM   #12
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Sounds like a great trip. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.
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Old 08-26-2018, 06:50 AM   #13
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To give you some idea of what it was like.
I have always thought of doing this trip, but after year's of Coach's and other Rv's that look like yours........I will do the trip in a rental unit!
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Old 08-26-2018, 08:28 AM   #14
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The muddy RV & Truck is a badge of honor for driving the Alcan and TOW. I adddd a few pictures from our 2016 trip. 3rd & 4th are on the TOW. Notice the flag on the last pic. Usually when there is a bad area in the road you will see a orange flag stuck in the ground. But not always. Click image for larger version

Name:	FBC8CFCF-A520-4B5F-8211-659023098AA6.jpg
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Size:	555.0 KB
ID:	216477

Click image for larger version

Name:	AD776A7F-400A-4D37-AE8F-204DDBFE4F23.jpg
Views:	49
Size:	626.3 KB
ID:	216478

Click image for larger version

Name:	294069D1-843C-4133-B0F7-6559AE26C93D.jpg
Views:	49
Size:	158.3 KB
ID:	216479

Click image for larger version

Name:	A6E55F58-774C-4392-9023-90466DD1C003.jpg
Views:	52
Size:	250.8 KB
ID:	216480
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