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A Journey to the Arctic Circle

By March 31 2016All stories

We are the two founders of the IamNoMad project, originally from Montreal; we share the same passion for traveling and adventure. Francis is a professional travel and wedding photographer. As an adventurer, he experienced all sort of conditions, from the Indian desert to the African savannah, he also spent a few nights in the Himalayas. Alexandre is the definition of good vibe, always smiling and positive, he’s never afraid to push his limits. Surfing, snowboarding, climbing or hiking…. this outdoor athlete is always hungry for new adventures.

We planned this trip to go on a challenging adventure, an adventure that could change the societal description of ‘’living’’. An adventure that will allow us to connect with nature and take us on unpaved paths. We wanted to discover unexplored places around Canada, meet new faces and build friendships with isolated locals. We mostly wanted to show those beautiful and forgotten areas. We’ve been traveling around the world for a couple of years now, and nothing has allowed us to evolve as profoundly as all of these trips we’ve experienced. We lived and learned through ways in which a 9 to 5 job could never show you. We finally came to the conclusion that traveling is multidimensional – it’s not about taking a vacation, but rather adopting a different lifestyle.

For this trip across Canada, we’ve been driving a 2003 Honda Element. We modified the interior with a bed frame, storage space and an additional battery for power source. Also, as this trip is being held in extremely cold conditions, we isolated the van. Because of all the equipment we’re travelling with, we also have a small trailer for extra storage.

Since the beginning of the trip, 2 months ago, we’ve already been driving over 10 000 miles across Canada and Alaska.

We left Montreal in January, heading to the Yukon Territory. We decided to cross the country quickly to spend most of our journey up north.  The drive through Yukon has been particularly tough, with few people on the roads but mind-blowing landscapes. Our intentions were to witness northern lights and wildlife through excursions and camping. After 1 month across Yukon and Alaska, we headed to Alberta and the Canadian Rockies. Spending 2 weeks in Banff and Jasper National parks, we were astonished by all the incredible wildlife and enormous mountains. Last but not least, we headed west to British-Colombia and Vancouver Island. Once again, so many beautiful parks and landscapes made us appreciate even more this trip across the country.

At the end of April, we’re going to split up for the summer. Francis is going to Myanmar for a month and then comes back to Montreal for his wedding season. Alex is going to spend a few months around Tofino surfing and working. We’ll meeting again in November for our next adventure around the globe.

This road trip to Yukon has definitely brought us to some insane locations, but the most secluded ones would be the Arctic Circle and the Tombstone Regional Park for sure. Even the wind makes no sound over there. You can drive for hours without seeing a single car and obviously there’s no phone reception. It was so cold that every object, liquid or food would freeze. We felt like we were the only humans on Earth and surprisingly, it was an amazing feeling.

Since the beginning of the adventure, we’ve had a total of 15 flat tires, either on the car or the trailer. The roads up north are full of sharp rocks and massive holes; it’s been such a struggle for us at some point that we nearly considered cancelling the excursion to the Arctic Circle.

We believe that every person who crosses our path has something to teach us.  This is why we love to meet new people and learn more about different cultures, different lifestyles. But what really marked our memories on this trip has been meeting a couple of inspiring parents. We came across young adults with children, still living the outdoor life, going for a hike, or a backcountry skiing. They seemed so happy mixing their new responsibilities as parents with their passion for adventure.

We always try to find isolated places, where few people go or even know about. Most of the time, friends or strangers we have met along the way recommend those places. Here are our 5 favourites that every nomad should see and experience:

1. The Green Shack, Haines Pass, Yukon.

This little shack is the perfect nomad’s getaway. A couple we met in Kluane National park referred it to us. It’s a free cabin with a bunk bed, a dining table and a wooden stove. The perfect spot to rest after a big day backcountry skiing or hiking. It has books full of messages left by travellers who enjoyed it’s warmth.

2. Secret Cave, Sunwapta Falls, Jasper National Park.

While hiking around the lower falls, we sighted the top of something that looked like a cave. There was a fence indicating the path so we hesitated to cross it, but the curiosity was too strong. After a hard descent, we arrived in an open cave, right by the waterfall with just enough space to put up our tents.

3. Upper Dewey lake cabin, Skagway, Alaska.

Our friend Laurence told us about this little gem, on top of the Alaskan mountains. It’s located about 3 miles up a really steep hike from Skagway, Alaska. The hardest part was to carry all the water, food and fuel to heat up the cabin at the top. Once you get there tho, the view is breathtaking, a little cabin on a lakeshore, surrounded by mountains.

4. Keyhole hot springs, British Colombia.

Because of Instagram, everybody knows about the Keyhole hot springs, what most people don’t know is that there actually is a second hot spring further down the trail! It’s a nice basin in the middle of the forest, with a fire pit, camping space and you can even control the water temperature. It’s almost too nice to be true, a real garden of Eden.

5. Arctic Circle, Dempster highway, Yukon.

What makes this place even more special for us is the context that brought us there. We were driving through the Dempster highway and went straight in the ditch cause of an icy patch. Even if the situation was catastrophic, we couldn’t believe the sunset that was happening in front of us. Everything was completely frozen and we had a glimpse of a rainbow just over the sun. All this beauty, in the middle of nowhere!

Follow Alex & Francis here:
IG: @iamnomad_
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