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Walking the Dempster

Patrick Jackson gets set for 405-kilometre journey
Patrick Jackson and his dog Dawson spend some time training on the Kusawa Lake Road for their Dempster Walk-A-Thon set to begin April 12. (Submitted)

Patrick Jackson isn’t letting the late, cold Yukon winter get in his way of taking a 405-kilometre journey by foot along the Dempster Highway.

The Yukoner and his dog Dawson will soon begin trekking the roadway from where it begins at the North Klondike Highway to the Arctic Circle, a trip expected to take between 17 and 21 days.

It will also serve as a fundraiser for the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition with Jackson accepting per kilometre donations for the coalition.

His Dempster Walk-A-Thon, as he’s dubbed it, is something he’s always wanted to accomplish.

“It’s been on my bucket list for awhile,” he says.

He now finds himself with the time to do it.

“Time and opportunity allows me to begin this journey on April 12, 2021,” he stated on his website detailing his plans.

Many who hear about Jackson’s plans ask one question: “Why?”

His response: “Why not?”

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Jackson has driven the Dempster in the past and looks forward to experiencing the highway at a more sedate pace.

While there’ll be some cold nights along the way, as Yukoners continue waiting for spring to show up, it’s also pretty much guaranteed that he won’t contend with the massive bug population the Dempster is so well-known for or the mud that often comes with warmer seasons.

Hopefully, he says, the daytime temperatures will be a bit more spring-like, giving him some “beautiful, warm days.” The increasing daylight this time of year brings will also be a benefit.

Along with the challenge of the journey itself, Jackson says he enjoys a good logistical challenge. That’s exactly what he’s getting in planning for the self-supported trip.

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Dawson the dog sits next to the Chariot Patrick Jackson has loaded and rigged up to walk the Dempster Highway from where it begins, off the North Klondike Highway, to the Arctic Circle. (Submitted)
Dawson the dog sits next to the Chariot Patrick Jackson has loaded and rigged up to walk the Dempster Highway from where it begins, off the North Klondike Highway, to the Arctic Circle. (Submitted)

It’s meant making modifications, including creating his own panels and high visibility flags, to a “chariot” where his and Dawson’s gear will be stored, planning how to best pack and keeping the weight as low as possible with things like dehydrated food. Staff at the territory’s Department of Highways and Public Works have been incredibly helpful in sharing information about the highway and the conditions he might encounter at this time of year, he says.

While he’s not entirely sure what the precise weight of the chariot is when fully packed, he’s taken it out with everything in it for a dry run along the Kusawa Lake Road.

“It doesn’t feel like much,” he says.

He’s also been training toward a goal of walking 25 kilometres each day of his walk-a-thon.

Knowing it’s not a race, his schedule is fairly open and will allow for rest days if he needs them.

His ultimate goal is more about the destination than how quickly he’ll get there.

“I’m quite determined to get to the Arctic Circle,” Jackson says.

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He also hopes to raise as much money as possible for the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition.

As the Dempster Walk-A-Thon has drawn closer, Jackson says he started considering ways it could benefit others and decided to use it to raise money for the Coalition.

As the previous owner of the Changing Gear sporting goods consignment shop, Jackson had worked with the group, providing unsold winter clothing for the coalition’s Whitehorse Connects events which provided free services to those in need, from hair cuts to physiotherapy to clothing.

Those donating to Jackson’s campaign can have their donation directed to one of three programs offered by the coalition: Whitehorse Connects; Voices Influencing Change, a program for those with lived experience; and The Backyard Garden, which promotes growing local food for those who are part of Voices Influencing Change.

Jackson says that with many Yukoners feeling the economic impacts of COVID-19 over the past year, the importance of the work of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition has been emphasized for him.

Coalition executive director Kristina Craig said the group is pleased to continue working with Jackson as he gets set for his Dempster Walk-A-Thon.

“He has suggested that YAPC is an integral resource in the community so this is a real show of support for the work we do,” Craig said. “We really are blown away that Patrick has turned his walk into a fundraiser for us and that he is fully funding his whole trip. We’ll be with him and Dawson the dog for every step.”


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Stephanie Waddell

About the Author: Stephanie Waddell

I joined Black Press in 2019 as a reporter for the Yukon News, becoming editor in February 2023.
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