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The Canol Expedition – 2009
Every year my son Scott, and I “escape” from the women folk (wife and two daughters) for a couple of
weeks and go camping somewhere in British Columbia. We’ve done all of Vancouver Island, the Queen
Charlottes and Bella Coola to hang out with Grizzlies twice. Driving home last year we discussed where
to go next year and Scott suggested the idea of Alaska or the Dempster Highway to Inuvik.
Then in January I was surfing our Roverlander web forum when I came across a message from Pete
L. (Doc Tari) regarding a trail called the Canol Heritage Trail. Every year our club organizes and runs a
trip beyond our usual long weekend runs and the Canol was put forth as a potential run. And so it
began....
The Canol road and pipeline was built during the Second World War to supply oil to Alaska. Work started
in 1942 and the pipeline was punched through the Mackenzie Mountain range. The work was incredibly
difficult as this was previously unexplored and uninhabited land. The 4” pipeline started in Norman Wells
in the North West Territories to Whitehorse in the Yukon and then on to Alaska. It was a very expensive
operation costing $134 million (remember this is in the mid 1940’s) and was shut down in 1945 after
shipping over 1 million barrels of oil (which only 250,000 making it to the end).
When the US military left, they oiled up and greased their vehicles, parked them neatly and left (they
were told it was only temporary). The entire operation is still in the same condition as when they left in
1945. Many of the pump houses are still there, traces of the actual pipeline, thousands of empty oil
drums and apparently many pits were dug and vehicles driven in then buried. There is even a rumour
that 10 Harley Davidson’s with side cars in crates were buried and are still up there waiting to be found.
So the challenge for us was gathering information as the only people who now ventured up to the Canol
where hikers. It was now called the Canol Heritage Trail, classified as one of the most remote trails in
the world and should only be attempted by very experienced hikers.
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