The road less travelled

Inuvik couple stranded on Dempster Highway en route to Whitehorse

Inuvik's Dave and Kim Halpine, a husband and wife duo competing in Arctic Sports for Team NWT, began their Arctic Winter Games adventure early when their car broke down outside Eagle Plains. The pair and their four young boys hitched a ride to Whitehorse in a 15-seater van – which was already full – travelling from Fort McPherson.

It might be one of the loneliest roads in Canada but, luckily for Kim and Dave Halpine, the Dempster Highway was seeing a spike in traffic this March.

The Inuvik residents, set to compete in Arctic sports at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games, were two of several Team NWT members coming out of the Beaufort Delta who decided to use the 2012 Arctic Winter Games as an excuse to travel the iconic Northern highway to Whitehorse.

Unfortunately, the Halpine's plans hit an unexpected bump on the gravel road when their vehicle broke down outside Eagle Plains near Rock River, only 300 kilometres into their 1,200 kilometre journey.

"We kind of hitchhiked to Whitehorse,” Dave said. “The engine blew out of the car and we got it towed to Eagle Plains. We made a phone call and another family was coming from McPherson and we jumped into their van – 19 kids and adults in this van.”

Kim said she is glad to have made it safe and sound to Yukon's capital as the experience was a bit scary after finding themselves stranded near dark for 1.5 hours.

“We were sitting there with four kids in the middle of nowhere and we started to get cold," she said."I was getting a little bit worried."

Crammed into a vehicle designed for 15 passengers, Dave and Kim, along with their young boys  ages seven, four, two and one  completed their journey to Whitehorse.

They arrived behind schedule, but still in time for the Arctic sports competition on Monday.

“It was really tight and lots of crying babies, but we made it here safely so it's OK,” she said.

The Halpines have lived in Inuvik for six years. Dave introduced the family to Arctic sports through his role as physical education teacher at Samuel Hearne Secondary School.

Arctic sports and Dene games are the only two events at the games open to adult athletes.

“The last couple of years, I have had Arctic sports coaches come into the program and teach modules,” he said. “I have just kind of obviously taken a liking to it and recently noticed that I can be a little bit competitive.”

The fact the category includes arguably the most gruelling and painful competitions  the knuckle hope, airplane and kneel-jump – particularly fascinated Dave.

“My background is wrestling and individual sports, so just seeing the tests of strength has a lot of appeal to me.”

When asked what his favourite event was, he settled on airplane – where competitors are hoisted in the air by their arms and legs in a flying formation and carried until their strength fails.

He also said he surprises himself in the knuckle-hop – an event that is pretty much as it sounds.

“I don't know if that can be anyone's favourite because it involves so much pain,” Dave said.

Competition aside, Dave said he is excited to be part of the games and what they mean to the North.

“It's really neat to see these competitors, there is a lot of high skill level and just to learn some new techniques and see the nuances and be a part of the games is a lot of fun,” he said.

Kim, who is a stay-at-home mom, said she too became interested in Arctic sports after seeing her husband's excitement in the event.

Kim said her favourite event is the arm pull. She hopes to spend the week achieving personal bests and learning from the other athletes.

On Monday, Dave placed 17th in the kneel jump and Kim placed eighth in the same event.