Arctic Circle in a GFC Camper

Arctic Circle in a GFC Camper

This Tacoma build started with the decision to sell my 2008 4Runner, which I had been building up over the past 10 years. After committing to part ways with it, I began building out the Tacoma in my mind. What I had to work with was already a highly capable truck: 2017 TRD Pro Tacoma–minus the tires since Toyota put some real tires on this truck. I wanted it to be lightweight. In fact that, was the biggest objective with this build. I opted to go with as much aluminum as I could. One reason I chose to go with a Tacoma vs 5th gen 4Runner is I wanted to have more space and just something a little different than the previous build. Another reason is because I wanted a camper setup.

Go Fast Campers out of Montana appealed to me when I first saw their product. Initially, they had only a rendering and a few shots of a prototype. After speaking with them directly, I decided to take a chance on a new company and I put down my deposit. Weighing in at a scant 250 lbs., it is one of the lightest camper systems on the market. It is built to last and 100% made in the USA.

 Arctic Circle in a GFC Camper

Fortunately for me, I reside in the same town as Slee Off-road. After they had done previous work on the 4Runner, I knew they were the shop I wanted working on theTacoma. The list of parts formulated, followed by the shopping and waiting. With almost all the parts ordered and the 4Runners old,it was time to set a date for a dramatic transformation. I really can’t say enough about the professionalism and the quality of work that Slee Off-road does. They have as much passion about these trucks and it really shows in the detail of their work.

Arctic Circle in a GFC Camper

To me adventure travel means getting out there and exploring areas that are new to you. Specifically, areas that are voids to most of the population and are not found in a travel brochure. For me, this all stems from having a love for the outdoors. I grew up with a desire to always be outside, and luckily had an outlet for that on my grandparents’ farm in West Virginia. That’s where I learned about wildlife, hunting, fishing, and how to drive. My grandfather used to let me and my brother drive his old trucks in the hayfield. We could barely reach the pedals—how we didn’t destroy more than we did is beyond me. By the time I hit high school,I had developed an unwavering connection to the outdoors. This passion was fueled by hunting and fishing trips with my uncle. From Trout fishing in the mountains of West Virginia, to canoe trips into Minnesota BWCA. I couldn’t get enough of it. I was constantly reading anything I could about adventures involving the outdoors. Jack London was always and still is a favorite.

I’ve experienced multiple adventures. My latest was a solo trip up Dempster Highway highway starting out in Golden, CO. Solo trips take on a whole other level of meaning. Inner reflection and the solitude that restores you to your roots. A solo trip of that magnitude was at first a daunting idea. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. Is that kind of trip for everyone? Most definitely not. Long hours behind the wheel and having to move and calculate everything on your own is a lot to take on. But it’s also very rewarding, dare I say a spiritual experience, and gives you a since of accomplishment. Passing the Arctic Circle is one of those moments that doesn’t take time to sink in. You know instantly that is a moment that you’ll always remember. Those moments are what I live for.

If I’m not on a trip, I’m often thinking about the next one.That’s half the fun.The anticipation of being on the road again. This last trip took me north, into the lands of the midnight sun. Dempster Highway highway. A rugged gravel road stretching around 458 miles one way through some of the wildest country I’ve ever seen.

My first night of camping was 8-hours away in Big Horn NF. I got an early start the next morning and headed north towards Montana, eventually finding a campsite in the Flathead NF. It was a picturesque camp site with wildflowers covering the field and the sun setting behind the beautiful Rocky Mountains—it felt like a dream. I could hear wolves howling in the distance.

Day three I hit the Canadian border. Going through customs ended up being a bit of a hassle. I was carrying a 12-gauge shotgun. I had all the paperwork filled out before hand, as well as documents for my dog. Once I declared the firearm, I was asked to go inside for more paperwork.They wanted to search my truck I had Colorado plates. I told them that was not a problem and unlocked everything. They directed me to an area I could let the dog run around. I watched as they went through my gear unpacking items and looking through all the panels. These boys must have thought I was moving some weight in theTaco. After about 30 minutes, I was motioned back over and asked a few questions. Then the conversation turned more friendly once they realized I was not smuggling drugsinto their country. They sent me on my way and even gave me a couple recommendations for camping. The mainthing is just to remain calm and be respectful. They are just doing their jobs. I camped in Kootenay National Park that night, staying at one of the established campgrounds.

Over the next few days, I traveled through Banff and Jasper National Parks,and on through Prince George via 16 West, eventually hitting 37 North the Stewart Cassiar Highway. This road in itself was an amazing drive and also dangerous. Portions of the Cassiar have no center line with logging trucks barreling by. That’s also when the rain began and did not stop for what seemed like days. If you’reever on the Cassiar, I would recommend staying at Kinaskan Lake Provincial Park. Nearly every campsite overlooks the lake.

Arctic Circle in a GFC Camper

After a few more hours on the Cassiar the next morning, I hit the Alaska Highway. The rainy weather had me craving some chili. As the cold rainy evening set in I quickly heated up some chili and watched the storm roll by. That night it got cold and I was glad I had packed some colder weather gear. Waking up it was cool and foggy. Not even an hour after breaking camp I noticed a figure in the distant cloud of fog walking across the road. As I got closer I realized it was a wolf and began reaching for my camera in the passenger seat but before I could get it he disappeared into the thick under brush without so much as a trace. None the less I was on cloud nine that I had even had the opportunity to see one in the wild.

I I reached White horse and after the dog took a few laps in the Yukon river, we were onto the Klondike Highway and that’s when it started feeling real. I was close to being on Dempster Highway. I was about to start the drive into some of wildest country I’ve ever seen. I drove and just kept driving that night. Everything seemed so perfect: the light was incredible, the wildlife was everywhere, and it was just too good to pass up so I just drove. It would be midnight before I made camp that night. The mosquitos were so bad that I had to cover every part of my body that was exposed. I set up the camper as fast as I could and took refuge in it to get away from the swarms of the little blood suckers.

Arctic Circle in a GFC Camper

The next morning I awoke to yet more rain. A mudslide had washed out a section of the road and tore down everything in its path. Road crews had done a tremendous job on getting it passable. That day I would cross the Arctic Circle, and in that moment I knew this was something special—I would remember this forever. After crossing the Peel and Mackenzie Riverson the two ferries, it was on toInuvik. After many days in the rain I opted to stay in a small chalet that night needing a good shower and to clean my camera gear.

Arctic Circle in a GFC Camper

On my return home, I put in 15 to 18 hours a day of driving, camping roadside each night. I left Dempster Highway on Sunday and was back in Golden, CO on Wednesday. That was a brutal drive back, but worth every mile. I was fortunate enough to see so much wildlife and wild places. That’s what this is all about, just getting out there. Inspire and be Inspired!

Arctic Circle in a GFC Camper

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