controversial project was halted. After three years of excruciating construction efforts and only eleven months of operation, the Canol was scrapped.
In a rush to wash its hands of the entire affair, the U.S. War Department quickly sold salvage rights to the Canol for a paltry seventy thousand dollars. The pipeline was pulled, the sixty thousand residual barrels sitting inside it dumped across the land, and pumphouse machinery picked over. Engines and tires were stripped from vehicles, but the vast majority of what the Army had installed was left behind, remaining to languish in the remote wilderness of the Canadian northwest. While the Yukon government chose to maintain a portion of road for civilian traffic, the remaining three hundred and fifty five kilometers (210 miles), a rugged and mountainous stretch cutting through the Northwest Territories, were abandoned. Within a year landslides and shifting mud had rendered this section impassable. Floods and ice soon tore out all of the sixty five bridges. Today, apart from a dotted line winding across Canadian topographical maps, the massive project has been all but forgotten.
With heads buried under our anorak hoods, and a steady drizzle of rain hammering the thin plastic, Ferg and I did not hear the mountain biker until he was upon us. At first I thought the fast approaching sound was a flock of birds about to pass inches above my head. Spinning around in surprise, I found myself face to face with a tall, poncho clad man astride a rusty mountain bike. Ferg and I stared in surprised silence.
‘Do not be scared,’ he said with an unmistakably German accent, extending a hand. ‘I’m Michael. The Mounties in Ross River1 told me that two hikers had set for the Canol today. I drove up as fast as I could, hoping to catch you. I have wanted to hike this route for many years, but the bears,… you know,… it can be a problem alone. So, I come with you?’
Ferg and I stared at the tall man in shocked silence, our minds struggling to digest his request. ‘Are you planning to ride your bike?’ I finally asked hesitantly.
1 For safety we had registered our plans with the police