Marty’s photo of the day #4440: For the North American continent adventure in my first book, Cool Creatures, Hot Planet: Exploring the Seven Continents, Deb and I and our two dogs drove from Montana all the way to the top of Canada and back. That drive was longer than driving from Los Angeles to New York City and back.

That trip, taken in 2002, was such a favorite that we’ve been looking forward to redoing it ever since. We almost did it in 2021, but the COVID-19 pandemic fucked that up. Now we’re aiming for this fall and hoping that this time the forest fires won’t fuck us up.

In the meantime, we are getting more prepared than we were in 2002. My new Ford Maverick truck gets well over twice the gas mileage of the Ford F-150 truck we took last time. That will be important, as many gas stations in northern Canada shut down for the season after September 1, and we’re hoping to avoid playing “gas station chicken,” wondering if we’ll run out of gas before finding an open station.

While discussing our upcoming trip last night, Deb and I remembered something really important: on our previous trip we had two dogs—Kate and Annie—and on this trip we will only have Nellie. Dogs are essential, as we will be sleeping in tents and the nights get very cold. A couple of our stays last time were most definitely “Three Dog Nights.”

We joked about stopping by a Canadian animal shelter on the way up and borrowing the furriest dog they have, but instead we’ll bring a light quilt that can cover both Nellie and our sleeping bags on extra-cold nights.

What does all that have to do with this photo? This screen tent is one of the many improvements for our upcoming adventure. We’re purposely planning a fall trip, not only because we hope to catch the Porcupine caribou migration, but also because we hope to avoid the biting flies. Nevertheless, there’s no guarantee we’ll miss the flies and even if they’re gone, we’ll likely hit rain on at least a few days. This screen tent will allow us to cook and eat on rain or fly days. Setting up this tent the first time took us a half-hour. We’re going to have to practice before leaving to get the set-up time down to ten minutes. Otherwise, we’re going to be very cranky doing it in the rain or a cloud of horseflies.

We’re also planning a different route, so we can see some new territory, while also making sure we visit some past favorite spots, such as the campsite we had all to ourselves, except for a pack of wolves that howled around our tent!