For reasons beyond any rational understanding, we drove an additional 400 miles on a rough gravel road. So after more than 7,000 miles of driving, why did we add the additional 400 miles? To take a selfie of course. Not just any selfie, but a picture of us at the Artic Circle. For this side trip we left the camper safely back in Fairbanks. We drove 87 miles north of Fairbanks to the start of the “Dalton Highway” which then continues on for 415 miles to the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay. Our trek only covered 115 miles of the highway to a wayside stop managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Maybe you were wondering how those new parkas we just bought for $500 bucks apiece worked out? It was 80 degrees! We are sending the parkas back. Thanks for nothing Al Gore. The friendly and talkative Camp Host, Diane presented us with a certificate and took our picture. She has been volunteering at park campgrounds for five years and spends her summers at some of the most remote sites in America.
The Dalton Highway is the service road for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and was constructed in just five months in 1974. The pipeline stretches 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. The road is well maintained, is paved for only about a quarter of its length and twists and turns over some of the most rugged and remote landscape on the planet. Fuel stops are extremely limited and cell phone coverage nonexistent. Our truck handled the numerous 10-12% grades with ease. Not only was downshifting mandatory, the engine brake kept us from burning up the new set of brake pads we got back in Montana.
Oh, the things we saw along the way. One of the most impressive sites was the Yukon River. The river is massive and stretches 2,000 miles from Canada to the Bering Sea. Sadly, the Hess Creek fire reduced visibility and the smoke made the scenery hazy and dull the first half of our trip. The Hess Creek fire has already consumed 180,000 acres. We stopped to talk to the firefighters who were tending to the controlled burn they started to hopefully prevent the fire from jumping the highway. We didn’t see as much wildlife as we had hoped for, but we did see a moose and a red-tailed fox. We also experienced the Alaskan State Bird. The mosquito. I’m sure that the health effects from applying a gallon of DDT will be minimal.
Lillian wanted to go to the Arctic Circle, but I was not that excited about it. We decided to do the Dalton after talking to some fellow travelers that we met in Calgary who said they were planning on doing the trip. And you can do it in a day. A very, very long day. But hey, we are in the land of the midnight sun. Why Not? Thank you, Paul and DeAnna! We are following their travels on Facebook and YouTube. You can too. Search for “Living the Silver Life.” Their recently refurbished Airstream is beautiful…. We hope to cross paths with them again as we both meander across all the roads in Alaska.
All in all, I’m glad we did the Dalton Highway. Glader still that we don’t have to do it again.
(L) You know you’re at the end of the earth when:
- Steep Grade signs don’t give a grade %, they just show a truck plummeting off the end of the earth.
- The GPS map shows only a gray screen with a tiny arrow and one blue line.
- When the destination you enter into MapQuest says “not found.”
- When Seri keeps saying “go straight” for 1,000 miles.
- When the frost heaves in the road make an Olympic slalom look tame.
- When all the fillings in your mouth point south.
- When the mosquitos are so thick you eat them when you open your mouth.