Dalton Highway Alaska
On June 16th TotalAdventure flew from Los Angeles to Fairbanks Alaska, to join with our Northern Producer,Martin Z. for a 500 mile drive up the Dalton Highway to Deadhorse – at Prudhoe Bay. WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE.
In the 500 Miles between Fairbanks and Deadhorse there is only one stop with lodging, food and fuel – at Coldfoot Camp. There are otherwise only scattered scientific and work camps ( road and pipeline workers ). There are no rest stops ,billboards, McDonald’s, gas stations , nothing but beautiful unspoiled Arctic nature.
The informal road started after the War (2) but became a formal paved and gravel road with the building of the Alyeska Oil Pipeline in the 1970s. From the top in Deadhorse, at Prudhoe Bay, one can drive 12000 miles to the other end of the planet in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, where TotalAdventure was only 6 months before , in Southern Summer, before boarding the ship to Antarctica.
About 140 miles north of Fairbanks. The summertime forest is verdant and full of mosquitos. The sign makes for good target practice.
TotalAdventure crosses the Arctic Circle on land for the first time. In the air, we have flown over the North Pole countless times. On this day, June 19, the sun will dip below the horizon for 2 minutes. On June 21 it will not set at all. Note there all tall trees at this latitude. In Antarctica trees do not exist in a true polar climate. SEE THE VIDEO ABOVE.
The pipeline runs nearly 1000 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. The oil supplies mainly the US West Coast, Alaska and sometimes Japan.
Lunchtime. We bought all our own food , as there are no rest stop food courts along the way. Sandwiches for lunch and fresh local smoked salmon for dinner.
Our car – A 4 wheel drive Ford Escape rented from North Alaska Tours. It comes equipped with a CB radio as cell service is only available in Coldfoot and Deadhorse, not on the road itself. Behind the car is the Deadhorse gas station – at $7.19 a gallon it’s 30 cents cheaper than Coldfoot. Though the fuel comes directly from under the ground, it has to travel thousands of miles to be refined and trucked back again
Dinner in Coldfoot. Salmon, cheese, sausage and spirits. Drinking in private is legal in “damp ” zones of Alaska. Some areas are completely dry.,including the secure zone at Prudhoe Bay.
Tracks of a young bear in what appears to be very soft sand – evidently not quicksand.
Entering the Brooks Range – separate from the Rockies to the South – about 5500 feet and still a fair amount of snow in June.
Scientific station at Toolik.
Musk Ox. A smaller member of the Buffalo family . Some of the best meat I have ever tasted – but did not have it this time. One would have to know a licensed hunter in season.
A river having just thawed out on the first day of summer. SEE THE VIDEO ABOVE.
A lodge at Coldfoot Camp.
Crossing a river near the Brooks Range.
Dalton Highway Panorama.
Leaving Coldfoot Camp Northbound.
Leaving the Brooks Range for the North Slope.
The sun rises on May 15th and doesn’t set till July 29th. We were there at the exact solstice at 0658 AKDT on 21-6 . ( 1058 EDT)
Prudhoe Bay is a town of 3000 people with no permanent residents. Workers are there 2 weeks and one week off. 7 days a week,12 hours a day. 0600 to 1800 and 1800 to 0600. Most live in Texas or Oklahoma and are flown back there between shifts, although a a few live in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Average salary is $ 150,000 a year, with many making much more. Right now 300,000 barrels a day are pumped. In the 1970s there were over 2 million barrels pumped a day. The machinery of the wells in encased in concrete to prevent freezing in 60 below temperatures in the winter.
At last , the Arctic Ocean. On the first day of summer, the ice has melted along the edges ,but is still a solid sheet further out. We swam in the 32 degree water ( 0C ) The air was 37 ( 2.5) TotalAdventure has now swam in all 4 Oceans ! Saltwater freezes at 28 F, -2.8 C. SEE THE VIDEO ABOVE FOR THE SWIMMING !
2700 miles across is the Norway/Karelia Russia border. Chukotka Krai , Russia is 650 miles West and Yukon Territory ,Canada is about 120 miles East. The North Pole is 20 degrees or 1200 Nautical Miles.
Swimming Amongst the Arctic Ocean Ice Floes in Zero Centigrade.
$ 219 a night room at Deadhorse. Comfortable beds, very hot shower down the hall and laundry ! The very hot shower was great after the swim.
Returning South On The Dalton. Though the land looks green and marshy during the eight week melt season, it is actually a desert. There is only 5 inches of precipitation annually, most of that in the form of snow, though we had a cold rain for a few hours. When the snow melts ,it has no where to go because of permafrost below and the weak sun can’t evaporate it.
Spanish motorcycle crew at Coldfoot – they have come all the way from Tierra del Fuego.
Icy River !
Back In Fairbanks At Last . 1020 miles round trip and now, in 80 degree weather we viewed Mt. Denali ( McKinley) from over 130 miles away. The 20,000 foot mountain is eternally snow covered.TotalAdventure flew to McKinley Base Cap twice in 2016.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE FOR THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE !