Saturday, February 27, 2016

Deadhorse ~ Prudhoe Bay ~ Arctic Ocean in Alaska

We visited the Arctic Ocean at Prudhoe Bay

We had 230 km (143 mi) ahead of us before we would reach the Arctic Ocean.  With all eyes watching for the wildlife of Alaska we had hoped to see, we set out on this dark day.

Misty morning on the Dalton Highway
We left Galbraith under heavy mist and clouds hanging on the mountaintops.  This does make for some dramatic photos at times, but thankfully we will be returning on this same road tomorrow so hopefully the weather will allow better photos.

Fireweed in Alaska
Fireweed is a perennial bloom that brightens up the roadside and fields on our travels throughout Alaska.  Fireweed is not the national flower for the state but many believe it should be, it is plentiful.  It grows very well after a fire has cleared away other vegetation, hence the name, and we did see many examples of that on our travels.  It is also a food with great benefits, used to make candies, syrups, jellies and ice cream in Alaska, as well.

A very flat tire
We made it to Deadhorse but had a flat tire as we arrived at our destination.  Thankfully, the ‘royal we’ did not have to change the tire roadside and was at a more convenient spot when this happened.  The mud on the truck is just part of the travels on these roads, made worse on wet days. 

We have arrived in Deadhorse
Deadhorse is the camp on the Prudhoe Bay for the oil industry.  It is private property, with limitations to the public but we signed up for a tour of the area so we could see the Arctic Sea.

Camp living at Prudhoe Bay, AK
The seasonal oil industry workers number anywhere from 3500 to 5000 and are housed in this kind of accommodations while they are there.  The airport is a busy place with lots of traffic bringing workers in and taking them home for their days off with shift changes.  

Fox, ducks and swans in Deadhorse camp
On our tour around Deadhorse, we saw several areas of marshy land and ponds that were home to different birds and lots of babies in the group.  One distant sighting was a fox family who had a keen eye on the shopping list that could possibly include some of those same birds for dinner.

Beach of the Arctic Ocean
Our tour driver was very familiar with the area and gave us lots of interesting info about Deadhorse but the most interesting of our tour to me was the fact we were on Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean.  Our only access to this is via the tour and worth taking the time for that.

Very brave swimmers
We had booked our tour for the following day but because we were in early enough, thought it worth trying to get an afternoon tour, there really is nothing else to do in Deadhorse if you’re not a worker!  The tours are not big groups and there was room for us to join the afternoon tour.  Some of the group were very brave and actually swam in the water, albeit brief swims.

We walk in the cold Arctic Ocean
We did it!  The water was cold, but not unbearable.  At least so that we could stand long enough for a photo to prove we dipped our feet in the Arctic Ocean.  This now adds to the growing list of oceans we’ve been fortunate to have “dipped our feet” in on our other travels.

Heading back down the Dalton Highway, click here to see the adventure on the return to Fairbanks trip,.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Dalton Highway ~ Atigun Pass ~ Galbraith Lake, Alaska

Three days of travel on the Dalton Highway in Alaska

Our Alaska travel continues as we leave the city of Fairbanks and head north.  We will reach Highway 11, the Dalton Highway, 135 km (84 mi) north of the city and follow that road for 666 km. (414 miles) more to reach Deadhorse, AK at the Prudhoe Bay oil fields on the Arctic Ocean.  

The Dalton Highway in Alaska
The Dalton, built as a supply road for the Pipeline, was named after James Dalton who was an expert engineer from Alaska who also was involved in early construction and a consultant for oil exploration is these far north places.

Dirt roads of Highway 11
The Dalton is one of the most isolated roads in the United States. It is very primitive with some stretches of road paved but the majority is a dirt road.  Travellers need to be prepared to take care of most problems on their own.  The only medical help is available at Fairbanks and Deadhorse so survival gear is recommended.

Pump Station
There are a few pump stations along the route to enable the oil to travel all the miles it must go to Valdez.  This one is Chandalar Station, known as Pump Station 5, one of only four pump stations now being used.  This one is a ‘relief station’ which means it will relieve the pressure that builds up in the pipeline as it comes down through the Atigun Pass.

Climbing the Atigun Pass, Alaska
We travelled through the Brooks Range and Atigun Pass, which is the highest point on the highway at 1,444 m (4739 ft).  We crossed the Continental Divide; all rivers south of this point flow to the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea and all rivers north of the Atigun Pass flow into the Arctic Ocean.

Alaska Pipeline
The pipeline basically follows the highway most of the time. There are times it is out of sight, and times it is buried but most of it is above ground and nearby.  One cannot help but marvel at the thought of this project being done, the sight and size of it is very impressive.  We were able to view photos and videos of the project as it was being built, on different stops at interpretive centers in the state of Alaska.

Dalton Highway 11
We did not see any RV’s our size while on these roads.  Most vehicles seen were large trucks hauling supplies for the three towns, Coldfoot, Wiseman and Deadhorse, which have a total permanent population of 57 people (2013 census).  There are 3500 to 5000 seasonal workers at Deadhorse, as well, depending on the oil production.

Brooks Range
This road we travelled was one that few tourists take because of the challenge it could be but should you do it, it is one that must not be rushed.  We travelled with others, which is suggested should you have any problems.  We took three days on the Dalton each way and saw incredible scenery with some sunshine and some rain but well worth the drive and very little traffic.

Galbraith Lake park view
We planned our overnight stops with the available state parks and our fuel stops so we were not running out of fuel.  We carried extra fuel, spare tires and other parts that might have to be replaced so luckily we were usually prepared.  This was our view from an overnight stop at Galbraith Lake.

Stay with us, click here to see more to come on the Dalton Highway in Alaska.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Alaska Pipeline ~ North Pole ~ Fairbanks, Alaska

Our travels between Delta Junction and Fairbanks, Alaska

Trans-Alaska Pipeline System
Our first sighting of the Trans - Alaska Pipeline System was quite a sight as we crossed the Tanana River.  This pipeline would be visible to us throughout most of our road trip through Alaska as it follows the roads we travelled.  It is commonly called the Alaska Pipeline or just the Pipeline to those who live in Alaska.

Roadside moose sighting
This young moose was walking towards some water not far off the road and made for some good photos taken.  So many of the wildlife we saw were a great distance away so we were happy to have this opportunity.  We saw more once we got into Fairbanks, seems they prefer the urban life.

Tanana River
We got a wonderful view of the Tanana River on a rest stop on the Richardson Highway.  The Tanana is a 940 km (584 mi) tributary of the Yukon River.  The word Tanana is an Athabasca word that means “river trail”.

North Pole
Just a few miles south of Fairbanks we made a stop at North Pole!  Even for the non-believers, it was a great place to visit.  It was summertime so Santa wasn’t too busy making toys yet and was there greeting all the visitors.  They have sent out millions of personal letters to children all over the world for 60 years now and the tradition continues from Santa’s house.  This can be arranged online and was a big thrill for them when our young grandsons received their letters this year.  The oldest one is “a believer” again!  

Candy cane lamp posts
The streets in North Pole are lined with candy cane lamp posts!  The small city, basically a suburb of Fairbanks, AK has a population of just over 2200 people and I am sure that many of them work for Santa when the need arrives!

Santa Claus House
The Santa House was full of lots of souvenirs for us to look at.  It was a busy place with many visitors doing the same and young and old waiting in the lineup to have a chat with Santa.  He was a generous Santa with his time and was gracious enough to record a video for our young grandson for us!

Santa's reindeer
There were several reindeer out in Santa’s back yard so we were able to see them where they were safe and sound behind their fence.  We weren’t sure which one this was but he was the friendly one who came to say hello to us.

Cheena River
We made a couple of stays in this park as we passed through Fairbanks on two occasions and found it to be a good stop.  Travelling as we did covering many miles on most days, we were happy to stop for a couple of nights to catch up on laundry and grocery shopping.

Heading up the Dalton Highway, click here to follow us.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Travels to Tok - Delta Junction, Alaska

Leaving Chicken, AK and stopping at Delta Junction then onto Tok, Alaska

Traffic on the Taylor Highway
With Chicken, AK behind us, we are travelling on the fairly isolated Taylor Highway, the stretch of road from where we crossed into Alaska until we arrive back on the Alaska Highway.  There were several miles of dirt roads and many locals were motoring on quads on this road, we saw several of these.

Peaceful drive through the countryside
The weather was great and we had some beautiful scenery with very little traffic to share the road with. This is Highway 5 and it is closed in the winter due to no road maintenance being done then.

Tanana River
This calm water looks more like a lake and not the normal river water we see but a nice change from the many rivers we cross on our travels.  We travel alongside the Tanana River for several miles as we complete our journey on the Alaska Highway, also called the Alcan.

Tok RV Village
We arrive in the small town of Tok, AK to spend the night at the Tok RV Village.  The spaces are large and they have several amenities available.  We arrived early afternoon so there were not many in there but more RV’ers arrived as the day went on.  We enjoyed warm summer weather and some local entertainment that evening.

Tok Visitor's Center and gift store
Tok meaning “peaceful crossing” considers itself the goodwill ambassador of Alaska. When highway travelling to and from Canada, you pass through Tok which is called the “Gateway to Alaska”.  We visited the Visitor’s Center and a local gift store full of Alaska souvenirs.  We see a display of animals of Alaska at most stops we make.  We’d prefer to see live animals but those viewings are rather limited in this big country.

Crossing the bridge over the Gerstle River
We cross the Johnson River then the Gerstle River on our last miles of the Alcan Highway.  There are so many rivers that we cross but the Gerstle was another great example of the rivers we saw during our travels.  There was very little water but small rivulets running down the braided riverbed on this July day.

Very BIG mosquito in Delta Jumction, Alaska
We are now at Delta Junction, AK and see these huge mosquito sculptures at the tourist centre.  We had been warned by everyone who has travelled Alaska in the past that we were to expect to see lots of bugs, mosquitoes being one of them.  We only saw a troublesome swarm once on our travels and we were able to avoid them by moving on.

Termperature records
We were travelling in the summer months and enjoying sunshine and warm temperatures on most days but this photo shows what kinds of temperatures the other months have brought in the past.  We’ve definitely chosen the right time of year to visit.

End of the Alaska Highway
We have now reached the end of the Alcan Highway that began in Dawson Creek, BC at Mile 0 and was built to connect Alaska to BC by road.  This project employed 15,000 men and 11,000 pieces of equipment.  The price at completion in 1942 was 115 million dollars but in today’s money would be almost 1.7 billion dollars.  The highway has been altered over the years with improvements etc. so the mileage can vary from this original number.

We are onto Fairbanks from here to spend a couple of days to enjoy what the area has to offer.  The adventure continues, click here.


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