Sunday, March 6, 2016

Dalton Highway ~ Wiseman ~ Alaska

The Grizzly Bear in the tundra when leaving Deadhorse, AK

We left Deadhorse, AK after one overnight stay and our visit to the Arctic Ocean.  This day was dreary and rather dark, not offering anything sunny yetbut we were always on the lookout for wildlife, hoping to see the evasive musk-oxen.  There had been sightings of a grizzly bear in Deadhorse but we’d not seen him. Then off in the distance we do see something, could it finally be a muskox?

Gorgeous Grizzly
Admittedly they are the same color and similar in size, too but as we got closer the beautiful animal we saw was a grizzly bear and not a muskox.  We parked at the side of the road and watched him dig and scrounge for his food in the tundra.  Grizzly bears are omnivores and they eat fish and meat as well as seeds, roots, grasses and insects.  Notice the claws, which help his digging on the search for these foods.

Alaska Brown Bear
The coastal population of grizzly bears found in Alaska and Canada are referred to with their correct scientific name for the species, which is “brown bear”, by the locals up here.  The “grizzly” term is used in the southern 48 states.  This fellow was oblivious to us.  We stayed inside the vehicles; he wouldn’t be as likely to smell us and run.  We would enjoy watching him for close to half an hour.

Arctic tundra
Tundra is “one of the vast, nearly level, treeless plains of the arctic region”.  The permafrost is a layer of dead plants and frozen soil that goes down 450 metres (1476’) under the surface of the tundra.  In southern regions of the Arctic, the surface layer above the permafrost melts and forms bogs and shallow lakes that welcome insects and migrating birds.

Rainy Dalton days
We had several rainy times during this part of the adventure.  The condition of the road we were on was definitely more challenging with wet roads as the majority of the road was dirt.  Permafrost would be the biggest problem to maintaining any kind of road up here as it creates heaves and bumps in the ground.  Best speed to travel is a slow one, which also gives you better opportunities to enjoy the view and avoid the big ruts in the road.

Atigun Pass in Alaska
Once again we travel over the Atigun Pass.  This photo might indicate the slope of the hill as we were coming down from the north, climbing to the top at an elevation of 1422 meters (4752’).  This is part of the Brooks Range.

Forest fire haze
There were some serious forest fires while we were on our northern travels.  We were in some very dense smoke several times, including this time between Deadhorse and Galbraith Lake in Alaska.  Thankfully we were never in close proximity to these, but we did see what was left of several fires from the past.

Pipeline maintenance
As we approached Coldwater, we could see a crew doing maintenance on the pipeline.  The occasional necessary maintenance or repairs must be well planned in order to avoid as much disruption as possible to the flow of the oil passing through the pipeline.

Wiseman, Alaska
The little hamlet of Wiseman is situated a short distance off the main road and an interesting stop.  Wiseman was established in 1908 and has existed ever since with all properties being privately owned now.  The Wiseman Trading Company was established two years later.

“Clutch” is the owner of the Koyukuk Miners Museum and a cordial host as he gave us a great tour of his property.  Should you stop at Wiseman, located not far from Coldfoot, Alaska, be sure to say hello to Clutch and have a look through his museum. 

Click here to see a rainy day and other sights on the Dalton.


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