Thursday, 13 June 2013

Arctic Ocean, Midnight Sun, Cyclists and Arctic Ground Squirrels

We are now back in Fairbanks, Alaska, after a week's adventure on the renowned Dalton Highway.The road takes us to Deadhorse and the nearby Prudhoe Bay Oil field on the Arctic Ocean.

Since the beginning of June we have been heading north. Our journey has taken us in and out of Canada and Alaska. Our final entry was on the 2nd June when our border officer suggested that our one bottle of wine, remnants of a bottle of gin, lack of drugs or weapons made for 'not a lot of fun' but he didn't know what fun we would have on the dirt!

Stephen has been putting in the 'dirt' miles to get us there and back in one piece.

The scenery continues to be stunning as we travel along the Alaska Highway.
Kluane Lake,  Alaska Highway, Yukon

Alaska Highway

A Gray Jay found in the Boreal forests of North America

The border line between US and Canada

 The end of the Alaska Highway at Delta Junction, also know as the Alcan.

 A suggestion of things to come! Inevitable? As it was still cold and colder than usual we luckily didn't see mossies on this part of our journey. They are back now and will get worse as summer arrives.

Luckily we haven't come across Buffalo or Moose on the road at speed
- 60c is not uncommon in this area according to a local first nation woman.

 Fairbanks has been our base for shopping and cheap fuel before the start of the Dalton Highway. It  hosts a World Ice Sculpture competition in March every year. We paid a visit to the ice museum where Chinese ice artist, Alan, many times champion, carved for us.

 The Dalton Highway follows the Alaskan oil pipeline to Deadhorse, a few miles from the Arctic Ocean. The oil is pumped to Valdez on the south coast of Alaska.
The pipeline

Yukon River Crossing

At one of the very welcome 'camps' which have fuel, simple food and lodging and sometimes visitor information sits enthusiastic Dottie in her information cabin, ready to give us all the info on the road conditions and which animals to look out for. We did a lot of looking out but didn't see much on this trip.
Pipeline and road share the route

Spring flowers

 Arriving at the Arctic Circle we were surprisingly greeted by a team of two hardy, elderly volunteers who rushed us into place for a photo and gave us an Arctic Circle certificate! There was nobody else for miles on the road or in the free campsite adjoining the sign.

In Wiseman, a small community 5 miles off the road, this lodge offers coffee and gifts, when open!

 Much is still frozen!

 Roadworks are ongoing as the frost and ice heave causes damage to the road.

 Miles of Boreal forest turns to Arctic tundra as the road rises.

 No bears! but we saw many Arctic Ground Squirrels and a few lonely Caribou, lost from the herd.

Endless winding valley roads

 Finally, we reach Deadhorse Camp. This is it. In our mapbook, The Milepost, the advert reads as if it is a small community but it seems this is it, the building. Despite the ugly, functional buildings of the camp and the industry of the Oilfield, the bird life is beautiful as they migrate here from mid May.

 You can park up anywhere along the road and we stayed here for the night on a gravel pull-off, before we took a guided tour to see the Arctic Ocean and the Oilfields of Prudhoe Bay.

This is it! The Arctic Ocean. Frozen!
My tiny foot is frozen! (Not my tiny hand...!)
  I couldn't swim or even paddle, as planned.

500,000 barrels a day of oil pass through the pipes. It takes a week to reach Valdez.

The road to Prudhoe Bay was mainly driven by trucks and a few cyclists and motorcyclists!!
We met Irish cyclists Brendan and Kev who braved the bears and the cold to cycle to Deadhorse from Anchorage on the start of their magnificent journey from Prudhoe bay to South America. Amazing!!!!

 We helped with the odd cup of tea and biscuits!   

 A cold and mucky road for us. Imagine what is was like on a bicycle!

The stunning valley near the Atigun Pass. It was raining and the road was slippery but still amazing.

Slabs of dirty ice along the highway.

 An exciting trip to North of the Arctic Circle.  Glad we had a sturdy truck with heating and good block out blinds as the sun didn't go down. Seeing bright sun at 2.00am is quite different!

What next? Probably Denali National Park. They must have bears there. We need to see a Grizzly. From a distance!

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