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  1. #1

    Default Houston, TX to Barrow, AK, and back —2006 trip

    Me and my buddies are already thinking about(if this seems absurd, we think so as well) the summer after our graduation in 2006(from high school).

    We've settled on pretty much a trip to Alaska and then diversions from there.

    I was wondering what information you guys might provide or experience(and/or stories) regarding such a trip.

    Regarding the Barrow, AK mention: Yes, I know there are no "official roads" that lead to Barrow. I am, however, after a great deal of research, convinced that with my Wrangler Rubicon(very off-road equipped) and a bit of finesse in driving, I could get there from some point off of the Dalton highway. We plan to drive the Dalton as well.

    I've done tons of research on Alaska and bought the Milepost guide for driving the Alaska highway and inside of Alaska.

    From Alaska we are thinking about driving to Whitehorse and/or Yellowknife in Canada, perhaps then across Canada to New York, and back down to Texas. If time wouldn't allow that last bit, then to Whitehorse/Yellowknife and back down on some different route to Texas


    Total time, perhaps a month and a half. We'd really compress the time for that first leg of the trip TO the Alaska highway, and I figure that, driving perhaps 12-13 hours a day for this first leg to Canada, we could make it to Calgary within 5 or 6 days.


    Hmmm any thoughts?

  2. #2

    Default

    I don't think I'd try going to the Arctic Circle on your own. Access is barred for "security reasons", as you probably read in the Milepost. You could well get arrested. Hell, maybe shot (I have no idea what sort of security they have there). The smart thing to do, if you're serious, is drive to Deadhorse and get a tour.

    Regarding Barrow--if I'm not mistaken, it's not that there are no "official roads" to Barrow, it's that there are no roads AT ALL. Barrow, BTW, is well over 200 miles from Deadhorse and the end of the Dalton Highway. I don't see how you could possibly expect to get there via any wheeled vehicle, frankly.

    Of course, there's also the prospect of wrecking your vehicle on the Alaskan tundra somewhere and freezing to death. Not a good idea.

    Sounds like a grand vacation plan you have, otherwise. I strongly encourage you to do it. I considered such a trip when I was in college and wish I'd done it. Drive to Alaska. Have a great time. But don't expect to make it to the Arctic Ocean or Barrow by car, because you're not going to be able to do it.

  3. #3

    Default

    True, no roads at all.

    What I mean, though, is that it shouldn't be terribly difficult — and I can't see what security you speak of. Only if I went into the actual oilfields or otherwise privately owned land would I run the risk of a security breach, the rest is technically public land. Also, the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve runs almost all the way up to Barrow. Right outside of the park is public land, technically — I don't believe, besides Prudhoe bay and the surrounding oil-rich areas, that anyone owns the land running adjacent to the reserve.

    The land that runs from the Dalton or the park to Barrow, though technically public land, is indeed the Petroleum Reserve.

    Despite this, there are many native settlements in the area — look up the settlements of Umiat, Atqasuk, Wainwright, all well within the Petroleum Reserve.

    Ask yourself the question; how did these settlements get here? How do people get to and from these settlements? Surely there must be a supply route. And there are no airfields that I have found in either of those non-Barrow settlements within the Petroleum Reserve. Hm....


    I anticipate that, despite the fact that it is the petroleum reserve, and that the Brooks Range runs through the bottom of the area which I'd have to navigate, IF I went in the summer(which I will be doing), I'd have an excellent chance of making it with few problems. The Brooks Range is not terribly harsh, I believe the highest mountain in it is 4500, maybe 5000 ft?

    As you can see, I'm well read on Alaska. I've looked into "what it takes" for making it to Barrow in a vehicle.

    I have the vehicle, I could pack the supplies easily, it would be warm enough, I'd have several people with me to assist, and if all else fails, I'd never be too far from some form of civilization*— assuming I'd pack enough supplies and GPS(which I would), I'd be no further than 100 miles from a settlement at all times.

    Really, it would be hard... but that's one of the things that makes me want to go to Alaska. It is the "last frontier" that we have in America, and hey, besides the ocean and the Antarctic, the North American great North might be one of the more unexplored areas on the planet.


    I am convinced I could do it.

    Anyone here favor my plan? I am only out for a fun challenge, and I'm by nature a cautious person. If I didn't think it well within possibility's reach, I'd not even propose it.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2000
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    9,492

    Default A Feasibility Resource

    It turns out that one of the RTA contributors, Garry Sowerby, is probably the foremost authority on driving to (and away from) the truly impossible destinations that still exist in this world. Click here to read about his adventure to "sip the Sourtoe." Plus, I would contact him (through his website) for tips and suggestions about your planned escapade.

    I would tend to agree with your thesis, although all of the points submitted by "Bogart" constitute good advice. The one thing I would suggest is to obtain a welcome from those indian nations before driving across "their land" it is pretty easy to "go missing" if you annoy the right people.

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 04-12-2005 at 07:39 AM. Reason: Blasted typo

  5. #5
    DiverDown Guest

    Default Darwinism

    In this world there are always people who will tell other that it is impossible, can't be done or just plain stupid. [Comments, removed by Editor]

    I currently live in Alaska and have for most of my life and can tell you beyond a doubt that driving to Barrow during summer is a recipe for an ordeal. For the following reasons:
    1) Looking at maps and reading books are fine research methods, but you really need to contact a few people up here with EXPERIENCE in that climate.
    2) The tundra is deceptive in it's appearance. Ever hear of a muskeg? It's a swamp, usually only a few feet thick (under that is the perma-frost layer) and you and all your friends will not be able to get your vehicle out. The tundra has numerous stuck vehicles that can be seen today, slowly rusting where they got stuck. There are really no sturctures in which to attach a winch (you have one dont you?) to pull a stuck vehicle out.
    3) Little known fact: There are rivers, creeks, streams, lakes and ponds that form seasonally THAT ARE NOT ON ANY MAP. This is because the area is too remote and it is too much effort to seasonally udate the maps. You will not be able to cross a silt-filled creek of over four feet and can spend days criss-crossing the tundra trying to find a fording site.
    4) The Brooks Range is, in fact, very rugged in places and breaking down there can have serious consequences in terms of you and and your friends entering the food chain (pretty near the bottom).
    5) Your plan while romantic in it's conception would have a better chance of success if you did this in winter (when the tundra is frozen), but I hardly think your vehicle could survive in -60 degrees, not many can. I have "heard" of people making the crossing using snow machines, but these were either natives with numerous generations of experience or guys with support (ie. safety vehicles read helicopters).
    6) The reason you cant find any airports on the map is easy: There are no "official" runways in many of these places. We use float planes or land on the tundra where there are no muskegs. Oil companies land where possible and when necessary use helicopters (they are expensive, a lot of maintenance, and limited range).
    There are probably at least another ten good reasons for you to make other plans, but I dont have the time to list them.
    If you come to Alaska, keep your vehicle on the roads, fish, hike, camp and have a great time.
    [Comments -- Removed by Editor -- ]
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 04-12-2005 at 04:53 PM. Reason: A Kindler and Gentler Community

  6. #6

    Default

    Valid points, sir. Valid points. Thank you for your response, [Comment removed by Editor -- Let's remember to play nice here]

    The "little known fact" I know very well; it was what I figured would end up being the greatest obstacle. Part of the problem with doing this in the summer, of course, is that I can't allow myself the possibility to freely travel over, more or less, frozen rivers and ponds/lakes in the Arctic.

    What I surmised about the Brooks Range was from more basic observations of maps, and yes, a good deal of reading. [Comments, removed by Editor -- Play nice...]

    -60บF... hm. Record low at Barrow was -54บF.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 04-12-2005 at 04:51 PM. Reason: Redundancy not required

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Qu้bec, Montreal, Arizona, California, France
    Posts
    754

    Default Risky...

    I agree with DiverDown,
    I've never been to Alaska, but I've been to Northern Quebec and Labrador and I can tell you that without a doubt, you'll wreck your vehicle if you take any "forest road" you might find there. Especially during the spring or summer, when you're not riding on permafrost ground. These roads were not usually designed to accomodate a car, a jeep or any larger vehicle and are mostly used by skilled Natives who have ski-doos and other similar recreational vehicles. If something happens there, even with a good satellite phone, it can take several hours (maybe even days in certain areas and under severe weather conditions) before you can get any help. Maybe you should consider another option like driving to a certain point and then try to get on a hydroplane expedition to go further north. I don't know if it is possible in that area, but I know it is at some other locations in Canada.

    Good Luck!

  8. #8

    Default

    Yes, it seems that I am not correct on trying in the summer.

    But the consensus seems to be that at some point in the winter, this would be much more possible. Most especially getting around and over the rivers and lakes of the area(there are MANY)!

    So for the 2006 trip I might consider going somewhere which might be a bit more accessible. ONE of these days I will drive to Barrow. I will make sure, too, that everyone on this forum knows it! :D Quite seriously, it is one of those long-term goals of mine, I suppose. Silly yes, but something I've always wanted to do.

    Anyone know of somewhere off-the-way which a normal vehicle/traveler wouldn't go to or not be able to go to that I might be able to get to? Immediately I think of "Nome" but even I know that would be one for the winter. Nome is one place I think I'd much rather visit on a small ocean vessel of my own.

    Old Crow? I don't think the natives there would want me driving to where they are.

    Arctic Village? Fort Yukon?

    Ideas!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Qu้bec, Montreal, Arizona, California, France
    Posts
    754

    Default Eastward?

    If you want to go to remote places people never heard of, why don't you try going north east instead of Alaska. A lot of people I know went to Alaska but very few people I know, even Quebecers, went to places like the James Bay or Labrador or Kujjuaq. Some places are not even on certain maps! You want to get away from civilization? Approx. 60% of our territory is not populated! We are one of the biggest electricity producer in America, we have powerful rivers and huge hydroelectric installations in the north that's why they had no choice but to maintain some kind of a road system there.

    The farther north you can get by car is Brisay (Caniapiscau reservoir) which is kind of in the middle of the province. To go there, you have to take the James Bay road (SR109) to Radisson and then the Trans taiga highway which is 688 km long without any towns aside and upaved. For more info go to : http://jamesbayroad.com/ttr/ and for a very good trip report : http://www.theguysatwork.com/jamesbay/jamesbay.htm

    You can also drive the Trans Labrador Highway : from Baie Comeau take SR389 N, you will see huge dams like Manic 2 and 5, there is only one town between Baie Comeau and the Lab border : Fermont (at km 565). The road is unpaved from Manic 5 to the old mining town of Gagnon (deserted) and then from Fire Lake old mine to Fermont. You can drive as far as Goose Bay, then you have to take a ferry to go to the coast. Apparently the coast is magnificient, especially in the northern end and from the south you can reach New Foundland and the Lower North Shore of Quebec. Great tips about driving the Trans Lab : http://www.amxfiles.com/stoneji/97trip/tlh_notes.htm

    You can take the train from Sept ฮles to Schefferville, another remote area in western Labrador or take a plane ride to Salluit, Iqaluit (Nunavut), Kujjuaq and other small Native villages along the Ungava Bay and Hudson Strait.

    If you're an outdoors person any of these suggestions will suit you well, because I've never seen so many wild animals, virgin lakes and mountains! You can camp, fish or hike almost anywhere you want, no one will bother you (when I did the Trans Lab I only met 3 cars between Manic 5 and Fermont!). By the way, I don't think nobody on this forum wants to discourage you from realizing your original trip idea, I myself would absoultely LOVE to do something similar:o) but we have to think safety-wise. However, if you ever realize that particular trip I'd be delighted to hear about it!

    Good Luck!
    Gen:)

  10. #10

    Default

    Wow, Gen, thank you so much! That is a TON of information to digest!

    At the moment, I must head to play golf(for I am on my school's golf team), but a bit later I'll sift through all that.

    I must say, one thing we'd considered if Barrow was out as an option was to hit Alaska, do the Dalton, then go back down to Fairbanks and from there hit either Inuvik or Yellowknife(that might be a stretch, though).

    I'll certainly think about the Northeast up there! You know... I never have thought of it... but then, I guess most people do not, eh?

    Again, thank you for everything, I'll really consider that(later)!

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