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  1. #61
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Excellent job with the photos


    I'm so pleased you were able to figure how to post your photos -- really some great field reports and like you, I hope the Japanese couple survived their encounter with the bison!


  2. #62


    Great report - makes me want to go back right now!

    Sympathies for the further expense. Speaking as someone whose van broke its gearbox this morning I know how frustrating these sudden unexpected costs feel!

  3. #63


    Browsing your excellent journal Lifey has been a great pleasure; it must have taken you some time and effort to put it together. Thank you.

    Too many interests to comment on – so just one. The drive from Anchorage along the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet is a memorable drive and must rate being one of all top drives. Always been a top fan of Capt James Cook – born not too far from my birthplace in Yorkshire.

    It was a great joy a couple of years back to visit the Big Island and kayak across the bay to his not too easily accessible memorial.

  4. #64
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Echoing

    Wow ! After being away for a few days I just caught up with your trip report and it continues to blow me away, great stuff Lifey !

    One day, maybe one day .......................

  5. #65
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default James W Dalton Highway - The Haul Road

    19th June, 2009

    At the end of this road lay the reason for coming to Alaska. In 2006 I had the great fortune of standing on the Ross Ice Shelf and in the Antarctic waters. Now I wanted to stand in the Arctic Ocean.

    Having both read and heard many tales of woe about the Haul Road, I determined not to drive; instead take a tour. After some research on the internet and through the brochures and posters at the GoNorth hostel, I settled on a small tour company called 1st Alaska Outdoor School.

    Small because they use a small van and in our case, a very small group. There was John, the driver, a couple from Philadelphia PA, my Italian room mate at the hostel, and myself. All with different interests, all looking forward to the adventure. We had more than enough room in the 12 seater van.

    Up to Livengood it is a good paved road.

    But then, that is the old road... that is where the road once ended. All that changed in 1974, when the Haul Road was completed.

    The first place of interest along the road is the Pipeline visitor centre, which at this early hour was not open. The Information on the boards and the outdoor displays, as well as being able to walk right up to the pipeline and touch it - everyone has to touch it! - gives the full story... and more.

    The Pipeline

    The Pig

    The Directions
    (There are many more pictures here. I can't possibly post them all.)

    Soon we were to come to the official start of the James W Dalton Highway.

    At first a good paved road... maybe just to get you in. It does not last long, and then...

    (We did eventually overtake that tanker, which was travelling at a snail's pace.)

    It is even designated as a Scenic By-way.

    For the whole length it is incredibly scenic in a raw untouched sort of beauty. (Note the wet road. For most of it there are water tankers keeping it sprayed to minimize the dust. There is also a lot of oil on the road.)

    And yes... that does say: next 416 miles, though we rarely travelled that fast, other than on paved sections. To minimize damage both from stones thrown up by other vehicles, and the sharp stones and flint on the road's surface, most (sensible) drivers travel very slowly. Even so, the van got a large star about an inch in diametre, right in the middle of the windscreen. It is rare to see a vehicle in Fairbanks without some windscreen damage.

    The pipeline was often the main attraction, especially when it was quite close to the road. The pump stations are out of bounds. It would have been interesting to go in and see one of them.

    And when we got to the Yukon Crossing there was another Pipeline information centre. Here the pipeline was well out of reach, even though we could pass underneath.

    Up to this point the road is really in very good (unpaved) condition, and the Yukon Crossing is a popular destination for campers and fisherman alike. Here there is a roadhouse, accommodation (of sorts), meals and souveniers.

    Next stop was Finger Mountain.

    We went for a short hike here along the trail and viewed

    the wildflowers

    and scenery. The information boards on the trail told of the area's wildlife - though we did not see any at this location.

    Not long after that was the Arctic Circle....

    the highlight for so many. We were duly presented with our certificate stating that we had crossed the Arctic Circle. (I don't recall us getting one when we crossed the Antarctic Circle.)

    From the Yukon River north the road is officially known as The North Road. All the information is here:

    I hope you can read all of this, as it is so interesting to read about the history of the road and why it was needed and what they did before it was built.

    As we approached our destination for the day, we got a glimpse of what tomorrow had in store.... the Brooks Range.

    On that first evening we had dinner in Coldfoot, at the truckstop... the only place! Great food... all you can eat for less than $20. There were quite a few at dinner, including a full load of passengers off a tourist bus, truck drivers and maybe even the occupants of the large RV parked in the RV park.

    After dinner many of us went over to the Arctic Interagency Visitor Centre across the road, for a talk to be given by a ranger on owls of the Arctic. This was especially of interest to the couple from Pennsylvania who are both birdwatchers, and were hoping to see some rare ones whilst up north.

    By the time we headed back to our lodgings - 12 miles from Coldfoot - the storm had broken and we were treated to one of the most brilliant rainbows I have ever seen.

    We were all tempted to go find that pot of gold.

    Once again, I took more than a dozen pictures of something so brilliant, one just could not stop hitting that shutter. A few more can be seen here.

    Back at our abode, a quick shower, a drink and bed.

    We stayed at the Borreal Lodge in Wiseman. Here there are four bedrooms, each with two single beds. A fully functioning kitchen and two bathrooms... one with washing machines. I was surprised to read the brochure which was left in the room. Rates for summer - single occupancy $70; dual occupancy $90. And this after all the horror stories I had read about the cost of staying in Prudhoe Bay... being charged $140 for sharing a room with four others.

    Tomorrow the Arctic Ocean!
    Last edited by Lifemagician; 07-21-2009 at 08:09 PM.

  6. #66
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Way up North

    20th June, 2009

    The day dawned bright and sunny as we embarked on our last 200 miles to Pruhoe Bay - 5 to 6 hours driving time. The official tour at Prudhoe Bay which takes visitors behind the security through the BP installations and on to the Arctic Ocean, takes place at 17:00 hours. It was decided therefore that we could sleep-in, and leave around 9.30am.

    Breakfast that morning was out of the cooler, for those who had not brought their own. We all made good use of the kitchen, and sat and chatted over a cuppa before leaving.

    Often we could see the road way up ahead, as here, going up the side of these moountains.

    We watched with interest as trucks negotiated this stretch. No guard rails here. (This scene is also seen on the board entitled The North Road in the posting above.) Truck traffic never stops on the haul road, and in winter when the road is frozen, this section must be a real challenge. (I could not help thinking of Ice Road Truckers Hugh, JT, and others taking on this challenge.)

    By the time we reached the highest point of this road,

    we had driven through some beautiful mountain scenery.

    Then someone called out 'goats'! (We realised later that they were actually Dall Sheep.) Fortunately we were right by a large turnout for trucks going up the pass.

    We must have been here for more than 30 minutes, as the sheep - three adults and two lambs - slowly ate their way down the mountain and came within reasonable - but still far away - photo distance.

    One really wonders what they eat on that rocky slope.

    Through the pass the road is quite wide and solid gravel, with guard rails....

    though it seems some have challenged them.

    On the northern side of the Brooks Range lies the Tundra... the endless treeless plains... the land of mirages... all the way to the Arctic Ocean some hundred miles away.

    This area has a beauty all of its own. To think that just a few inches below this vegetation is the permafrost.

    In Prudhoe Bay they have special vehichles - monsters - which are able to drive over the tundra, without damaging it.

    The only wildlife we saw on the way up was a lone Arctic Fox. This was to change later that night on our way back. The birdwatchers were also thrilled to see a short eared arctic owl fly off, just as we passed by where it was hiding in the tundra. If it had not been for the lecture on the previous evening, none of us may have been able to identify it. These nocturnal creatures have adapted well to their treeless environment... in the land of the midnight sun.

    And the midnight sun it truly was. Those of you who noted the date on these posts will be aware that we took this tour on the weekend of the longest day (in the northern hemisphere).
    Last edited by Lifemagician; 07-24-2009 at 01:57 PM.

  7. #67
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Prudhoe Bay and the Arctic Ocean

    On our arrival in Prudhoe Bay our driver took us for a quick tour of the place. There was great excitement when the birdwatchers noticed a Bespectacled Eider Duck in one of the ponds.

    This apparently rare creature was the only one of the four eider ducks which they had never seen, and it appears one about which very little is known.

    Another great attraction is the Prudhoe Bay National Forest, then on to some retail therapy... and of course I fell for some of the tacky souveniers... ye gotta have them!

    When it came time for our official tour, our driver went to have a quick meal and a sleep to be refreshed enough for the long hours back to Wiseman.

    After the security formalities and a brief video the bus took us all around the BP site and on to the Arctic Ocean, where we were allowed to disembark. At last, my long wait was over. Here I was at the edge of the water. The sand/gravel/rocks all around were black, as was the ocean floor. It is therefor no surprise that the water was warm in the middle of summer. Solar heating at its best! And yes, that is ice you see in the distance.

    I promptly removed my shoes and socks and donned my thongs, which I had brought along to protect my feet from any sharp rocks. I waded into the warm water. (Others were preparing to do the same.) My Italian room mate had my camera... all bases covered.

    To my surprise, the sand started sucking me down... first my feet and when it was almost up to my ankles, I became concerned which quickly turned into panic. In the process of trying to extract one foot, the other just sank deeper and I over-balanced. Trying not to fall into the water, I reached out to a large piece of ice at the water's edge. By this time those watching realised that I was not just reacting to "cold water", and rushed to help me. My feet were firmly stuck, and the thongs just made getting them out all the harder.

    Once I was fully extracted - with the help of some of my friends - I sat down on a nearby (driftwood) log, cleaned my feet and put on my shoes. Then I asked about the photos, only to have this lovely lady tell me that she could not work the camera.

    And that folk, is why you will just have to take my word for it.

    Next morning at breakfast in Coldfoot I spoke to one of the passengers off one of the tour buses, and asked him to check if any of the others on the bus had by any chance got a photo. To date I have not heard, so I guess the answer is "no".

    Dinner in Prudhoe Bay was a grand affair.

    We ate at the Caribou Inn, cafeteria style, along with dozens (if not hundreds) of the workers. For us it was a $20 all you can eat. The selection was incredible. Two different soups along with other appetisers, at least four main meals of beef, pork, chicken and pasta, a good variety of vegetables, and potatoes done every which way. There were desserts to put inches on the hips and cakes to die for. And to wash all this down there was every type of non-alcolholic beverage you can think of. We left well satisfied.

    It was now time to go wake up our driver.
    Last edited by Lifemagician; 07-24-2009 at 05:25 PM.

  8. #68
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default In the land of the midnight sun

    I had not expected the journey back to be anything special, and was ready to sleep through it... little did I know.

    Not long after heading south someone spotted a herd of muskox in the distance. I need to emphasize 'distance', because it was even hard to make them out with binoculars. We had been told that up till two days ago they had made their home right in the middle of the BP installations.

    And then came the caribou... herds and herds of them. The large herds were far too far away from the road to get any meaningful pictures.

    There were however a sufficient number of stragglers near the road, as well as ones which insisted on crossing the road right in front of us, to get some great shots.

    Then there were the photo opportunities as we neared the mountain range.

    With the clouds hanging low over the mountains, and the sun some 20 degrees above the horizon the colours were truly spectaular...

    the photos don''t really do them justice. By now it was close to midnight.

    An then there is the ever present pipeline!

  9. #69
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default The Road

    21st June, 2009

    Up until now we had been driving on what I considered to be a good road for the area, in light of all the doom and gloom I had heard. All that was to change!

    I had heard the rain start soon after we went to bed... and it did not let up all day.

    This was our chance to drive the road in the rain... a muddy road with a bit of slip and slide built in.

    Once again, driving slowly and carefully, it should not present a problem for all but the most inexperienced driver, the impatient or the extremely low slung vehicle. (I grew up with roads worse than this, in country Victoria... more than half a century ago.)

    This road, which along 95% of it, is wide enough for two trucks to pass, is a good rough road. Only in some of the mountain areas and over some bridges would two trucks side by side be challenged.

    Many areas are full of potholes. Lots of it is washboarding.

    The loose gravel is ever present. In the wet it is slippery and sliding.

    Roadwork is constant along the complete length.

    Even paved sections are no speedways with the cracks and holes in the pavement.

    Still, of all the folk with whom I spoke, who drove the highway with their two spare wheels, etc., only one had a flat tyre... and he picked up a 1" nail in Prudhoe Bay. He had his tyre repaired locally, and drove back to Fairbanks on it.

    In the parking lot at the Caribou Inn and other establishments, there were many four wheel drive vehicles and those bulky macho truck things. Parked in between were the SUVs and the ocassional sedan, as well as large tour buses and at least one full size motor home. I spoke to several travellers along the AlCan who had taken their motor home up to Prudhoe Bay, and without exception, all said that going slow and with great care, they managed fine.

    Accommodation along the road consists of several campgrounds and lodges at Wiseman and Coldfoot, as well as Yukon crossing. There are quite a lot of rest areas along the road, and about half a dozen have primitive toilet facilities. Camping is permitted all along the road and detailed guidelines are provided. We saw many folk camping, some just in their motor home or camper, others who had pitched tents. They were by the rivers and creeks, in small turnouts and in the rest areas.

    God willing, I will get back there and drive it myself. But it will have to be in a vehicle for which I have paid... a vehicle which belongs to me. The windscreen and paint damage from the flying gravel is unavoidable. It may be minimized by keeping a good distance from the vehicle in front, and slowing down for oncoming traffic, but it cannot be avoided.

    My concern.

    My great concern is that one day this road will be paved and will end up being a busy highway with the commercial trash which one now sees all along the Alaska Highway.
    Last edited by Lifemagician; 07-24-2009 at 05:34 PM.

  10. #70
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Here's hoping for paved highways....

    Paved highways generally cause less environmental degradation over time. I really appreciate your photos -- especially since you had to load them twice....

    Great report.


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