Across the Arctic Circle on Independence Day

Trip Start May 02, 2012
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Trip End Jul 31, 2014


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Flag of United States  , Alaska
Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Today we got up at 4:00am and set off for the Arctic Circle from Fairbanks, on the Dalton Highway.  We thought that today, being Independence Day in the USA, there would be less trucking activity, and no roadworks.   The roadworks are carried out in summertime only, but even on this public holiday there was plenty of activity.  (Independence Day is the time for fireworks, I believe, but it must be difficult to have a fireworks display in these parts, when there is no darkness.....) We had no idea what to expect from the road as it is known as the "Haul Road" (of ice-truckers fame)and it ends at Deadhorse/ Prudhoe Bay. The Milepost says that it is "one of Alaska's most remote, dangerous and challenging roads".... It follows the  Trans Alaskan oil pipeline that we first saw at Valdez.  The pipeline zigzags alongside the road - the zig zag to allow for expansion and contraction of the metal pipeline. (You will notice that I couldn't set a pin today as there is no official town at the Arctic Circle.  Will try to get that right later! ) 
But anyway we got to the Arctic Circle and back to Fairbanks in 10 hours.  The road wasn't as bad as we had expected.  Some parts are tarred ( or pavemented as they say here) and some gravel.  In fact the tarred bits were the worst, as they are full of frost heaves and potholes.  The gravel was a better road than most gravel roads in South Africa...and when they say potholes it is definitely not the swimming pool kind of potholes that you find in so many places in Africa. 
There are not many facilities along the way.  We stopped for breakfast, and fuel, at a place at the Yukon River bridge.... The strangest place... Just mud up to the front door, all musty inside and the toilets were something else.  It is also a motel!  Chickened out of ordering breakfast so just ordered an omelette for Andy... had a taste and it wasn't too bad.  The Yukon is another huge river.  Andy kept saying "The Mighty Yukon" -and it is.. The bridge across the river is very interesting.  It is made of wood, and is built at a steep angle  from one bank to the other.  All the bridges in this area were made of wood.   I suppose it's because of the expansion/contraction story again.   This area is usually 25 degrees colder than Fairbanks... which recorded -70 last winter!
We reached the Arctic Circle (N 66 degrees 33 minutes) and as we got out of the car, at this triumphant moment, we were attacked by more mosquitoes than we have ever seen.  I immediately had to put on my head net, and we hurriedly took our photos  and jumped back in the car!!! We didn't even have time to read all the, usually very informative, stuff on the interpretive signs.... !  The mosquitoes loved Andy's head.....
 The drive was certainly more beautiful than I had imagined.  The prevalent trees that I thought were dying are actually called Black Spruce.  They remind me of pipecleaners. They live in the boggy areas, along with beautiful spring/summer flowers and berries.   In fact the tundra is a very delicate eco-system.  Noticed that in Denali the hikers stuck very rigidly to the designated trails, and if they did perhaps venture (with permission) into other areas, they never walked in single file so as not to create paths. 

So, by reaching the Arctic Circle we have achieved one of our goals on this trip, and we have now turned southwards to begin the long journey back to the lower 48....
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Comments

andrewlonsdale1
andrewlonsdale1 on

I thought i was going to see ice and snow.........

siyaya
siyaya on

It's now summer, Andrew..

Justine on

So pleased you are back on line. Thought we had lost you and were missing your regular updates. How fantastic that you have got to the Arctic circle/

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