Around these parts the major roads go by name not number. Some are obvious – like the Chena Hot Springs Road which dead ends at (you guessed it) Chena Hot Springs. The Richardson starts in Valdez and goes to Fairbanks (and changes route numbers along the way at Delta Junction) and was named after General Wilds P. Richardson, first president of the Alaska Road Commission. Then there’s the Steese Highway (starts in Fairbanks and dead-ends at Circle (pop. 102)). Yesterday we took the Steese up to Fox (pop. 369), picked up the Elliott (151 miles of road that starts in Fox and goes to Manley Hot Springs – about ½ of it is paved) up to Livengood (we tried our best to find this town (pop. 25) but had no luck) where we got on the Dalton – which connects the Elliott to the city of Deadhorse, right on the Arctic Ocean.
The drive to Deadhorse and the Arctic Ocean (Prudhoe Bay) from Fairbanks is about 500 miles. As you can see by the dotted lines, it’s only about 25% paved and the steepest grade is 12%. Yes, 12% grade on gravel roads. It’s recommended that you bring TWO spare tires and ALWAYS give way to the trucks that barrel up and down that road. Oh, and once you get to Deadhorse you can’t actually get to the Arctic Ocean unless you are part of a tour ($40.00 each!). Although John and Rosie decided that they couldn’t come this far and not make it to the Arctic Ocean, the rest of us opted to do just part of the trip, and go as far as Arctic Circle (about 200 miles from Fairbanks). It sounds like their two day trip (6:30AM Friday to 12:00AM Saturday) was amazing – from the long grueling drive (but it was filled with wildlife and scenery that they will probably never have the opportunity to see again) to the fascinating tour of the oil community in Deadhorse (the longest anyone is allowed to work there at a stretch is 6 weeks, and then they have to return at least to Fairbanks or Anchorage for 2 weeks) to John actually putting his fingers in the Arctic Ocean (brrrrrrrrr). Our “little” drive to the Arctic Circle was just a taste of their adventure, but it suited us just fine.
We followed the same pipeline north –
We had our share of paved road –
More than our share of gravel/dirt road-
A good selection of 12% grades –
Gave way to some pretty big rigs coming and going-
Crossed the same Yukon River-
And saw some amazing scenery along the way (even though it was cloudly and rainy most of the day)–
(those are white wildflowers in those fields!)
While we didn’t see herds of caribou, we did have a little baby moose run beside us for a bit and then cross in front of us. (All the time thinking, I’m sure, “Mommy, Mommy, I’m on the wrong side of the road!!!”)
We also enjoyed some of the fine facilities along the way-
We made it to the Arctic Circle
(where we were able to take a quick picture before we were eaten alive by the skeeters!)
and home again all in one (long but good) day.
And Sunday after church, we washed the truck!
Hope your weekend was filled with adventure too!