Okay, I'm going to start with my favorite photo and then I'll fill in the events leading to and from it.

If you were to tell me, just a few days ago, that I'd be kissing Steve at the Arctic Circle, I'm not too certain I'd believe you. How did this happen? While on our ice museum tour we met two wild, traveling gals who had just been there. We said, "We'd go to the Arctic Circle if they had a big sign (we're suckers for signs)". Well 350 miles later (r/t) we have been there with the photos to prove it.
While on the way we passed LIvengood- one has to appreciate the name (and sign)!
If you’ve seen the TV show Ice Road Truckers, then you’re familiar with the James W. Dalton Highway (aka the Haul Road), a 414-mile stretch of gravel and dirt that runs from through some of Alaska’s most remote wilderness. The highway—built in 1974 to facilitate the pipeline’s construction—is mostly used only by truckers carrying supplies to oilfield workers in Deadhorse. And it’s a tough drive: steep and slick in places and muddy in others, with those trucks occasionally flinging rocks and gravel onto windshields.
In addition, the speed limit is not to exceed 50 miles per hour. That said, we rarely topped 30!

While we only drove a little more than 1/4 of the road, we felt we got a pretty good idea of what it was like. It wasn't nearly as bad as we had read. AND our windshield was chip-free. We saw a variety of travelers in addition to the truckers: several passenger cars; a couple of tour buses; a few RVers; and two bicyclists- wow.

"This is Alaska's Interior—gently rolling hills of aspen, scrawny black spruce poking through mossy bogs, and meandering streams. Our constant companion (and the subject of the "I Spy the Pipeline" game) was the 48-inch Alaskan pipeline carrying oil from the North Slope to Valdez."

This ½-mile-long span (with a 6 % grade) is one of only four vehicle-carrying bridges across the mighty Yukon, the longest river in Alaska and the Yukon Territory, and a primary means of transportation during the Klondike Gold Rush. The bridge was built in 1974-5 as part of the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. Interestingly, it was heavily guarded (with a sentry at one end) and FBI warnings posted. That was a bit ooky for me.
The Finger Rock formations reminded us of the Alabama Hills and are a geologic formation called a tor. Tors are caused by weathering; in this area, the extreme freezing and thawing of the ground causes the rock to be pushed up into these dramatic formations.
So after seven hours, we traveled 175 miles (to be fair, there were many photo op stops along the way) to arrive at N 66 33'W 150 48. This is the place where the sun doesn't set on summer solstice and doesn't rise on winter solstice. At 12:47 AM it was still as bright as late afternoon. So very strange and so very cool.
And here is where we "Slept in the Arctic Circle". It was a very peaceful place to call it a night.
Morning came and we did it all again, heading south.

These trees are scrawny but I prefer the term "stunted". Because so much of Alaska is permafrost (there is so much to know about this here- overwhelming, really) these 50-100 year old Black Spruces can only get so big. These hardy trees can live where there are only 18 inches of ground above the permafrost. I have grown to really like their Seussicalness.

Wild berries were along the roadsides which gave us hope for bear sightings but we had none.

And now we are back in Fairbanks where we have washed most of the road dirt from the truck and purchased supplies for the next adventure. We plan to head to Denali National Park tomorrow, leisurely. The weather is not good for seeing the highest mountain peak in North America with unobstructed views, so we'll take our time and hope for a break in the clouds with exceptional photo opportunities.

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Karen Booth said...

So, after Livengood, came Coldfoot and Deadhorse? Ominous. Bravo on making it to the Arctic Circle. I think I would have just photo shopped the sign in. Was there ANYONE near where you camped for the night?

Nick and Deb's Excellent Adventure said...

Wow what an amazing way to spend some time exploring! I love seeing you can wear a toasty scarf right now! Such great pictures, what memories!

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