Day 28 – Dalton Highway, Northbound – Part 2

August 6, 2017

Having gone to bed at two in the morning, I woke up later than I’d of liked and didn’t really get moving until almost noon. The plan for the morning, now early afternoon, was to hike from the campground to the park boundaries of Gates of the Arctic National Park, just to accomplish having been there. I wasn’t setting my ambitions any higher than that.

The more I looked at the map though, the more I felt that even that would be aiming high. It looked like the park boundaries would be at minimum a five mile hike, but could easily be closer to 10, making it a 10-20 mile round trip, off-trail. That was just more than I was willing to get myself into.

I looked over my maps again and noticed one of the places where the park was only a mile or two from the road seemed to feature a wide, flat valley that would be dead easy to follow. I’m much more willing to take a chance on two miles than 10. The only problem was there would be a river crossing involved, and I had no idea how wide or deep that river would be, so it could be a dead end. That, and the area I was looking at was 75 miles behind me, so getting there and back would burn three to four hours.

I decided it was worth giving it a shot, so I got in the truck and headed south.

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If nothing else, this diversion gave me a chance to see Atigun Pass in different light.

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There was a large turn off around mile marker 200, which was close enough to where I was trying to be, so I parked, crossed the road, and tromped off into the forest:

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After about twenty minutes, I was face to face with the Dietrich River:

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It was wider than I would’ve liked, and I wasn’t sure how deep it was, but I was more worried about the current, which was moving at a decent clip. Without a pack, I probably could have swam it, though I would’ve wound up pretty far down stream, but with a pack, I didn’t want to try anything more than wading.

Resolving to go slow and turn back the moment things got iffy, I eased into the river. I was fine for the first twenty yards or so, where the water was up to mid-thigh, but when the water got above waist level, the current was pushing hard enough that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep my footing if I got any deeper, so I made an about face and got back to the river bank.

I looked around the immediate area for a safer place to cross and didn’t find anything. Looking through my maps, I saw that there was an area where the river was much wider a few miles upstream. Thinking wider could mean shallower, I decided to check it out. I followed the riverbank for a while, and then realized the nearby pipeline service road would be a lot faster:

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After about four miles, I turned west again…

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….found the river again…

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…and still couldn’t find anywhere to cross. By this point it was 4:30, and I had a lot of miles to cover before the day was out. I decided to call it quits and get back to my car. When I got there, I looked at the gas gauge and decided to go all the way back to Coldfoot to top off.

I finally set off from Coldfoot around 6:00, with 240 miles between me at Deadhorse.

Atigun Pass again:

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There are no trees north of Atigun Pass and north of Galbraith Lake there’s not much topography, so the last 150 miles of the Dalton Highway take on an endless expanse sort of feel.

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I finally got into Deadhorse just before midnight. It’s is an interesting place, but I’m going to leave my ruminations for tomorrow’s post. For now, here are some shots I took while scoping the area out and selecting a hotel:










The Arctic Oilfield Hotel
















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