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Days 29-30 – Deadhorse to Denali National Park

August 6, 2017

After staying the night at The Arctic Oilfield Hotel, which has got to be the northernmost hotel accessible by car in America (the other two hotels in Deadhorse are slightly farther south), I got up in just enough time to take a shower and get to Camp Deadhorse, which, while sounding like a Halloween store, is actually the outfit that runs the tour buses through the oilfield to Prudhoe Bay, on the Arctic Ocean.

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Deadhorse in the morning.

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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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Day 27 – Dalton Highway, Northbound – Part 1

August 5, 2017

I’ve spent the last four days traveling the Dalton Highway, and can say that most of the info I’d read on the Dalton Highway was alarmist. From what I’d read (The Wikitravel entry in particular) it sounded like traveling “The Dalton” was some kind of ultra-badass expedition that I wasn’t sure I was up for.

I needn’t have worried; it really hasn’t been that big of a deal. I’m betting the conditions are very different in the winter, but in the summer, it’s just a long, rough road.

That’s not to say it’s completely pedestrian, but the real reason for caution isn’t that the likelihood of something going wrong is higher than on any other dirt or gravel road you can think of, it’s not. It’s that the consequences of something going wrong are much higher. Still, even those consequences are along the lines of time and money rather than life and limb.

If your car breaks down on the Dalton Highway, you’re not going to die (again, at least not in the summer. I can’t speak to the winter), but you are probably about to spend days and hundreds or thousands dollars getting everything sorted out. You could probably buy a small car for what a tow would cost. Shipping parts from Fairbanks or Anchorage would be difficult and expensive as well.

Overall, as long as you don’t drive like an idiot, have a sturdy, high ground clearance vehicle that you trust, and are prepared to spend the night in that vehicle if things go bad at the wrong time of night, you’ll be fine.

Even though it wasn’t quite the Robinson Crusoe / Mad Max experience I was anticipating / afraid of, the Dalton Highway and the land it travels through is a different sort of place than I’d ever experienced, and I’m glad I was able to get acquainted with it. I’m going to be covering the 800 mile out-and-back in probably three posts, with this post taking care of Day 1.

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Days 25-26 – Fairbanks

July 27, 2017

I’ve spent the past day and a half in Fairbanks and have done almost nothing (I’m up to season 3 of Burn Notice). This was basically a repeat of my Port Angeles hibernation, just more or less intentional this time.

It’s currently about 6:30am on Day 27, and the plan is to spend the next four days or so traveling The Dalton Highway, which is an unpaved, 400 mile road that reaches into the northern reaches of the state. It’s main function is to be a shipping and supply route for the Prudhoe Bay Oil Fields on the Arctic Ocean, but it’s a public highway, so wanderlust civilians such as myself can also drive it.

This should be the most “extreme” segment of driving on the trip. By all accounts, this highway is remote in an older sense of the word and seriously, no kidding, not for the foolish or unwary.

I dunno. We’ll see what happens.

In the mean time, here are a few photos of downtown Fairbanks:

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Day 24 – Whitehorse to Tok, Alaska

July 27, 2017

Well, after 2,400 miles by road and 300 miles by ship, I’ve made it to Alaska. So whatever else happens, my “Road Trip to Alaska” has lived up to it’s name.

I spent the first part of the day driving the majority of the Klondike Highway through Yukon to Dawson City, a town on the Yukon River that’s the last settlement before the Top of the World Highway takes you into Alaska.

The scenery wasn’t quite as epic as the previous few days, but that was fine. I sort of needed the break.

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Days 22-23 – Prince Rupert to Whitehorse

July 27, 2017

The last two days were a 17 hour, 850 mile drive through northern British Columbia and southern Yukon. It turns out that northern British Columbia and southern Yukon are more than a little scenic. “Gorgeous” may be the word.

Before I got to any of that though, I had to get out of Prince Rupert. I’m sure I would have been more into the town if I was a fisherman, and the weather wasn’t helping, but walking around, I couldn’t get adjectives like “dank” and “dreary” out of my head.

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Day 21 – Inside Passage

July 24, 2017

The weather didn’t cooperate. On the day of my much anticipated sea voyage through the Canadian section of the Inside Passage, it was cold, raining, and gray from sunrise to sunset. *shrug* What are ya gonna do?

Even cold and gray, the Inside Passage is something to see.

I arrived at the port at 5:30am, and after an interminable wait, rolled onto the ship. Or is it a boat? I’m still not sure.

At 150m long and with seven decks, the MV Northern Expedition is by far the largest boat… er, ship I’ve ever been on:

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Om nom nom nom

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