For the first time in 30 years, I returned to the Arctic Ocean. This time, I drove up with a group from Northern Alaska Tour Company from Fairbanks. After leaving Fairbanks, we stopped in Joy, Alaska…then at the Yukon River. We picked up our sack lunches at the and ate picnic style across the road. Check out the photos of the awesome Yukon River bridge…the only crossing in Alaska! Going north we stopped to check out the tundra from a couple of viewpoints, before reaching the Arctic Circle. Everybody got out of the van to step across to musical fanfare, provided by our driver-guide Aaron Lojewski (great guy!).
We learned quite a bit about the pipeline, the traffic along the road and the protocol for dealing with giant trucks with heavy loads (everyone’s on the CB radio). Aaron gave us some history lessons on development of the road and the pipeline, Alaska’s native people and some of the political and economic metrics of a state where 90 percent of the operating budget is paid for by the oil industry…and the pipeline in particular.
Overnight accommodations were included at the Four Seasons Coldfoot Resort. Well, ok. It’s open for four seasons, but it’s actually “Coldfoot Camp.” But the FOOD is great. You’ll learn about the interesting transition from mining community-turned work camp-turned roadhouse. The Coldfoot Cafe is the world’s northernmost truck stop! The food is delicious (I know….I already said it)!
Heading north from Coldfoot, we stopped to visit Jack Reakoff in Wiseman. Jack is a citizen-scientist in this corner or the Arctic. He’s spent most of his life in Wiseman and knows about the history of this mining town. He tracks the trends of wildlife, the sun, the northern lights, the extreme temperatures, the water table and the economy.
From there, it’s a long climb up the Chandalar Shelf, further up to Atigun Pass and over the top to Lake Galbraith for lunch. The pass is the tallest road pass in Alaska…and it’s often closed by avalanches.
Coming north from the mountains, our road trip ended on the Arctic Plain as we rolled into Deadhorse. We stayed at the Deadhorse Hilton. Uh, no. It’s “Deadhorse Camp” and it’s essentially a work camp for workers on Alaska’s North Slope. THE FOOD IS DELICIOUS.The next day, we breached security (OKOK…the security guard escorted us!!) and made it out to the Arctic Ocean. Some went for a swim, while others (like me) just walked in up to my knees.
Then, we flew back with Warbelow’s to Fairbanks….much quicker! A ROAD TRIP for the AGES! You can do it, too. Special thanks to Northern Alaska Tour Company, especially Kathy Hedges, who picked me up at the airport! Also, to Matt Atkinson for setting it up and to the awesome Aaron Jolewski…our thoughtful driver/guide. Here’s the link for the Arctic Ocean Adventure: http://www.northernalaska.com/arctic-ocean/
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