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Open Roads Forum  >  Truck Campers

 > Waaay Up North...to Northern Alaska

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Geewizard

E. Washington

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Joined: 08/25/2004

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Posted: 07/26/09 12:58pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

We left Fairbanks on Sunday, July 19th, fully loaded with all the essentials for a drive up the Dalton Highway: boat, fishing gear, guns, food, multiple spare tires, tools, dog, and wine. Oh, and bug spray, lots of bug spray.

Open up this Dalton Highway map in another window and follow along as you read about our journey on what ForbesTraveler.com calls one of America's scariest drives.

Our first day took us to the Yukon River where we met up with a friend to see how the pike were biting. They weren't but we had a great time anyhow.

[image]
The Mighty Yukon River looking upstream

[image] The Yukon River bridge in the background.

[image]
The Fisherwoman prepares to slay the northern pike.

[image]
The mouth of Little Dahl Creek about 25 miles up the Yukon from the bridge.

[image]
Native fish camp with a fish wheel under construction

[image]
Captain C takes the helm, muttering something that sounded like "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"

We left the boat at a storage yard for our trip further north and spent our first night just north of the 5-Mile Airstrip set up right on top of the pipeline. It was a smokey night with lots of bugs! The chicken quesadillas and white merlot somehow made up for that. In the morning, the routine helicopter patrol of the pipeline checked us out thoroughly.

[image]
Pipeline Security Patrol helicopter

[image] Smoke and the Trans Alaska Pipeline.

The next morning, fully coffied up, we continued on to

[image] Finger Rock...

[image]
where we saw a nice arctic chicken (ptarmigan)...

[image]
...and nice wildflowers on the tundra....

[image]
...and this tundra goddess sitting on a rock!

After rediscovering that the paved parts of the Dalton Highway are rougher than the gravel parts and therefore much slower to drive, we made it to

[image] The Arctic Circle!

[image]
Really cute tourist hugs me at the Arctic Circle

It was about here that my onboard airbag compressor system went nuts and wouldn't stop running. So, out came the fuse to save the compressor but with only about 45 pounds in the air bags. Now, we were going even slower on the bumpy parts but...who cares!

We stopped for lunch at the Jim River and to harass the grayling. Instead, the grayling laughed at us.

[image] Jim River...no bites from fish, lots of bites from bugs.

On we went to Coldfoot for fuel and air to pump up the air bags. Unleaded was $3.99/gallon and two small orange juices were $2 each. The air was free. This is a truck stop with a separate table for truckers. And we stopped in at the Arctic Interagency Visitor's Center. What a nice place for information on the area and the Dalton Highway.

Our stop that night was the BLM Marion Creek Campground. The menu tonight was, yep, another bottle of while merlot and marinated shrimp kabobs on the barby.

[image]
Ah, life in the Arctic!

In the morning (yes, coffied up again), we hiked through the woods to Marion Creek to be one with the grayling but not with the bears.

[image]
No, that's not a fly rod on my shoulder

[image] Nice fishing spot!

[image] Yep, that's a grayling. Wish I'd caught it!

[image]
Yep, wish I'd caught THIS one too!

[image]
Fisherwoman who caught ALL the grayling

On up the road we went, stopping at the confluence of the Hammond River and the Middle Fork of the Koyukuk River. Some bites from grayling here and we saw a chum salmon headed up to spawn. How these fish can travel over 700 miles to get to this spot is just amazing. I'd start losing body parts like they do if I had to swim 700+ miles to procreate.

[image] Darned tourists and their photo ops.

[image] Sukakpak Mountain.

[image] Note how mud encrusted the truck is getting. This is not because of rain on the gravel roads but from water trucks wetting the road so the grader can blade out the potholes. Just part of traveling the Dalton Highway...your truck is gonna get dirty....real dirty.

We started getting into the southern parts of the Brooks Range and here, we are headed up the beginning of Atigun Pass

[image] Chandalar Camp area

[image] Half way up to Atigun Pass

[image]
Atigun Pass summit. We saw no mountain sheep. They were supposed to be here waiting for us but evidently did not get our message.

[image]
Queen of Atigun Pass...and her sled dog?

It was interesting to smell ocean air at the summit of Atigun Pass when the Arctic Ocean is about 150 miles farther north. But, smell it we did.

[image]
North side of Atigun Pass near Pump Station No. 4.

[image]
Road kill?....

We drove on past Galbraith and Toolik lakes about 10 miles or so to our furthest north spot and took in the view. (We chose to stop driving north here because of time and lack of desire to see the oil field infrastructure at Prudhoe Bay). Here, we ran into a man and his cocker spaniel - poodle hybrid. This man said that he'd got the dog as part of a hybrid dog sled team experiment. However, this was a bad choice since the cockapoo was much more interested in staying warm by the wood stove, drinking out of the toilet, and sleeping on the man's bed than pulling a sled.

[image]
Damned poor excuse for a sled dog in my opinion!

[image]
A man and his "sled dog" look to the North Slope and ponder the meaning of life.

We camped this night at Galbraith Lake. And took a walk in the tundra "just for fun". Well, it wasn't any fun for any of us. The bugs were so thick and aggressive that they sounded like rain pelting my jacket. And tundra is never any fun to walk on. Man and dog were quite tuckered out by dinner time. Why, there wasn't any wine left! But, the beef shishkabobs on the barby helped a lot.

[image]
Island Lake near Galbraith Lake

[image]
This is NOT fun.

[image]
This is a lot MORE fun than walking on the tundra.

[image] A man and his TC. And the ubiquitous North Slope fog starts rolling in....

[image]
Peaks near Galbraith Lake

We headed south and you've already seen the pictures. Just get a mirror and hold it up to the screen and you'll see what it looked like as we headed south. We stopped again at Coldfoot for gas (Still $3.99/gallon) and a $5 bowl of soup but NOT at the trucker's table, fer shure, good buddy, 10-4.

On the way back, we overnighted at Old Man Camp, a former pipeline construction camp but now just a gravel pit. We had a great thunder storm! Still out of wine but we had a nice dinner of cheese quesadillas with black beans and rice. No, the cockapoo didn't get anywhere near the beans! I know better than that.

[image]
We stopped every so often to try and entice the grayling with dry flies but only got nibbles. This is at Fish Creek. You'd think we'd catch huge grayling in Fish Creek but...NOPE! Lotsa bugs. It's hard to tie on a fly through a bug net jacket.

And one final stop for lunch at the Hot Spot Cafe just north of the Yukon Bridge. Known for their huge cheeseburgers and disdain for whiners of any type (especially truckers), we had a really good turkey sandwich. Well worth the $11 it cost. A tour bus pulled in early for a pre-arraigned lunch stop, an hour and a half early in fact. I doubt that bus driver will EVER do that again!

[image]
"Go ahead, try and have a huge cheeseburger...go ahead, just make my day!"

We made it into Fairbanks by 4pm Thursday and went directly to the truck wash to clean everything off.

In sum, we had a great 5-day trip, the Outfitter Apex 8 and Toyota Tundra served us well, and I tried to leave my dog on the North Slope but he kept getting back into the truck....every damned time!

Statistics:

740 miles total
Furthest north point = about 10 miles north of Toolik Lake
Days on the road = 5
MPG = about 10.5
Highest gas price = $3.99
Highest sandwich price = $11
Bottles of white merlot = 2
Bottles of white merlot desired = 4
flat tires = ZERO!
Generator use = ZERO!
Max amps used by new Tundra fridge = 3.9
Max amps produced by solar panel = 6.1
chips in windshield = 4
Grayling caught and released = 2
River miles covered - about 50
Wildlife seen = 2 moose a-browsing, 15 ground squirrels a-cheating death, 10 ground squirrels a-flat, , 3 owls a-hunting, 2 eagles a-soaring, 2 salmon a-spawning, 1 something in the brush a-scaring.

Enjoy!

* This post was last edited 08/02/09 09:04pm by Geewizard *   View edit history


2004 Outfitter Apex 8
2014 Toyota Tundra Double Cab
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c.traveler2

Moreno Valley,Ca.

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Posted: 07/26/09 01:10pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Geewizard,wonderful photos of your trip,but I hope that this is only a appetiser and the main course is coming.[emoticon]

* This post was edited 07/29/09 09:07pm by c.traveler2 *


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BobTowne

Fairfield, CA, USA

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Posted: 07/26/09 02:24pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Wow, what a great trip report. Hope we can follow you some time in the future. Thanks for sharing.


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weymard

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Posted: 07/26/09 02:31pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Wow beautiful landscapes, awesome ! Nice pictures . thanks. I copy your link for the french forum american4x4


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seldomseensmith

Flagstaff, AZ

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Posted: 07/26/09 03:04pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Looks like a great trip - how long did you take to make the trip, and did you go all the way (to Prudhoe)?

Thanks for the story and pics.

On edit - you answered my questions with your additions to the post... guess I should wait for the whole thing next time [emoticon]


The Road Goes Ever On



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robbins

Soulsbyville, Ca

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Posted: 07/26/09 03:22pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I am soooo jealous right now. What a great time! Keep the pics comming.


See 'ya on top
Keith

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DWeikert

York, PA

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Posted: 07/26/09 04:21pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great report. I'm so jealous. Not just of your trip but when I saw your total miles were 775. It'd take me 4000+ miles just to get to Fairbanks. [emoticon]

Someday...
Dan

cewillis

Tucson, az, usa

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Posted: 07/26/09 04:42pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

How do you like that 'liquid concrete' they spray on the road to 'keep the dust down'?


Cal


Matho

New Mexico Texas

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Posted: 07/26/09 03:49pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks for the trip report Geewizard.


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Geewizard

E. Washington

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Posted: 07/26/09 05:21pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

cewillis wrote:

How do you like that 'liquid concrete' they spray on the road to 'keep the dust down'?


I don't mind the calcium chloride too much. It's a little gooey when wet but I sure do appreciate the dust abatement that it provides. And I'd much rather have the gravel roads with calcium chloride than the paved stretches. I could go 50 easily on the gravel but I had to slow down to 35 on the paved parts to keep from beating everything to pieces.
Kind of counter-intuitive, we thought.

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