My wife and I couldn’t resist the allure of driving up the Haul Road or Dalton Highway to Deadhorse, AK, 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Broken windshields and flat tires are common place on the mostly gravel and dirt road. The road’s continuous potholes, frost heaves and long gravel sections with sharp rocks, steep grades to 12%, slick mud, snow and ice, even in summer, are legend.
At the Arctic Circle we recreated our own tradition for crossing this global landmark. We jumped out the truck, ran around it two times, jumped back in the camper and toasted with some bubbly brought especially for the occasion. We stopped at Cold Foot on the way up and back as it is sort of a half way point and the best fueling spot.
As we crossed the Brooks Mountain Range at Antigun Pass, we left the smoke that had limited our visibility to less than a quarter mile much of the way. There was a knot in my stomach and the pain in my chest increased as we traveled north, I worried that this road is going to tear our truck and camper apart! But the scenery was well worth the effort.
We camped along the road beside a creek, about 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle in the tundra. We were alone and the feeling of being in the wild (with a gazillion mosquito) was fantastic! Annette took our dog for a short trip out on the tundra and it was like stepping on pillows with holes and huge clouds of dark, biting feathers erupting from the green! NEEDLESS TO SAY, WE RETREATED QUICKLY TO THE CAMPER!
On our way we were rewarded with sighting of the wild musk oxen, a herd of about 14! We made reservations for a tour to the Arctic Ocean. The tour was a not what we expected and at $40 each for a short ride to the ocean. We boarded a bus and had a BP employee regale us with how wonderful and safe and clean the drilling operations were. At the Ocean, we had a half hour to skip stones. Dead Horse is a work camp. They have a combination company store, auto parts store, post office, etc. but don’t expect your favorite beer, wine or cocktail; they don’t sell alcohol or fire arms in DH, and don’t allow it in the work camps.
The return trip went much faster, after having traveled the road I knew what to expect. Instead the 30 miles an hour on the way up, I was driving 45-50 mph on the way back. Our return trip to Fairbanks was blessed with good visibility, few clouds, fresh rain rinsed tundra and for the most part, very courteous drivers. The scenery of the tundra and the Brooks Range Mountains, the small streams, rivers, rock formations and color were fascinating and made the return trip a pleasure. We are already talking about plans to do it again!
Submitted by Carl Nielsen of Dalton Highway, Alaska as part of the RV Centennial Celebration” Share Your Favorite RV Memory” contest.
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