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DrewE

Vermont

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Posted: 10/01/17 05:30pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Before departing Whitehorse, I would like to show this neat bike rack from Rotary Park.

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July 21st -- We stocked up on things like gas and groceries, and in time departed Whitehorse, heading up the Klondike Highway towards Dawson City (which, as mentioned previously, should not be confused with Dawson Creek).

Along the way is the Montague Roadhouse Historic Site, with the ruins of an original roadhouse. This was a stop on the overland route to Dawson City. The site has ruins of the roadhouse (the third one constructed for that general location) and a storage shed.

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A little further up the road is the Five Fingers rapids, a significant but not insurmountable barrier to navigation up and down the Klondike river. Besides the danger of striking one of the rocks, the rapids were too quick for steamboats to steam up at some seasons and so they had to resort to hauling along with a cable and winch system until eventually blasting improved things. There's a long stairway and a modest hiking trail to a very nice overlook of the rapids. It's a lovely spot.

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We passed by Stewart Crossing and camped at Moose Creek Territorial Park. If time were no object, I would have liked to have spent a day or two going down the Silver Trail, but...well, time wasn't unlimited for the trip.

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The Stewart River near Stewart Crossing

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Tube steaks for dinner at Moose Creek! To be fair, we had many tastier dinners, but cooking hot dogs over a campfire is fun and just seems like something that must be done on a camping trip.





GeeWillakers

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Posted: 10/02/17 12:23pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Really enjoying your posts. Makes me want to cross Canada again. Going to AK and YK next summer and down south in a couple months but your story is making me eager to get up north. Thanks.


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VTLee

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Posted: 10/02/17 07:21pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great post. Thanks for all the info. We are planning on doing a similar trip in 2018. I really want to see the Canadian Rockies but I am somewhat concerned about the crowds. We were planning on getting to that area in mid August as I heard that the peak season is in July. Any additional tips would be appreciated.

DrewE

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Posted: 10/02/17 10:08pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

July 22nd - 24th -- Dawson City. As we left midday, this will only be half of the 24th. I'm also not putting these in strictly chronological order.

Dawson city is a fun and unique place. These days, it mainly exists for tourism and as a historical park, though it was a very important city in years past (during the gold rush and following years, when it was the territorial capital before that was moved to Whitehorse). There is plenty to see and do to fill a fair few days; we could easily have spent more time there.

Coming into town along the Klondike highway, it's impossible to miss the evidences of gold mining in the form of piles of gravel tailings from the dredges and the occasional remnant of old mining equipment.

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Some tailings piles (the worm-like gravel bars) as seen from the top of Midnight Dome, which offers panoramic views.

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Dawson City as seen from Midnight Dome

We had planned on staying at the Yukon Government campground across the river (via a free ferry) from Dawson City, but a sign showed it was full by the time we had stopped at the visitors center and gotten our bearings and trundled down to the ferry landing. We ended up staying at Gold Rush Campground, which is a private campground in the city itself, being fortunate enough to get the last or next to last site they had available. Apparently there was a music festival going on, which presumably is what led to the shortage of campsites.

Gold Rush was neat and well-maintained but sure packs the sites in like sardines. There's just enough space between them for a little picnic table and a tiny bit of grass. Frankly, I don't blame them in the least for accommodating as many people as they can at once; the location is convenient, and it's not as though we were there to spend lots of time relaxing in the campground.

Parks Canada offers a number of tours of historic sites around the city. We peeked briefly in the SS Keno (we got there close to closing time, so didn't get the full experience). This is a restored riverboat, used to bring silver ore from Keno and the surrounding area to Dawson City, where it would be transferred to larger boats to go down the Klondike river.

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The Keno as seen from the river

We also went to Gold Dredge #4, the largest of the wooden-hulled dredges. The tour there was absolutely fascinating and is highly recommended. The access road is a gravel road, but is in decent enough condition that it shouldn't pose much trouble to most any vehicle.

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Gold Dredge #4; the gravel (with gold dust) is scooped up at the right side by a bucket dredger, gets mechanically separated from the gold, and exits out the left end onto a tailing pile. The dredge basically digs its own little pond along the creek bed as it goes, and fills it back in behind itself.

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The main gear train in the dredge, with our tour guide for scale. The dredge was electrically powered, from a hydroelectric generating plant some miles away.

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The winch room or main control room of the dredge. The dredge itself was operated by a crew of four (though there were other workers outside thawing gravel and doing other tasks).

We did take a little river cruise/tour on the "Spirit of the Klondike", a non-historic paddlewheel boat. This goes upriver and downriver a spell, with views of the city, a nearby First Nations village, the sternwheeler graveyard, etc. The narration was pretty well done and thorough, if not the most polished. We were a couple minutes delayed in leaving because of late-arriving tour buses that held the majority of the passengers.

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The sternwheeler graveyard, which is fairly accessible by walking trail from the far side of the river (we didn't hike there ourselves).

One of the best-known attractions in Dawson City is Diamond Tooth Gertie's Gambling Hall, which is run by the visitor's association. One needs to purchase a sort of membership card to get into the hall ($12.00 for the year). Even if one isn't a gambler, this is worth doing as they have a few different cancan shows each night that are quite well done and a lot of fun. It's not a bad idea to get there somewhat early for decent seats.

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We enjoyed some delicious fish and chips in Dawson City.

Dawson City has a number of historical buildings, too, and just generally a lot to see and do. Since it's quite far north, there are many hours of light during the summer to explore. This blurb is really only a teaser.

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The Palace Grand Theater (which was undergoing some renovations while we were there)

DrewE

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Posted: 10/04/17 09:38pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I had technical difficulties uploading photos last night, so this part was delayed. "We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works." (Douglas Adams)

July 23rd -- the part after Dawson City.

We filled up with gas outside of Dawson City at the cardlock station (significantly less expensive than the stations in town) which accepts "normal" credit cards in addition to the usual fleet cardlock cards, and then headed across the ferry and over the Top of the World highway. It was a bit of a misty/overcast day so the views were not as spectacular as they might have been, but it's still a pretty road. It was a little bit rough in places.

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A view along the Top of the World highway, showing the highway itself and illustrating why it may have gotten its name

The Top of the World highway becomes the less colorfully named Boundary Spur Road after crossing the border into Alaska.

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This is the old US customs facility and, I assume, now the housing for the three officials who work there.

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We made it!

The spur road (to Jack Wade Junction, where it intersects the Taylor Highway) is very nice and smooth pavement.

At Jack Wade Junction, we turned north to head to Eagle. This part of the Taylor Highway is not entirely recommended for the faint of heart, nor would I suggest traveling on it if there had been a lot of rain as I imagine it gets rather muddy. It was quite rough, probably among the roughest roads we encountered, and is fairly narrow with some quite sharp and blind corners. For a good portion of it, one side of the road is a steep cliff going up, and the other side an equally steep cliff going down, so it would be very rough going for someone with acrophobia or a propensity towards vertigo. That being said, it's pretty scenery along the way and aside from the bumps and potholes was for me a quite enjoyable adventure.

At Eagle, we stayed at the immaculate BLM campground. I doubt there are any vault toilets in existence that are cleaner than the ones there.

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Site 13 at the Eagle BLM campground

Eagle is a fascinating little town, with a surprisingly long and significant history. It was a regional seat of governance for some time, and had a military outpost at Fort Egbert, and was part of the early telegraph and later telephone systems. Many of the historic buildings in the town and the fort form a sort of museum tour together, with a wide variety of exhibits and historic artifacts, through which tours are offered. This is one place where, in retrospect, we should have taken an additional day.

July 25th -- We started the day by wandering around the Eagle cemetery, and then wandered into town to join the afternoon tour that was advertised on the campground bulletin board. Apparently the posting on the board was outdated as they didn't regularly offer afternoon tours any longer, but we were able to get--for an additional fee, of course--a custom, non-scheduled tour along with another party that found themselves in the same boat. The moral here is to make every effort to get to the morning tour if you visit Eagle.

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The stables (on left), carriage house (rear right), and I think quartermaster's store building (front right) of Fort Egbert. I may well be remembering the identifications of some of the buildings incorrectly.

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The Jeffery Quad is a very early four wheel drive vehicle, first produced in 1913. This particular one is still operational and is driven in the 4th of July parade in Eagle every year.

We left Eagle in the afternoon, and ended up spending the night at the West Fork BLM Campground, a little south of Chicken. We did very briefly stop at Chicken. Unlike Eagle, I have no real desire to spend more time there. It's pretty standard tourist trap fare.

July 26th -- We continued along towards Fairbanks.

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A typical view along the Taylor highway, if memory serves...possibly it may be along the Alaska highway.

We stopped at Tok for fuel and groceries and to get some literature at the information center. That information center, and indeed the adjoining public library when it's open, are quite nice facilities. Among other things, we did pick up a map of the state-run public campgrounds in Alaska, for which one must pay a nominal fee. It's available from many places, and handy enough to pony up the dollar or so it costs.

A bit before Delta Junction we stopped briefly at Delta Meat and Sausage company and purchased some pretty tasty reindeer sausage. It's perhaps worth noting that there wasn't a whole lot of reindeer in the sausage, which was primarily more typical meats (pork and beef, if memory serves), but still it was tasty. They do have some straight cuts of reindeer, buffalo, etc. available.

At Delta Junction, the Alaska Highway technically ends and seamlessly merges onto the Richardson Highway which continues on to Fairbanks.

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The end of the Alaska Highway, as marked at the visitor center.

A little bit north of town on the Richardson Highway is the Big Delta State Historic Park, which preserves Rika's Roadhouse. It was too late in the day when we got there to be able to go into any of the buildings, but taking a stroll around the grounds and reading the various information panels was intriguing in itself. Rika was apparently quite a resourceful and hardworking woman.

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The roadhouse proper

This was also the site of a ferry across the Tanana river along the Richardson highway until 1943 when a bridge was built. For a few years before that time, there was a bit of an ongoing conflict between truckers and the government over tolls on the ferry, which the truckers did not want to pay and which the government demanded to make rail traffic more appealing than road traffic. The description of the goings-on reads rather like a soap opera.

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In addition to the road bridge, there is now a pipeline bridge over the Tanana river for the Alyeska Pipeline; this is half of it.

We camped for the night at Quartz Lake State Park, not very far away. Somewhat ironically, the park was in "passive management" due to state budget problems, which means that the available services are somewhat reduced (no firewood for sale, less groundskeeping, etc.) and no fees were being charged for camping. Somehow it seemed to me a bit of a strange way to save money by not charging for camping, but I guess that's how it works. This probably was a temporary situation in as much as bid solicitations were being made for private contracts to run the park (and, as it's apparently quite a popular park, I would guess that there would be interested bidders).

July 27th -- We made our way to Fairbanks. I'll cover Fairbanks proper in another posting or two, but mention a few stops on the way to the city proper here.

The Knotty Shop is a better than average souvenir shop with a good many items that are not tacky and go beyond the usual odds and ends. The building and large critter statues formed of burls are worth a peek, if nothing else.

North Pole is just a little outside of Fairbanks, and is probably best known for Santa Claus House, a large (and kitschy) gift shop. There is also a decent visitor's center there in a low log cabin that, oddly enough, we had a bit of a hard time locating at first. Once we got there, the lady staffing it was most helpful.

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Outside Santa Claus House...

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... and a bit of the inside.

MikeinSA

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Posted: 10/05/17 10:26pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks for posting - very interesting!


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DrewE

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Posted: 10/06/17 08:14pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

July 27th - 30th -- Fairbanks. Actually this includes a bit from August 5th and 6th as well, since we came back through Fairbanks then after heading north. I'm not going to bother with being precisely chronological here; it really doesn't matter much what order one sees the sights in, after all.

Fairbanks is a neat city, with plenty to see and do and experience. For the most part, navigating and parking with an RV wasn't too much of a difficulty. That's not to suggest that a car would not at times have been easier, or that public transit isn't mighty handy occasionally, of course. They do have a pretty decent city bus system, which is free for seniors.

July 27th and 28th we stayed at the campground at the Tanana Valley Fairground on the north side of town. We had to leave after the 28th as the fair was approaching and various vendors and workers and fairgoers had reserved the sites at the campground from then on. This campground is a little bit on the rustic side, with decently spaced sites and trees and vegetation amidst them. The facilities were functional if not beautiful. Campfire wood was available for sale and fairly inexpensive (sold by the wheelbarrow-full or half wheelbarrow-full). In some ways it seems a little more like a public campground than a private one, though in fact it is privately owned and operated.

July 29th and 30th we stayed at the parking lot at Pioneer Park, which is dry camping for a fairly nominal fee. Apparently some restrooms in the park are left open for campers to use, but it's quite a hike to get to them and we didn't verify this. The ambience is exactly what you'd expect for a parking lot, though noise isn't generally bad. The RV camping/parking slots along the edges are nice and wide.

August 5th and 6th, when we returned, were spent at Riverview RV park in North Pole. This is a pretty nice commercial campground, with the typical layout of pull-through sites separated by little strips of grass. The place is very well maintained and the restrooms, laundry, etc. are all good. They also have a bucket-and-hose RV washing pad, which was a very big draw for us at that time...but more on that in a later post.

The Morris Thompson Cultural Visitor Center (which serves as the city's main tourist information and visitor's center) is superb, with a well-done (and surprisingly large) museum section and a variety of free shows at times during the day. I think probably Fairbanks and Watson Lake had the best tourist information centers we encountered, and we did stop at several along the way for maps and other information.

Pioneer park is a pleasant place, but seems to me to have somewhat of an identity crisis. Is it an amusement park? A city park with playgrounds and picnic tables? A historical museum? A shopping center? A tourists trap? A cultural events center? In truth, it's a little bit of all of these, and almost seems like a place that has developed without an overarching vision to guide things. That's not to suggest that there's anything wrong, only that it's kind of confusing to try to categorize.

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In front of the parking lot to Pioneer Park are a couple of statues keeping watch. This grizzly prospector is one of them. (I'm afraid I forget what the other one was!)

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It seems to be a requirement for any proper town in Alaska to have a signpost with distances to various far-flung places. Here's the one in Pioneer Park.

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There's a section of Pioneer Park with various historic buildings that have been relocated and are now (mostly) little shops or eateries.

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In another area are some exhibits of mining equipment.

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Close to the mining equipment is the large Alaska Salmon Bake. This is not fine dining with crystal and sterling silver and linen tablecloths, but it sure is good and bountiful eating!

Also the grounds are several museums of varying scales (aviation, railroad, general area history, an art gallery, etc.); the SS Nenana sternwheeler and a historic rail car, both partly restored; a carousel, mini golf course, and miniature (ride-on) railroad; playgrounds and picnic areas; and a performing arts venue. There are a couple of ongoing shows based in the park, including a very fun little vaudeville show (the Golden Heart Revue) in the so-called "Palace Theatre and Saloon"--which, in fact, is in fact not especially palatial, nor do they serve alcohol anymore. I'm sure there are a few other attractions I've omitted, as well.

The Riverboat Discovery cruise is very much a tourist trap sort of operation, but an extremely well-done and generally worthwhile example. I'm not sure I would think it worth the money without a TourSaver coupon, but with the discount it's fairly priced. This is a little excursion down the river on an authentic (modern) sternwheeler, with narration and demonstrations of bush pilot aviation, sled dog training, and a shore excursion to a sort of reproduction Chena indian encampment. It's all tastefully done, even if it's a bit artificial or contrived at places. Given the number of people who go on the trips, it would be impossible to do differently.

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The Discovery III; they also use the somewhat smaller Discovery II, while the (much smaller) Discovery I is now only used for charter operations.

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Sled dogs on the home stretch.

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A Chena fish camp (or a fair re-creation of one).

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Chena clothing--these are correct to form, made with authentic materials and techniques.

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A taxidermy specimen moose at the Chena village.

The Large Animal Research Station (LARS), operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, offers informational tours of some of their facility. There is also a space for picnicking and frolicking or lazing about with occasional views of some of the animals, but the tour is well worth taking to get closer and (at least with the guide we had) be inundated with information about the animals. Musk-oxen have an inner wool called qiviut that is one of the warmest fibers known. There's a little gift shop at LARS that sells, among other things, yarn and articles made of qiviut...that, though luxuriously soft and warm, were rather out of my price range.

The research at the station deals mainly with musk-oxen and reindeer/caribou. (The only real difference between caribou and reindeer is domestication; reindeer are domesticated, while caribou are wild. They're the same species, though there are some minor differences such that they might be considered different breeds.)

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One of the musk-oxen being bribed with fireweed.

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A reindeer, who is about to be bribed with lichen or moss or something of that ilk.

Also operated by the university is the large Museum of the North, which has exhibits primarily dealing with natural history, cultural history, and fine art. This is a fabulous museum. My only complaint, and it's a minor one, was that I found the organization of the main exhibit hall by regions rather than by subject matter to be somewhat confusing and disjointed. It was pretty easy to accidentally miss some areas. The gift shop at the museum had some very nice handcrafted items for sale.

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The rather well-known grizzly bear that guards the entrance of the main exhibit hall of the museum.

The day we visited the museum, there was an absolute downpour right around when the museum closed, making for a mighty damp walk back across the parking lot. On the whole the weather was fairly good for us over the trip, though not of course entirely rain-free.

Besides being tourists, we did more mundane things in Fairbanks like buying groceries, gas, and propane, and getting an oil change in the motorhome. There are, of course, many other attractions in Fairbanks, which we didn't have the time or the inclination (or both) to see.

(Edited to fix errant formatting.)

mfinnerty

Wentzville, Mo.

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Posted: 10/07/17 03:59pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Enjoying your travel journal and comparing your experiences with ours having recently returned from a caravan through Canada and Alaska.


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DrewE

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Posted: 10/07/17 09:31pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I'm glad people are enjoying these posts as much as I'm enjoying reliving this trip part by part.

July 31st -- We started on one of the parts of the trip I was looking forward to doing (and, I should add, my mom was rather less gung-ho about): driving north along the Dalton Highway. We made it without incident to Deadhorse and back: the motorhome a bit worse for the wear, and very, very dirty.

To be more precise, we started off on the Steese Highway for a few miles to Fox, on to the Elliott Highway, and then onto the Dalton Highway proper near Livengood.

The Dalton Highway exists because of the trans-Alaska pipeline and the oil fields in Prudhoe Bay. Going along the way, the pipeline is in evidence much of the time, sometimes above the surface and sometimes below it (depending on the soil conditions--above ground where there is permafrost or other problematic conditions).

A few miles from Fairbanks on the Steese Highway is the first really good view of the pipeline, at a neatly done pullout area with some informational signs and displays. This is actually one of the relatively few places where it's easy and legal to get right up next to the pipeline, and would be worth the short jaunt from Fairbanks even if one doesn't go further north.

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The Alyeska Pipeline (or Trans-Alaska Pipeline System). The pipeline itself can slide lengthwise on the little cradle parts (named shoes), and the shoes can slide crosswise on the horizontal supports. The finned prongs on the tops of the vertical supports are part of a passive cooling system for the supports to prevent the permafrost from thawing where the supports are mounted. The pipeline as a whole is arranged in a zig-zag to allow for overall expansion and contraction with temperature or ground movement. Arranging the plumbing across Alaska is a little more complicated than in an RV.

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Looking in the other direction, the pipeline goes subterranean for a spell.

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A "pig" used to clean crud that accumulates on the inside of the pipe. Different pigs exist that carry instruments to check the integrity of the pipeline. There are various stations where pigs can be inserted and retrieved from the pipeline.

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The sign marking the start of the Dalton Highway proper.

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Around mile marker 55 is the only road bridge across the Yukon river in Alaska. It's not super obvious in the picture, but the bridge is on a quite noticeable grade. There is a neat little wayside on the far side of the bridge with an informational kiosk staffed by the BLM. There's also some picnic tables and a viewing platform and a bunch of information panels. The kiosk was closed when we got there--it was fairly late in the day--but it's a neat rest stop regardless.

We camped for the night a few miles up the road at the Milepost 60 BLM campground, which incidentally also has the only dump station (and potable water fill) for many miles around. The campground and dump station, like virtually all the camping spots along the Dalton, is free. The insects were pretty ferocious; I did not loiter outside. (On the whole, the insects were not very bad for our trip.)

Next to the campground is the Hot Spot Cafe that has been made famous (infamous?) on the ice road trucker series. We did not eat there. I think we should have because it seems the first question most people asked after we said we had gone up the Dalton Highway was whether we stopped at that ice road trucker burger stand place. Perhaps I need to watch more television....

August 1st -- Continuing along the Dalton Highway. The weather was intermittently foggy and drizzly and a bit rainy.

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Just you and the pipeline and the road (and the occasional other vehicle)

Around mile 98 is Finger Rock and the Finger Mountain wayside. This wayside has a quite nice little nature trail, as well as views of the rock. Finger rock served as a rather important landmark for travel; it points pretty directly towards Fairbanks.

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Finger Rock

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A bit broader view, including DrewE's motorhome. There's still a good bit of clean white visible on it; that will change over the next couple days.

A little further on the road crosses the Arctic Circle, one of two roads in North America to do so (the other being the Dempster Highway in Canada). There's a wayside there, with a little campground and at least sometimes some BLM volunteers staffing it. This is, of course, a popular photo stop for most everyone traveling through for the first time.

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If we were here on the solstice, the sun wouldn't set from here north. The attendant took pictures of us walking from one side to the other, so we'd have pictures of being on either side of the Arctic Circle. That's all well and good, but according to the map the wayside is not quite actually on the Arctic Circle, so it's more a figurative gesture than anything. They also have Arctic Circle certificates and stamps and stuff.

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Did I mention something about incredible scenery?

We stopped at Coldfoot to buy gas (it's 240 miles to Deadhorse and the next gas, so there's not a lot of choice in the matter) and to stop at the excellent Arctic Interagency Visitor Center. This cozy building has some exhibits, nice restrooms, information, and a lounge area with a wood stove for heat. (I think it was a Vermont Castings wood stove, which came from a tiny bit further away than I did; they're made in Bethel, VT.)

In this area there is a stretch of inexplicably nice paved road, sandwiched between the gravel portions north and south.

The next major highlight continuing on is Atigun Pass, the highest elevation on the Dalton highway at 4800 feet. The pass was pretty foggy as we were going through, with visibility only a few hundred feet at most. Since it's a curvy bit of road, that was sufficient visibility for safety, but not to enjoy scenery. Fortunately, the view was clearer on the return trip.

We camped at the Galbraith Lake campground, which has an absolutely spectacular setting. The four mile access road is extremely rough with washboards; it took somewhere on the order of a half an hour to get to the campground. The campground itself is rather informal, without many well-defined sites; one just follows a road or trail and finds what looks like a convenient spot to plonk down in next to a fire ring. There are a couple of vault toilets and I think maybe a handful of picnic tables.

I think this was probably the most magnificent setting we had to camp in all trip. The Kennicott/McCarthy Root Glacier Base Camp was perhaps a somewhat close second.

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It's probably a good thing they aren't trying to use a toll by plate system along the Dalton Highway. (It is not a toll road.)

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A wide angle fish-eye shot; the mountains are much closer and much larger than they appear. It's a bit of a challenge to photograph these sorts of surroundings: either things get cut off, or they come out looking like molehills.

DrewE

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August 2nd -- We traveled on to Deadhorse. Deadhorse is basically a company town for oil workers and support people; there are a few thousand or so in town at any given time, generally with a two-week on, two-week off rotation. The number of permanent residents in Deadhorse or Prudhoe Bay is vanishingly small. (The difference between Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay is basically which side of the security gates you're on. Deadhorse is the unrestricted area.) Partly because of this, and partly because of the unique constraints of building on permafrost, Deadhorse in many ways more resembles a temporary work camp than an actual town. One gets the impression that, should it become necessary, the town could be pulled down and trucked to the next oil field.

The climate and vegetation change somewhat after Atigun pass and the Brooks range, becoming arctic tundra with continuous permafrost underneath. This area receives very little precipitation, but that little stays around and makes for an almost boggy landscape since it can't soak through the permafrost. I was rather surprised at the amount of plant life and generally green color of the tundra; I guess I had mistakenly believed it to be brown and barren in summer (and snow-covered in winter, which may not be entirely inaccurate). The terrain is also generally flatter, with some rolling hills.

It was drizzly or rainy pretty much the entire time we were at Deadhorse and for a good bit of the travel up and back.

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The Franklin Bluffs, about 30 miles outside of Deadhorse; minerals (iron) give them some color.

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We did come across a fairly young Caribou outside of Deadhorse. I believe we also came across a few musk-oxen, but my mom was pretty sure we did not, so it may be that my memory is playing tricks on me. At any rate, if we did, we did not manage to take a picture of them.

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A typical view of Deadhorse: equipment and industrial architecture.

We camped out near the Sagavanirktok ("Sag") river, roughly across the road from the airport, which seems to be the usual thing for RVers to do. There is no official campground in Deadhorse. There is gas available, and apparently a dump station and potable water fill station available. Snacks and so forth are also available, but not a full grocery store; the oil workers have cafeterias in the hotels and camps they stay at.

August 3rd -- We refueled, drove around Deadhorse a bit, and in the afternoon took the Arctic Ocean shuttle from Deadhorse Camp to the ocean. This overpriced tour or shuttle service--it kind of splits the difference between them--is about the only way for mere peons to get to the Arctic Ocean proper as it's within the security zone in Prudhoe Bay. Advance reservations are required so they can process the security clearances. Our driver did give informative explanations about the oil work and showed a few of the sights, besides going to the ocean.

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Yours truly ankle deep in the Arctic Ocean. (Yes, the water was chilly.)

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This is not my picture, but we did see the Prudhoe Bay National Forest on our shuttle tour. This "forest," administered by Halliburton, reportedly gets Christmas lights in season. The whole idea of a National Forest seems a bit preposterous in person after having driven a few hours through treeless tundra.

We camped at the 355 mile ("Last Chance") wayside. I think this wayside is officially unmaintained, but it's still quite usable. There are some significant potholes to avoid in the lower parking area, and the access to the upper camping area was pretty plainly impassible to my motorhome though I think a truck camper could get there without overly much trouble. There's plenty of room regardless. The toilet was open, I assume partly because of the extensive road construction work that was going on throughout the area.

August 4th -- The day started out damp, which was somewhat of a theme for us in the far north. It cleared up as the day went on.

We weren't able to get a picture of them, but we enjoyed seeing a black bear and her two cubs cross the road in front of us.

There are a handful of rather nasty dangerous spots on the Dalton Highway, which have been given names: Ice Cut hill, Oil Spill hill, Atigun Pass, Oh Sh*t corner (which no longer has a sign), and the Roller Coaster. For a couple of these, I would have felt a good bit more comfortable if I had a CB radio to coordinate with any other drivers that may have been there. Ice Cut, in particular, is awfully narrow and blind. Fortunately, we didn't encounter anyone at inopportune times.

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I think this and the next picture are getting into the northern edge of the Brooks range.

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There are several avalanche gun emplacements along Atigun pass; this is one (seen through a less than perfectly clean window). I can only assume the guns themselves are carried to the bases as needed. We deemed that the avalanche danger was very low when we were crossing.

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Atigun pass, looking in the northbound direction I believe. The actual compass point could be something else because the road winds back and forth quite a bit through the pass.

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Looking the other direction out the other side of the pass, in the southbound direction

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I don't recall exactly where this was. It's an absolutely gorgeous stretch of road in general as it goes through the mountains.

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A view of Sukakpak Mountain (4000 foot elevation, about 3000 foot above the road level) from the pull-off at the end of the Middle Fork Koyukuk River 3 bridge. I think this was where we ate lunch, and I'd say it's a reasonably decent view for any dining room table. This is a fisheye lens shot; the mountain is quite close and has a massive presence. It's not just some largish boulder stuck in a field.

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Looking the other way from the other bank of the river. Notice how my RV has adopted a camouflage strategy akin to that of the chameleon, changing color to blend into its surroundings. That's a feature that was neither listed on the build sheet nor mentioned in the owner's manual.

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This camouflage even extends to other things attached to the outside of the motorhome, such as my bicycle. Amazing!

We drove through Wiseman, which is across from Coldfoot, and were frankly somewhat disappointed in this little community. I'm sure it's not at all easy to keep a tiny hamlet in the middle of nowhere functioning, and undoubtedly it's very special to those who live there. However, as a visiting tourist, there just isn't a whole lot there.

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The Wiseman post office (no longer in use).

We did, of course, buy gas at Coldfoot. We also stopped briefly at the interagency center, mainly to enquire whether anyone had reported losing a fine Gransfors Bruks hatchet (I think the particular model is the outdoor axe) that I found at the last chance wayside. No one had, so I ended up with a neat unexpected souvenir of the trip. These are not cheap tools.

We camped at the campground in the Arctic Circle wayside. The local hares provided some free entertainment.

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A cautiously friendly visitor.

August 5th -- We continued on back to the Fairbanks area, getting a campsite at the Riverview RV Park in North Pole.

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We're back into the boreal forest now (and indeed have been for a while).

August 6th -- This was a day of chores and relaxation, spent mostly in the campground. I spent about four hours washing mud off the motorhome. This wasn't a thorough detailing and waxing, by any means, just washing to ordinary car wash standards. It's difficult to explain how much muck there was all over the undercarriage and skirting of the motorhome. I suspect perhaps some of our neighbors though we were not the same people who had been there the last night.

I rather wish I had a before and after shots of the washing, but...well, I don't.

I suppose some people reading this may be wondering if they ought to go over the Dalton Highway in their RVs. I did see a fair few truck campers, a few smaller travel trailers, and some generally smaller class C motorhomes. It's not an impossible trek in these vehicles, not by a long shot. It is, however, a long, dusty, and rough road, and so obviously hard on the equipment. There are other roads we went on that were as rough, or rougher--but they were dozens rather than hundreds of miles long. I would certainly like to go again, but probably not in my motorhome; I don't think it would be too many trips over the highway before things started loosening and breaking and generally coming apart. I think probably a truck camper would be the ideal vehicle (or, possibly, an expedition style RV). While there were some campers in tents, the lack of places to get drinking water and the presence of bears, etc. make that less attractive to me than an RV of some sort, though tenting is still a viable option.

I do suspect that RVs with relatively poor ground clearance, such as some class A's seem to me to have, would be troublesome. Little berms of gravel a few inches high are common where they are grading or working on the road, and at least during the summer it's a given that one will encounter more or less maintenance and construction.

The attraction, in my opinion, is mainly the beautiful wilderness surrounding the road. For most people, I don't think there's anything in Deadhorse that would in any way make it worth the effort of getting there in itself.

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