Crossing the Arctic Circle

July 8, 2015

I can now cross off “#14 Drive the Alaskan Haul Road” on my bucket list.  If you have ever seen Ice Road Truckers or have read about the Alaskan pipeline you have probably seen pictures of the Alaskan North Slope Haul Road a.k.a. the Dalton Highway a.k.a. Alaskan Highway 11. It begins at the Elliott Highway, 70 miles northwest of Fairbanks, and ends 414 miles later at Deadhorse near the Arctic Ocean and the Prudhoe Bay oil fields. My friend Ed Allen and I just drove halfway up that road to the Arctic Circle. Why? Maybe just to say we’ve done it, or to say “I’ve been there” and of course to have our picture taken by the Arctic Circle sign.

The Haul Road is a mostly gravel supply road to the Alaskan oil fields and generally hauls 160 trucks daily during the summer and 250 trucks daily during the winter.

When we left the paved Elliot Highway we started driving north on the Dalton Hwy.

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This picture was taken at Mile Marker 13 and shows just what this road looks like.

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Part of the pipeline is buried and as you can see part of it is above ground. In the next pictures you can see the pipeline and the road. The haze is smoke from forest fires.

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Permafrost forced the engineers to build the pipeline on stilts. Building on permafrost causes a lot of problems in Alaska and Northern Canada with roads and placing foundations for buildings.

On the “Warning” sign below notice that the pipeline was built by the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.  When I first came to Alaska a year ago I noticed that a lot of companies used the name Alyeska.  Alyeska is an archaic spelling of the Aleut word Alaska meaning “mainland”, “great country”, or “great land”.

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This is Pumping Station number 7.  The Trans Alaska Pipeline System was originally designed with 12 pump stations, though it was decided that only 11 were needed and a 12th was never built. Oil was first discovered in Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope in 1968.

Building a bridge across the Yukon River was a major engineering feat in itself.

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The pipeline and this highway bridge cross together, but notice that the surface of the bridge is made of wooden planks. I believe this has something to do with its design to withstand temperatures from a -55 F to 95 F and the destructive power of ice and debris.

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The color on the hill is caused by fireweed, found everywhere in Alaska. Even the sides of the road can be quite beautiful.

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A view from Homer looking towards Seldovia

I told my friend Ed that this picture was proof that we crossed the Arctic Circle.  He reminded me that a graphic artist could even place us in pictures standing on the moon.

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On the way home we saw about a dozen forest fires probably caused by lightning. The news reported that there were 300 forest fires all burning at one time covering over a million square acres. You will notice that in some of my pictures the sky is blue, but in other the smoke from the fires make it look quite smoggy.

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Enjoy,

Cliff

 

 

 

 

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Chena Trails and the North Pole Parade

July 7, 2015

There are many perks that come along with our volunteer jobs, some better than others. We were encouraged to explore the area around Chena Dam and Rangers Jake and Cole manage to make sure we do get out!

We have brand new Rangers to drive around in while working and they are just a lot of fun to drive and explore the back country trails. We headed off to pick up trash and get eyes on a few of the notoriously misused places on the property. Ranger Jake led the way on an ATV with the ladies in the second Ranger with Connie driving and the guys bringing up the rear with Cliff driving.

Note the different kinds of Rangers we have! We have real life Rangers (Jake and Cole) and then we have Rangers that we drive (red cute little 4 wheelers). Just thought you might be getting confused cuz we sure were.

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One of the highlights of our summer last year was looking out for patches of fireweed. This summer we have our own hill of fireweed right behind our trailer.

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North Pole Alaska is a real town, it even has a Safeway and a couple of fast food places. It also has this Santa Claus theme throughout the town with light poles and street signs looking like candy canes and this big building decorated like Santa’s house. And they have a parade on the 4th of July! The Army Corps has a program for water safety  and that was the theme for our float in the parade. There were several floats (guessing about 50) and we wound our way through the city streets with hundreds of kids, families, pets, etc. lining the streets. We gave out frisbees, 500 in all but we needed 1000 and had a great time. We were a big hit because we had Ranger Cole with us and he wore the Bobber the dog costume and sat in the back of the boat, waving at all of the kids.

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We met one of Santa’s elves at our office picnic last weekend. Her name is Linda and she is #1 elf at the Santa Claus House, she just happens to be married to Tim, the big boss at the Chena Flood Control Project. She kept us in stitches with stories about her job and the people she meets.

We have fighter jets that fly over our area each evening about dinner time and they are so loud we have to stop talking until they pass by. Connie just calls it the sound of our freedom and we all agree.  The Fourth of July just reminds us that we live in freedom and we celebrate those that gave their lives for us to live free.

Cliff and Cyndy