We woke up early to ensure that the Blue JK was prepped and ready for the road in front of us. Mel had told us the night before, which never happens, that we were running the Dalton Highway from Fairbanks to Deadhorse (Prudhoe Bay) which is the end of the road and the highest point in the United States. The mileage count was going to be right at 500 miles and while that doesn’t sound like much in the Lower 48, to run 500 miles in Alaska means you’re going to run pavement, gravel, and mostly dirt. Living in Alaska I’d heard of the Dalton and the TV show “Ice Road Truckers” has made the route famous but in no way could we understand what we would see let alone drive through for the next 500 miles.
We were an hour and a half in when we made the left hand turn to the Dalton and not far from that we crossed the Arctic Circle, who would ever think that you’d have a chance to cross that line let alone do it in a JK.
Once we were back on the road the next spectacle we ran into was the Trans Alaskan Pipeline which was built tin the 1970’s and supplies our country with a large portion of its sweet crude oil. The man made marvel still looks like the the first barrel flowed down the line from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.
The next crazy experience for the JKX crew was driving over was driving over the Yukon River which was the principle form of transportation during the Klondike gold rush. After the river we pulled into Coldfoot, Alaska where we filed up the tanks and rotopaks as the next fuel would be in Deadhorse at the top of world.
The vista’s and long valley’s are so very surreal as we cover the miles, you feel so small and overpowered by the vast country on either side of you while driving. The talus slopes are home to Dall sheep and Mtn Goats while Moose and Caribou roam the valleys along with Foxes, Wolves, and inland Grizzly bears. At the bottom of Antigun Pass we were stopped for construction and were just in awe of where we were about to drive, its insane as its the only pass in the Brooks Range that is crossed by a road. Bush pilots have a hard times getting over it let alone driving over it!
With the final 164 miles to Deadhorse in front of us we sped up the pace as everyone was excited to get out of the vehicles after 10 hours. As we neared the town we were treated to a Grizzly Bear sighting as well as Caribou and a large herd of the reclusive Musk Ox. We could see the structures come into view and realized how much there actually was in Deadhorse. Approximately 3000 workers are on the site at all times and the various companies run flights twice a day carrying new people in and taking people home. Our home for the night was a barracks style compound, they are the only option in town and we were plenty glad to have it.
Mel and Lisa along with Chris Durham treated us to a Reindeer Sausage BBQ while we stood around in the rain and marveled over the fact that the sun really never goes down up here this time of year. Mel needed some arts from the 24 hour Napa and Eric volunteered to drive him and while out they saw a large Grizzly bear and the grumpy old guy chased them in the Jeep!
It was a truly amazing day and everyone settled in to get a few hours of sleep before we headed to the Arctic Ocean to see if anyone was up to the Polar Bear Challenge.