Boondocked south of Coldfoot last night in a beautiful setting just off the Dalton Highway. Woke to a temp of 44 degrees F. No animals to be seen by us in this section of the wilderness but the vast view is beautiful. Took off for Fairbanks in mostly rain so more mud got added to the outside of the motor home. Kind of like an uneven brown paint.
The Dalton Highway–
The road south from Coldfoot, Alaska to the end of the Dalton Highway was about 2/3 of the way paved and about 1/3 of it was dirt. Still it was pretty good especially compared to the north side of the Atigun Pass. We just drove slowly and carefully and when we had to pick our way around or over the pot holes we were ever mindful of the possibility of a big truck barrelling down on us.
The Lazy Daze Motor Home–
No flat tires, no chipped or broken windshield or headlights, covered with mud but nothing has gone wrong with this RV. We bought the Lazy Daze for its reputation for being well built. It was rated five stars in the RV consumer reports for quality and safety and it has lived up to its reputation. It is a 2010 and folks asked us if we really wanted to put it through its paces by taking it on to some of these difficult roads and that question has merit. Except, we reasoned, do we really want to do such a difficult trip in an old RV? We love to RV and like being out in the middle of nowhere so this was a happy choice and it went well, we’re glad to say.
When we woke this morning the temp. was 46 degrees F. We got gas yesterday in Deadhorse for $5.41/gal. reg. so we were ready except we were fogged in and couldn’t see more than 25′ in front of us. So we stayed there until the fog lifted at about 10:00 am. With the fog hanging just above us, we took off south toward the Atigun Pass. About 20 miles down the road the fog was completely gone.
Will boondock south of Coldfoot tonight.
Atigun Pass over the Brooks Mountain Range–
About an hour north of the Atigun Pass, it started to rain. Yikes! Strapping seven tons of motor home on our back and sliding down the mountain side didn’t sound like our idea of fun. We continued on. When we got to the Pass it was still raining but the gate was open. As we drove very slowly up, we were stopped by a snow plow just completing clearing the road of an avalanche. Then a big truck pulled up behind us to wait for the snow plow to finish. As soon as the snow plow driver signaled us forward we pulled over and let the truck go by. Then it was down the 12% grade to be followed by a 10% grade but Jerry went down in low gear and no other trucks appeared. Made it!!! Must be the luck of the Irish. My mothers parents were from Ireland (the Aran Islands and Galway) and even one of our beautiful daughters was born on St. Patricks Day.
This section of the Dalton Highway was just as bad going south as it was going north. Bone jarring frost heaves and pot holes to say nothing of the washboard. Our TV is on a swing arm in the back of our motor home and at one point it swung out as if to look through the winshield and down the road to look for a smoother ride. Got gas again in Coldfoot at $5.21/gal reg. That should get us back to Fairbanks comfortably.
The Dalton Highway–
We left Fairbanks this morning and headed to the Dalton Highway to go north to Prudhoe Bay/Deadhorse. The Dalton Highway is notorious for difficult traveling as it is a “haul road” for big trucks to keep the oil companies supplied in Prudhoe Bay/Deadhorse. Also, this road is used to service the Alaskan Oil Pipeline that runs the entire length. We spent the day driving to Coldfoot, Alaska It is the half-way point along the Dalton Highway with our final goal being Prudhoe Bay. Along the way to Coldfoot we stopped many times to see the beautiful views and attractions. It doesn’t take long to realize that the dirt/gravel road and paved areas of the Dalton Highway requires you to drive slowly and carefully if you are to return from this trip with your vehicle intact. The potholes and rough road are tire eaters. This part of the trip (to the Artic Circle and/or Coldfoot) is doable for any RV very carefully driven.
As for the trucks, the trick seems to be when you see them approaching from the rear or coming toward you; slow down, pull over to the right, turn on your right directional signal if it is safe to pass. The truckers have one goal: to get where they are going as fast as they can. Time is money and they are apparently trying to make their fortune. The wise driver gets out of their way.
At mile 115 we came to the Artic Circle. We stood at the equator on our trip to the Galapagos a few years ago and now we were at the Artic Circle. Amazing. This is the frequent “turn around” point for most travelers. Getting to the Artic Circle is a trip in itself and if you want a document that says you were at the Artic Circle you can get on at the BLM visitor center at the Yukon River on the Dalton Highway. You can also get an Artic Circle certificate at the Coldfoot visitor center.
Coldfoot is the half-way point and a good place to stop and visit the visitor center there. The visitor center can tell travelers the condition of the Dalton Highway further north, especially the Atigun Pass over the Brooks Mountain Range. Also, Coldfoot is a “must stop” to get gas if you need some. We were told to carry extra gas in gas cans (we didn’t). We paid $5.20/gal. reg. We were also told to carry two spare tires already mounted on rims, we carried one. There’s gas available along the way and if you fill up when you can and only run on the top half of your tank you won’t run out. Also, you shouldn’t have too many tire problem if you drive slowly and carefully.
We will boondock in a turnout just north of Coldfoot. We spent quite a bit of time tonight looking for animals at our boondocking site. Just outside our door is the artic wilderness but, alas, we didn’t see any animals there.
Artic Ocean and Haul Road (Dalton Road) to Deadhorse–
We spent a good part of the morning planning the upcoming week because we want to go to the Artic Circle and the Artic Ocean. We have wanted to see the Artic Circle and go to the Artic Ocean since we first talked about going to Alaska but, we are told the rules, companies providing the shuttle and the costs change almort every year. Turns out, you need to make reservations at least 48 hours prior to taking a shuttle through the Prudhoe Bay Oil property to get to the Artic Ocean. The oil companies own the land that fronts the Artic Ocean and you must traverse this property with a tour. Security is the all encompassing oil company’s issue in this area thus the minimum 48 hours for security background checks. So, we called the Northern Alaska Tour Company (907 474 8600) and made reservations for Thursday May 31st at 3:00 pm. To make the reservation for the shuttle you need to give identifying information and pay via Visa $49.00 per person. We’ll drive to Deadhorse, Alaska and then take a 3 o’clock shuttle to the Artic Ocean. We think it will take us about two days to drive to Deadhorse and hopefully we won’t have “road issues”. After the drive to Eagle, Alaska we should have an idea of what a difficult road is like to drive. There is no communication on the Haul Road (Dalton Highway) after Coldfoot until Deadhorse so there will be no way to get help, certainly no Emergency Road Service. We’ll try to be ready to help ourselves if needed. We will leave Fairbanks, Alaska on May 29th and return to Fairbanks sometime on June 2nd (with any luck).
Pioneer Park Fairbanks, Alaska
Today was “free museum admission fee day” in Fairbanks, Alaska. There are numerous museums in Fairbanks’ Pioneer Park so we spent most of the day in and out of some of their museums. A lovely way to spend a Saturday.
Also, Pioneer Park has free potable water available for RVs plus there are several free RV dump sites in Fairbanks.