Turns out there was really no chance that I was going to be posting any more blogs or vlogs North of Whitehorse. As I traveled North the little bars on all the wifi signal kept on going South. What started out as my goal to post two blogs and a vlog every week turned into an occasional IG post here and there when I rolled into a Walmart or McDonalds. At present, to get you caught up on my whereabouts, I'm sitting at my parents dining table in Abbotsford, BC. Yes, the trip is over (insert frowning emoticon: HERE)
After a little bit of regrouping in Dawson I set out towards the next leg of the journey, Alaska, but first I'd need to drive the Top of the World Highway. I distinctly remember driving past the turnoff for the TWH on highway 2 in Alaska the first time I drove North with Alison. I saw the sign, not actually know much about the highway, and wished that I could drive it. Well, I've had my go at the highway and glad I did!
"Top of the World" is no understatement. From the Yukon river ferry you immediately begin to ascend into the mountains following a mountain ridge which connects to other ridges that eventually continues all the way to the Poker Creek border crossing, North America's furthest North border crossing, this means you sit on the top of mountains the entire way. The highway is absolutely stunning! The entire drive on the exceptionally maintained gravel highway (only on the Canadian side) you are met with expansive views of the surrounding mountain ranges. If you're alright with going slower you can turn off the main highway and explore many of the access roads that often connect back to the highway. Also, if you have time I'd suggest camping on the highway, there are SO MANY places to camp. I was tempted to stay a night on the highway but was feeling driven to get to Alaska. I did however manage a short hike with Willow to get some pictures and then found a rad little spot to eat a late lunch before getting to Poker Creek.
The crossing into Alaska went smoothly. I spoke with the nicest american border guard I've ever met. After the crossing at Poker Creek you almost immediately begin to descend. The highway leads to the Alaska portion the the Alaska highway, I drove the way but not without passing through the small town of Chicken where I had a beer and talked to the locals.
That night after asking around I camped at a small quarry lake off the side of the highway 12 miles North of Tok, AK. I really loved that spot as it provided level camping, clean water and a hiding spot away from traffic but wasn't too far off the road. The next morning I continued on my way to Fairbanks where I restocked on groceries, fuel, supplies and...wifi. The McDonalds wifi had trouble with the apps on my phone so there was really no hope of uploading any photos to my unfinished blog. I drove around Fairbanks doing errands before heading out of town on the Elliot highway. I camped at Washington creek beside a beaver dam that night. NOTE: don't sleep beside beaver dams, beavers don't like foreign invaders and attempt to scare you off all night which sounds like they're doing cannon balls off the high dive.
Awaking the next morning it was officially time to drive the Dalton Highway. The weather was dreary and a little cold but I was excited to get going on the Dalton Highway once again. Despite the interrupted sleep the night before camp was packed up early and I was off on my way. It's always amazing how much your forget over 4 years about a drive that long. Soon after my departure (4hrs of driving really) I was at Finger Mountain, which is a large piece of stone that has been pushed up by the permafrost. As I did the previous trip, I climbed the rock for the ancient view that enabled the natives to spy herds of caribou in the distance.
After Finger Mountain I continued my way down into the next valleys and then out of that one and into the next. I had been itching to take a hike and as the mountains began to change and get a little higher it was prime time to catch them before the peaks became unattainable for my level of time, safety and drive. So I picked a peak, dawned my pack and camera and began to hike. What started as a seemingly easy hike to a low peak quickly turned into something a little more challenging. Tundra. Try hiking up a mountain but instead of hard, weight-supporting ground you're hiking on very squishy mattresses about 1.5ft thick. Needless to say I had broken a sweat pretty quick. When I reached the top I was awarded with distant views of the Brooks range and what looked like the mountains of Scotland behind me. I spent a while at the top before heading back down. As I had been hiking a traveling rain cloud had come into view and it was quickly approaching my position. Being a big dummy I didn't think to bring a rain jacket with me so I was forced to hustle down the mountain, good thing I had a giant mattress to run on. What had been a 30 minute hike to the top of the mountain took me roughly 10 minutes to descend. It was loads of running down the mountain, if you'd like to see what it was like be sure to stay tuned for the vlog in a few weeks.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, while I had been at the top of my little mountain I had been looking straight at the Arctic Circle site along the Dalton Highway. Only 5 minutes after returning to my truck and starting on my way again I was turning into the parking lot and yet again getting out of my truck. I was approached shortly after exiting my truck by a long-haired Chinese named Francis. It was, as it often is, my truck that drew his attention. We talked about my journey a little, but soon I found out that he had begun his journey in Key West, Florida, had driven to Anchorage a year ago and was finally finishing his journey to the top of the North America. After arriving in Anchorage the year previous the winter had just begun and as he was traveling in his lowered Subaru WRX decided again continuing on his trip and instead set down some shallow roots in the city and enjoyed some local adventure in the state while working odd jobs. We stood at the Arctic Circle and talked about adventures while tourists came and went continually foiling our attempts at getting our own pictures at the sign. It wasn't until a tour bus came into the parking lot that we said 'enough' and scurried away.
It was quickly decided that we'd camp the night and drive some of the highway together the next day. We refueled our vehicles at Coldfoot then found a gravel pit to sleep for the night. When it came to eating food for the night I learned that Francis had simply bought two Big Mac's from McDonalds to eat for dinner claiming that the they don't really have an expiration date so they'd be fine for consumption after sitting in the car all day. I suggested he eat some of my salad, he gave me beer in exchange. Good trade.
The next morning we woke, ate, then hit the road. I had Francis on my tail till shortly before the Atigun pass where the road became considerably more rough and he had to slow his pace a little. We both continued on our way at our respective paces hopping out of our vehicles and taking pictures every few hundred meters. I waited for Francis and ate my lunch just beyond the Atigun Pass to make sure he'd make it over fine. When he came triumphantly over the pass he stopped in for a quick chat. While we stood there an obviously European land rover came towards us traveling South. This would be my first time meeting Marcel and Gratiella from Switzerland. We spoke with the Euro's for a few minutes before they departed and we hit the road again ourselves. It was clear that Francis wasn't going to be able to keep pace with me on the road seeing as his tail bone was likely coming close to becoming mush with his racing suspension, so I set out and drove the remainder of the way to Deadhorse, AK.
Not long after driving through the Atigun Pass you'll find yourself exiting the Brooks range and at the beginning of the North Slope. Over and hour or two the mountains progressively become foothills then rolling hills then suddenly, flat. It's like the Saskatchewan of the North, you could hold a ruler up to the horizon and find a perfect parallel. I managed a couple glimpses of lone caribou and a single muskox as I approached Deadhorse, I also drove through 56 miles of construction. The road crews are undertaking a huge road upgrade project from the base of the foothills all the way to Deadhorse and it is quite impressive. Everything beyond the mountains has to be built on a gravel pad otherwise it sinks into the tundra, this of course includes the roads, it looks as though the road crews had elevated the road by at least a couple meters in sections and widened it by the same.
Arriving in Deadhorse I located the gas station (not an easy task if you don't know where you're going), drove to the general store to buy my stickers then drove back out of town to see if I could find somewhere to camp. I managed to catch Francis one last time before he went to one of the camps to visit with a buddy of his that works there.
That night I slept a few miles South of Deadhorse along a quickly flowing river. The sun didn't really go down, but the temperature did. I woke to stillness and a veil of fog obscuring the massive oil facility from my view. I'm not great at waking up to a cold environment, or to wet environment...or windy, really any half-shitty weather I wake up to I make a quick attempt to escape it, admittedly I have a little bit of glamper in me still. I packed up quickly after a small breakfast and hot coffee and turned my compass southward.
Some of you may be thinking he odd it is of me to drive all that way (414 Miles) just to turn around without seeing anything or even going to the Arctic Ocean. Well, here's my explanation: I have driven the Dalton Highway before as I've said, the first time I did it with Alison and Deadhorse THE destination and I really focused on that. This time around I wanted to focus more on the journey and enjoy the incredible scenery along the way, but of course if I'm driving that far I had might as well make it to the furthest point accessed by road in North America. There's not a whole lot to see IN Deadhorse, you can only drive to a certain point in the oil facility and there's very little there to cater to travelers and lastly, I have been to the arctic ocean and the tour is $70USD/person and you have to book 24hrs ahead. I didn't book ahead and didn't feel like using up almost my entire daily budget to go on a tour I had already taken. So, back down I went.
The remainder of the trip was straight forward and just as scenic going the other way. I found a new camping spot South of Coldfoot to stay in which I thoroughly enjoyed. I had left fairly early from Deadhorse so by the time I reached my camp spot for the night it was only 4:00 in the afternoon. I was exhausted from all the driving so I took a well needed nap and then later took and invigorating bath in the frigid river beside my spot.
The next day I traveled back to Fairbanks to do a little catch up before heading to the Denali highway. I'll leave you there for now.