I’m not sure why but I very much dislike the term bucket list, so I will just say the Dalton Highway was on my to do list for a long time. I lived in Anchorage, AK for two years during high school in ’78 and ’79 and was vaguely aware there was a road to Prudhoe Bay as they had recently finished the Alaska Pipeline. The full length of the road to Deadhorse was not open to the public until 1994, long after I had departed from the area. I can’t say exactly when or how I became aware that it was open for civilian travel, but the concepts of it being one of only two roads north of the Arctic Circle on the North American continent as well as ending at the northernmost point in North America reachable by road captured my interest. I realize that an untold number of people using many different forms of transportation have made this trip over the last twenty years, but in some respects it still seems to me like a small group.
In my opinion, the most important thing to remember about the Dalton Highway is that it’s about the journey and not the destination. At least not the destination in the traditional sense. Sure, it is the northernmost point reachable by road and all but upon reaching the end of the road you are greeted by a giant industrial complex designed to house 3,000 to 6,000 oil field workers, not a typical tourist destination or scenic wonder. There is no town, there are no campgrounds, and there is not much of anything resembling a habitable place. Even if you pay BP to have a security person give you a bus tour to the Arctic ocean you end up standing on a bleak, man-made gravel beachÂ built by the oil companies. Not exactly tourist nirvana. But if you’re going to go to all the trouble to get that close to the Arctic Ocean, I recommend you take the tour and dip your toes.
The trip up and back is a different story. The climate and topography are ever-changing, rewarding you with spectacular scenery, wide open spaces, and wildlife. Yeah the road is rough, very rough, but in the end I say well worth it. And yes, we took the trailer all the way up and back. Oddly enough we did not see any other camp trailers there. Go figure.
A collection of signs at the beginning of the Dalton Highway
Impressive hunk of rock!
The Alaska Pipeline is visible for most of the trip
This reminds me of a freight train headed uphill
The obligatory Arctic Circle pic
Meet Sho. No matter how tough or adventurous you think you are, someone out there is more so. Sho told us he was covering 20 miles a day! He started his journey at mile zero on the Alaska Highway in British Columbia. When this picture was taken he was well past the Arctic Circle and about to climb Atigun pass. On our way back the next day he was several miles north of the pass and still walking. He calculated it would take him another week to week and a half to get to Deadhorse. Â Bear in mind once you leave Coldfoot there are no services for 240 miles until you reach Deadhorse. Tougher than me!
Our “campsite” in Deadhorse. Actually just a man-made levee between the road and the Sag River. 36 degrees and 27 degrees wind chill!
I guess it helps to have a sense of humor to live here.
Notice who has their feet in the water and who doesn’t. And after all that talk of “dipping my toes in every body of water I see”.
Caribou in Deadhorse
Musk Oxen just south of Deadhorse
The long journey back made longer waiting for a pilot car.