Arctic Circle, AK - Heading North
Jun 22, 2011
|(Ron Writing) Our original plan was to head back south toward Denali National Park from Fairbanks but we’re flexible and our plans often change day-to-day. After reading some literature and talking to some people we met in Fairbanks we decided to head north to see if we could make it to the Arctic Circle. The Arctic Circle is defined as the most southerly latitude where the sun never sets on summer solstice and never rises on winter solstice. So, tonight, one day after the summer solstice, we should experience something very close to continuous sun here where we’re camped for the night on the Arctic Circle.
From Fairbanks we headed northwest on Hwy 2, the Steese Highway. The highway was mostly asphalt in good condition. Just beyond the tiny town of Livengood, AK we headed straight north on Highway 11, the Dalton Highway. We’ve learned that the Alaskans will call any road a highway! Most of the Dalton Highway is either gravel or dirt with a few asphalt sections. The asphalt sections seemed to be in worse shape than the dirt and gravel sections. On dirt and gravel they can quite easily use a road grader to shave off the frost heaves, fill the pot holes, and smooth the washboard. The asphalt sections, however, had a lot of potholes and frost heaves. Also, this highway pretty much follows a straight line over the natural terrain. The area is quite mountainous so we were continuously going up and down long steep grades. For awhile we were on rain slickened mud and were glad Hercules has a low-range 4WD option to get us up the 9% grades and hold us back from going too fast down those 2 mile long 10% grades.
But we just took it real slow and didn’t have any problems. We seldom went over 40 mph and the more typical speed was 30 mph. Most of the photos were shot through the truck windows because the “highway” is very narrow and there are very large trucks sharing the road. There are no shoulders, no guardrails, sharp drop-offs and the road-bed is not stable when you get close to the edge. The potholes on the “highway” are notorious for destroying tires so we were both on the lookout for them. There is almost no service along the Dalton and getting towed would probably break the bank! The driver had a workout today and will sleep very good tonight!
The Dalton Highway is also called the “Haul Road”. It was built to support the construction and operation of the Alaska Pipeline in the early 70’s. For many years private travel was not allowed on the road. Now anyone is allowed to use it but most people decide to skip it after reading all the warnings published by various state agencies.
We arrived at the Arctic Circle around 5 PM. The temperature was a very comfortable 68° with no wind. However, there are hordes of mosquitoes so we didn’t spend any more time outdoors than necessary. There is a free BLM campground about a half-mile off the highway where we are spending the night.
Due to limitations of the Trip Journal mapping capability our map plots us at Livengood, AK but we are actually about 120 miles north of there right at the Arctic circle.
Weather: Overnight low of 56°, we had quite a bit of rain during the night and rain at times all day today, very cloudy all day.
Critters: one very large moose (we couldn’t get a photo), and a zillion mosquitos.
Scenery: Varies from large trees in dense forests, to scrawny trees in boreal forests, to open non-forested areas as we went farther north.
Gasoline Price: $5.399/gal. at Yukon River Camp.
Mileage: Today - 208 miles, cumulative since leaving AZ on 4-6-11 – 5,653 miles.
Tonight’s stop: Arctic Circle BLM campground on Dalton Hwy, AK