Monday, September 6, 2010

Crossing the Arctic Circle

September 6. We'd spent one last day on September 5 seeing a bit more of Denali, including touring the sled dog kennels at Denali National Park, the only national park with working dog teams. They patrol in the backcountry all winter. Some day, this little guy will be mushing through the snow.

We drove up to Fairbanks, and relaxed for the evening. It was rainy, but we walked around a bit to see some of the city. Because of the rain, I left the camera at the hotel. On Labor Day, we left at 6:30 in the morning for a 16 hour trip to the Arctic Circle and back with the Northern Alaska Tour Company. It was a very interesting day. We went up the Dalton Highway, crossed the Yukon River, and had cake at the Arctic Circle, the imaginary line on our world that marks the southern-most point where the sun does not set on the Summer Solstice. We also had many impressive views of the 800 mile long Alaska Pipeline, a true engineering wonder. The challenges they had to overcome to build this back in the 1970's were truly mind-boggling.

On our trip north, we made a number of stops along the way, including lunch and dinner along the Yukon River, a learning experience about permafrost, and a short hike in a rocky area. The terrain was so vast, and varied between large stands of hardwoods in peak fall foliage, taiga, and tundra. We saw a half dozen moose on the drive but no other wildlife. Caibou and moose hunting season were in full swing, so I would guess that animals were cautious. Here are some pictures from the trip.

Joy, Alaska was very remote but still hours from the Circle. The population of Joy is about 12. This was the general store where we had a chance to use a very aromatic outhouse and talk to the proprietors. They also had great muffins for sale.

Clowning around on the Alaska Pipeline. About half of it is buried but any part that goes through unstable permafrost has to be elevated.

The Dalton Highway and the Alaska Pipeline cross the Yukon River. I think the pipeline crosses something like three major rivers, three mountain ranges, and 800 streams.

Panoramic view from a rocky hill we hiked around, and a view of one area from the hill.

The fall foliage was not limited to the trees.

It would be amazing to be here on the day of the Summer Solstice: 66 degrees 33 minutes north latitude. This company does a special tour here that day, leaving later in the day, and having a toast with Champaign at 2AM on top of a hill above the Arctic Circle. I would hate to be the driver for the 5 hour drive back to Fairbanks, though.

Panorama at the Arctic Circle


  1. All great photos but I just love that little guy!!!
    A belated Merry Christmas to you too Art.

  2. Isn't he cute? I am glad that your Christmas was a good one.