Thursday, August 26, 2010

dalton highway...five

i'll take you to the top of the world as i know it this evening. lucky you, i am currently on call for the peds icu so i can write another entry to the blog...not that i am doing much else but talking to myself most days. watched "julie and julia" last night. makes you wonder if anyone reads. is there anyone out there? i talk to myself all the time so i suppose it really isn't anything new. unlike julie in the movie, i've never had any goals. people seem to like the pictures i take and this does seem a way to post those out there. some tell me i should sell my photography, but i suspect that would be alot of work and i'm happy if others get happiness just seeing the pictures.
anyway. on wednesday we drove on to deadhorse. we had many stops for the caribou and musk ox. we must have hit part of the big caribou run as it does seem we could see hundreds and hundreds of them spread out on hills all over the place. quite amazing really.
my pictures as usual are bassackwards so above is actually the next morning. 4 of us camped out on the tundra. it was actually the best night of the trip. we just pulled the cars in diagonal and pitched tents behind them. there was a small rising on what looks like a bit of a road that leads back to a river. that offered the only protection for personal sanitation in these elements.
the other three in the group had stayed behind in deadhorse and rented rooms at the hotels there. i think room rates were close to $200/night. the rooms are smallish, bunk house type rooms. the food is good there though. there is no place you can pitch tents in the deadhorse area. it's not a city or town at all, it's really just a big place of business. sprawling actually...much larger than i had imagined. very industrial with that industrial smell and feel. i was quite happy the dogs saved us all from a night there and pushed us to camp out on the tundra. it was just a wonderful night with friends out there.
the sun set forever on the tundra. we got out there to set up tents around 8pm and this was finally closer to midnight i think. we were 7 miles south of deadhorse and those are the lights of prudhoe bay.
i had brought along a bundle of wood so we had a lovely campfire. there is no wood out there to use. there is driftwood at the beach, but you have to pay $45 for the tour to the beach, very restricted access. the fire was great, the weather cool, but not uncomfortable and the bugs weren't. that is the best part of all. this whole trip we expected the worst bugs ever and we must have hit it right as the bugs were just not an issue. above is jacqui enjoying the fire...and the box o wine.
scott was like me, covered in mud, but happy with the wine and laughter around the fire. not sure how a group of people can be in the same place and some get covered with mud while others seem to avoid it. i discovered that part of that is that i just do what i need to do and don't take the step beforehand to think how best to avoid the mud. also scott and i were the ones getting into the yakima's on top of the car. we just did the messier stuff really.
it was cold enough that i put on my new prudhoe bay ski hat and my skhoop. happy i brought that along. it's always just a great extra layer of clothing. it also works well to give one privacy when they have to pee. :-) tanya is next to me. we had a nice sleep that night. i suspect the wine helped. i woke a few times to cover rio with a blanket. she just seems more vulnerable to the chill. it probably got down to the upper 30's to lower 40's that night.
the never ending sunset. always a welcome sight while camping out. nice too as you can see forever and there have been a few sightings of polar bears in the region. lucky for us we had no sightings and probably the wine allayed our fears.
the pipeline in the distance highlighted by the sunset.
bailey looked so regal looking out at the tundra from her tent site.
our campfire.
this one is again in the morning before we tore down camp and the other girls up in deadhorse drove down to locate us. i'm so happy that we were able to enjoy that night out there and if i ever do this road again, i would just camp up here and linger in this region for several days before heading south again. wait...actually this is in the evening....looks like such daylight i couldn't tell. we have set up camp and got the fire going so it's probably closer to 10pm??
this is an old road that leads to a small river. it ran too fast for me to let blossom in it, but i turned around and saw our little camp out there in the sunset. that is home for the night.
we stopped in at the caribou inn for dinner after the big tour and before we hit the tundra. we wanted to check out sue's little room. she seemed quite happy and those 3 got showers that we skipped.
we got to prudhoe bay in the afternoon. we had enough time to run a few errands, like get gas and shop at the little store there. the hotels, stores and tour are run by the native corporation. so they get the proceeds.
the tour is actually pretty sad. really we just wanted to get to the arctic ocean and the only way to do that is to take the tour. first you watch a movie and prudhoe bay oil, then a bus out to the water where the guy talks about oil. it wasn't totally uninteresting but i really wish they spoke about the ecology of the area...there is so much they could have spoken on and they seemed to totally avoid any talk of wildlife and nature, just seems a waste. so on our 2 hour tour we got maybe 1/2 hour at the actual beach. here is the group shot on the beach of prudhoe bay.
these two shots were taken out hte window of the bus on the way to/from the beach. you can see a caribou out there under the pipeline.
the tour guy did point out these swans and a few other birds.
with such a small area of beach for the tour one would think they would make sure that these barrels and other industrial litter were cleaned up. i mean it's the only place they take tourists, how hard could that be?

we did see caribou tracks on the beach. supposedly, the industry is to wipe the slate clean when the oil is gone and they leave. they are suppose to return the area to it's natural state, how it was before they came. i find that hard to imagine, but nature is pretty good at erasing us if left to it's own devices. it just takes hundreds and hundreds of years. this beach is a poor indicator of how the area will be left in my opinion, but one can hope. for now there is still oil to be pumped across the north slope. my opinion on that. best to use what we can as long as we are cautious of the surroundings and respectful of nature and the earth. i suspect that when they pump oil in the middle east or other places they take no precautions regarding nature. all things are grey to me. i can never see black and white in any issue. it just always seems so odd to me that others can.
scott and jacqui take a stroll on the beach. sunset has already begun and will last well into the night. crazy.

there are no trees in the north so this driftwood has traveled many miles. apparently it comes from canada. perhaps from the slave lakes and down the rivers to the ocean whose currents carry it here.
another group shot...sue, me, scott, jacqui, maria, tanya and julie.
a few did thier controvercial arctic swim but i just took a walk in the water on the shore. it takes me forever to get into the pool water and it's around 70 degrees. i'd never get myself up for the arctic ocean water. i say controvercial because there was so much talk that it almost became nauseating. fine go, do it already. the strangeness seemed to dissappear once the thing was over which i was happy about. i think they were just psyching themselves up by talking about this dip, but whatever. the big question is what one should wear when taking thier arctic plunge? personally, it seems to always be a swimsuit or costume in my experience...why sciveys? only she knows. offense...nope, nobody was offended...just seemed odd. why? why? why? we'll just never know. i think it was thought this was discussed, which it really wasn't. i shant waste another moment. happy they dove in though, happy i waded. i've never been one to dive in any body of water.
here i am chilling by the bay.
back in town. these were taken in the afternoon. above is the general store. we all had to stop and shop for our expensive deadhorse trinkets. how could you not?
it took us some time but we found where you gas up. there didn't seem to really be street names or anything like that. those who spend time there just know where to go i guess. i got in line behind the semi which is a strange thing in and of itself. there was a guy there who helped us out. you scan your card inside and then the guy helps you pump the right gas. i think it just said one or two. not unleaded, leaded or whatever. kinda funny.
this is town...this is town that will one day be turned back over to nature. i wouldn't let blossom drink from anything, anywhere!
we did walk the dogs and there are no dogs in deadhorse so we got lots of looks. the dogs got pets. i suspect the sight of tourists in general is sort of an oddity up there.
lots of machinery about. below is the arctic inn. sue stayed here. maria and julie had rooms in the other hotel there. as i said we ate dinner there and got steak night. all you can eat buffet for $20 and the food was actaully quite tasty. it could be it tasted better as we had never stopped for any meals all day and had instead snacked as we drove for 2 days straight.

above atigun pass we saw nothing that remotely resembled a rest area. i guess there is an outhouse at pumpstation 2, also called last chance wayside, but i never noticed it. hard to tell, you just see the machinery and don't think you are free to wander about. we were more about animals than machinery anyway...which is why we probably missed the only chance at an outhouse in all of the slope.

there was this one odd place that had a little walkway up to some signage postings on the tundra and birds. seemed so out of place out there. i pee'd and we marveled in the amount of mud our cars had collected through the day. scott has smartly brought a bottle of windex which we used to clean off the lights. we wrote in the mud. i was called "dog box" on the little radios.
a very delicate packing system.
scott cleans windows.
i let the girls stretch out and get some water. i'm sure we were all a bit dehydrated on this trip.
just a few scenery shots from the day.
usually when you are dirt roads such as this you only pass other cars. this highway has so many semi's driving on it. just seems so much smaller when those big trucks are there.
remnants of fireweed.
this is also a picture through the tour bus, sorry. these tires were invented by a teacher who taught up in the village someplace. anyway. they are so soft that they can roll over a man, which is how he impressed the big oil folks. they are used on the tundra. the only vehicles allowed to cross the delicate tundra as they can roll over it without doing any damage. they make ice roads in the winter so that is when they do much work. these disappear in the late spring and there is no sign of where they'd been.

this was the only thing in deadhorse that looked unindustrial.
pingo. we saw several of these out there. these are created by spring fed lakes that are covered over, freeze, thaw and thus push the ground up with the freeze/thaw cycles. some of these pingos can be several hundred feet up from the surface. kinda cool.
these are the franklin bluffs. looked pretty off in the distance. some sort of minerals give them the colours and it does look like there may be some residual snow in there as well.
closer in.
more pingo's and cotton.
more musk ox sightings en route up.
well, that is it for the night. had a lazy day today. more cleaning and i joined tanya with the dogs for a walk in kincaid. the sun was out again so it was lovely. more another day.

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