Finally in Fairbanks!

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April 30th 2016
Published: April 30th 2016
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Are you going to Fairbanks?

I was actually thinking of the song "Are you going to San Francisco?"

Day: 13/14

Distance: Over 5K (too lazy to go outside to the car and get the mileage)

Hello armchair travelers! I finally pulled into Fairbanks an hour or so ago. I found a Barnes and Noble for the wifi access and am now writing this entry.

The story to date:

After leaving Whitehorse yesterday. My initial plan was to go up on PR 2, known as the Top of the World Highway. I had just turned on the highway when I realized that I saw a sign about the port of entry but I wasn't sure what it said. I stopped, did a u-turn and went back to the sign. Well damn. The port of entry is closed for the season, like until May 20 something or other. Now I could have driven the 500+ miles just to say I did it, but then I'd have to turn around And drive back. I already did a 100+ mile turn around trip. I didn't want another. So I got back on PR 1 west towards Alaska just greatful I saw that sign. That WOULD have really sucked to get to the border and find out that it was closed. I believe that is DENIED #5 (or is that 6?). Anyway back on to PR1. I wasn't really trying to get over the border yesterday but I got in the zone (plus the extra lights make it much easier). On the way I passed a couple of shy moose that zipped into the brush as soon as slowed down. They moved pretty fast for being such a large animal. No antlers being spring and all, so I really couldn't tell if they were male or female.

Now the second coolest thing on this day of traveling was I got to see my first grizzly bear and it was only 20 feet or so away! Like the black bear the day before, it ignored me completely and just concentrated on feeding whatever the bears like so much near the edge of the highway. It was noticeably larger than the black bear from the day before. Notice the pronounced hump on the back in the picture. According to my field guide that's an indicator of a grizzly. However, it's not Bart the Bear size (my sense of perception may be off) so I figured it was a juvenile. Still wouldn't want to meet one in a dark alley forest.

Amazingly, the coolest thing to happen yesterday was the shear spectacularness of the scenery. The mountains, jagged, snow covered, clouds whipping over the top of the peaks, the sheer density of peaks, just stretched off forever to both horizons. Magnificent. I kept stopping the cars to try to get a better picture. I wish I could do the views justice with a picture. After the monotony of the trees, trees nothing but trees of northern Canada before Whitehorse, it was like a breathe of fresh air. The Dawson range to the south and, to a lesser extent, the Ogilvie range to the north seemed like the spine of the world; it was that grand.

I was making good time on 1 and got to the border (PR 1 turned to SR 2) around 6. It was much easier getting back into the states. They have to be used to bearded widely shaggy guys by now so that I don't have to be worried about profiling (Maddie!). They did ask me why I would want to go the Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay? I said "because" which they thought was a good answer. Though they did look at the Blue Bomber askance. I thought they would be impressed with all the mud, dirt and grime that covered her. They asked if I had spares which I assured them I did (well 1). That was a little alarming since my MilePost guide suggested 2 spares. I thought the guide was being a little dramatic. We shall see.

I moved back on the clock another hour, so I am now 3 hours behind CST. Well I may have missed one and I'm actually 4 hours behind. I guess it doesn't matter that much. My phone and iPad are synched when I get on the internet so at least I am correct locally.

I made camp at some facility somewhere about 100 miles or so after the border. I should remember it since they had a decent bathroom and shower facility and the most comfortable tent spots I have ever slept on (small wood shavings). It got so cold last night! As long as I stayed well into my sleeping bag I was fine, but as soon as any part including my nose met the air it started getting cold. It got to the 20s last night. All the condensation from my breathe froze which, ironically, made it easier to clean up since all I had to do was shake the tent hard to get rid of the water. I did figure out why I was so cold after I got up when realized that I forgot to zip up a tent door. All I had was the bug net up!

One thing I noticed last night is that it does get dark. I started having problems seeing after 11 and I think it might have gotten completely dark (not sure) sometime after that. However, I woke up at 3:30AM thinking it was 7. Really. It had gotten that bright. Damn. I missed the sunrise! I hear they are spectacular.

Before I went to bed last night, I went for a walk in the nearby forest. The trails were tunneled through the trees and evoked a feeling of otherworldliness. The dusky light, quietness, solitude and the seemingly endless paths lent a magically quality. It was like I was about to enter a glen and see a unicorn just standing there. I haven't had such a feeling since I was a preteen exploring the woods near my house when we lived in Tennessee. I missed that feeling. The feeling of fear and anticipation mixed with wonder. I hadn't lost it, it seems; it's just buried deep. Maybe as I get older I will discover that magic again. Ok, I'm getting too existential and probably weirded out some of you. 😊

I now have to plan my next leg fairly precisely since there is no internet or cell access besides Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay. I have to provide at least 24 hours notice to the powers-that-be in Prudhoe Bay if I want to do the Arctic Tour. Apparently you cannot just go to the ocean and see it. It's strictly controlled and I have to be vetted for security reasons! I had no idea. It kind of seems like a violation of the publics access to waterways. Maybe that won't be an issue when I get to Barrow. We'll see about that as well.

The guide said to give it 3 days to get to Prudhoe Bay. It's 400+ miles from Fairbanks and most of it is non-paved. There are only 3 good camping spots along the way they recommend (unless you want to up the odds of playing with the wildlife). So I guess what I am saying is that I will probably be out of contact for a few days. Write to you then.


1st May 2016

Don't stay too long in barrow if it's dark! You've survived bears and wolves! Hate to have to say you died from vampires on your trip!

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