Saturday, September 5, 2009

Mon, Aug 31: In the Air to Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay, Alaska

We are up and waiting at the office for the van to the airport by 5:45AM. Several other people from the campground show up and at 6:05 one of them calls the tour office to ask about the missing van! They say it is on its way and a few minutes later it arrives and we are off the airport. There is a crowd waiting in the office, but fortunately most are going on one of the various one day tours.

Right at 7:00AM they announce our pilot is ready to leave and we are off! No baggage check, no security, no X-ray line!The flight is two hours and about ten minutes in a 9 passenger, plus pilot, Piper Navajo and is uneventful. There are only 4 passengers plus the pilot and the 4 of us will be doing the drive back together in the 15 passenger van that is set up for 10. That will be nice as there will be room to move around in the van.
We can not see anything soon after takeoff from Fairbanks due to cloud cover. The peaks of the Brooks Range are as high as 9,000 feet and the pilot has us at 10-11,000 feet. Fortunately as we fly over the mountains there is a break in the clouds and we can see the peaks of the Brooks. Then as we approach the end of the two hour flight, we break out of the clouds and can see the Brooks Range with the morning sun reflecting on the snow and the tundra below. There are thousands of tundra ponds on the North Slope; very pretty from the air.
On the tarmac it is right at 30F with a 30MPH wind blowing and a high overcast. The puddles and ponds have a scab of ice on them along with some snow from yesterday. The Brooks Mountain Range is covered in snow and is glittering in the sun shine.We are greeted by the guide, but are actually picked up and taken to our lodging by the camp cook, a nice young man, who shows us around Deadhorse, takes our meal orders for the next four meals and gets us settled into the room. Our meals here and all along the trip are extra and we ordered our meals through breakfast tomorrow. Three meals plus a sack lunch for tomorrow cost $119 for the two of us. It costs a bunch to get the food up here! By the way, we saw the Deadhorse terminal for Carlisle Trucking, star of "Ice Road Truckers" this last season, on our little tour this morning.

It is 10:55AM Alaska time and we are in our room at "Deadhorse Camp”. This is a work camp, we are staying here with men working in the oilfield, and the rooms are clean and neat. You must remove your shoes at the door. Everyone is walking around in sock feet or dedicated indoor shoes. The facilities are dorm style with men's and women's baths and toilets down the hall. Actually, ours are down the hall and up stairs one flight. As an added attraction, we have a view of "The Haul Road" and the Brooks Range from our room. We are told the rooms don't have keys. “Everyone has a good job and doesn't want your old camera or laptop!” Lunch, huge grilled hamburgers, is at noon and we get out and walk around a bit after that taking pictures of the road signs,the equipment and the buildings around our “Camp”.Later, around 4:00PM or so, we visit the all in one and only store which houses the Post Office,and go for the guided tour of some of the Prudhoe oil field and our visit to the Arctic Ocean shore.The wind is now blowing a gale and it is trying to snow mixed with light rain and sleet! Our stop at the ocean is at East Dock which never saw any ship traffic....they built the dock, but no one checked on the water depth before hand. At the end of the dock it is only three or four feet deep! They now have a West Dock that goes out about a mile and can handle cargo ships. Back at the camp, warm and dry, we have an Alaskan Mexican dinner which is not to bad. As we leave the dinning room, we see the sun is out and there is the beginning of a great sun set. So all four of us gear up again and head outside for some pictures.After that we fall into bed and sleep the sleep of the dead! So far, we are glad we made this side trip. It is very interesting to see it all.

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