Sunday, September 6, 2009

Wed, Sept 2, On the Haul Road (Dalton Highway) to Fairbanks

It is a nice morning, in the low 40'sF, but not quite as pretty as yesterday afternoon.After a buffet breakfast that is not nearly as good as yesterday's, we head about 16 miles north and west to the isolated town of Wiseman. This town was founded in 1908 after gold was found in the river near by in 1907.The gold petered out rather quickly, but some hardy souls continued to live in the town. It has been continuously occupied since and is the most northerly settlement that can make that claim.
We spend about two hours visiting with a man, age 52, who was raised in an area west of the town and moved with his parents to Wiseman as a child. He raised his family here. He went to Anchorage for a semester of college, but did not like the urban lifestyle so came home.He has been in Wiseman ever since. He is a true self educated man and a fountain of information on this part of the world! He told us about his family’s subsistence lifestyle: how they grow or gather their food, the adaptions he makes for the short growing season and how they cook, light and heat the house. He uses a combination of solar power, wind, wood and propane. He hunts and traps and serves as a weather station and animal monitor for the Parks and Game service.
He then took us around the village and showed us the small house that served as a home school for his children, the chapel, the post office,that was active from 1910 to 1956, and several other homes in the town.Since the Dalton Highway was built some adventurous souls are finding their way to Wiseman for R and R during the summer and, of course, people like us who are just interested.

From there we go back to Coldfoot to the National Park Information Centerand then head south on towards Fairbanks. We are driving through a high river valley and the fall colors are outstanding. We pass through Prospect Creek where the coldest temperature ever reported in the US occurred, -79.8F. Jack, our guide earlier in Wiseman, said he does not get out if it is below -50F...bad things happen to the human body and to metal. Steel springs and such can shatter like glass at those temperatures.
We cross the Arctic Circle, marked with a sign, and stop for pictures.At Gobbler's Knob we run out of the Brooks Range and are now in a high meadow valley.The fall colors continue to be outstanding.About 2PM we stop for lunch at Finger Mountain, an interesting granite outcropping.There is archaeological evidence that it was used by hunters as much as 10,000 years ago. Probably as a lookout point for animals in the valley below.Then we head to the Yukon River where we stop again for pictures and ice cream.The river is much wider than it was in Dawson City some 800 plus miles upstream.
After crossing the Yukon River, we are in rolling, forested land with the pipeline beside us the rest of the way.It is a pleasant drive and we talk among ourselves. We are very lucky with the small group and we get along very well. Hamos is an asset. He is about 30 and has taken five months off to travel around the world. So far he has spent all his time in the western US, but is planning to go to Japan next. He is a computer guru from Austria and his English is excellent. Our other passenger is about our age and had planned to retire this year. In fact, this was to be her retirement trip but the economy changed her plans and she will return to work. She has a small motor home that she travels in by herself. She is from San Diego, CA.

We get back to Fairbanks about 8:30PM. We are weary but very glad that we did this trip. It was loads of fun and very enlightening. We kept saying we are done with expedition type trips, but they just keep calling to us!

We head straight to Chili's for some food and then to the rig and bed!

1 comment:

  1. Found your blog and have been reading it to catch up. We hope to do a similar trip up the ALCAN some day to spend several weeks in AK, which we first visited in the summer of 2001. Your little side trip reminds me of the trip we took up the Haul Road to Prudhoe Bay (with an overnighter like yours in Coldfoot). On the return flight to Anchorage, Denali was out in full glory - simply beautiful.

    Thanks for sharing.