Sunday, August 5, 2007

South on the Dalton

We awoke to a rainy day and, unfortunately, it continued all day. We didn’t get as early a start as we would have liked considering we were driving all the way back to our house – 335 miles. That’s a long day’s drive for us under normal conditions, and today’s drive was far from normal.

Our first major hurdle was Atigun Pass…again. I prayed we would get down it safely and we did. But not without my being terror stricken and in tears as we came down the two mile, 12% grade on a slippery, muddy, wet road in the rain and fog. About the only good thing that can be said is we didn’t meet up with any other vehicles while Richard expertly maneuvered us down the treacherous Pass. How the truckers do that stretch of road in the winter on snow and ice we cannot imagine.

We spotted a black bear scampering across the road about 30 miles north of Coldfoot, but he was soon far off into the woods before we got close enough to try to take a picture. He turned out to be the only bear we saw on the Dalton Highway. We were hoping to spot a grizzly or polar bear but it wasn’t to be. Our guide, yesterday, said they had a polar bear there just a week ago!

Everything was green when we drove up last Wed. – Fri. I thought I noticed that the colors on the shrubs and trees seemed to be changing to yellow and orange today so when we stopped at the Artic Visitors Center again I asked if that were true. They informed me that within a week everything will be cloaked in fall plumage! The day after the longest day things started turning - absolutely amazing.

After a fitful night’s sleep and my stressful event earlier I needed a nap and was soon sound asleep. (I could handle anything after Atigun Pass!) Richard soon found himself on a stretch of black mud. It turns black where they have put calcium chloride on the roads. It turns them in to a slippery slime when they’re wet. He met up with two trucks and did a valiant job maintaining control. I was glad I slept through it all!

We continued on to our trailer still parked at Hilltop Truck Stop where we had dinner, cleaned out the truck, put everything away, took showers and climbed into bed, wondering how we are ever going to get all the mud off the truck and scooter.


  1. It sounds as though the roads aren't much better than they were 25 years ago, or thereabout. We stopped just north of the Circle, and am I ever glad, after reading this.

  2. Was the sun up 24 hours where you were?

  3. I think so, but the fog was so heavy we could not tell. August 2nd is the last day of 24 hour sunlight at the Arctic Circle.

  4. A comment about Atigun Pass. Dianna is terrified about going down mountain roads like that, especially the mud and steepness, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The truck has a jake brake that works so well I never even touched the foot brake all the way down. I left it in 7th gear and had to keep moving the jake from 6 cylinders to 4 in order to keep my speed up to a reasonable rate. I think one thing that scares Dianna is seeing me sitting there with my foot flat on the floor. She thinks I should be pressing the brake pedal and does not understand, or believe, how well the jake works. Trucks today are some different than the ones they ran over Atigun back in the mid 70's when they first built it. No way I would want to have done it back then.