Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wednesday, July 13 - Coldfoot Alaska to Prudhoe Bay and the Arctic Ocean

The day started at 6am and it was still raining.  We broke camp in the rain and folded up soggy tents.  After breaking camp we drove 3 miles to the only restaurant that we would see till we got to the end of the Dalton Hwy.  We continued our journey in the rain and mud in our quest to get to the Arctic Ocean.  Because of the weather, we didn't make many stops today.  The dirt roads after being rained on for 2 days, had an icy coating over them.  We did stop at Galbraith Lake, where we took a few pictures and hit the road again.  During the day we passed a number of landmarks that we remembered from The Ice Roads Truckers TV show including the section of the road through Atigun Pass where we all commented that there was no way that we would consider driving on that road in the winter time, neither up nor down.  We were surprised to find ice and snow near the top along the road.  By 4pm, we arrived in Prudhoe Bay and we paid for our tickets for the refinery tour at the Arctic Ocean.  Important to note: In order to enter Prudhoe Bay and reach the shore of the Arctic Ocean, you need to make reservation 24 hours in advance and pass a background check before you can buy tickets to the 2-1/2 hr tour.  Before we boarded the bus, we got a 2 minute talk and saw a 17 minute video that give the history on Prudhoe Bay, the Alaskan Pipeline, and how committed BP is to the Alaskan environment.  We boarded the tour bus and took a short ride to the security check point where we  started our tour in the Prudhoe Bay oil fields.  As our tour guide described things to us, we passed yard after yard of pipe casings and lot after lot of heavy equipment, many that had balloon tires or wide tracks.  We finally reached the Arctic Ocean where we got off the bus and went wading.  Russ was the only one brave enough to go wading up to his knees, I went in up to my ankles.  The water felt icy cold and the temperature  was in the 20's today.  Tommy decided to go in, but kept his shoes on, getting his shoes full of icy water.  There were a few brave souls from the bus that wore their bathing suits and went in up to their waists.  I thought they were crazy.  All that braved the water got a polar bear certificate.  We then headed back on the  bus to return to our Jeeps.  After a short dinner break of reindeer chili, we headed South towards Fairbanks.  It's currently raining lightly, but we feel we can make the campground at Galbraith Lake between midnight and 1am.  As the sun never sets, we won't have a problem setting up camp in the bright daylight.  As we leave Prudhoe Bay we see a small herd of Caribu in the distance and the group decides to push on further tonight to a point closer to Coldfoot.   Going up Atigun Pass on the way back was interesting as it was completely immersed in cloud cover and visibility was near zero.    After reaching the summit and beginning our descent, the clouds/fog disappeared but it still continued to rain.     By 0230 we reached the BLM campsite just north of Coldfoot and called it a night or perhaps day.

The Alaskans are fond of Sourdough but naming a fuel brand after it ?

 And how about $4.95 for a bag of ice?    They don't have any trouble selling it.    Milk $5.00 for a half gallon, gasoline $6.49 to $8.00+ per gallon and it doesn't stop there with bottled water at $5 a gallon.
Signs, Signs everywhere signs............
 The northern most spruce tree (I think it might be dead)
 Heating station to keep the oil above 100 degrees to prevent the formation of paraffin/wax
 Galbraith Lake
 Snow still remains even at lower elevations
 Uh Oh !
 Water cascades down the mountains just about everywhere

Road views today
Security chopper lands to check out something
More interesting pipeline views
Approaching Prudhoe Bay
 Views of Prudhoe Bay
 Arctic Ocean Shoreline
Russ dips his feet in the ice cold water
 Sand dunes along the shoreline
Caribu, Canadian Geese, Tundra Swans

 Atigun Pass on the way back

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