Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Haul Road Trucking

I recently made a road trip from Deadhorse down to Delta Junction and back up to Fairbanks for work.
For my non-AK readers, Deadhorse isn't really a true community, so much as a location where numerous services, from housing to rental equipment, are provided to service the Prudhoe Bay oilfields. Located on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, 3,000-5,000 workers might call Deadhorse home for anywhere from a couple days to weeks at a time. Supposedly, 25-50 people actually call Deadhorse home year-round.
The trip took myself, my boss, and two guys we had along with us filming footage of the drive for a to-be-developed training module, from Deadhorse south down the Dalton Highway, a bit of the Elliot Highway, and the Steese Highway into Fairbanks. On the last day of the trip my boss and I drove down to Dela Junction on the Richardson Highway, returning to Fairbanks that afternoon to catch a late flight back to Anchorage.
My boss and I landed in Deadhorse on Sunday in "Phase 2" weather conditions, meaning travel is only allowed in a convoy of 2 or more vehicles. High winds were causing drifting across the roads and low visibility. On Monday the film guys, Thomas and Jorge got in. It was still pretty nasty, but Phase 2 had been lifted so we got some footage. Tuesday we were supposed to hit the road but conditions were back to Phase 2 so we were delayed a day. As it turned out, it was well worth it. Wednesday and Thursday were spectacular. We made it to Pump Station 5 the by the first night, and hit Fairbanks Thursday afternoon. The truckers we heard chatting over the CB were chipper about the road and the weather both days.
While it was unfortunate we had to compress the drive a bit, and the days were long, it was still really amazing.
The take-away for me, was that every Alaskan should at some point drive this stretch of road. The dead of winter may not be ideal obviously, and the logistic and costs may take some planning, but really, when put in perspective, to be able to road trip to a place like this is a huge benefit to living in this state.
Here we go.
Waiting to get into BP Security the first day. Lots to see.

Mile 0 of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline

Jorge capture high noon in the Arctic.

Mile 0 footage. The high winds and dry air make walking on top of the snow easy even in boots.

Pump Station 1 flare.

Downtown Deadhorse.

The only sign that marks the way out of Deadhorse. Seriously.

Thomas getting the shot.

Rime-crusted com tower.

Hitting the road Wednesday morning. Truckers rule the road and pass by on tight margins.

And they pass in both directions. More used to passing the rigs, not vice versa.

Sunrise over a steaming open lead.

Muskox. The only wildlife we say except for ravens. Everything else was hunkered down.

Pump Station 3 I think. This is on the road...

The pipeline is above and belowground depending on soil stability.

A favorite shot.

As we the Brooks Range came into sight the landscape began to change.

Stretching break.

In my mind, this is always what I thought Alaska in winter looked like.

South-bound piping from Pump Station 4.

Looking north from Atigun Pass, where the Dalton crests the Brooks Range at 4,739 FSL.

Rear view headed down Atigun.

Notice the spruce. Probably only a few miles south of their northern range.

The geology in the Brooks knocks the socks off what we normally see here in Southcentral.

Another favorite view.
7:30 a.m., just south of Pump Station 5.

Stopped for photos to catch the sunrise.

First light.
Another photo break at the Arctic Circle. I almost stayed here forever when my boss decided to pull a fast one and sneak off while I took a bathroom break!

Atop Finger Mountain.

Yukon River.

The forests were fairytale like in places.

That's true, and does not just apply to snowplows. We came around a corner and found an 18-wheeler in our lane at one point. Could have been interesting.

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End of the Dalton.

You gotta be tough to go to these hot springs.

South of Fairbanks is a town called North Pole, and there you will find Santa Clause House...

Tanana River Bridge.

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