|The Dalton Highway: Prudhoe Bay-Fairbanks|
Due to Arctic ice winds, our scheduled flight from Deadhorse in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Fairbanks is cancelled.
We had driven through central Alaska and over its handsome mountain range to the frozen shores of the Arctic Ocean and the only town in these parts: Deadhorse in Prudhoe Bay.
|Somewhere in central Alaska|
However, we are due to return from Deadhorse to Fairbanks by plane.
|The weather closing in at Deadhorse|
The plan is to drive through the night (or what constitutes night in an Alaskan summer, as the sun hangs around for 24 hours, and darkness is not an option) along the only road: the notorious Dalton Highway.
But before we set off, there are a few things you need to know about the Dalton Highway.
1) It is no ordinary highway: it is considered to be one of the most dangerous highways in the world,
Goodbye Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay. The next gas station/cafe is Coldfoot and, all being well - seven hours away.
|Prudhoe Bay/Deadhorse from the air. Includes snow, frozen lake and a section of the Trans-Alaska pipeline.|
|Dalton Highway landscape, near Deadhorse: Arctic summer setting.|
|On the road. You can see the tractor/trailer rig approaching...|
|The Sag Rivers laps at the very edge of the highway|
|Prudhoe Bay's gravel excavations|
|The pipeline marches across the tundra|
Hour three: into the gully, still following the river and the pipeline. Dark clouds above, but sunlight on low hills ahead. With patches of snow they are giant haunches of friesian cows.
|Two semis on a highway built for one.|
|Dalton Highway - a mere thread - weaving among mountains|
|Shallow streams running through the tundra|
|Fellow travellers: the pipeline and Dalton Highway|
Wendy lies along a seat with her pillow and sleeps. John now in front seat. Conversation covers Steve Irwin and tall stories about bears.
Then John, who is Australian, is describing the Nullarbor Plain, our salt lakes, the vast lonely treeless distances of Australia’s deserts - and as we traverse Alaska’s empty tundra and mountains, I feel both countries have much in common.
|Atigun Pass with mist|
|Atigun Pass' roadside snow|
|Our van nervously making its way through avalanche territory|
|We hope the semi does not set off an avalanche|
|Avalanche after the snow plough clears the road|
|More of yesterday's avalanche|
If a van can tippy-toe along a road, then that is what it does. We all hold our breath. For that reason, we make it through - but not all drivers do.
We drop to the tree line and sight our first lone tree since the coast. Then there’s a few scattered trees, so we can become accustomed to them; merely suggestions that they are planning a forest.
|Mud and an Alaskan night sky|
|We saw these trees from the other side on the way to Deadhorse|
|Pipeline with tundra...|
|Pipeline in mountain setting...|
|Pipeline getting a wriggle on...|
|Pipeline in profile|
|Our fearless leader, Michael. Hat logo is inspired by mountain peaks through window.|
And, for that matter - who gets to be a trophy. This archway in Fairbanks is made from over 100 moose and caribou antlers. They did not get away...
|Antler Archway in Fairbanks|
|Snow melt waterfall|
I think I have lost an hour – I am getting sleepy – is it actually Hour Ten? Did I count the hour we spent at Coldfoot?
|A muddy section of the Dalton Highway|
Hour Ten: (I think) We are into the hard grind where we are tired and the road seems long and the kid in the back is asking 'are we there yet?'
|1.55am night sky|
This is indeed the land of the mid night sun. It crams as much summer as possible into a few short months and nighttime is not an option.