Friday ~ September 7 ~ partly sunny.
3:30am...getting ready to leave with Jim for the haul road...leaving at 4am, going to the ‘load-up’ place and leaving by 5:20am with two trucks (over-wide at 11 feet) and 2 pilot pick-up trucks. Soooo exciting! Never thought we’d see north of Fairbanks a few miles. We drove, averaging 25-35 mph, thru beautifully fall colored country, going in to the Brooks Range to the top of Atigun Pass * 357 miles from Fairbanks*. My thoughts/mind picture of the Brooks Range changed drastically...not all rock except up high...due to red, orange, gold, green, and yellow foliage, of shrubs, grasses, trees. Photos cannot give justice to God’s creation!
Coming back took less time, of course, going 50-60 mph, stopping at Coldfoot for dinner before arriving at North Pole a little after 2am. So glad we had the opportunity to see all this...and Jim is a very good tour guide, explaining what and where things are: a woman who lived/homesteaded with her two boys just off the road...called Mule Skinner by the men who drove the road because she was made of ‘tough-stuff’; why the hills or parts of the road had gotten their names; where trucks, at times, run off the road; stories of truck drivers and what happened to them. I’d go again in a minute! The haul road, from the Yukon River to Prudhoe Bay (373 miles) was built in 156 days! It takes courageous people to traverse some of those miles, especially in the winter, some steep terrain and sharp curves along the way. There are pump stations that are like minnie towns that can feed/sleep the drivers who have to go so slow...or are stranded by weather or break-downs. The pipe-line runs fairly close to the road, back and forth, under and over...wherEVer the ground is the most stable...and not in a straight line, but kinda zigzaggy to off-set the expansion and contraction that takes place along the pipe. The northern lights even made a ‘mild’ appearance about 60 miles above Fairbanks...one thing I’d like to see during the winter here...and heard that between Prudhoe Bay and the Brooks Range is the place to be for a spectacular display.