There’s something to be said about going to the end of a road. We do it all the time when exploring National Parks, Forests, or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. Maybe it’s that old adage of “what’s beyond that curve, or what is up ahead”.
Notch it up a few degrees and the end of the road is above the Arctic Circle and as far north as you can drive in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, or Alaska. It’s as far north as you can drive in North America.
We started out easy, getting into the practice of leaving The Dip behind by driving to Keno City in the Yukon. It’s the end of the Silver Trail, ending at 6000+ elevation looking out over the mountains and forests, as far as you can see.
The second foray took us up the Dempster Highway from Dawson City, Yukon, above the Arctic Circle, to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories (68 degrees N.). The term “Highway” is use loosely here. Over 900 miles round trip, this rock, gravel, potholed and sometimes muddy road is famous for being showcased on the Ice Road Truckers reality show. It’s on the bucket list for motorcyclists and bicyclists. Inuvik is at the end of the road, a government town with really nothing going for it, except the services it provides to First Nation people and outlying villages. To go any further north, you have to wait for the river to freeze solid, building an ice road to the village of Tuktoyaktuk.
The third journey took us even further north. Leaving from Fairbanks, AK, the Dalton doesn’t start until you’ve traveled 80 miles up the Steese and Elliot Highways. The Dalton used to be called the “Haul Road” because it was built to haul the supplies and materials to build the trans-Alaska pipeline. Even today, the road is used to transport everything imaginable to and from Deadhorse Camp/Prudhoe Bay oil fields.
Reaching Prudhoe is anti-climactic. There’s nothing there except for the commerce and industry required to operate the oil fields. No one lives there; there are no homes, only industrial hotels called “Camps”. Everyone is transient, staying for a set number of days. You either work in Prudhoe or you are a visitor. You may stay a few days or a season, or you rotate in and out, two weeks on, two weeks off, for your company.
There’s really no reason to visit Prudhoe or Inuvik, unless you enjoy the challenge of getting to the end of the road. For some, the bucket list includes the Arctic Circle or the Arctic Ocean. For others, it’s the wildlife like bears, birds, caribou, or muskoxen.
We’ve crossed the Arctic Circle twice – well, really four times if you count going north and coming back south again. We joined the Arctic Circle Club, having crossed over 66° 33’ on the only two roads in Canada and the U.S. that go this far north. Another thing checked off of our bucket list.
It really is all about the road and journey, not the destination. The wilderness extends for 100s of miles in all directions. There are mountains, boreal forests, and tundra. The wild flowers are just beginning to bloom. Arctic lupines, fireweed, cottongrass, arnicas, and bear-root line the road, tundra, and marshes. There isn’t anywhere else on the continent where you can get in a car and drive this far north, passing through this much change in terrain and vegetation..
For us there was wildlife, a herd of caribou, 500 or more, a small herd of muskox, a moose, a black bear with cubs, and red foxes. There were short-eared and boreal owls, jaegers, geese, tundra swans, loons, eagles, and other bird life.
Yep, it’s about the journey, not the destination.
A quick thank you…. Our travels to the end of the road were generously supported by the following:
• Falken Tires – Sponsorship of six Wildpeak AT tires that kept us rolling on those rough, muddy roads. They’re still fantastic!
• Bonanza Gold Motel & RV Park, Dawson City, YT – Bonanza Gold comped part of our stay in Dawson and they took care of The Dip while we trekked up the Dempster.
• Riverview RV Park and QuickStop, North Pole, AK – Riverview discounted our stay in North Pole/Fairbanks and took care of The Dip while we trekked up the Dalton.
• Coldfoot Camp & Deadhorse Camp – Comped part of our stay in Coldfoot and Deadhorse/Prudhoe.
• CRAWL Magazine – Technical advice, encouragement, and sponsorship support.