Jack London was one of my favorite childhood writers - I read and re-read his stories about the Far North time and again. This was back in Russia during the 1980s, and for the most part I treated these stories the same as science fiction – which I also loved. Because of the Iron Curtain the possibility of going to Alaska and traveling the same places that Jack London and his heroes travelled a hundred years ago was about the same as flying to the Moon.
So when we came to the US and I picked a copy of The Philadelphia Inquirer that wrote about the Dalton Highway, which first opened for public access around the same time, I was quite intrigued. This was still just a theory, but there was a distinct smell of reality around it.
Background Information: Dalton Highway is the road that links Fairbanks with Prudhoe Bay, which is on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. It skirts ANWR and goes through one of the world’s less developed terrains. Most of the highway is unpaved, and despite magnificent views and pristine nature very few people go there. It was built in the 1970s, and was initially only open to the traffic servicing the Prudhoe Bay oil fields and the pipeline.
This year we finally decided to do it. The plan, most of which was set up in the form of the plane tickets and various reservations, was coined around mid-April like this: fly to Fairbanks, rent the RV, go up to Prudhoe Bay on Dalton Highway and back, stay a few days in the Fairbanks area (there’s plenty to explore), then fly to Barrow which is an Inuit village and the northernmost settlement in the US, and stay there for a few days before returning to Seattle.
Since most of Dalton Highway is unpaved, most of rental companies don’t allow their equipment there. The only RV rental company that let people go on Dalton was GoNorth (http://www.paratours.net/), which had a 24’ Winnebago RV that we rented (they also had an assortment of smaller campers, SUVs, and a van).
As far as places to stay, we reserved two rooms in Top of the World hotel in Barrow (there were 5 of us going on the trip), and later a place in Chena Hot Springs for our 3 day stay in Fairbanks.
I always use trips like this as an excuse to buy stuff. A new HD camcorder (http://1-800-magic.blogspot.com/2008/05/panasonic-hdc-hs9-product-review.html), a 70-400 VR lens for our camera, and a shotgun (Mossberg 930) followed – Dalton records a few incidents every year in which wolves attack people. We could not pack the bear spray on the airplane, so this would have to be bought once we arrive in Fairbanks.
By mid-May the reservations were made, the equipment and food bought, and we were ready to go.
Note: many photos are courtesy of Jenny Solyanik. I also thank her for proof-reading the “Call of the Wild” series of my posts.