I’m not sure why but I very much dislike the term “bucket list”, so I will just say the Dalton Highway was on my “to do list” for a long time. I lived in Anchorage, AK for two years during high school in ’78 and ’79 and was vaguely aware there was a road to Prudhoe Bay as they had recently finished the Alaska Pipeline. The full length of the road to Deadhorse was not open to the public until 1994, long after I had departed from the area. I can’t say exactly when or how I became aware that it was open for civilian travel, but the concepts of it being one of only two roads north of the Arctic Circle on the North American continent as well as ending at the northernmost point in North America reachable by road captured my interest. I realize that an untold number of people using many different forms of transportation have made this trip over the last twenty years, but in some respects it still seems to me like a small group.
In my opinion, the most important thing to remember about the Dalton Highway is that it’s about the journey and not the destination. At least not the destination in the traditional sense. Sure, it is the northernmost point reachable by road and all but upon reaching the end of the road you are greeted by a giant industrial complex designed to house 3,000 to 6,000 oil field workers, not a typical tourist destination or scenic wonder. There is no “town”, there are no campgrounds, and there is not much of anything resembling a habitable place. Even if you pay BP to have a security person give you a bus “tour” to the Arctic ocean you end up standing on a bleak, man-made gravel “beach” built by the oil companies. Not exactly tourist nirvana. But if you’re going to go to all the trouble to get that close to the Arctic Ocean, I recommend you take the tour and dip your toes.
The trip up and back is a different story. The climate and topography are ever-changing, rewarding you with spectacular scenery, wide open spaces, and wildlife. Yeah the road is rough, very rough, but in the end I say well worth it. And yes, we took the trailer all the way up and back. Oddly enough we did not see any other camp trailers there. Go figure.
A collection of signs at the beginning of the Dalton Highway
Impressive hunk of rock!
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