Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Coldfoot to Hot Spot

As I stated in yesterday's post, after dinner at the Coldfoot Inn's buffet Denny and I walked down the road to the Coldfoot Visitor's Center. Built a couple of years ago at a cost of three million dollars (hard to believe for a building plunked down at mile post 175 of a 414 mile long road), the building houses a small auditorium for ranger talks and displays of local wildlife, area geology and miscellaneous information. The ranger on duty gave a very good talk on mosquitoes (supposedly the Alaska state bird--kidding) along with some great pictures he took and a couple of items he bought and/or made for display purposes. Who knew that hearing about mosquitoes could be both educational AND fun? We also discovered a new mosquito killer that we are going to buy as soon as we get back into civilization, if we can find it. It's a tennis racket bug zapper! The good news about the entire spiel was that it was informational only--the dreaded bugs had disappeared by the time we were in Alaska and we saw nary a one on our land tour! Yay!The next morning we boarded the dusty bus once again after loading up at the buffet line and off we drove for another nine hour bus ride. For miles and miles we had been seeing flat tundra which was slowly changing colors, followed by driving by the Franklin Bluffs and then getting into the Brooks mountain range which crosses Alaska from west to east. Then suddenly we started seeing spruce trees--spindly, sad little trees that were 200 to 300 years old yet stood no taller than 30 feet and were only about 4 inches in diameter. This is due to the fact that there's only about an inch of topsoil for them to root themselves. Survival of the fittest indeed!

Our first stop of the day was Gobbler's Knob.We stop not so much for the scenery but for the latrines. While pit toilets aren't the most pleasant experience the ones along the Dalton Highway are fairly clean and well maintained for being so isolated and unsecured.

Of course as we rode along our bus driver was giving us information about the area, what we were seeing and whatever else came to mind. We learned that there are pumping stations located at various points of the pipeline since the oil going downhill creates a lot of pressure in the pipeline. The pumping stations drain off some of the oil until the pressure goes down, then repumps that extra oil back into the pipeline. There are also small metal sheds placed along the roadway which contain emergency supplies and equipment to repair the pipeline. We also learned that hunters can't rifle hunt within five miles of the pipeline so stray shots won't damage it. You can carry a sidearm within five miles of the pipeline, but only for personal protection from bears and wildlife, not to hunt. There was one person who deliberately shot the pipeline and when he was caught he was given a prison sentence of 20 years. So there's not a been too much of a problem with hunters.

For those that watch the show "Ice Road Truckers" the Dalton Highway is the Ice Road. Created by trucks spraying layer after layer of water which freezes, the ice road is created in winter to eliminate many of the curves of the actual roadway and speed up travel since spraying water fills the potholes so you can drive faster. Crazy f*ckers truckers.

In Alaska there are thermocast lakes which were created where the glaciers stopped moving and then melted, forming large holes which were filled with water. The lakes remain filled even though they are only fed by rain since it never gets hot enough for the lakes to dry up. We were traveling too fast at that point so my picture was too blurry to post.Here we are at our second stop of the day--the Arctic Circle, latitude 66 degrees 33'44". More importantly, it was another pit stop. Pit stops provide a lot of opportunities for photos since it takes a long time for 37 people to use a one-seater outhouse. Once we crossed the tree line, the men were offered the opportunity to pick out a bathroom tree to shorten the line to the latrine. Moving on....

Wolves on the mountainside--I really had to zoom for these so it's not the greatest picture.
This man is standing on a "pingo", which is a kind of frost heave. It's an earth covered ice mound.

I'm done for the day.

1 comment:

ceipui said...

Hi, I've been following your blog for a while... too funny, we had taken the Princess Arctic Cruisetour in late July to early Aug (different Prudhoe Bay driver!) and some of your photos are similiar to ours, taken in about the same vantage point! (My pictures are posted in http://ceipui.perreng.com)...

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