fj cruiser alaska two track

Day 11: Happy Trails To You…

fj cruiser and land cruiserTwo generations has referred to Dad and I. When we awoke this morning we found two generations of Toyota.

Back tracking from Fairbanks to Tok was uneventful… and when I say uneventful I mean Dad napped most of the time for the first 150 miles. Dad claimed to be resting his eyes and throwing out a couple of snores now and than to keep me attentive to the road. This simply meant there was a lot of me time to enjoy the road. Today there was significantly less traffic then a few days back making the me time absolutely just myself.chicken alaska fj cruiser

After Tok we headed to Chicken. And as the 1/2 day post said there is no electricity, no water and no indoor plumbing. There are generators, water tankers, solar collectors and free WiFi Internet. The road to Chicken falls into the category of washboard gravel with patch of asphalt. The road makes Chicken a welcome stop for lunch and world famous pie… Really the pie is world famous and very very very good. Dad had apple while I enjoyed the blueberry pie. Surprisingly there are multiple Chicken want-a-bees. There is the historic Chicken, there is the “Town of Chicken” there is even a “Chicken Creek”. Anything for a buck, buck. Since they are all within a block of each other, we saw them all just to make sure we had the whole chicken experience.chicken alaska gas station

After you leave Chicken you head to the Canadian boarder. The road winds through long time mining activities. These guys take mining seriously since many make a living on their claims. As we climbed out of the valley and approached the boarder we took the turnout only 1000 meters from the crossing to take a last look at Alaska. It is so cool having a car that draws people in. We are in the middle of no where looking over the mountains and a couple pulls in so they can get a look at the rig (ok maybe the breathtaking scenic view). Mike and Martha are from Germany on a drive through the Northwest. They rented a truck and have Mike and Martha fj cruiserdriven south east Alaska, Denali park and are now, like us, heading to the Dempster Highway. Mike was great, he is thinking about getting an FJ so he was full of questions about how it rides and handles. He also let us know about the roads he’d traveled in Australia. With any luck we’ll see them again on the Dempster.

When you cross the boarder the highway becomes the “Top of the World” highway. You drive the gravel along the mountain ridge tops giving you views for miles in all directions with very few other vehicles anywhere on the road. There are no guard rails so you don’t want to enjoy the view too of the world highway

If you’re going to get a 4×4 rig, give it an injection of testosterone with butch mods, you really need to take it further off road than the mall. All along the Top of the World highway were these two tracks heading up to the top of the next peak. Dad and I decided to take a random turn and follow one of the two tracks. What started out pretty tame turned into a fun little trail run to the top of a bluff a couple of miles in. We know others have been here before us, but we can’t help but consider how lucky we are to be in a place and looking out over what most others never will.view of alaska 4x4 trailfj cruiser muddy trail fall colors

fj cruiser muddy trail fall colors fj cruiser muddy trail fall colors fj cruiser muddy trail fall colors fj cruiser muddy trail fall colors fj cruiser muddy trail fall colorsfj cruiser canada valley

fj cruiser canada view

Dad and I used to hike… This is much easier… Grasping a moment for a little trail run is what makes this a great adventure instead of a forced march.

yukon river car ferryDawson City is our goal for the night. The last 1/4 of a mile require a ferry. This is not like the Seattle ferry… This ferry runs 7×24 on a demand basis. When the ferry is ready to leave, it hurls itself into the current of the Yukon River and the captain guns the engine to start heading across. You quickly notice you are being pulled down stream as the massive engines burp smoke and churn the water to gain a foothold against the current. This is the same way they have been crossing the river for centuries so who are we to go against tradition.

We did not have a reservation in Dawson City and it turns out today was the annual outhouse races. That means all the hotels in town were booked up. We did manage to find a room just out of town…old alaskan cabin

… it even has indoor plumbing (have to be specific out here), HBO and free WiFi. We wandered back to town and had dinner at the oldest working casino in North America, Diamond Tooth Gerties. What happens at Diamond Tooth Gerties…  Stays at Diamond Tooth Gerties.

Mary: Dad is sleeping in a warm cozy bed every night… I get the futon, roll-away or what ever is left over.

chicken alaska sign

Day 11 1/2 the first half same as the last

Rather than detail the journey from Fairbanks to Tok, I’ll refer you to day 4 Arctic Circle adventure and suggest you read from the bottom up.

The cool thing is that this post is being published from Chicken, Alaska. Go follow the link and see what is what in Chicken, I’ll be back with more later or you can see what I posted about small towns in Alaska before the trip…

The town’s fore fathers wanted to name the town after the Alaska state bird but they couldn’t agree on how to spell Ptarmigan.  Welcome to Chicken, Alaska.

This place is everything we had hoped for… and less. But know this… in Chicken there is no electricity, no phone or cell service, no running water, no indoor plumbing but there is free WiFi access from a solar powered satellite up-link. How else did you think I got this up to the website??!! Technology triumphs again.

And yes… I’m having pie!

dirty fj cruiser leaving haul road

Day 10: One Road Ends, Another Begins

fj cruiser dalton highway arctic circle signStart: Wiseman, Alaska
Finish: Fairbanks, Alaska
Miles today: 217
Total Miles: 2584

Big Game Count:0

First lets get the important things out of the way: Oklahoma 79 the other guys 10. Go Big Red! College football started today. It is a great day!

When there is no electricity and it is raining you go to bed early and get up early. I awoke to a thud and found Dad and his mattress on the floor. That is how our day started out in the cabin. You knew it just had to get better from there.

Coldfoot camp is open 24 hours a day. That is good since we headed right over to there when we left Wiseman at zero dark thirty. A good breakfast and a full tank of gas are a great way to brighten an overcast rainy morning.

Driving back through the Alaskan bush this time we took advantage of the sites we picked out on the way up. For example, Grayling lake is a beautiful spot and famed for its fishing. We had scouted it on the way up and I wanted to wet a line on the way south. I am not a lake fishing guy and with the lake surrounded by trees up to the shoreline, casting was not easy. Fish 1, Me 0.releasing arctic grayling

I get rivers. When we pulled up to Jim River 3, yes there is a Jim River 2 and 1, I knew this had potential. With the third cast I was into a very nice Arctic Grayling and before long I had him landed and released back into the water. The Arctic Grayling has always been one of the fish on my list to cast too but until now I’ve never been near water that held them. This morning was continuing to improve.

When you go north up into the Arctic Circle, you have to come back out the same way. This was our second crossing of the famed latitude. This time there were no fly or mosquito swarms about so we lingered a little, read the plaques and checked out some of the rustic camp sites.

arctic circle weather stationWhy are there Economists? To make weathermen appear more accurate. When you’re on the road weather matters, and it doesn’t. You would like it to be sunny and blue sky but the rain can be refreshing as well. So how do the weathermen get their data to make their predictions? Well on the Dalton Highway it stations like this that relay information back. Ok this is a little geeky but since Dad and I went exploring the different two tracks off the highway we have found all sorts of cool stuff like this.

The last fuel stop coming south, or the first going north is Yukon Crossing, on what else but the Yukon river. This place is part of the life line of Haul Road. You can fuel up, get a bite to eat and pick up a t-shirt. And that is exactly what we did. But you guessed it, Mike and I did a little horse trading and I ended up with a cool Yukon River Camp t-shirt.

arctic circle friends fj cruiserA few days back when we first stopped at the Arctic Circle marker we met to friends Jason and Vadimira. They were heading up into the Brooks Range for some camping. Vadimira is from Slovakia working in Anchorage as an Au Pair for the summer. With a week off she and Jason decided to do a little camping and see how far north they could go. They also brought the dog… big and lovable.

We’d seen their truck a number of times and finally caught back up with them at Yukon Crossing and than again at a scenic look out. With all this crisscrossing of paths we decided we needed a picture of them and they could use a Last Great Road Trip shirt.

Vadimira fj cruiserWell we left the Haul Road and are back on the main highway again. We rolled into Fairbanks found a hotel and a car wash. The rig was wearing a thick layer of the Dalton Highway. The road contains a chemical to stabilize the gravel, mud and rubber mix that is a bit corrosive so getting it off is important. Washing off the Haul Road took $28 in quarters. Now to go and put so new dirt on the rig.

We want to thank Mary of Working Web Solutions (WWS), Web Design Portland, Oregon who has been reviewing and correcting the grammatical errors on these posts… but as so many pointed out…  maybe we could use a new editor. WWS also performed a little search engine optimization so we should be easier for you to find.

Mike: Wow we have not been gone from your place for more than an hour and you already found us on-line. Thank you so much for the t-shirt trade and travel wishes. Have a great weekend.

John: Thanks for the sooner update. I know you have my back.

Kara: Thanks for the birthday wishes. Hope you guys are having fun on your trip in CA.

Joyce: You remembered my b-day, I’m touched. With all your friends and you still remember my birthday… Thank you, your still our number one fan.

Prudhoe bay hotel

Day 9: It’s The Water, And A Whole Lot More

north slope alaskaStart: Deadhorse, Alaska
Finish: Wiseman, Alaska
Miles today: 220
Total Miles: 2313

Dall Sheep 40
Musk Ox: 18
Caribou: 16
Ground Squirrel: lots (they’re not big game but so darn cute)
Window chips: 1

We woke up in Deadhorse at the Prudhoe Bay Hotel. The view is nothing to write home about but the room, meals and location make up for the view. It was 34 degrees this morning and technically still summer.

deadhorse alaska parkingYou cannot get to the Arctic Ocean from Deadhorse unless you are in the know and possess $30. We happened to have both. In order to reach the Arctic Ocean you need to go through the North Slope oil fields and the drilling operations run by BP, Exxon, Shell and a few others. Since 911 the area has been off limits to the public. The way around this little road block is to join an organized tour group which takes folks by bus, explaining the oil field operations and showing the sites, including the Arctic Ocean.

The tour is run out of the Caribou Inn, the only other hotel in Deadhorse, and is associated with the Princess Cruise Line. About 50 folks cruised their way up to Anchorage and then bussed up through Denali National Park, to Fairbanks and finally Deadhorse. The great thing about taking this tour was the ability to be one of the youngest one in the room again. Even our Security Escort was retiring this year after 23 years on the oil fields.

musk oxenThe tour starts with a video (read commercial) on the history and safety record of the pipeline. The oil field is a 365, 24×7 operation with the guys working 12 hour shifts, two weeks on followed by two weeks off. Unless the planes are grounded or can’t land due to fog, Ice, or extreme cold. When we finished watching the commercial (oops I mean historically rich video) and our security escort returned, he had some bad news. There are three polar bears in the region and currently one is loitering by the location where we would normally get out an see the Arctic Ocean. Their security had been maintaining a watch on the bear for a few hours. Because the polar bear was in the area we would not be allowed off the buses.

standing in arctic oceanAs we piled on to the buses for the tour we were joined by Greg, the owner of the Caribou Inn who runs the local tours of the oil field. Once under way Greg explained how the different fields are self-contained with staff and dorm rooms. He pointed out that they have their own fire department and private security. He showed us where the oil executives stay when they fly up for their annual meeting. Greg also explained how they inspect every inch of pipe in a giant warehouse prior to it being approved for use and how they are able to explore for new oil with a minimal impact to the environment by performing this work only in winter.

Arctic ocean north slope alaskaAnd with that we circled a lot of rusting equipment and found the Arctic Ocean in front of us. Greg and the Security Escorts conferred. There was some chin rubbing, and some chatter on the walkie-talkies. More chin rubbing and after a little more conferring, we were told we could go out to the water in small groups while the additional security who had met us there posted watch. Turns out the polar bear had last been seen by security swimming out to sea only 30 minutes earlier. The bears can swim for miles and are almost impossible to spot since most of their mass in underwater.

When our turn came, we got off the bus and headed for the ocean only 30 yards away. Prepared for this opportunity, I had thrown on shorts and Keens. While others removed their shoes and socks, rolled up there paint legs and tip-toed into the water as it lightly lapped at the shore, I walked in up to my knees and stood in the 38 degree ocean water waiting for Dad to take a picture. This water is cold, and when Dad finally snapped a few pictures, I quickly ran back to shore to see the results. At that point I adjusted the camera, handed it back to Dad and proceeded back into the 38 degree ocean.rugged alaska brooks range foot hills

Dad’s turn was next and I readied the camera. Dad explained to me it is not the amount of water you experience but the intensity with which you experience the water. So as Dad stuck his finger into the 38 degree water he said “Rubin & the crew at the Ocean Shores McDonald’s; Joan and Harold I hope you are enjoying the pictures and adventure stories.” And with that Dad completed his swim in the Arctic Ocean and headed back to the bus.

hiking alaska brooks range foothillsWe headed out of Deadhorse in a drizzle. While coming north the weather was sunshine and blue skies, today reflected to true charter of region. Heading south we slipped back into our seats, smiled and started to peer out the windows for large game animals to add to our count. Today was a banner day for Musk Oxen and Dall Sheep. There are 27,000 caribou in the Prudhoe Bay heard. We saw 16. They must count the same caribou more than once.

standing at the base of brooks rangeOn the way south as we retraced our previous steps, we descended into the Brooks Mountain Range. One knoll in particular seemed to call out my name. Well being charitable and cautious I approached it. In fact I made a quick walk up to the top of the knoll to take in one final drink of the surrounding beauty. And while the clouds seem to be following us down the mountains, the view remains incredible as I looked for miles in both directions.

hiking haul roadWe’ve stayed in Wiseman before. S we know what to expect living off the grid. We did not know to expect this time. When the two B&B’s in Wiseman are full, June rents out her guest cabin. And by cabin I mean it has four walls and a roof. No power, no water, not heat. The outhouse is 20 feet away. You do receive a pitcher of drinking water, a wash towel and basin along with four, one gallon jugs of water to wash up with. With no lights, no plumbing and no Internet this post will definitely be delayed.

fj cruiser wise man cabinDave: Glad you’re tracking us and I would recommend a trip with their dad to anyone. The t-shirts are a good ice breaker and thanks to Taylor Made T-shirts for getting them to us.

Mary: just because I don’t doesn’t mean I can’t. Glad the story touched you guys but I don’t know about the cruise maybe a 14 day mother daughter bike tour.

Jim: Thanks for the condolences on Hula Betty. She will be missed. The weather is here, wish you were beautiful and thanks for sticking around and reading our posts. Knowing you guys are there rooting for us is very encouraging.

Joyce: Homicide, have you been watching Law and Order again?