Thursday, July 8, 2010
Coldfoot to Deadhorse - what an adventure?
I’m crazy. Left camp to Coldfoot early and hoped to get to Prudhoe and part of the way back to Coldfoot. It’s 250 miles from here to Prudhoe / Deadhorse – so 500 round trip. So I got gas in Coldfoot and headed North. Coldfoot is anything but elegent. It is a major truckstop for the big rigs and looks like a place you would see on Ice Road Truckers. Immediately after I left Coldfoot, the road got worse. Potholes bigger than Florida sinkholes and mud several inches deep. Slipping and sliding all over the place and doing about 20mph. Fortunately that lasted only about 30 miles Got to the Brooks range and it was snowing – about 32 Degrees – avalanche area. All shale mountains - you could see the scree where the snow melt was eroding them – the pass was 4200 feet.
Stopped to help a fellow from Missouri who had a flat. He was in a pickup with a camper box – morale of that story. – If I ever do this again in a camper or motor home – bring a good jack. So, coming out of the Brooks Range is the famous “North Slope” and the terrain changes very rapidly to alluvial plan to the Arctic Sea. Flat as anything I saw in Manitoba but without any kind of vegetation beyond some wispy flowers and some very low Ligonberry bushes. Beautiful but very alien looking in real life. Pics don’t do it justice.
Road was good out of Brooks range – hard pack – still muddy but smooth and I made good time. Finally got to Deadhorse and drove right up to the BP Security Gate. Cant go any farther out to Pruhoe Bay itself unless you go on a tour – too late to sign up for one and would not work to leave Leo that long. So, farthest driveable point North in USA is 70.13.578 N, 148.69.536 W 54 Degrees. The Security guards said I just missed a herd of Caribou.. So, I drove around taking pisc of all the stuff that they told me not to take pics of – largely pumping stations, the manifolds coming into a header from all of the rigs, the portable rigs etc. This is simply an oil town. But I had cell phone service so I sat on the edge of a tidal basin to the Arctic Sea and called home.
Decided to head back to Fairbanks and that I would camp wherever at the side of the road as long as it was dry. As I was filling up at one of the two service stations, a gentleman commented that I had a tire that looked low. Low and behold, my turn for a flat. $60.00 for a repair. Oh, love those North Slope Prices! But I did gain a whole new respect for the pipeline and that whole operation.
Picked up a hitchhiker going to Coldfoot. His name was Lewis and he was a free spirit. Lived to hike the wilderness and climb mountains. Claimed to have climbed Mt. McKinley and El Capitan in Yosemite – if he was telling a story, he was pretty good and detailed. We mad it to Coldfoot in time to set up camp before the rain and we ate the $20.00 buffet. Love those North Slope Prices.!
67.15 N, 150.11 W, 512.2 Miles – on bad roads 63 F