370-On the Road

This summer I drove with a friend from Anchorage to Prudhoe Bay – 1,732 miles round trip. The Dalton Highway or “Haul Road” as the locals call it is the life line for the North Slope oil fields on the Arctic Ocean. The ocean near the oil fields is only ice-free for a couple months each year, yet the “Haul Road” is open all the time. It is one of the most desolate places on the planet. You are at least 200 miles from nowhere most of the time.

This is not a road for the faint of heart, or those with a brand-new vehicle! It is still the main supply route for the Prudhoe Bay oilfields, and you will share the road with large tractor-trailers. Windshields and headlights are easy targets of flying rocks. Most rental companies will not allow you to drive their cars on the Dalton. Trucks speeding along the slippery gravel track kick up thick clouds of dust or mud, reducing visibility to absolute zero; potholes take a heavy toll on cars and services, gas, and repairs are practically nonexistent. Don’t even consider driving the Dalton unless you have 4-wheel drive, a CB radio, extra fuel, food, tires, and a trunk filled with supplies. This is grizzly country, so when camping, keep a clean campsite, storing food at least a quarter mile from where you sleep.

The road is mostly a dirt and gravel road with random areas paved. This section of interior Alaska has one State Trooper for over 600 square miles – yet he was able to stop me for speeding (going 59 in a 50 mph zone) literally IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE!!!. I didn’t get a ticket because I wasn’t going 60 and “All of my paperwork was in order.” In the view of the local Alaskans I have told this story,  there was more of a chance of getting eaten by a grizzly then getting a “speeding ticket” on the Haul Road.

CIMG4579This is driving through Wasilla on the way to Fairbanks.

CIMG4594When the road ends and turns to gravel.

CIMG4593This is when the road ends. You can see the start of the gravel.

CIMG4600Now were on the Haul Road

CIMG4599Gravel for hundreds of miles.