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2006 Haul Road Trip

My mom and dad finally agreed to experience Alaska, "Aaron and Jill style", with fishing not necessarily involved. In the past, I usually didn't see them for at least half their trip because they were on the river.  Aaron and I had talked about the north country so much, they decided they wanted to travel the Haul Road with us. They arrived on Sept 26 after turning around on their Alaska flight halfway between Anchorage and Fairbanks because their plane only had one engine to fly on.  Nothing like that to start a trip.  They did make it to Fairbanks a couple hours late, but alive!

We spend a couple hundred dollars on food and drinks for the five days we'd be in the far north, and then hit the road.

 
The start of the James Dalton Highway.  The road was primarily used for Long Haul Rigs, but has been open to the public for a number of years.  The road turns dirt here.

Aaron and I and the dogs on a much needed break from driving.

Just south of the Arctic Circle we saw three nice size black bears feeding along the pipeline road.  We got few pictures through the spotting scope.

The Arctic Circle, after this the drive only gets better. Lots of people turn around here, but the best is yet to come.

Camp the first night at Jim River #3.   Burgers for dinner and a couple beers.  Dad threw a line in for grayling, but no luck. 

I spend a lot of time looking through this spotting scope, nothing to see this evening though.

Dad cooking up some burgers.  The skies cleared later that night and we had some spectacular views of the Northern Lights.  Mom and I braved the cold temperatures to appreciate the display.

We only brought three camp chairs, so Aaron and I shared.


After a hearty breakfast of blueberry pancakes with whip cream, we headed north.  Dad spotted this cow moose just south of Coldfoot, AK.  She didn't seem to mind us too much.

North of Coldfoot, we spotted a little bull and a cow off the road. The sneak was on for photos.  There is no better time in Alaska than in the fall. These colors are no joke.  Lucky for us, we don't need camo to sneak up on moose, they aren't the brightest creatures.

This little bull thought for sure he must be hidden, or at least if we didn't move we wouldn't see him. 

Scenery along the Dalton Highway.  Once past Coldfoot, the rocky mountains and peaks become more impressive.

 

The Dalton Highway follows the Alaska Pipeline to Deadhorse.  I never get tired of seeing it wind through some of the most rugged country in AK.

The Koyukuk River near Wiseman.  Mom and Dad somehow brought sun with them for this trip.  All it has done this summer was rain, but somehow we had blue sky most of their visit.

My mom, the postal lady, at the Wiseman Post Office.

Preparing to go over Atigun Pass, we knew that firewood would be slim, so we stacked as much as we could on top. Our poor car rack was already over the weight limit.  We had enough wood for two night and mornings of good fire.  There are no trees north of Atigun.


Before we reached the pass Mom spotted this fine black bear.  He glowed in the sun on this red hillside. We watched him for a good while. He didn't seem to concerned with our presence. 

It was nice to just watch him; and not worry about hunting.  Along the Dalton Highway Corridor, hunting is allowed with bow a quarter mile from the road, but not with rifle for five miles.  All these critters are incredible safe when we are around. Aaron and I never got our bow stamp in Alaska.

I'm very angry about this picture.  This is the furthest north spruce tree along the Dalton Highway, and someone had to be dumb and try to cut it (Note the duct tape around the base). This tree used to be alive, but not anymore. It's a shame!

Lots of big rigs and dust on this road!

The road over Atigun Pass.  The long haul trucks on this road have it cut out for them in the winter. There at least thirty avalanche routes on that road.

Some ewes on the drive up over the pass.  We usually always see sheep here.

On the drive down the pass Aaron spotted a shed so we had to stop. We decided a walk would be nice. We hiked for awhile then thought we saw bears, so hurried back to the truck to look through the scope, just rocks.  Meanwhile, Mom and Dad made a haul of caribou sheds.

 

The drive down Atigun Pass.  It is amazing to see how the foliage changes from one side of the pass to the other.  The country is giant up here.  One of Aaron's and my favorite places in AK.

We set up camp near the end of valley with views up into the pass.  It is hard finding a place to pull of and camp since most of the pull outs are pipeline roads.  We found this nice little road that got us off the road a good distance though.  Saw a fine ram before bed. 

The temperatures were very cold, with a steady breeze. Aaron and I threw a propane "heater buddy" in the tent to get it toasty before we crawled in for the night.  I think the dogs even got cold.  Mom and Dad couldn't get over the light up here.  They are used to being in bed at 10pm, and it was light well past, so we kept them up later. 

Saw some northern lights again, but nothing as impressive as the night before. 

Headed out earlier the next morning for the long drive to Deadhorse.  Aaron and I had never driven this far north, so this was an adventure for all of us.

Saw our first muskox ever! Pretty impressive critters.

The caribou were being chased like mad with all the bowhunters pursuing them.  It was pretty funny watching different groups of people try and stalk on the same animal.   Some folk were definitely successful though; caribou racks were set around camps along the road.

 

This caribou must of just lost its velvet causing the red tint to his antlers.  We watched him for awhile while two hunters were trying to make a sneak behind him.  He seemed to be aware of their presence though!  These pictures are taken through our spotting scope.

Looks like a wolf, huh? Nope that would be Kodi.  He should have been wearing his red vest.  I imagine most hunters would shoot him regardless of the mile restriction, thinking he was a wolf.

Some awesome land along the drive to Deadhorse.

Fueling up in Deadhorse.  No normal gas stations up here. In fact nothing really normal.  It was pretty dreary, and we weren't impressed.  I guess at least we drove the whole road, but I wouldn't drive this far again.

Thankfully we got back into the sun and out of Deadhorse.  It felt like a dead horse there.  The tundra goes on forever up here, accented by the Haul Road and Alaska pipeline.

Mom wanted so much to sneak up on these muskox. 

 

Some more views and pictures of the changing colors of the tundra. The camera just doesn't do it justice.

Wow, even the dogs posed for this one.  Tundra even pulled it together for the picture.  A perfect day to see Alaska.

Mom and Dad sit for a spell on the tundra.  They couldn't believe how cushy the ground is; one could easily take a nap out here.

The dogs weren't given the luxury of being off leash here.  Way too many caribou running around and hunters.  Once the dogs see an animal run, it is over, they like to chase to much, and in open country they don't stop until they are wore out.

Camp #3 near Galbraith Lake. An old hunting ground for Aaron and I.  We set up and headed out on a walk after the long day in the car.  It felt good to move.  We saw a couple cow caribou near camp. 

We found some great fossils in the creek bottom and explored some glacier country before heading back to camp.

 

The alpine glow just touching the peaks of the Brooks Range.

I spotted this shed from a good distance; kind of hard not to miss the white side.  A real treat though, a dandy bull shed from a year ago.  He sported a great bez and pretty nice tops.  I was elated over the find.

 

We experienced an awesome sunset over the tundra that night.  The temps were a little above thirty; another chilly night in Alaska's Far North. 

The next morning we headed south, in hopes of doing some hiking and shed hunting.  We spotted this group of Dall sheep along the road.  Mom and Dad took off on their own, and Aaron and I headed up the tundra with eyes on the ground.  The tundra is very deceiving when judging distance.  These hill were a pretty decent hike, lots of contours, and squishy ground to boot.

 

Half way up the hill I spotted the white tines of this old caribou shed.  Aaron found an old cow shed a little further up.  At the top we found a number of old skulls when antlers attached, they were in pretty rough shape with hardly any main beam left.

Incredible views into the Brook Range.  This is the most beautiful country in Alaska. 

Aaron and I spotted these sheep just above the ridge.  They weren't very spooked, surprisingsince it was hunting season.  Granted this ram isn't yet legal,  but give him a few years. 

We were probably 80 yards from this ram at our closest.  I don't think he could get our  wind and was unsure what we were.  Once he circled around below us, it didn't take long for him to wind us and take off at swift pace.


These guys are stout.  I'm sure he's been eating around the clock to prepare for the long and cold winter that was drawing near.  An incredible view with the Alaska Pipeline in the distance.

Fall colors at their best.  Mom and Dad climbed up here to sneak below the sheep.  They are pretty hardcore, and I was very impressed with their sense of adventure!

So they may have been a little crazy hanging out on this rock ledge.  Dad kept setting the camera up and trying to get over to where Mom was before the picture took, but he found it difficult to make it in 10 secs.

 

This picture says it all.  Nothing like an adventure in Alaska.

Mom was fortunate enough to get up close and personal  with one of the toughest animals in Alaska.  This ram was feeding along, and mom snuck up over the rock and found herself about fifteen feet from him.

He's legal by age standards, but not quite full curl.  It was amazing that she was able to get so close to this ram since he was in a harvest area within the pipeline corridor.


Some views of the ram almost made him look like a full curl, but with all the shots mom captured it was determined that he was just shy. 

 

Some more views.

 

The hike back down with outstanding views up the valley the Pipeline runs through.  The clouds were gathering and it looked like our good weather may be coming to an end.


Posing with the dogs. Aaron and I ventured out further down the road in hopes of stirring up some old antlers, or fresh ones. 

 

Don't you love the hat....I didn't realize it looked so good until I saw these pictures!  We ended up finding a handful of antler  at the end of our  walk.


Leaving the north slope of the Brooks Range.  Beyond this point the vegetation changes back to forest mixed with tundra.

 

More pictures.

 

Spotted this cow moose grazing in the fall colors.  Didn't see any bull moose.

Mom assuming her position.  She looked for rocks most of the trip. We had at least forty pounds of rock by the time we got home.

Our last night camped along the Dalton Highway. 

 

We saw fresh black bear tracks along the river not far from our camp.  Never saw the bear though.


A quick shot we got of a black bear  we saw on the drive back. There were two bears feeding on the side of the road.  We managed to catch a glimpse of this guy in the camera.

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