Back in October 2007, I traveled 200 miles along the Dalton Highway, from Fairbanks, past the Yukon River, to the Arctic Circle. Passenger vans go all the way up to the top of Alaska only in the summer. Here are a few pics from my '07 trip.
Here is an excellent and entertaining video of the entire northbound trip. It's neat to see the trees get smaller, and then totally disappear, as you go north. The dust and mosquitoes are no joke. The sun will not set at all when I'm there, so that will be a neat experience as well.
Around 6 minutes into the video, the truck crosses the Yukon River. At around 8 minutes, he crosses the Arctic Circle. At around 10, he passes Coldfoot, which has the only gas station along the entire 500 mile route. Then, there's the Atigun Pass, which is both majestic and treacherous.
In terms of danger, this is probably as dangerous as bussing through Central America, but in a different way. In Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, the fear was busjackings and other violent crimes. In Alaska, the biggest issue is a traffic accident. I'll be riding in a fully loaded 15-passenger van, which is notoriously top heavy. On the Dalton, semis rarely yield to passenger vehicles, and those semis speed. The curves, dropoffs, and dust all make for potential hazards. The other issue is medical care. The van is equipped with a satellite phone, but an air ambulance is hard to come by.
Driver fatigue will be an issue as well. The 500 mile drive takes 16 hours. I hope they provide two drivers to share the chore.
The plan is to fly to Fairbanks and stay at the Golden North Motel. The Dalton Highway Express van leaves at 6 in the morning and arrives in Deadhorse at 10 "at night". I will spend the night at Deadhorse Camp, and take an Arctic Ocean Shuttle first thing in the morning through BP's oil field, to the Arctic Ocean. Once I've reached my goal, I get right back on the Dalton Highway Express van and take the 500 mile ride back to Fairbanks.
With that, I will have traveled by land from Prudhoe Bay to Yaviza, Panama. Next year, insha'Allah, I will complete the quest by taking buses from Lima to Turbo, Colombia. You can read about my Lima to Ushuaia trip here.
Of course, I'll say hello to Sarah Palin for all of you.