15 hours each way in this van.
After passing the Arctic Circle, the treeline got shorter and shorter,
until we crossed the Brooks Range via the Atigun Pass and the trees
disappeared completely. For about five miles, there was a severe
avalanche risk. A few days before, road crews were using World War II
howitzers to mitigate the snow accumulation.
Then, it was another 200 miles of driving through the permafrost. The
road parallels the Trans-Alaska pipeline as its purpose is to service
the pipeline (and provide access to the oil fields in Prudhoe Bay). 12%
of America's oil runs through that pipeline. We saw a smattering of
grizzly, caribou and moose. Along the permafrost, the road is basically a
thin strip of gravel dumped on top of the tundra. The Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) was to our right and Gates of the Arctic National
Park was to our left.
This is the Arctic Ocean, still frozen over. It was 30 degrees and
windy. No polar bear sightings. If I looked to my left, right, or
behind, I would see oil drilling pads everywhere. The amount of
machinery and equipment up here in the middle of nowhere was staggering.