Sunday, May 25, 2008

Alaska Sunday VII

Today we will try to get from Coldfoot to Deadhorse.

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Midnight in the Rain at Coldfoot
A little rain can’t stop the Photography

Coldfoot is basically a truck stop on the Dalton Highway from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay. It has a restaurant, and a small number of overnight accommodations (converted pipeline construction camp quarters). Bus tours along the highway typically take two days, and passengers spend the night here. The BLM, USFWS, and NPS jointly staff a small visitor center during the summer. The Coldfoot truck stop was founded by Iditarod champion Dick Mackey who started his operation by selling hamburgers out of a converted school bus. Truckers helped build the existing truck stop and cafe.

The Koyukuk River at Midnight
Photography at Midnight is Great

I stayed up most of the night having fun with photography. I had to sleep a little for the drive tomorrow into Prudhoe Bay (Deadhorse).

The town was originally a mining camp named "Slate Creek", and around 1900 got its present name when prospectors going up the nearby Koyukuk River would get "cold feet" and turn around. In 1902 Coldfoot had two roadhouses, two stores, seven saloons, and a gambling house. A post office operated from 1902 to 1912, then reopened in 1984.

Coldfoot Airport, on the west side of the Dalton Highway, consists of a 4,000-foot (1220-metre) gravel strip.

The Road and Pipeline out of Coldfoot
The road is pretty good here
For perspective, the Pipeline is 48 inches in diameter.

The Koyukuk River is a principal tributary of the Yukon River, approximately 500 mi (805 km) long, in northern Alaska in the United States.

It drains an area north of the Yukon on the southern side of the Brooks Range. The river is named for the Koyukon people.

It rises in several forks above the Arctic Circle in the Endicott Mountains, near 67°58′N, 151°15′W.

The North Fork rises in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. The combined river flows generally southwest, past Bettles, in a broadening valley of spruce forests amid small lakes and marshes. It joins the Yukon from the north at Koyukuk.

Its tributaries include the Glacier, Alatna and John rivers. The area around its confluence with the Yukon is a large floodplain protected as part of Koyukuk National Wildlife Refuge.

The valley of the river is a habitat for bear and moose and is a destination for game hunting.

A little History of the Region of Coldfoot and Deadhorse

Lt. Henry Allen and Private Fred Fickett of the United States Army ascended and explored the river in 1885. The discovery of gold deposits on the Middle Fork in 1893 led to a gold rush in 1898 with the establishment of trading posts and mining camps, including Bettles, on the upper river. In 1929, Robert Marshall explored the North Fork and gave the name Gates of the Arctic to the high Brooks Range along the river.

In 1980 the United States Congress designated 100 mi (164 km) of the North Fork in the Brooks Range as the Koyukuk Wild and Scenic River.

In 1994 floods on the river swept away three villages, forcing the wholesale relocation of the population.

Blue Sky Ahead
Photo Opportunities Abound Everywhere

Next Week will be about the Brooks Range and the Tundra.

Here is a short preview of the Tundra and Deadhorse

Deadhorse is a settlement located on the North Slope of the U.S. state of Alaska near the Arctic Ocean. The town consists mainly of facilities for the workers and companies that operate at the nearby Prudhoe Bay oil fields. Deadhorse is accessible via the Dalton Highway from Fairbanks, or the Deadhorse Airport. Limited accommodations are also available for tourists.

Companies with facilities in Deadhorse service Prudhoe Bay and other nearby oil fields, as well as the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) which brings oil from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez in south-central Alaska. Facilities in Deadhorse are built entirely on man-made gravel pads and usually consist of pre-fabricated modules brought up on barge or via air cargo.

Tourists traveling to Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay typically take tour buses from Fairbanks via the Dalton Highway, a two-day journey with an overnight stop in Coldfoot. During the summer months, visitors can access the Arctic Ocean during its summer thaw, as well as experience the midnight sun due to Deadhorse's location above the Arctic Circle. In winter, the opposite phenomenon of polar night occurs.

Facts about Deadhorse Weather

  • Longest day: 63 days, 23 hours, 40 minutes (12:09 a.m. on May 20 to 11:18 p.m. on July 22)
  • Shortest day: 45 min (11:42 a.m. to 12:27 p.m. on November 24)
  • Longest night: 54 days, 22 hours, 51 min (12:27 p.m. on November 24 to 11:18 a.m. on January 18)
  • Shortest night: 26 min (11:43 p.m. on May 19 to 12:09 a.m. on May 20)
  • Highest recorded temperature: 83 °F (28 °C) on 21 June 1991
  • Lowest recorded temperature: −62 °F (−52 °C) on 27 January 1989
  • Highest wind speed recorded: 95 knots (109 mi/h, 176 km/h) on 25 February 1989
  • Official lowest wind chill: −102 °F (−74 °C) on 28 January 1989 (air temperature of −54 °F (−48 °C) and wind speed of 31 knots (36 mi/h, 57 km/h))

Wildflowers on the Tundra
Along the Sagavanirktok River

In the photograph below looking across the Tundra to the west of the Highway is a pingo? It is 3 miles away and shot with a 200 mm lens. Pingos form from the bed of a spring-fed lake that has been covered by vegetation. Freezing of the water can raise the surface several hundred feet above the flat terrain. They start small and grow from year to year.

The Tundra is flat, flat, flat.

This is a waterfowl paradise. There are thousands of small lakes and an abundant food supply. Following is a map centered on Prudhoe bay showing some of the small lakes. Also there are perhaps millions of small water filled potholes.

Map centered on Deadhorse

Next week: Brooks range, wildflowers, Prudhoe Bay and environs.
Yes, we will get to Deadhorse next week. I promise.

Lots on wildflowers, flash floods and landslides on the trip back to Fairbanks in two weeks.

Troy and Martha


CrazyCath said...

Well I am late in looking at Critter posts and I am so glad I am! What a wonderful post. You have taken me on a little tour of a small part of Alaska and the photography is out of this world. The skies are awesome.
Thank you.
Off to see the critter one now!

Stacey Huston said...

Thank you so much for the vacation.. I love you scenery pics today.. wonderful post..

John said...

I'm really enjoying this series on the Dalton Highway.

T.R. said...

I love Alaska Sundays! I think the journey from Coldfoot to Deadhorse has been my favorite so far.

The photography is as graceful and ephemeral as anything I've seen. These images, to me, transcend that place between photography and painting. What a gift you share.

mon@rch said...

Alaska is such a beautiful place to visit and I hope one day to make it there!

Chuck Pefley said...

Wow! Absolutely stunning scenery and photography. Enjoy this trip. I've enjoyed seeing the road through your eyes.

Lilli & Nevada said...

What a great set of photos you got there i like the one with the blue in the middle of the clouds.
What a great place to be.

I too try to get to visit everyone, but have not been doing all that well this week due to the busy weekend and trying to get things all cleaned up here at the motel. But definitely feel the crunch of the gas prices and people staying home. A full house usually here not so this yr. but then it could also be because the opening of Sonics

Mary said...

Troy and Martha,

I don't have time to read or comment lately, either. I think you should contact a calendar company and get your photos published! I enlarged every one of them and gasped. Absolutely beautiful. Thanks for the history and I look forward to more.


Sekhar said...

I liked the first photo :)

pablo said...

Howdy, Troy!

John said...

I'm really enjoying your HDR photos. Very interesting - informative post too!

Have a nice week!

SandyCarlson said...

These are amazing photos. Thanks for packing us up and taking us along on this adventure. How I would love to drink in Alaska in person.

Becky said...

This is my first visit. What beautiful photos. I love seeing pictures from this wonderful country we have, and thanks for the history lesson.
Stop by my blog sometime.Thanks again for sharing.

Hugh said...

More dream-like pictures! Plus I love the pingo. I've been a pingo fan since 7th grade geography -- has made me always want to go to Tuktoyaktuk, NWT.

I'm following along, enjoying the drive.

Michele (Rocky Mtn.Girl) said...

Very beautiful post and informative... I love the road and pipeline photo... that is one of my favorites.... very nice.

It's Time to Live... said...

I follow your blog weekly or more often. I wish I were with you or at least following close behind. Sorry I don't comment often and thanks for following me. We are off to the Tetons next week for 5 days. I hope it is hard for me to choose what to post.

photowannabe said...

What a magnificent country and I love the midnight photos. I was on an Alaskan cruise about 10 years ago and have longed to go back ever since. Someday when we get our "pot of gold" we will.

Gallicissa said...

Those photos are marvellous. Thanks for taking us on your trip. Very informative and I enjoyed this.

babooshka said...

That was a great post. Jam packed with info and some beautiful images.

me ANN my camera said...

You might think the words, "rain, cold, midnight", would project a cold, unpleasant environment, but not so!! Your photos are very beautiful. I envy you both your trip, and your photos. The landscape photo of wildflowers is beautiful; so much open space!

Thanks for your visit and comments on my blog.

Anonymous said...

fantastic hdr work and very interesting info

Dan said...

Glad I stumbled across your blog. This is fantastic. Love the trip and the vicarious vacation you are taking me on.

Stunning pics!

AphotoAday said...

Amazing skies in those shots! All very interesting -- a place I know I'll probably never get to, but it certainly looks beautiful...

Katney said...

What did you drive to Alaska?

Thiên said...

It's gorgeous up there. Your posts make me wish to be up there roaming around. Oh...if only I could win a few million in the lotto just so I can take time off and travel to all these wonderful places I learn about on the photo blogs!

John Roberts said...

This series is really wonderful! I envy your ability to travel like you do. I hope to make it to Alaska one day.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous photos - I really enjoyed my visit. Thanks for the link on Fibonacci numbers that you left on my blog.

Daryl said...

Fascinating and as always stunning photos .. I was reading and wondering how the natives adjust to the long endless summer days and the winter nights .. but I suppose when this is how you grow up you dont even think its unusual . or do you?


Daryl said...

Troy .. would you, or Martha, share with me how you got the masthead to be photo AND words . and both centered.

I cannot figure out how to make that happen .. when chose the option to put the photo behind the words, the words are centered and the photo is left justified.

BUT I can get either photo or words to center alone.

Thanks in advance for the help


Anonymous said...

I love you scenery pics today.

Don´t forget the fig photos!

Chris said...

Your photos are surreal! So beautiful and to think that it is midnight is funny! Someday I wish to visit Alaska....but for mow, I'll enjoy your trip!

Joe said...


Shellmo said...

I love looking at your photographs and just dreaming and picturing myself there in those same spots. Thank you for sharing!

Your EG Tour Guide said...

What a fabulous trip! I'm so glad youwere able to fit me into your suitcase!

Island Rambles Blog said...

Wonderful trip to Alaska with you two!!! Not many trees in the photos like we have in BC here...but your photos should do well to advertise this lovely area...the photos look like they are right out of a photo magazine.

Katney said...

I saw your rig. Our new one here is a move up from a tent. No longer do we have to load and unload everything and more, pitch and unpitch and fit into its little bag.

Pack up the groceries and hook up the rig and we are on the road. It's light enough to pull around by hand, and though it's samll, if we haven't yet killed each other in a tent, we'll manage in this.

Scotty Graham said...

Troy and Martha,

Been about a week since visiting you last...I see you are enjoying Photomatix...your photos are stunning!! Don't ever let anyone tell you that it is all software have an excellent eye for compostion as well!! Really enjoyed this post!!


fishing guy said...

Troy: Great post, I wonder who thought of naming a town Deadhorse.
The picture of 'The Koyukuk River at Midnight' is outstanding.

Doug Taron said...

My desire to see Alaska increases every Sunday. What an adventure. I really would like to experience 24 hour daylight. Alaska's onme of only three states I haven't yet visited- so I'm sure it will happen eventually.

Judi-gmj said...

the light, the light!! Oh my gosh that is so awsome. I can not imagine light like that except in fantasies. Wonderful. Thanks .

Duncan said...

Thoroughly enjoying the trip Troy and Martha, great pictures, and full of interest. Looking forward to the next installment.

Sandpiper said...

What a wonderful travel journal! The scenery is breathtaking.