The dreamstreamrs hopped into a Piper Navaho Chieftain in Fairbanks a few days ago for a short flight north to the Arctic Circle. We flew with Northern Alaska Tour Company on a packaged tour including flight up, van and driver back, with lots of stops and snacks along the way.
We flew in a very similar plane four years ago around Denali’s peaks, so knew the ropes. Unlike the Denali flight, though, we wouldn’t involve oxygen masks since our altitude on this flight was 3,000 feet until crossing the Brooks Range where we climbed to a little over 4,000 feet. And we had a lot less stress on our congested heads.
Our flight followed the Yukon River and Alyeska Pipeline to Coldfoot Alaska, a very very cold winter place. It was very nice for our visit with highs in the mid-60s and lows in the mid-40s. We didn’t know and you might not either, 80 percent of the land mass above the Arctic Circle is free of ice and snow in August, and most of the other 20 percent is in Greenland. As our pictures show clearly there was no snow or ice evident.
The flight is definitely the easy way to jump from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle. Just minutes after we boarded the van and drove a little down the Dalton Highway we reached this landmark sign. Our van driver was kind enough to also point out for us the dotted line of 66° 33′ 44″. The reason we couldn’t spot it is its green color in summer and white color in winter, he told us.
Our preconceived notions about the haul road from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay are largely fueled by sensational television shows about the ice roads or somesuch. Wintertime, the road is probably all that bad. Summertime, there is a lot of pavement and in some sections a lot of gravel and dust. Almost predictably, a passing truck threw a stone to add to the chips in our van’s windshield.
Our van ride back to Fairbanks from Coldfoot was enjoyable. Driver Rick stopped the van every twenty or thirty minutes and let us pick blueberries, climb hills for good vistas, or just stretch a little. The ride didn’t seem so long. We enjoyed Rick’s narration and the many sights we aren’t accustomed to seeing.
This was a great trip for us. The van ride, although long, was the best part because we saw so much all through the countryside. And because the van stopped at Yukon River Camp where we had any food we wanted, especially hot apple pie with ice cream.
We didn’t see anywhere we would want to park and camp in our Airstream, the road was particularly bouncy in some sections, and the trip is over 250 miles each way just to Coldfoot from Fairbanks. So we’ll probably save this driving trip for some other type of camper.
You can see all our Arctic Circle pictures at this link.
Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey, chasing 75 degrees
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