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Location: Weston, Florida, United States

Obtained a bachelor's degree in political science, a master's in ancient scripture, and a doctorate in educational psychology from BYU. Served with the LDS Church Educational System in Hayward and Palo Alto, California; Athens, Georgia; and Miami, Florida. Served as bishop in Newark, California, and Athens, Georgia, and as stake president of the Sugar Hill Georgia Stake. Served as president of the Mexico City North Mission 1996-99. After retiring from CES in 2004 have served four other missions with my wife: As CES area director in Central America 2004-2006; in Panama 2007-2009; again in Guatemala 2009-2011, this time as executive secretary to the Central America Area Presidency; and finally as a counselor in the Tegucigalpa Honduras Temple presidency, 2013-2014. After returning home, we served in the presidency of the Fort Lauderdale Temple from 2014-2017 and continue to serve as sealer and ordinance worker, respectively. Feel free to email us at, and please check out our new website at

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Driving the Dalton--or Additional Adventures in Arctic Alaska

This past Thursday through Saturday Virginia and I had the unique opportunity of making a 1000 mile round trip from Fairbanks to Deadhorse (Prudhoe Bay), Alaska, to see the scenery and wildlife along the famed Dalton Highway and to see the Prudhoe Bay oil fields on the north coast of Alaska and touch the Arctic Ocean. Had I known then what I know now about the road, I would have been tempted to drive rather than be driven as part of a tour group, but it was nice not to have to worry about possible flat tires from the hundreds of miles of unpaved road and cracked windshields from the many passing trucks and to be able to watch the scenery rather than the road.

Our "tour" turned out to provide lots of individual attention, as Virginia and I were the only ones who signed up for this particular day with this particular company. We were driven in a 12 passenger van by a fellow who used to drive the route frequently as part of his employment. He is now retired (at 53) and recently lost a close race for a seat in the Alaska State legislature.

Highlights of the trip included

  • Getting a certificate for having crossed the Arctic Circle

  • Seeing and touching the Arctic Ocean
  • Seeing a grizzly bear, multiple caribou and dall sheep, several wolves, a coyote, snowy owls, three moose, and other smaller wildlife. Our driver said he had never before seen wolves on the road. As they and the coyote were roaming around the same spot, he theorized that possibly a bear had made a kill and the wolves and coyote were trying to take advantage of it. As it was getting darker, we didn't get very good pictures, but we're including a couple anyway as evidence, though the skeptics may not be convinced they aren't rocks or stumps. I wish I had thought to put the camera on video rather than the still picture setting. The only wildlife we had hoped to see but didn't were the musk ox.
  • Seeing part of the vast Prudhoe Bay oil fields as part of a tour. That was the only way to have access to the Artic Ocean, as only commercial tours as opposed to private tourists are permitted past the security gate.
  • Seeing hundreds of miles of the Alaska Pipeline
  • Seeing (at least from the highway) part of the Gates of the Arctic National Park (accessible only by hiking or by plane) and on the other side of the road part of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR), where there are additional rich oil deposits that some would favor drilling. We support that proposal. The current Alaska pipeline does not seem to have had any negative effects on the wildlife. We saw caribou right on the oil fields at Prudhoe Bay. And the herd has reportedly increased by 700% since the pipeline was put in.
  • Getting a free bowl of "raindeer stew," compliments of the head chef at the Arctic Caribou Inn, after we inquired as to the possibility of buying just a bowl of the soup rather than eat the entire buffet they were offering.

Here are some pictures:

Standing under a portion of the Alaska Pipeline beside a directional sign at a visitors center as we begin our trip northward

John Brown, our driver and guide. Photo taken from his web site from his campaign for the state legislature

Typical scene from the Dalton Highway (originally called simply the "haul road," as it was built in connection with the building of the pipeline, which it parallels.)

View of the pipeline from the road

Ancient fish spearheads made from caribou horn, found in a dry lake bed in the Gates of the Arctic National Park and shown to us by the finder (a friend of our driver), whom we met in the parking lot of a visitors center along the way

Another scene from the road

Virginia under the pipeline at the Yukon River Bridge. The pipe is 48" in diameter.

Yukon River Bridge

Beautiful scene of hills covered with fireweed, the first thing to spring up after a fire


Burned area near pipeline

More scenery

Virginia at "Finger Mountain," a landmark along the highway which used to guide pilots before more sophisticated navigational tools were available

The Arctic Circle--some 250 miles south of our final destination of Prudhoe Bay

Mountains in Gates of the Arctic National Park--part of the Brooks Range

Virginia beside the Koyokuk River, next to our overnight accommodations in Wiseman (population 15)

Shot of Gates of the Arctic National Park from Wiseman

Our accommodations in Wiseman

Pipeline with view of Gates of the Arctic National Park

One of several pump stations along the pipeline

Mountains looking toward ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Reserve)

Caribou in river

Dall sheep on side of mountain (white dots). See the following photo for a closeup.

Comparative closeup of dall sheep

Pipeline crossing a river or lake

Fireweed grows on top of buried section of the pipeline. Burying the line was the preferred and most cost-effective method, where it could be done without warming up the permafrost or causing other problems. About half is underground and half above ground. The warmth of the pipeline caused vegetation to grow above it which would not normally have been seen that far north.

Posts on flat North Slope to let drivers know where the road is in winter

Snow at almost sea level along Dalton Highway in late July

We made it! At the "town" of Deadhorse (or Prudhoe Bay). The "town" is almost entirely devoted to oil production. Additionally, there is one combined general store/post office and four hotels, mostly dedicated to the use of oil workers.

The Deadhorse general store/post office

Oil field equipment at Prudhoe Bay

Warning sign and photo posted on hotel door in Deadhorse

Some of the oil wells at Prudhoe Bay. They don't need pumps to get the oil out of the ground, as it is under pressure from beneath. They just need valves to control the flow until it gets to Pump Station #1, from where it is sent on its way to Valdez, 800 miles away--the only Alaskan port which is ice free year around.

Typical scene in Deadhorse

Truck with mammoth inflated roller wheels to minimize damage to the tundra

Virginia at Arctic Ocean with oil wells in background

Don at Arctic Ocean with oil facilities in distant background and sun peering through the mist overhead

Oil facility at Prudhoe Bay

Don and Virginia at Arctic Ocean

Don feels Arctic Ocean (What? You wanted to see me swim in it?)

Virginia tests the frigid waters

Caribou at Prudhoe Bay oil facility

More dall sheep on return trip

Wolf in Arctic. (Black shape in middle, toward left.) You may have to take our word for it. We first thought we had seen a bear crossing the stream, though we were puzzled at its black color and elongated shape. After passing, we saw a wolf running down the highway behind us (toward us.) This is the one we got a picture of. Returning, we saw another one across the stream, peering at us through the trees. We think we may have seen as many as four, plus a coyote in that same area.

Coyote (brown shape in the middle), near where we saw the wolves. All may have been trying to take advantage of a bear kill.

Still light enough to take this un-retouched picture at 1:00 a.m. on our way back to our cabin at Wiseman following our visit to Prudhoe Bay.


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