Our Arctic Ocean excursion took 4 long days of intense driving (there’re no public spaces or sightseeing spots in Deadhorse other than the shuttle, so we didn’t spend a whole day there), and we needed a brief respite before our re-provisioning stop back in Fairbanks.
Outstanding items on Nick’s list included a drive on the Steese Highway and a hike there. The Steese is an older road north of Fairbanks originally build to connect the city to the Yukon River where goods were shipped in. After the construction of the Alaska Highway, the port on the Yukon was less busy, though it is still in use today. There are also some mining operations along the way. Recreationally, the Steese is a beautiful drive to and through the tallest of the White Mountains. Since the road begins between the end of the Dalton Highway and the city of Fairbanks, it was a perfect opportunity for us.
If all we had done was drive to Eagle Summit (3685 feet), we’d have been totally satisfied. The drive on a mostly paved road crested 3 passes, all with amazing green mountain and deep valley views. Eagle Summit offered 360-degree views of the Whites, a meadow filled with wildflowers, the trailhead for the Pinnell Mountain Trail and camping is allowed. OK, there’s no all-you-can-eat buffet – still it’s pretty awesome.
There’s something delightful about getting up in the morning, having a cup or 3 of coffee and hitting the trail. We opted for a day hike to Porcupine Dome, one of the taller rounded-top mountains with antennae on the summit. The trail took us over several prominent smaller peaks, each with views of different valleys, broad meadows exploding with wildflowers and wide saddles affording yet more views of deep valleys below. We summited the ‘practice dome,’ an unnamed rounded summit with a full in-your-face view of Porcupine. We hiked the final saddle to Porcupine with still more views in different directions.
The big views were mostly obscured by smoke from nearby wildfires or by clouds and fog from the very local rain, so although our photos may be kind of artsy, they don’t show the grandeur of the views, nor do they allow us to share the explosion of wildflowers. We’ll have fond memories and ask you to imagine giant patches of some of the flowers in the close-up photos.
Yes, 2 items from Nick’s list!
Nick was expecting us and we arrived at his place just in time for smoked salmon appetizers (his project while we were away,) a review of the photos from the Deadhorse trip, meeting his housemates, and planning a collaborative dinner. After dinner, the 3 of them (Nick and housemates) brainstormed another list, this one of all the sights we should plan to see when we get to the south central coast of Alaska. OMG! Thanks so much!
After a major reprovisioning effort, including super-major truck wash, we were prepared to move on from Fairbanks to parts of Alaska yet unseen and start working on the new list.
Once again, thanks Nick for the tremendous hospitality!