Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Haul Road

The James W. Dalton Highway, usually Dalton Highway (Alaska Route 11) is a 414-mile road in Alaska. It begins at the Elliott Highway, north of Fairbanks, and ends at Deadhorse near the Arctic Ocean and the Prudhoe Bay oil fields. Once called the North Slope Haul Road -- or simply "The Haul Road" -- it was built as a supply road to support the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System in 1974.

The highway, which directly parallels the pipeline, is one of the most isolated roads in the United States. There are only three towns along the route: Coldfoot (population 13) at Mile 175, Wiseman (population 22) at Mile 188, and Deadhorse (25 permanent residents, 3,500-5,000 or more seasonal residents depending on oil production) at the end of the highway at Mile 414.

Despite its remoteness the Dalton Highway carries a good amount of truck traffic: about 160 trucks daily in the summer months and 250 trucks daily in the winter. The highway comes to within a few miles of the Arctic Ocean. Beyond the highway's terminus at Deadhorse are private roads owned by oil companies, which are restricted to authorized vehicles only. There are, however, commercial tours that take people to the Arctic Ocean. All vehicles must take extreme precaution when driving on the road, and drive with headlights on at all times. There are quite a few steep grades (up to 12%) along the route, as well. (From Wikipedia)

I have wanted to drive The Haul Road since the moment I first learned of it over 30 years ago!

Rob and I will hit the road in the morning. Our "plan" is as follows:

Day 1 -- Fairbanks to Coldfoot Camp
Day 2 -- Coldfoot Camp to Prudhoe Bay
Day 3 -- Prudhoe Bay to Coldfoot Camp
Day 4 -- Coldfoot Camp to Fairbanks

We will be relying on trusty Darth to carry us -- hopefully without "incident" -- over 900 hard miles... Cheer for Darth and wish us luck!

No comments: