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…the second loop into the eternal day
After exploring the southeast of the huge US state with Christine and Daniel, the far north awakened in us the desire to travel beyond the Arctic Circle. While Christine and Daniel turned off to Haines in Delta-Junction, we headed north again and soon reached Fairbanks.

We received the most important information about the Dalton Highway at the tourist information, so that we could leave almost carefree to the north. The Dalton Highway is in fact an industrial road that was built in connection with the Alaska Pipeline and today is also open for tourism. On this gravel road there is a real traffic with campers, cars and a lot of motorcycles. And by the way there are also huge trucks on their way to the oil fields at Deadhorse on Prudhoe-Bay.

What is the Dempster-Highway for the Canadians, is the Dalton-Highway for the Americans and probably almost a compulsory road that has to be driven once. On both tracks you cross the Arctic Circle and drive into the endless days; a special experience.

Actually, both roads are a special adventure and can hardly be compared. From the gravel road, the Dalton Highway is much better to drive, as the factory traffic depends on a good connection.

We also found the Highway in Alaska a bit more interesting; the mountains to cross are more impressive and the road leads more through wilder sections than the Canadian one.
The workers’ camps from the construction time of the pipeline still exist, are bases for the people who move here on the wheels and today still pass on a certain flair of that time.

We didn’t discover any caribou herds, but some or groups of caribou passed by before our noses at the night camp north of the Atigun Pass. Unfortunately, we could only observe the muskoxes from a distance and with binoculars.

After the Atigun Pass, the continental watershed, we turned around again. For tourists like us, the trip is over in Deadhorse anyway. For $140 we didn’t want to go on a two-hour bus ride to the high security area at the Polar Sea, where you can stretch your toes into the water. One simply drives past the drilling sites and is not allowed to visit them. So we left the last 200 kilometres on the left, renounced the wide tundra and turned south again.

After so many kilometres of dirt road we felt like taking a bath in one of the countless hotsprings north of Fairbanks. What we didn’t know at the beginning; most of these warm springs are only accessible in winter and with a snowmobile. During the warm season only a few are open and these are purely commercial, i.e. one cannot relax alone in any warm spring.

So our visit was accordingly short; but we looked for recreation at the Chena River. We knew about a forest fire in a parallel valley and the smoke was everywhere. At the Chena River there was still a lot going on, people fished in the river and others paddled down the river with their boats. The bustle went on well into the night and so we felt somehow safe. Soon we lay down under the warm blanket and were happy about the night experience at the splashing river.

At one o’clock the surprise followed: A ranger took us out of our sleep! He pointed out to us that there was a forest fire in the next valley. Although there is no acute danger yet, we should leave the area the next morning. We were very surprised that he had found us in the twilight, thanked him somewhat frightened and looked for a safe place in the next half hour, where we could spend the rest of the night. What we saw during the trip, one cannot actually describe, one must have seen and experienced it: The fire we saw in between was gigantic and terrifying at the same time.

In Fairbanks the smoke was already omnipresent. But it didn’t come from the Chena River, but from a fire that was blown into the city from the west. Somehow very impressive what happens here every year. People take it with a certain serenity, as if these fires were the most normal on this earth. This smoky air no longer held us in the north and already after several kilometres southwest of Fairbanks it became a bit more pleasant.

On the Park Highway, also a must to all Alaska travelers who want to experience the wonderful landscape around Denali, many people were on the road and the no longer countable campers outdid each other in size. There are also many tourist offers: You can book everything from raft tours to flight tours. Against corresponding dollars every thrill is offered. If you like it easier, you can get a permit from the ranger for any hike, with or without overnight stay in the Denali National Park.

After a lot of information in the information center, we drove later on the Denali park road the few allowed kilometers into it. Semi-legally and without permit we went on a short hike, which aroused the desire in me (Tom) for a big hike, but which was immediately discarded by our equipment.
Too bad, this would actually be “pure Alaska”!

Therefore we drove the Denali-Highway again and turned halfway into the Roosevelt-Creek-Valley. In this valley, which stretches into the Alaska range, many “leisure gold seekers” are still looking for their great luck and they were all amazed what a jeep with foreign license plates was looking for.

In order to expand our gold knowledge a little, we visited a disused gold mine south of the Hatcher Pass, which is now owned by the state and is open as a museum to the curious visitors.

It’s really crazy what the people did for a possible luck and even put their health at risk. Even today, people are still searching and digging everywhere for the precious metal; somehow the whole gold prospecting has to be worth it.
I limited myself to a hike to a nearby summit at the Hatcher Pass and was already overjoyed by the impressive panorama of the many peaks and valleys.

Via Anchorage we drove further south to the Kenai Peninsula in the hope that it wouldn’t be so bad because of the forest fire where several hundred acres of forest burned in the northern part of the peninsula. We didn’t see any fire, but the landscape was covered with smoke.

On the west side it was finally over with the smoky taste, but shortly before Homer wafts of fog were moving from the sea over the coastal area and it was more than an autumnal impression; the freshness drew under the warm clothes and every view was strongly clouded.

Homer himself could not convince us; too much for tourism! But in the few months of the high season, the local population has to profit as much as possible from the tourist stream, as the winter months are long here and during this time, probably no traveller will get lost here.

But we were rewarded at the eastern part of the peninsula and the trip to Seward was wonderful after we had left the fog and smoke clouds behind us. The whole landscape was very inspiring; it was a game of mountains, glaciers and sea.
And, we were not the only ones on our way to the sea. The campsite along the bay was full of all kinds of campers. But the tourist offers as also the beautiful centre are worth a trip with the many like-minded tourists.

Via Anchorage we went back inland and soon the first rain clouds accompanied us. What for the local people was a blessing and relief of the biting smoke of the forest fires, was for us – tourists prefer sunshine – rather a wet and cold farewell of our second round trip through Alaska.

The drive on the Glenn-Highway from Anchorage to the east through the mountains was despite the rain clouds a wonderful stretch through an impressive mountainous landscape and glaciers that reach far into the valley. Unfortunately it was no longer summery warm, a cold wind and many clouds indicated a further weather change.

In Tok we reached the Alaska Highway again, which brought us back to Yukon. We followed the Alaska Highway through the wide and almost deserted areas of the northeast border of the huge Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, which stretches over large parts of Alaska and Yukon/British Columbia. After two border crossings we reached again Alaska and the small coastal town Haines.

In the many information boards and visitor centre on the way we also learned a lot from earlier times. Where today “our” connecting paths through the wide landscapes, valleys and transitions are, the indigenous peoples moved many hundreds of years before the arrival of the white settlers and operated mutually an intensive trade with various goods. When the white explorers arrived, the trade was extended to them, which perhaps was not always done in favour of fair conditions.

In Haines and again in the USA there was a lot of seasonal activity and again a lot of activity: the whole leisure industry is fighting in its favour with its offers. Before it gets cooler again and tourists no longer flock to the small town, most of the annual turnover will probably have to be generated. From salmon fishing to helicopter flights, everything can be booked and enjoyed. If a cruise ship moors in addition, the whole centre of the small town is flooded with people.

With the ferry we set over to Skagway in a one-hour trip, where exactly 120 years ago thousands of gold seekers also entered the mainland in the harbour; they were on the search for the fast wealth at the Klondike River and we had wonderful impressions in this landscape of mountains and sea.

When we reached the small town at the end of the long fjord, a heavy rain greeted us and a cold wind blew through the narrow valley. Three huge cruise ships were also anchored at the harbour and the many people in the centre could already be seen from afar; almost like during the gold rush!

But not only the people at the gold rush time were offered things at exorbitant prices, but also nowadays the prices are much higher than usual. We were not willing to pay $50 for a simple place for our jeep, the shower and the internet would have been an extra and also a proud amount.
So we searched the distance and found at the Nourse River, where today the Klondike-Trail starts, a wonderful night place in the middle of the quiet nature.

Before finally leaving Alaska we went back to Skagway, where meanwhile four huge ocean liners were hanging at the harbour walls, into the tourist hustle and bustle. Due to the weather it was also a good alternative to stay in the urban area, because the clouds hung deep in the surrounding mountains and rain fell again and again.

In dense fog we left Alaska and the USA late in the afternoon over the Whitepass and followed the Klondike Highway to Canada (Yukon).
Soon the fog cleared and the sun laughed towards us – welcome to Canada.

Yes, we are very happy and British Columbia will give us some nice moments on the trip to the south.
I am more than sure of that! 🙂


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