From earlier this summer.
Things got a little Jeep advertisement-y on top of Atigun Pass…

From earlier this summer.

Things got a little Jeep advertisement-y on top of Atigun Pass…

Koyukuk River, North Fork

Koyukuk River, North Fork

Fall at an arctic truck stop.

Deadhorse, Alaska around 2l30 AM. 

Deadhorse, Alaska around 2l30 AM. 

My friend Kris took this picture of us walking back to Coldfoot after climbing a mountain a couple summers ago. I’m so excited to go back!

My friend Kris took this picture of us walking back to Coldfoot after climbing a mountain a couple summers ago. I’m so excited to go back!

Nikon COOLPIX S3300
The sun at its lowest point on Summer Solstice at Gobbler’s Knob, 40 miles north of the Arctic Circle. 

The sun at its lowest point on Summer Solstice at Gobbler’s Knob, 40 miles north of the Arctic Circle. 

Canon PowerShot S5 IS
Oh Shit Corner - Dalton Highway

Oh Shit Corner - Dalton Highway

So a few days ago…

I saw the King of Jordan riding his motorcycle up the Dalton Highway.

An arctic Summer Solstice.

Taken around 12:30 a.m. at Gobbler’s Knob on Alaska’s Dalton Highway.

I have another day off, crazy! It is super cold in the old visitor center where we are allowed to use the computers for personal use, and again, I’ve forgotten my camera cord. I woke up at 12:57 and remembered I’d promised to bike down to Coldfoot with a friend at 1:00 as she had to work. I leapt out of bed and was dressed and ready to go by 1:01, but alas, I forgot my cord.

I’ve been crazy busy and it is nice to finally be able to settle in a bit. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity which has included frantically packing everything I would need for the summer the night before my departure, a long day of flying and layovers, two days of training in Fairbanks followed by an entire day of shopping for food and other supplies, the long drive up the Dalton to Coldfoot, unpacking, more training, more packing, a trip up to Deadhorse on the Arctic Coast, bear safety training (which was probably 6 hours longer than it needed to be), and firearms training (for bear safety… I am now officially a USFWS designated carrier of a 12-gauge shotgun… Terrifying, I know).  That was a ridiculously long sentence… I am just going to start a new paragraph after that beast.

On the way up to Deadhorse we saw so many animals! Just south of Sukakpak Mountain we saw two grizzlies in the trees very close to the road. They stood up on their hind legs to get a better look at us. We saw what would be the first of many herds of Caribou on Chandalar Shelf. We saw a group of Dall Sheep ewes with lambs in Atigun pass, and several more later on (Dall Sheep are a white version of Bighorn Sheep, native to the Brooks Range). We saw more birds than one could even begin to imagine, growing more and more plentiful as we continued northward. Among the birds we saw were hordes upon hordes of white-fronted geese (I feel white-assed geese would be a more appropriate name as their fronts are actually gray), snow geese, a short eared owl, a snowy owl, some ptarmigan (the state bird of Alaska), and some tundra swans (my favorite of the birds we saw). We also saw an arctic fox who was riling up some nesting birds.

 While all of these things were cool, I really wanted to see muskoxen. We saw one on the way up, but I was driving and he was far away on the otherside of the road. I was beginning to lose hope, but then, driving through the fog shrouded oil fields, we saw them, three sturdy adults fairly close to the road. Some people find them boring, but I really like muskoxen. They had an air of majesty about them as their long skirts rustled in the breeze. Everything they do seems so deliberate. Two of the males began to butt heads while we watched quietly in the calm morning mists. Even this was slow and calculated. Although it was likely just to sort our a minor dominance issue between the two of them and lacked the intensity that would be present in the breeding season, they don’t typically have the highspeed clashes seen in other species like Dall Sheep.

Pictures to come later!

Greetings from the far north!

It is an absolutely glorious day in Coldfoot, Alaska in the land of the midnight sun. Today and yesterday have been my first days off after 12 straight days of traveling, training, provisioning, training, driving the Dalton, and training some more. Yesterday it was cloudy and rained all day, but today is beautiful. I still managed to enjoy myself yesterday despite the weather. I’ve grown to appreciate rainy days in paradise. The mosquitos aren’t out in full force yet, so it’s important to do as much as you can before the hordes arrive.

I haven’t had a chance to post any pictures yet as I have limited access to the internet and I have been crazy busy. I’m obviously at a computer now, but it’s really old and doesn’t have a memory card reader (unless you count a floppy disk drive; it has one of those) and I don’t feel like biking the 6 miles back to my cabin to get the cord.

The cabin I live in is pretty awesome, it’s dry (meaning it doesn’t have water) but it has a nice little kitchen, living area, and a couple bedrooms. It’s constructed of red cedar boards and therefore smells amazing, as you might imagine. I have two solar panels and a generator so I have electricity which is nice. It’s funny how fast that little place has become home.

I am getting hungry and the sunshine is calling my name, but maybe on a rainy day off I will post some pictures, and tell of my adventures on the north slope and the Dalton Highway, how I got my government truck stuck in the mud, and the arctic summertime.

My friend Kris took this picture. I’m in the middle. We’re walking south on the Dalton, back to Coldfoot after climbing Shock Point.

My friend Kris took this picture. I’m in the middle. We’re walking south on the Dalton, back to Coldfoot after climbing Shock Point.

Last summer was the best summer of my life. I spent it working at Coldfoot Camp as a lodging cleaner with some of the best people you’d ever have the privilege of meeting. I am going to try get an internship with the NPS or USFWS through the SCA or volunteer somewhere up there this summer. At first I was thinking somewhere in Southeast Alaska, or Denali but now I’m not sure. I think I fell in love with the arctic last summer. It’s amazing how something can be so fragile but resilient at the same time. The active layer of soil is only about six inches deep because of the permafrost. Even the tallest black spruce trees’ roots go no deeper than a foot. I liked the truckers, sleeping in a three season tent, and freak frosts in July. I love the people I worked with, the smell of the tundra, and the crisp clear of arctic rivers. I loved that there wasn’t any cell phone service and that the internet was unbearably slow. We were all anchored in the moment and engaged in what was going on at that minute, not the conversation going on in our phones. Everyone was so genuine. I miss the bonfires we would have by the river and our mattress stealing shenanigans. I also really miss the Coldfoot breakfast buffet. It was one of the best things ever. I guess one of the things I liked most about the area was how undisturbed it was. If you want to get into Gates of the Arctic or Arctic Refuge, you either have to hike or fly in, as no roads enter there. The Dalton Highway is the only road around. You don’t have to hike more than a mile away from it to be in the middle of nowhere. 

Last summer was the best summer of my life. I spent it working at Coldfoot Camp as a lodging cleaner with some of the best people you’d ever have the privilege of meeting. I am going to try get an internship with the NPS or USFWS through the SCA or volunteer somewhere up there this summer. At first I was thinking somewhere in Southeast Alaska, or Denali but now I’m not sure. I think I fell in love with the arctic last summer. It’s amazing how something can be so fragile but resilient at the same time. The active layer of soil is only about six inches deep because of the permafrost. Even the tallest black spruce trees’ roots go no deeper than a foot. I liked the truckers, sleeping in a three season tent, and freak frosts in July. I love the people I worked with, the smell of the tundra, and the crisp clear of arctic rivers. I loved that there wasn’t any cell phone service and that the internet was unbearably slow. We were all anchored in the moment and engaged in what was going on at that minute, not the conversation going on in our phones. Everyone was so genuine. I miss the bonfires we would have by the river and our mattress stealing shenanigans. I also really miss the Coldfoot breakfast buffet. It was one of the best things ever. I guess one of the things I liked most about the area was how undisturbed it was. If you want to get into Gates of the Arctic or Arctic Refuge, you either have to hike or fly in, as no roads enter there. The Dalton Highway is the only road around. You don’t have to hike more than a mile away from it to be in the middle of nowhere. 

Chandalar Shelf just off the Dalton, looking east.

Chandalar Shelf just off the Dalton, looking east.