The Arctic and Me

by seanyoneill

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    (Warning : this is going to sound melodramatic but I’m sensitive so shut up)

     One of the most grueling journeys I have or will ever undertake. It’s remarkable how windburn, sunburn, exhaustion, torrential rain, snow, sub zero temps, freezing fog, unrelenting biting insects  and 500 miles of climb after unforgiving climb (27,000ft) can all make you quickly forget about bears and wolves. Have mercy on the ill prepared, I was not one of them. Thanks to my mosquito suit I only got about 50 bites, there is just no escape. You had me question my sanity and my decision to come here many times.

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Those black dots are Musk Ox

     Prudhoe bay is a fly in/ fly out oil field on the Arctic ocean. It is a desolate barren place with freezing fog and bitterly cold winds, it resembles what I imagine the surface of the moon to be like. But…. there is also incredible beauty here. The vast open expanse of the Arctic tundra is an awesome sight to behold. Atigun pass and the Brooks range are spectacular and awe inspiring. North of the Brooks is Arctic tundra as far as the eye can see and almost magically once over the pass is the beginning of forest. The slow trickle of sparsely growing trees pockmarked here and there quickly flows into a full forest.

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Atigun Pass

     There is a discernible difference in the wildlife from other places that I have been, it must be from the little exposure they have to people. I got to within 15ft of a bear and he didnt seem to know what I was. I saw herds of migrating caribou being stalked by hunters , even got chased by one (not a hunter). I also saw Musk Ox.

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     Once over the Brooks the climbs become more and more arduous. Common tactics such as switchbacks and winding roads around mountains are not employed here, straight up and over. The Dalton “Highway” (mostly gravel/dirt road) was built as the most direct route from Fairbanks to Prudhoe. It’s featured on the TV show Ice Truckers.

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     Trundling down the final descent, with my hands clamped on both brake levers as usual I did not feel as though I had just conquered something, but more a feeling of respect, of thanks, for letting me pass through because you could have shut me down at any time..

I’m in Fairbanks now for a day or two of rest, bike repairs and to get new panniers. The old ones were chewed up on the road. Then on to Whitehorse.