Sunday, August 8, 2010

Come Along With Us – Alaska Adventure 2010

Aug 1:  Recently our travels might be depicted as up-and-down. The scenery is a pleasure -- some of the roadways weren’t so perfect. Regardless, we’re happy to have taken this route after our latest Fairbanks stop, along the Richardson Highway south and the Tok Cutoff north.  Yes, it sounds like backtracking. But, not really.  These are two sections of Alaska byways we wanted to add to our ‘been there’ list, to complete the major roads of the state.

After two months of wandering Alaska, it’s still difficult to choose which of the awesome views are our favorites. Every time we take a new road, we seem to lengthen the list of possibilities. Maybe you’d like to come along on this road trip and give us your opinions.  I’ll take you with us us via photos mostly…..with less than usual comments.. if I can.  

Here’s the route: You’re taking the Richardson Highway (4) southeast from Fairbanks, about 240 miles,  to the Tok Cutoff (1). Then you’ll go northeast on the Tok Cutoff for 35 miles to our overnight spot at the  Chistochina River.  

So climb in and get comfortable.  We make our way east out of Fairbanks, soon passing by Eielson Air Force Base, the largest aerial range in the country, 60,000 square miles where military flight training happens on F-16s.  We stopped at Delta Junction for our clam chowder lunch that we stocked in at Fred Meyer in Fairbanks. (Highly recommend their deli soups.)  Then Ferd angled us right, taking the Richardson south at the split instead of the Alaska Highway east.

It isn’t long until you’ll start to notice the views of the trans-Alaska pipeline The 800 miles of oil pipeline were completed from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez in 1977. The oil travels at 5.59 miles per hour.  The pumps can move 754,285 barrels a day, 22,000 gallons of oil a minute.snaking along the Richardson, popping in and out, underground and over ground. Why isn’t all of it buried?  Nature made that decision, I guess. In spots where the warm oil would cause the icy soil to thaw and erode, the pipes are above ground.  The pipeline even has an earthquake detection system that checks critical valves and supports after any activity. Here's a look at a stretch of line above ground along the Richardson Highway.  Where the frozen ground is well-drained gravel or solid rock, thawing is no problem, so the pipeline is underground. The vastness of the landscape seems to almost consume the line.


(Pass your cursor over these two photos if you’d like a little more info.)




But… I just remembered.  This is a photo trip, with limited commentary.  So, let’s get back to that.  The following photos are of glacial and river and lake views as we travel southeast on the Richardson Highway……They don’t need any words.The Richarson was Alaska's first highway.  It began as a pack trail in the late 1800s.  This road is known as one of the state's most scenic routes.

View of Gulkana Glacier  in the distance from the shore of Summit Lake. A very nice spot where we took a break, at about 197 miles southeast of Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway.

I don't know the name of this lake but the reflections were so outstanding on this day, it had to make the cut on blog post photos!


When we are about 240 miles from Fairbanks, we make a sharp left (might even be called a u-turn) onto the Tok Cutoff, Highway 1, the northeasterly part of today’s trip.  One part of the journey so far that I didn’t mention is the frost heaves that started providing loop-de-loops on about the last third of the Richardson Highway segment.  Well, the problems continued on the Tok Cutoff, but worse.  Jerry slows down.  You’ll have to help now.  Concentrate on watching for those orange flags stuck into the burm marking the holes, dips and bumps.  This isn’t much fun, but with the thawing of the ground after Alaska’s frigid winter weather, that’s just how it is. I guess I was too busy watching the road to get a good shot today of those heaves.  Later.

When we were ready to settle in for the night, the Chistochina River trailhead offered a spacious, paved parking area well off the highway and the views were exceptional.   With several hours of daylight still available at the 6:00 p.m. hour, we watched the clouds float by and had a restful night.

The Wrangell St. Elias National Park and the Chistochina River border the Tok Cutoff Highway for this 90-mile portion.

Hope you enjoyed the trip.  Talk to you later.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hi: Thanks for your thoughts.