Fairbanks to Toolik via the Dalton Highway

Starting our day with a “catching-up” meeting over breakfast with USFWS chief Jeff Adams at Sam’s Sourdough Cafe makes for a great bon voyage from Fairbanks.  Fully loaded with field supplies ranging from marine batteries to marshmallows, Cam MacKenzie and I are ready for the long trek up the Dalton Highway to Toolik Field Station on Alaska’s North Slope.  Cam: “Do you realize that you take pictures of the same things every year, as if you’ll never see these places again?”  Yes, Cam.  I realize.  “Click.”  ; )

The big surprise this year:  No snow on the North Slope.  Reasons for traveling to Toolik Field Station early this year included capitalizing on the snow pack to move our fish passage antenna gear from the field station to our river sites via snow machines and sleds.  We haven’t even reached Toolik, and it’s already time to think about possible Plan Bs.

 

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Outside Sam’s Sourdough Cafe, where you can get reindeer sausage with your eggs-to-order and home fries.

 

Setting off from Fairbanks via the Dalton Highway toward Toolik Field Station and Alaska's North Slope.

Dynamic grayling duo, on the Haul Road again.

 

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Closed this early in the season, the Arctic Circle Trading Post in Joy, AK remains one of my favorite stops along the road.  The store was established by the Carlson family homesteaders, and I love seeing relics from their past scattered about the grounds.  Check out “Homestead Kid,” written by one of the Carlson children, to learn more about this family’s experience (http://www.amazon.com/Homestead-Kid-Cherie-Curtis/dp/0971051704).

 

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Yes, damn it!  I take a picture of the Yukon every freakin’ year!  But, in my defense, it’s never quite the same.  This year, strewn with ice chunks yet peacefully calm, the mighty Yukon appears more lake-like than riverine.

 

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“Here’s a new one!  Britta from Munich!  I’ve never take a picture of her before, Cam.  So, there.”  You never know who you’ll meet on the Dalton.  This year we lunched at the Yukon visitor’s center with this wonderfully cheerful, traveler from Germany named Britta.  Gute reisen freundin!

 

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I probably have a couple of pictures of me and Cam (a.k.a. the ermine and the moose) at Finger Mountain.

 

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Looking particularly striking today against the white and blue backdrop, I don’t think I’ve ever taken a photo of the USPS office at Coldfoot before.  ; )

 

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Yup.  Gotta have a picture of Grayling Lake, every single year.

 

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And, a view south while heading through “The Pass” into the Brooks Mountains.

 

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I’ve likely a dozen or more photos of these awesome snow covered mountains.  Who wouldn’t?

 

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But, uh oh, here’s a new one for early May…  No snow on the North Slope!  Where’s the snow pack gone this year?

 

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Snow geese looking particularly conspicuous against a snow-free background.

 

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At 2 a.m., Toolik lake still appears snow covered, but the moating around the edges tells a warmer story.  This lake’s ice is already degrading rapidly.

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