On the morning of June 20th we left Deadhorse for a two day trip by van back to Fairbanks. We had only been on the road a short while when we saw our first tundra wildlife, an Arctic Fox. This one was just starting to change from its winter white to its darker summer coloring.
Not many more miles down the road we spotted a pair of Gyrfalcon(s?). They are the largest true falcons in the world with wingspans up to 64 inches. They are classed as a threatened species by the IUCN.
Next was the first of many Caribou we would see, both here and in Denali National Park. They seemed to be quite content to graze alongside the Dalton Highway while large noisy trucks passed putting much dust into the air.
Soon we were into the Brooks Range and rising up from the flat coastal plain. We encountered a herd of Dall Sheep, also know as LWD’s (Little White Dots). I can’t believe how they can get around on the steep, rocky mountain sides.
Just when we thought we were out of the terrain they favor, we spotted a pair of Muskox. They were shaggy and unkempt looking and seemed to be shedding great gobs of hair. These animals were wiped out in Alaska in the late 19th century but were reintroduced starting in the 1930’s.
Besides the animals, there were wild flowers everywhere. In some places a plant called Fireweed would cover the hills and was visible from miles away. Here is Jan, sitting in the midst of a field of Lupines.
That night we stayed at The Slate Creek Inn in Coldfoot Alaska. Coldfoot is an interesting place, founded during the gold rush and becoming a ghost town at least twice before the Trans-Alaska Pipeline construction revived it. It’s one of the few stops on the 414-mile Dalton Highway.
Coldfoot was the first place since we left Fairbanks where we were able to buy beer or wine. Deadhorse was essentially dry with warnings that you could be evicted from the hotel if they found you with alcohol .
Thankfully, the Coldfoot Camp Café had a bar. We didn’t even wait to check into our rooms before having a couple of beers there. That was also the place where, before dinner, we met “The Mad Woman of Alberta” but I’m going to save that story for a separate post about some of the unusual people we met on this trip.