To the Arctic Desert
Our Arctic expedition didn’t end at the Arctic Circle. I rode the Aurora Winter Train from Anchorage to Fairbanks, and drove to Coldfood Camp, 10 miles north of the Arctic Circle. We visited Jack in Wiseman, a small Arctic village near the Koyukuk River. Now, it was time to drive into the Brooks Range.
The Books Range is a mountain range in northern Alaska stretching from west to east Alaska to Yukon Territory in Canada. The Atigun Pass is a high mountain pass across the Brooks Range. It is where the Dalton Highway crosses the Continental Divide (at mile marker 244), and is the highest pass in Alaska that is maintained throughout the year.
We started the five-hour day slowly when the sun was still hiding behind the mountains. It was a clear day, without a cloud in the sky. Soon after departure, the sun started shining across the mountainsides. The golden rays, so precious because they are only visible for a few hours in the winter days, are what make the Arctic so charming and mysterious.
There are still several important landmarks, even this far north. As we drove further north, I could see that we were reaching the tree line. And soon after we passed the northern most spruce tree, with a sign and everything. After that, it was mountains covered with snow and frozen rivers. We crossed the Great Continental Divide, the northernmost reaches of the Divide. The Trans-Alaskan Pipeline continued, and we kept on moving.
Our driver Nikolai, my temporary Arctic expedition companion Davidssun, and I talked a lot about life, philosophy, and nature. We all had similar background stories – worked in difficult environments and realized there was something more to life than work. I mean, is there a more perfect place to talk about this? I’ve always been fascinated by deserted areas, such as deserts and glaciers. That’s why I love off-season, and winter travels. There’s something romantic about winter scenery. Surrounded by this great nature, I realized once again, the precious meaning of life.