Lonnie and Sue - Traveling North America

2003 Alaska 5 - Travels to Cantwell, Fairbanks, Prudhoe Bay, and North Pole

 My campground rating system is on a scale of 5/5 with the first number being the levelness of the site and the second being the appearance.  A 3/3 would be an average site.

 I have left the prices in for comparison and to give a general idea of what to expect.  Depending on when you read this, factor in inflation.

You can read it through or select specific locations below.

 Travel Log - July 26 to August 7, 2013        [Tab 2013 Alaska 5]

07-26-2013      Fri      Trip Meter:   126.7         

Driving Directions:   Took the Talkeetna Spur back out to AK 3 and then continued north.  At the jct to Cantwell took it into town. 

Days Activities:   Departed campground at 11:45 am.  Heading towards Denali.  Planning to stop at a pull-out just before the park entrance, probably around MP 220. 

It was cloudy all morning and didn’t start to clear until after 2 pm.  By then we were past any possible view of Denali.  The mountain was all socked in with clouds. 

As we were entering Cantwell we saw a sign that said “Bluegrass Music This Weekend”.  Stopped in Cantwell and got the location.  It was an immediate left, then 2 miles.  Is actually in the village of Cantwell.  It is the “2013 Cantrell Bluegrass Festival”.  It starts at 5 pm tonight and will continue Saturday and Sunday.  Tickets are $20.00 per day or $50.00 for the weekend.  We decided to stay here tonight and attend the festival.  Parking is free. 

  • Campsite:   City of Cantwell, Cantwell, AK - 2 nights – No site xx – grass & gravel pad - back-in – no services – not a campground - Rating 5/2 - Got setup at 2:50 pm - Have No Service. 

We went to the festival at 5:00.  They had 6 bands, each playing 50 minute sets.  Sue left after the 5th band and I left about 30 minutes into the last band.  I got home about 10:45 pm.

Our campsite at City of Cantwell, Cantwell, AK.
Some were all bluegrass, some all country, and some were a mixture.  The vocals were lacking on the most part but the overall music was good enough that we decided to stay over another day and attend the festival tomorrow.

Great was to listen to the music.
The town is surrounded with mountains.

07-27-2013     Sat    

Days Activities:   I called Prudhoe Bay Hotel again to see about reservations but they are still booked up for the next 10 days.  Suggested I call back in 2 days in case they have a cancellation. 

I went and purchased tickets for today at the festival. 

While one of the bands were playing an Alaska State Trooper car arrived.  When the trooper got out of the car he was followed by a man with a large video camera.  They were filming the reality show “Alaska State Troopers”.  Finally had 4 cars and 5 officers on the scene.  Saw them question one man but they did not arrest anyone.  Several of them did wander around the grounds.  

The bands started at 12 noon and went until about 2 AM.  There were only a couple of complete bands in the groups.  The majority of the groups had a lead singer and he would pick up musicians that had already played to be his/her backup.  They all seemed to know each other and played great music together.  Once again, the vocals from most of the singers were lacking. 

One bass player played with at least 4 bands, one mandolin player with at least 4, and the only dobro player in the crowd played with 6 groups.  Numerous players played with more than one group. 

However, the last band had 14 members and I only saw one of the group that had been in another group.  They played for over 2 hours.  The rest of the groups did 50 minute sets.  I have posted a photo of each band in the Photo section.

Filming the reality show “Alaska State Troopers".
A beautiful sunset.

07-28-2013      Sun      Trip Meter:   153.4      

Driving Directions:   Back out to AK 3 and continued north.  In Fairbanks took Airport Way to Pioneer Park. 

Days Activities:   Departed campground at 11:30 am.  Headed for Fairbanks. 

Stopped at Denali Park to check on Sue’s camera but it was not there.  Will get her a new one. 

  • Campsite:   Pioneer Park, Fairbanks, AK - 2 nights – No site xx - asphalt parking lot - pull thru – No services but water is available - WiFi (FREE) - City - Cost $15.00 per night - Rating 5/3 - Got setup at 4:10 pm.  Have 4G Service. 

I called Prudhoe Bay Hotel again but still no openings.  Then I called the Aurora Hotel but they didn’t have an opening.  Our last chance was Deadhorse Camp and was able to get a room for Aug 2nd.  It has 2 single beds, community bath, and meals are not furnished.  Cost is $199.00.  The Caribou Artic Inn has closed.

07-29-2013     Mon               

Days Activities:   We did shopping today to get ready for our trip tomorrow.  Got the oil changed in the pickup. 

Drove pickup 51.1 miles.

07-30-2013      Tue      Trip Meter:   83.1         

Fueled Coach:   At Hilltop Truck Stop on Elliot Hwy.  $4.189. 

Fueled Pickup:   At Safeway in Fairbanks, AK.  $3.719.  Had a 20 cent per gallon discount. 

Driving Directions:   Went out to AK 6 “Steese Hwy” and took it north to Fox, AK.  At Fox took AK 2 “Elliot Hwy” to AK 11 “Dalton Hwy”. 

Days Activities:   Filled the fresh water tank.  The water at Pioneer Park is really good.  A lot of people fill their tanks here.  It appears to be a filling station for people that do not have water in their homes.  Went to a Safeway by the park and fueled the pickup. 

Departed campground at 12:35 pm.  Headed toward Prudhoe Bay and will stop in route at a pullout. 

Stopped at Safeway, on the way out of town, and got some summer sausage for our trip to Prudhoe Bay.  Back on the road at 1:05 pm. 

After fueling the motorhome we were finally on the way to Prudhoe Bay at 1:45 pm.   

At MP 33 got out first long view of the pipeline coming down the side of the mountain.  Took pictures through the windshield. 

We had planned to stop on the Elliot Hwy at a pullout for the night.  However, the good ones were too close to Fairbanks, so by the time we got to where we wanted to stop we were at MP 1.1 on the Dalton Hwy. 

At the entrance of the Dalton I reset the trip meter to zero.  Has 82.0 miles on it.  Will use our trip meter to report mileage along the hwy.   

  • Campsite:   Pullout at MP 1.1 on the Dalton Hwy - overnight - gravel pull out – No Services - Rating 3/5 - Got setup at 3:30 pm.  Setup was just put down the jacks and put out the slides.  

Did not unhook the pickup.

Our first long look at the pipeline in route to the Dalton Hwy.
Our campsite at Pullout at MP 1.1 on the Dalton Hwy.

07-31-2013      Wed    

Driving Directions:   Continued north on the Dalton.  

Days Activities:   Covered all of the drawers in the back office in plastic to help keep out the dust. 

Departed campsite at 11:50 am.  Headed to MP 60 on the Dalton Hwy.  

Most of the pictures taken going to Deadhorse will be taken through the windshield.  That is to give a perspective of our view. 

Road report.  Numbers indicate mileage post, starting with Zero at the entrance of the Dalton.  I am using the trip meter in my vehicle so may vary a bit with the Milepost and the actual highway posts. 

0 to 8 – Gravel.  Poor to fair, very dusty.  Traveled 15 to 25 mph on most of it.  Note.  When we came back through it was being graded and was in good condition.   

8 to 18.4 – Gravel.  Work was been done on this section.  It is very hard packed gravel with very little dust.  In good condition.  Some loose gravel and dust on some of the curves.  I was able to drive most of it at 45-50 mph in the motorhome. 

18.4 to 23.5 – Pavement.  Most of it in poor condition, with numerous breaks in the pavement with a lot of it in the process of going back to gravel.  Had to drive very slowly here. 

23.5 to 37 – Gravel.  The first mile was rub board then smoothed out.  Was very good hard packed gravel with very little dust.  Some loose gravel and dust on some of the curves.  At mile 32 started getting a bit rougher but still easy driving.  At 34 it smoothed out again.  Most of this road was as smooth as an asphalt road and better than a lot of asphalt roads I have been on.  Traveled most of it at 45-50 mph. 

37 to 49.5 – Pavement.  Good to very good condition.  Around 45 got a bit wavy for a mile.  Between 48 and 49 there are 4 dips that you have to slow down for.  However, the road crew is out patching so they will probably be repaired within the next few days.  Note.  On return trip the dips had been repaired. 

49.5 to 60.3 – Gravel.  Good hard packed gravel with very little dust to the Yukon River at 56.  Then good gravel with dust to where we stopped for the night at 60.3.  Traveled most of it at 45 mph with very little vibration to the motorhome. 

  • CampsiteFive-Mile, BLM at MP 60, Dalton Highway, AK - overnight – on a flat hill top – no services – no fee.  Rating 5/4.  Got setup at 1:35 pm.  Setup was just put down the jacks and put out the slides.  

We walked down to the Hot Spot Café for dinner.  Had the regular hamburger.  It is a half-pound of meat with all the trimmings on a large bun.   

Did not unhook the pickup.

Yukon River Bridge at MP 56.
Our campsite at Five-Mile, BLM at MP 60, Dalton Highway, AK.

08-01-2013      Thur      Trip Meter:   119.4         

Driving Directions:   Continued north on the Dalton Hwy.  At MP 179.8 got off for the Marion Campground. 

Days Activities:   Departed campground at 10:55 am.  Headed to Marion Campground, 5 miles north of Coldfoot. 

Road report:

60.3 to 93 – Gravel.  Good hard packed gravel with very little dust for the most part.  Able to travel easily at 45 mph.  Around 81 the road got rough for about a mile.  Just slowed down to 35 mph and it was no problem, then it smoothed out again.  At 89, at the bottom of a long hill, there is a sign indicating “Rough Road", and it was for about 1.3 miles.  Had to just creep along in this section, had several really large pot holes.  Then it smoothed out until the pavement at 93. 

93 to 109.6.  Pavement.  The road surface is OK.  All of the pot holes have been patched, but there are a lot of large patches on the road that makes it very rough and bumpy, and frost heaves make it very wavy.  Only able to travel 30 to 35 mph on this section.  At 103 the road smoothed out a little and I was able to go to 45 mpg.     

109.6 to 111.2.  Gravel.  Loose gravel, very dusty, very rough, and was all a long downgrade.  I went down in first gear and still had to use the brakes to keep it under 15 mph.  Anything over that really rattled the motorhome. 

111.2 to 175.  Pavement.  Up to 155 the road surface is OK.  All of the pot holes have been patched, but there are a lot of large patches on the road that makes it very rough and bumpy, and frost heaves make it very wavy.  Only able to travel 30 to 35 mph on this section.  At 155 it smoothed out and was able to travel 40-50 mph.

------ End of Road Report -----

At MP 98 we stopped at the pull out at Finger Mountain.  I took a lot of pictures. 

  • CampsiteMarion Creek Campground, BLM, MP 180, Dalton Highway - 3 nights - site #2 – gravel pad - pull thru at least 100 feet long – no services.  Cost $4.00 per night with Golden Access Passport.  Rating 5/4.  Got setup at 3:40 pm.  Campground is constructed on permafrost ground so all campsites are built up 3 to 6 feet with gravel.  Each site has a table and fire ring



Finger Mountain.


Sue at the Artic Circle.
It's a long long road but well worth the trip.
Our campsite at Marion Creek Campground, BLM, MP 180, Dalton Highway.

08-02-2013      Fri    

Days Activities:   Departed campground at 10:15 am, headed for Deadhorse.  Really overcast today.  Makes my pictures of the mountains look really foggy.  Left the motorhome in the campground and taking the pickup.

Road report:

175 to 196.8.  Pavement, asphalt not chip seal, put down in 2010.  A couple of breaks in the pavement and a few frost heaves but otherwise in great condition.  Note.  On return trip the bad spots had been repaired. 

196.8 to 209.3.  Pavement.  New asphalt, just installed this year.  Will have 3 lifts (layers) when completed.  First 2 lifts are installed to 202.  At 202 had to wait 30 minutes for a pilot car to take us through the construction.  They are putting down the second lift in this section.  The pilot car took us to 207 then we continued to the end of the pavement unaccompanied.  This will change daily. 

209.3 to 259.  Gravel.  Good hard packed gravel with very little loose gravel and dust.  Able to travel easily at 50 plus mph.  Would be easy drive in the motorhome at 45 mph.  Between 224 and 225 there were rough spots so has to slow down.  At 229 started getting loose gravel on the road, with dust.  At 250 all hard packed, no gravel, no dust.  Driving 50 plus mph.  Most of it good for 45 mph in the motorhome. 

259 to 265.  Pavement.  Good condition. 

265 to 338.5.  Gravel.  Poor to fair hard packed gravel with very little loose gravel and dust.  Very rough.  Drove the pickup about 45 mph.  Motorhome speed would have been 25 to 30 mph, tops.  At 267 they are getting ready to replace the bridge so they are building a by-pass.  The construction area is controlled with a traffic light.  In the next mile had to slow down to 35 mph because the road got rougher.  At 270 the road smoothed out and was able to go back to 50 plus mph.  New construction started at 274.  Waited 20 minutes for the pilot car. The construction ended at 286.  We went through at 15 to 25 mph.  Would have been hard pressed to get more than15 mph with the motorhome.  At 289 the road started to smooth out, hard packed gravel, no loose gravel or dust.  Was able to go back to 50 plus mph.  At 321 go rough for 2 miles, then it smoothed out again.  At 328 started getting rough again.  Was able to maintain the speed in the pickup but would have had to slow the motorhome to 35 mph.  From 234.4 to 338.5 it was a mixture of gravel and pavement (chip seal).  It looks like this section was all pavement at one time but has slowly been reduced back to gravel.  Was able to travel at 50 plus mph but would have had to slow down to 40 mph in the motorhome. 

338.5 to 345.5.  Pavement.  Good road all the way. 

345.5 to 357.  Gravel.  Good hard packed gravel with very little loose gravel and dust. Drove at 50 plus mph. 

357 to 362.5.  Pavement.  Good condition.  Could have driven the motorhome 50 plus mph on this section. 

362.5 to 414.  Gravel.  Good hard packed gravel with very little loose gravel and dust.  Could have travelled the motorhome at 50 mph.  At 375 it got really rough.  Had to slow to 40-45 mph.  Would have been really rough on the motorhome.  The road smoothed out at 390.  At 393 got really rough again and it stayed rough all the way to Deadhorse.

------ End of Road Report -----

At MP 267 we passed a bicycle and on the back of it is a large sign that states “Oversized”. 

At MP 268 took a picture of Pump Station No. 4. 

At MP 274 took pictures of a construction camp.  I talked to the driver of the pilot car and he said they were widening and raising the road so that it will weather better through the winter.  He does not know if there are planes to pave it. 

At MP 348 there was a bow hunter stalking a caribou.  We watched about 10 minutes until the caribou moved enough for the hunter to get a shot.  He hit the caribou, it ran up the hill side, then died.  I got pictures. 

Took pictures of Pump Station No. 2. 

  • Stopped at Deadhorse Camp for the night.  It is located 2 miles south of Deadhorse.  Got checked in at 5:00 pm.  Got room 33.  It is an 8’ x 12’ room, with 2 single beds, 2 clothes lockers, and community bath.  Cost $199.00 per night and does not include meals.  There are no locks on the doors. 

It was overcast nearly all day and started to sprinkle as we were leaving the hotel for dinner.  

We went to dinner at the Prudhoe Bay Hotel.  Discovered they had a few rooms available due to cancellations.  Could have gotten in here if we had just driven up and taken a chance.  Then toured Deadhorse and got pictures of some caribou in the camp area. 
They use some big equipment when working on the road.
A bow hunter stalking a Caribou.  He got it.

08-03-2013     Sat    

Fueled Pickup:   At Tesoro in Deadhorse, AK.  $5.509.  Diesel was $5.549.  

Days Activities:   Had breakfast and departed the hotel at 7:15 am.  Went back into Deadhorse and fueled the pickup.  Back on the road south at 8:00 am. 

All pictures taken on the return trip will be from outside the vehicle.  Looks like we had a light sprinkle during the night but it is sunny this morning. 

At 404 took pictures of a lake. 

At 399 took pictures of the Sagavanirktok River running below Franklin Bluffs.  Also a construction camp across the road. 

At 387 – Road sign CKV8S, a side road that goes to the river, we took it.  We could see some musk oxen in the distance out on a rock bar (as versus a sand bar) in the river.  We put the pickup in 4-wheel drive and drove out there, about a half mile.  This is at the base of Franklin Bluffs.  Got to within about 100 feet of the oxen and got some great pictures.  

Saw a caribou doe out by itself but it was too far away for a picture. 

At 368 took pictures of 2 planes on a lake and shots of the opposite side of the road.  

On the tundra there are small ponds of water all alongside the road.  

At 363 we met the guy on the bicycle that had the “Oversize” sign on the back of his bicycle. 

At 355 took pictures looking south. 

At 348.4 stopped on a hill and took pictures of the river.  Then came down the hill a quarter mile and took more pictures of the Sagavanirktok River. 

At 335.2, just above Happy Valley, and took pictures. 

At 334.7 stopped and took pictures of Happy Valley. 

At 274 took some mountain and lake pictures.  Also a construction camp. 

At 271 took a picture of an unusual mountain formation and of the pipeline crossing the Atigun River #2 crossing. 

At 253 took pictures of the Atigun River #1 crossing and the approach to the north side of Atigun Pass. 

Atigun Pass, going south, starts at 247 and ends at 242.  The elevation is around 3,400 to 3,500 feet on each side and rises to 4,700 feet.  The road is not only very steep, there are several sharp curves on both sides of the pass. 

The pipeline is buried next to the road going over the pass.  In fact, it is buried each place it goes over the mountains.  In several of the pictures you can see where it goes into and out of the ground. 

Yesterday we saw 4 of the Artic Ground Squirrels and today we have seen at least 2 dozen.  They look like prairie dogs or chipmunks the way they sat next to the road with their front legs held up under their chin. 

At 237 stopped at a pullout and took pictures of a valley. 

Got home at 3:45 pm. 

Drove pickup 523.0 miles.

There is about 200 miles of no trees.
Musk Oxen in the wild.  We drove up to within a 100 feet of them.
Musk Oxen in the wild.  We drove up to within a 100 feet of them.
Back at the campground.  It was clean when we left for Prudhoe Bay.  

08-04-2013     Sun      Trip Meter:   178.5      

Fueled Coach:   At Yukon River Camp.  Only put in $100.00.  $5.099. 

Days Activities:   Had a light shower last night.  Very light mist when we broke camp.  Departed campground at 10:00 am.   

About 10:30 the sun came out but looks like we are driving in to some bad weather ahead.  In a few minutes we lost the sun and it is overcast.  For the rest of the day the sun would peek out for a few minutes, then disappear.  Had intermittent mist but never very heavy. 

At Yukon River Camp diesel was $5.099 and gasoline was $5.199. 

Because of the weather did not take any pictures today. 

  • Campsite:   Pullout at MP 1.1 on the Dalton Hwy - overnight - gravel pull out – No Services - Rating 3/5 - Got setup at 2:55 pm.  Setup was just put down the jacks and put out the slides. 

The Dalton is 414 miles long.  I estimate that we saw between 250 and 275 miles of the pipeline.  The rest of it is either buried, behind trees, or just out of sight in the mountains. 

Did not unhook the pickup.

08-05-2013      Mon      Trip Meter:   89.3                   

Fueled Coach:   At Hilltop Truck Stop on Elliot Hwy.  $4.189. 

Driving Directions:   At AK 6 “Elliot Hwy”, took it south.  At the jct of AK 2 and AK 6, took AK 2 “Steese Expressway”.  On the east side of Fairbanks AK becomes the “Richardson Hwy”.  Continued on it to the Badger exit and got off.  Went 3 miles west to the campground. 

Days Activities:   Departed campground at 11:00 am.   

  • Campsite:   Riverview RV Park, North Pole, AK -  3 nights - site 113 - gravel pad - pull thru - 50 amp, water, sewer, picnic table, fire ring, WiFi (FREE), cable (FREE) - Good Sam Park - Cost $40.45 per night - Saved $13.49 - Rating 4/4 - Got setup at 3:55 PM.  Have 4G service. 

We got checked in at the campground at 1:15 pm but I went directly to the wash area.  It took me about 2½ hours to wash both the motorhome and the pickup. 

A note about the railroad crossing through Alaska.  They have been the smoothest crossing we have ever traveled over.  Don’t know if it is the Highway Department or the Alaska Railroad that keeps them this good but whoever it is, they are doing a great job. 

We drove into North Pole and went to Pagoda Restaurant for dinner.  It is a Chinese restaurant.  We had enough food for another meal the next day. 

08-06-2013     Tue    

Days Activities:   We stayed in today.

08-07-2013     Wed    

Fueled Pickup:   At Safeway in Fairbanks.  $3.899.

Days Activities:   I went to Crowley Propane and talked to them about my propane problem with the grill.  Was advised to bring it to them and they would check it out.  Will take it in tomorrow morning on the way out of town. 

I went to Arctic RV and purchased a new gauge for the propane tank.  Installed it but it didn’t help with the problem. 

We went out to dinner at Taco King.  Sue thought it was OK but I didn’t like it at all.  Went to the grocery store before heading out for Valdez. 

Drove pickup 69.0 miles.

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