Tors are found in the arctic and sub-arctic landscape in soils that are not permafrost. Thus, tors are seen in the first 100 miles or so of the Dalton Highway but not much north of that. Tors are formed when large deposits of hard rock (basalt or granite) are jacked up year after year, millimeter by millimeter, by the frost-jacking soil process of freeze & thaw. The hard material resists mechanical and chemical weathering when it reaches the surface and becomes prominent features of the landscape.
Atigun Pass is the highest point on the Dalton Highway, and also the north-south Continental Divide. All water north of this point flows to the Arctic Ocean, water south of this point flows into the north Pacific Ocean.
Atigun Pass is a breathtaking highlight of the Brooks Range, the northernmost mountain range in North America.
Alaska Department of Transportation actively maintains the Atigun Pass section of the Dalton Highway for avalanches during the winter. As you drive near Atigun Pass, look for the rocket launchers on the side of the road. ADOT uses these to induce avalanches at appropriate times.
The Yukon River, one of the five biggest rivers in North America, is crossed on the Dalton Highway at Mile 56. It has long been used as a major transportation corridor by natives and since colonization, both in the summer (boat) and winter (dog sled, snow machine).
The small community of Wiseman is a regular, working Alaskan village with a population of 21. A gold mining town originally, it was for many years the home of Robert Marshall, father of the American wilderness movement.
Galbraith Lake is a combined airstrip/gravel mining operation with an old workpad tucked away for campers. There are no designated spots - just pick a spot and camp! The only facility there is an outhouse - there is no running water (though there is plenty of creek and lake water nearby if you have a filtering system or can boil your water). There are no facilities for RV's.
This is an ideal spot for camping - well away from the Dalton Highway and nestled up against the north slope of the Brooks Range. It is also adjacent to the Gates Of The Arctic National Park boundary.
A goal of mine is to visit as many of the US national parks as I can. This one, Gates Of The Arctic, ok so I cheated a little but RACK 'EM! I hiked from the western part of the Galbraith Lake parking area west and south to the park boundary, took a few pictures, then turned around as the weather was getting very hairy and it was about midnight and starting to get dark.
An odd thing that happened was, as soon as I started my hike, a dog came out of nowhere and started following me...I thought it an odd place for there to be a stray dog...this dog obviously wanted an adventure, same as me, and hiked with me on my trek into the park. At my turnaround spot, this tagalong turned with me, sniffing and exploring as usual. As we returned to our starting point, my buddy sprinted when he saw his owner's tents. They had gone to bed (err, to bag) and left out my newfound friend's supper dish. My buddy wolfed his dinner down, then joined me for my short hike back to my truck. Last I saw of him, he was chasing my truck back down the road! It was a strange experience, yet it was great to have some companionship!
Near Galbraith Lake, the hiking was hard - a lot of jumping from tussock to tussock. I finally followed a creekbed into the gradually steepening Brooks Range - the going was rocky but much faster without the less-sure footing of the wetlands.
The Trans-Alaska pipeline system is 800 miles of 48-inch diameter steel pipe, built in only 26 months between 1975 and 1977. Occasionally, the Dalton Highway crosses the pipeline. Signs on the pipeline at these crossings plead for people not to climb on the pipeline!
I decided to turn around at mile 304 rather than press on to Deadhorse. My reasoning was I wanted a whole day to hike into Gates Of The Arctic National Park, and my schedule wouldn't be able to handle an extra 220 miles of travel (plus I had to stop at all the neat sights and take pictures!) and do the hike. I missed seeing the coastal plain ecosystem, home of muskoxen - I still haven't seen one of those.
The Dalton Highway is a learning experience as well as a breathtaking exercise in the beauty of Alaska and the many geographical provinces you can see in a (relatively) short drive. If you have the opportunity, do the drive! Prepare, bring spare tires and bug nets, lunches and drinks, and don't forget your camera!
A beautiful roadside lake - teeming with wildlife. A good stop for wildlife watching and just taking in the natural beauty.
This stunning granite mountain rises up out of nowhere on the side of the Dalton Highway. Elevation 4,459 feet.
Another view of Sukakpak Mountain from the north. Sukakpak is the Athabascan word for "hedgehog"...from this angle, the native Alaskans thought this mountain looked like a hedgehog and named it such.
The picturesque town of Wiseman sits on the Middle Fork Koyukuk River, a glacial-fed, braided river with multiple channels.