Alaska is one intimidatingly enormous, beautiful and adventure-filled state. It’s one of those places that people visit and wish never to leave. It’s a nature lover’s paradise, an outdoorsman’s oasis, a photographer’s dream and for road-trippers like us, it’s a marvel. Trust us, we are in love with this state and how! That’s why we are back here again, with a new group of like-minded travellers, to drive all the way on the iconic Dalton Highway crossing the Arctic Circle to reach Deadhorse.
Our Alaska – The Deadhorse Drive 2017 begun with a welcome dinner hosted for the group by Visit Anchorage, the local tourism authority of Alaska. At the dinner discussion, everyone discovered that we had three doctors in the group which made the group feel safe and more confident about driving in the remote terrains far away from civilization.
Next day, we were introduced to our Jeep Cherokees, a power house vehicle that we would be driving for the next 2 weeks. After quick orientation and briefing the convoy about the driving guidelines and safety, we all were excited to begin our Alaskan road trip.With hands on the steering wheels, we were on our way to Denali National Park.
Located approx. 240 miles north of Anchorage, Denali National Park encompasses more than 6 million acres of breath-taking wilderness! We enjoyed awe-inspiring views of Mount Denali, the highest mountain in North America. During our 8 hours bus journey of Denali National Park, we spotter many grizzly bears, caribou, moose and more roaming freely.
The next day we drove from Denali to Fairbanks where we boarded an authentic Alaskan sternwheeler boat for the first time with the group and enjoyed a fully narrated three-and-a-half-hour long tour. There were many highlights of this cruise. From watching a bush pilot take off and land from a riverbank landing strip right in front of our eyes, to witnessing a sled-dog demonstration and a guided tour through a replica of an Athabascan Indian Village where we learned about native Alaskan village life in depth like how they store food, how they survived winters, how they made coats and more, this was one of the best boat tours that we have ever been on. After the cruise, we enjoyed a relaxed dinner at Alaska Salmon Bake which offered an All-You-Care-To-Eat menu comprising of great seafood sitting in the sprawling gardens of Pioneer Park in Fairbanks.
The most challenging part of our road trip began the day we started driving on the haul road aka the iconic Dalton Highway to reach the remote town of Coldfoot. It was the perfect time to witness the stunning fall foliage, making the beauty of nature come alive. We even got to interreact with truckers who stopped en-route on the haul road. Coldfoot definitely turned out to be lucky for us, as we witnessed the Northern Lights, also known as “Aurora Borealis”. We all know no one can guarantee that you would be able to witness these mesmeric lights, but we got lucky to see this celestial disco in its full glory.
Next day, while we were on our way to Deadhorse, we crossed the highest pass in Alaska, Atigun Pass located at an elevation of 4,739 feet above the sea level. It was completely covered in snow, making the drive even more challenging and exciting. As we proceeded on this road, the only company we had was the Trans Alaskan pipeline that was running in parallel to the road. For 240 miles, there were absolutely no services… no gas station, cafes or even medical assistance. Once we reached Deadhorse, which marks the end of the Dalton Highway, everyone was beaming with joy as they successfully completed the drive that most only dream of. For us, it was a proud moment as we completed this drive for the third time and seeing the smiles on everyone’s face was the biggest reward for us.
The following morning we left for a guided tour of Prudhoe Bay Oil fields where we all got a chance to dip our feet in the ice-cold waters of the Arctic Ocean.We were informed that none of the workers actually live there. Workers generally work on 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off schedule. Life is very tough in this region. After the tour, we started our drive back crossing all major landmarks once again, and enjoying the stunning scenery. Once we reached Fairbanks, we dropped our vehicles to board the iconic Alaska Railroad.
Bidding bye to our Jeep Cherokees after driving them for close to two weeks was hard, but that was soon over powered by the excitement of boarding a train; the bustle, the sound, the anticipation of what is to come kept us hooked. The Alaska Railroad is one of a kind with windowed dome that gave the best possible views of the incredible countryside of Alaska. We enjoyed this time not just to enjoy the outside view, but to enjoy drinks, act out Bollywood scenes and dialogues, sing songs and even catching up on sleep.
On the last day, we enjoyed an Indian dinner with the group at Anchorage which was followed by certificate distribution to all participants on the incredible feat that everyone had achieved. We all started off as strangers, and ended up as life long friends. Maybe that’s what travel does to you… maybe that’s what experiencing a thousand million new things together does to you… It makes you connect with people in a way that’s hard to define in words. With silent tears, tighter hugs and million memories we bid goodbye to each other with promises of exploring new countries and continents together in future.