Breakfast at Sourdough Café in Fairbanks then we hooked up and headed north to Fox. We passed the turn to the Steese Hwy and continued north on the Elliott Hwy. We meandered along the undulating hills/mountains, avoiding the bad (some really bad) spots on the road. We stopped a number of times, during one of those stops we visited with two guys and the wife of one of them. They were making transmission repairs to their truck in the roadside pulloff – we have seen major repairs being done by the roadside here in Alaska before. Very nice young folks originally from IA. We stopped at the Arctic Circle Trading Post (MP49) but they were closed. We turned west at the jct with the Haul Road (Dalton Hwy) and made an early stop for the day at a parking/boat launch area at the West Fork Tolovana River Bridge. We are halfway from Fox to Manley Hot Springs.
Made it to Manley (150 miles). The road is not so good. It is almost entirely gravel (not a big deal for us in itself) with lots of holes, some sharp rocks and other issues. There are also stretches of broken and pot-holed chip seal. They are rebuilding one section which is a quagmire at present. I actually used 4 wheel drive. Another section has been done and that is good gravel. Having been out here I’m not sure that I would drive a large (or expensive) RV out here. The owner of the Hot Spring just passed and it has been closed – too bad. The Roadhouse, at present, is only open Thursday-Sunday. I wonder if it will survive? There is a post office and a small store with the usual limited selection of drinks, ice cream and other “necessities” plus regular unleaded at $4.60. Had a nice visit with the Roadhouse owner. We stayed two nights. Did you know that there are 35 different species of mosquitoes in Alaska? We didn’t either. We have met many of them though and are now on a first name basis with some..
We left Wednesday AM. Drove back to MP73 and turned north on the Haul Road. The Haul Road was built to support the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in the early 70s. It has been called one of the world’s most dangerous road and has been featured a number of times on the Ice Road Truckers show. It is basically all about supply trucks. On average there are 160 trucks a day in the summer months and 250/day in winter. We made several stops at points of interest including the Yukon River Camp for gas ($5.50 for reg unl). We stopped at the 5 Mile BLM CG at MP60 for the night. They have potable water and a dump station (the only one for nearly 500 miles between Fox and Deadhorse). And – it’s free! The next day we drove the 120 miles to Marion Creek BLM CG just above Coldfoot (1/2 way to Deadhorse/Arctic Ocean). We had a great dinner and breakfast the next morning at Coldfoot Camp. We stayed at the Camp in 2013 on our way back from Deadhorse to Fairbanks on a van tour. If you are in Coldfoot – do not miss the Artic Interagency Visitor Center there. They have many exhibits and films you can watch plus, of course, lots of info on the northern Alaska national parks and wilderness. Friday night was at 5 Mile again, returning to Fairbanks on Saturday. I don’t think the Haul Road has changed that much since 2013. Some sections are definitely better, others not so much. The paved areas are some of the worst. There were large deep holes, pavement breaks and drops, potholes, washboards, wicked frost heaves, mud, rocks, shoulders disappearing, etc. But – it was fun! Ginger doesn’t think so. We met MANY trucks and saw moose, bear, red fox, silver fox and scores of snowshoe hare – again, no grizz! But, lots of great scenery. We were going to pan the Koyukuk but Ginger didn’t want to feed more mosquitoes.
We are back in Fairbanks for 5-6 days before heading south toward Copper Center for reds (sockeye salmon) fishing. We are planning on catching up with friends, George and Lynn from Maryland (whom we met while heading to Alaska in 2013), while here. We will also take care of some business, stock up, etc.