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An Arctic Circle Adventure

One of my best recent adventures in Alaska was a trip north to Fairbanks [1] where my companion and I explored the northern portion of our State. One of the items on our must-do list was a trip north of the Arctic Circle so in Fairbanks we booked the Arctic Circle Fly-Drive Adventure [2], a tour operated by Northern Alaska Tours.

Our adventure started at 5am when we arrived at tour office located at the east ramp of the Fairbanks airport. Once the group was loaded into the van, along with our lunches they prepared and gear, we were on our way out of Fairbanks heading north with Patrick, our guide. About ten miles out of Fairbanks we passed through the community of Fox, a historic as well as active gold mining town. 

Our first stop was the Arctic Circle Trading Post in Joy Alaska. We met the family that lives at and runs the trading post, they are very friendly with many different items to buy, the coffee was a welcome beverage since we started so early in the morning. For those of us who had to make a necessary stop before getting back into the van we used a real Alaskan outhouse. Continuing on our way, we traveled through a northern Tiaga forest so wildlife viewing was limited to a few rabbits running near the road. Patrick our guide was very knowledgeable and narrated while he drove toward the Yukon River. At the Yukon River we stopped for a short break to eat lunch, stroll down to the Yukon River and view the oil pipeline in the distance. After we crossed the Yukon River, the landscape began its transformation from forest to a more alpine tundra setting with soft, spongy land and fewer trees. The trees along the road were short or dwarfed due to permafrost (permanently frozen soil). The road then started to go up some steep inclines, one on Sandy Hill is named the “Roller Coaster” and when the road leveled out we saw Finger Mountain.

The pipeline was going from one side of the road to the other as we headed toward the Arctic Circle. Upon our arrival at the Arctic Circle, each person was welcomed with a handshake and certificate showing they had crossed the Arctic Circle. We celebrated with cake then continued on our drive and observed different geological formations on the tundra; in one area the tundra was black due a wildfire a few years ago. Later we stopped at a pipeline crossing and everyone had their picture taken next to or under the pipeline.

Upon our arrival in Coldfoot we took a short break, and then boarded a twin prop plane for our flight back to Fairbanks. The flight time back to Fairbanks was about 1 1/2 hours, we could see the tundra, pipeline and there just happened to be a wildfire off in the distance, we had a good view of the flames. Landing back at the Fairbanks airport about 5:30pm we were tired but had really enjoyed a once in a lifetime experience of crossing the Arctic Circle.