Alaska Adventure Machine!

Alaska Adventure Machine!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Antarctic Memories

Day 3 dawned overcast and somber, however there was no wind and it was peaceful. Dramatic views unfolded, proving once again that cloudy skies often add more drama to photographs than blue ones.

As I encountered longer and larger rolling hills, the remnants of autumn color were seen in the fireweed. It was only September 11th and the tundra was pretty brown now. A splash of color was welcome.

Finally at the top of one long hill I met my first snowbank! I was pretty excited, as I really am a winter person at heart. I  documented the moment with a self-ie, filled my water bottles and pushed on into more and more frequent signs of winter.

I was now halfway through my day, a lot of hills had been climbed. Finally I crested out just above Toolik Lake and it's research station. Since it was shrouded in the fog below me, I decided to have a bite to eat while still in the sun, before descending. I took this video which I will note is a 180 degree panning shot. There are so many mountains in the background that it is easy to think this is a 360 view. This really is a spectacular area!
I had been anticipating arriving at Toolik Research Station for many months now. I knew of several friends that had worked there and wondered if any might be around? These were folks from my years of Antarctic work. Toolik Station had become a summer nest of employment for those who worked the austral summer in Antarctica. A type of employment migration with the seasons.
Pulling in, I was amazed at how similar it looked to a mini McMurdo Station, Antarctica. A hodge podge of buildings and WeatherHaven tent structures. No rime or reason to it's layout nor state-of-the-art design like the newer South Pole Station or the Kiwi Scott Base. Crappy American frontier sprawl. In the main admin buildings one was greeted by the cafeteria wash area first. Some entrance... I spoke to the dishwasher who knew of several of my friend, but they weren't in camp currently. Then a gal whom I had known 20 years ago rushed in, preoccupied with work. We spoke briefly, wondering what the hell had transpired over the past years to bring us together here in the Arctic; I on a bike and her doing the "same ole shit" but at a different latitude. She had to hurry off and so I pedaled away with sort of a funky mood, befitting the grey skies. I had hoped for a warm cup of coffee and conversation about the good old days. But here everyone was working and I wasn't even a worthy distraction. Into the fog I pedaled, hoping not to get flattened by the few truckers around. Thank God for the high-viz nerdy safety vest I was wearing. Many days it was definitely a lifesaver.
I then came upon a lovely stream flowing across the sledge grasses. I took a break, had some fun photography and reset my mood.

I was now entering the my first valley of the Brooks Range. Exciting glimpses of the peaks around me would appear and disappear in the clouds. I now had some feeling of the scale of the mountains growing around me. The pedaling was easy up this valley, but I sensed that soon I'd really have some serious climbing to do!

I came upon some highway workers drilling some test bore holes around a bridge. They were based out of Chandalar Camp over Atigun Pass. We bullshitted for awhile, each happy to chat to someone new.  I forgot about Toolik and they said Atigun Pass was snowpacked and wondered if I would make it over?

The finally miles were still easy and I played cat and mouse with the leading edge of the storm clouds moving up the valley. It was moving as fast upslope as I was pedaling, the tailwind helping to push me. I sensed a storm was brewing but this had been a good day and Atigun Pass was tomorrow's big goal!

The cloud ceiling quickly lowered as I set up my tent. A feeling of snow was in the air...

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