We started the day by visiting some art galleries in Fairbanks. We were interested in seeing the local art, but also wanted to see if we could see some of Ron Perkins’ work – an Alaskan photographer who has prints made by Redipix.
Next we headed to the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum which had been recommended highly by two people. We were not disappointed. It was fantastic. In a huge 2009 building to showcase it, we saw a private collection of over 70 impeccably restored autos, including the first car in the Alaska Territory. Along with the cars are samples of vintage clothing, pictures from the 1890s – 1930s, and videos including a movie taken by a camera affixed to the front of a San Francisco cable car showing the people and cars of the 1890s as they moved about their daily life. We couldn’t help thinking how much our friend Chip Coohill would have enjoyed this collection; it is too bad he didn’t live long enough to see it.
After the museum it was time to start heading north to the Dalton Highway (also known as the “Haul Road”) where we had agreed to meet our friend Mike at Five Mile Camp just a few miles north of the Yukon River crossing (Alaska’s longest river). The gravel highway starts about 60 miles north of Fairbanks. It was originally built to haul supplies in for the building of the Alaska Pipeline but was opened to public access in 1994. The road was built in 6 months in 1974 to haul supplies for the pipeline which took several more years to build. The pipeline carries oil from Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic ocean to Valdez, Alaska in the North Pacific where it is loaded onto tanker ships. As the road heads north, we could see the pipeline most of the time, but the pipeline passes under the road from time to time and is underground for half its length. The scenery is mostly black spruce and birch. Reminds us of the Adirondacks when you gaze out over it from the high points of the road.
For this first 60 miles we found the road to be reasonable but rough. Not a lot of dips or potholes, but a fair amount of washboard. Janet did ask David at one point whether he really wanted to drive over 800 miles of this kind of road. He just smiled.
Five Mile Campground Review: A free BLM campground about ¼ mile off the Dalton Highway at Mile 60. It is no more than a large, fairly level gravel lot with a pit toilet and a couple of picnic tables and fire rings. There is a new high-quality RV dump with fresh water – the last one until Deadhorse. Next to the campground is a restaurant where many truckers stop for a meal. They even have Wi-Fi for a price. BLM has a kiosk at the campground entry with information about the Dalton Highway.