Monday, June 23, 2014

Atigun Pass, June 10th 2014

From the time we got up this morning, our thoughts were on one thing: Atigun Pass.
Tam being a sheep
It's the highest point on the Dalton Highway, at over 4,000 feet, and it marks the official entrance into the mountains.  I was a little worried about it; I had seen pictures of snowstorms on the pass in July.  The "Snow Removal Equipment Ahead" signs weren't encouraging, nor were all the trucks we passed coming from the pass with their windshield wipers on.  But we kept on moving anyway through a rolling valley, prepared to start going up at any time.  That valley eventually ended, and we saw our road ahead going up and a sign announcing the pass.  It didn't look so bad, but it turned out to be pretty steep and sustained, maybe 12-14% grade on a muddy gravel road for a few miles.  So it took us awhile to get up, but upon arrival at the top we agreed that, for all the hype, it wasn't so bad.  We even saw a group of Dall Sheep on the way up!
Me at the top of the pass

It's like a picture. Seriously.
We then came down out of the pass into an incredibly picturesque valley.  Snowy mountains on either side framed the braided river alongside which we rode.

Tam biking through the mountains on that amazing road
Spruce trees now lined the road as well, welcome friends on our journey.  Interestingly, the sign marking the farthest north spruce ("please do not cut"), stands maybe 50 feet south of the farthest north tree.  Global warming, or bad sign placement?  I don't know.  With the trees came mosquitoes, hordes of them, but we barely noticed because the road was paved for twenty miles or so!  A nice surprise.  14 miles to Coldfoot tomorrow, where packages of food should await.
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