Twenty-three hours of daylight is an experience I was having a hard time conveying to the arriving teachers who had also not previously been to Alaska. I found myself full of energy and wanting to go out for a run at 11:00p.m. I ate four full meals on my first AK day and have not slowed down my food consumption since.Sunday evening I found myself in the Anchorage emergency room getting an MRI due to extreme pain that had shown up that afternoon. Apparently age 35 was going to show me what it could do. The Doctor assured me that my spine looked perfect and I that had probably just joined the club of millions who suffer from back pain. Of course there was still the issue of the hip and my inability to sit for long periods of time but that was manageable on the tundra with yoga, stretching, and taking walks. Armed with medication and aided by our team of teachers and researchers, I boarded the plane for Prudhoe Bay.
Prudhoe Bay is exactly as you picture it to be. Every photograph is the same photograph that I took in the hour I was there. Google it and look at the photos that come up – they are the same ones I took, since there is so little to take pictures of. This is a minuscule town, so small that upon landing the pilot of our plane told us to “enjoy our work,” because no one actually lives up here, they just come to work. This is no tourist town but rather a region housing one of the world’s largest oil fields which creates a need for transportation. This is made very clear by the infamous Dalton Highway that leads you from the Arctic Ocean south to Fairbanks (think Ice Road Truckers), and the Alaskan Pipeline that runs alongside it.
It’s a slow 3 hour drive south to the research station on the Dalton, an elevated dirt road which had to be built because the ground is literally a bog of tussocks and water for hundreds of miles. It reminds me of the cranberry bogs in northeastern Vermont, even with similar plant species. Every vehicle on the highway has a CB radio and as they spot an oncoming vehicle, talk to that vehicle telling them what you want them to do. For example, we were told that a 120-foot truck was heading north and that we needed to pull over as far as we could and stop until it was past us. You don’t argue, just do as told and everyone gets along fine.
We arrive at camp shortly after 9:00p.m. in time to microwave dinner leftovers, sit through a 45 minute welcome and orientation, find out which weather port to call home, and witness our 24th hour of light on July 23rd. We are in the northern foothills of the Brooks Range in Alaska at 68° 38′ N, 149° 36′ W, at an elevation 720 m. And it is glorious!