Driving the Alaska Highway with the Colorado Traveling Ducks

Ready to drive the Alaska Highway?   Here, in Delta Junction, Alaska, the Alaska Highway, or Alcan (Alaska Canada Highway) officially ends.

Alaska Canada Highway

But for us, it is just beginning.

Ready to start on Alaska Highway

We bought this blue Jeep from Eider’s dad’s estate near Fairbanks.  Now we are driving it home to Colorado.   Yesterday Eider and I took Soapy and his mom to Santa’s House and then to the Knotty Shop.   This morning our first stop is the Visitor’s Center in Delta Junction.

Welcome Center and gift shop

Those are gold dredge buckets in front of the building, by the flower pots.  This is also a gift shop.   Great wood plaques.

Lots of wood

Outside we saw these giant mosquitos.

Mosquitos.

Again, Alaska has big mosquitos, but thankfully, not this huge.   This is the official start of the Alaska Highway for our trip.

Alaska Highway

Our adventure begins.   Now the highway is paved all the way.   Didn’t used to be paved.   Really hard on tires and windshields then.   We are told there are enough gas stations, but always stop.   The next one might be closed.   Several campgrounds and some motels.  A couple times we quickly stopped as huge Alaskan moose crossed the road.   They were too quick for us to get cameras.  The terrain was hilly with mountains to the south, toward Valdez and the end of the TransAlaskan Pipeline.   Best part was only seeing another vehicle every 15-30 minutes.   So peaceful.  About 200 miles (500 km) from Delta Junction, we reached the Canadian border.   We will enter Canada’s Yukon Territory.

Welcome to Canada’s Yukon Territory

This is the first time for us ducks to visit Canada.   The humans were here before we joined the family.   We are sitting on the Friendship Bench.

Friendship Bench

Americans and Canadians are friends.   We see the International Boundary stake, showing the 20 foot (6 meter) path cut by surveyors from 1904 to 1920 along the 141st meridian.

International boundary

And for those entering Alaska, this sign is a must stop.

Welcome to Alaska

Of course, we had to sit under this sign also.  Isn’t this a beautiful lake, and at the international border.

Love the lake near international boundary

We love these views.   Driving another 10 miles, we stop at the official customs station.   The official was very nice and efficient.   We decided to stop in the first Canadian town.   This is Beaver Creek.   Our Alaska travel planner, The Milepost, says Beaver Creek is the most westerly Canadian community.   This is our motel, 1202 Motor Inn.

Our motel 1202 Motor Inn

Soapy and his mom like the room totally dark for sleeping.   That is hard to do with the long summer days.   There are only a few hours of darkness in the summer.   Mom and I like more windows and some light.   Soapy had a room in the front, with no windows.   Mom and I had a room in the back with windows.

Our room

This is actually a trailer attached to the building.   We were all happy.  Looking across the street, we loved these snow covered mountains.

From front of our hotel

After walking around town, then eating dinner, we slept really well.   Tomorrow we will see more of the Canadian Yukon.

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The Alaska Pipeline with Zeb and Eider Duck

Today Eider Duck wants to show us the famous Alaska Pipeline.   Remember, Eider lived with his dad in North Pole, Alaska, near Fairbanks.   He knows what the tourists wanted to see.   A few miles north of Fairbanks, at Fox, Alaska, we can see and touch the pipeline.   But first, a little about the famous Alaska Pipeline.  The real name is Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS).

Alaska Pipeline Facts

The pipeline was built to transport oil from the Prudhoe Bay oil fields, north of Arctic Circle and near the Arctic Ocean, to the ice free port of Valdez.  This was a very big engineering accomplishment in the 1970’s.

Zeb and Eider on the Alaska Pipeline

While this looks like the pipeline is rather low to the round, it isn’t.   Mom could hardly reach this ledge for us to sit.   This pipeline is 800 miles (1300 km) long.  An average of 1.5 million barrels of oil are transported through the pipeline every day.   It takes 11.9 days to reach Valdez.   The oil travels at 3.7 miles per hour (6 kilometers per hour).   There is a constant need to clean the inside of the pipe.

Pigs in the Pipeline

Items, called pigs, are put in the pipeline at Prudhoe Bay, for cleaning and other maintenance reasons.   Let’s look at the original and the current pigs.

Retired Pig and Current Pig

They have made changes since 1977.  The pipeline is elevated to protect the frozen ground.  Oil from the ground enters the pipeline at 120 degrees F (49C).   The oil cools to 111 degrees (44C) while traveling through the pipeline.    Permanently frozen ground is called permafrost.   If this permafrost thaws, the ground becomes unstable.   This is not good.  The pipe is insulated to keep the ground cold and release the heat into the air.   Also, moose, caribou, and reindeer migrate through much of northern Alaska.   These large animals must be able to walk under the pipeline.   An Alaskan moose is often 6 feet tall.   Sometimes the pipeline is underground.

Pipeline emerging from underground

Here we can see the underground pipe breaking through the earth’s surface and continuing above ground.   When the pipeline is above ground, it has a zig zag pattern.   This zig zag layout allows for movement in the line, caused by heat, weather conditions and earthquakes.   This part of the Alaska Pipeline is south of Delta Junction, about 120 miles from Valdez.

Pipeline  Photo from internet free photos.

From the hill, you can see the zig zag pattern of the pipeline, heading toward the mountains.  Before building the pipeline, a 360 mile road from the Yukon River to Prudhoe Bay, needed to be built.   This road is used by excellent truck drivers, all year, to carry supplies to the people working in Prudhoe Bay.   The frozen area, north of the Arctic Circle, is difficult for construction.   The frigid winter temperatures, ice, wind, and snow, make living and driving conditions very difficult.   We, the Colorado Traveling Ducks and humans are in awe of those that built, maintain and work in these conditions.