Before the road got really bad

You may already know that the Sag River has been overflowing the Dalton Highway about 20 miles from Prudhoe Bay.  The below video shows what the road looked like about 2 weeks ago.  Jack was riding into Prudhoe with someone else because his truck broke down.  The river runs along the Dalton for a very long ways on the east side of the road.

A lot more to come!

 

Ravens on the Dalton

Jack and I found the most amazing sight back in 2006 when we pulled into Happy Valley along the Dalton Highway.  Happy Valley is a former pipeline camp at about mile 335 that now is a gravel pullout where various storage units are kept.  There’s an airstrip that hunters and Fish & Game use, and Jack has seen mushers there too.

A raven built a nest in a set of moose antlers on the side of a building and 2 young ravens were in it!

This raven nest, with 2 babies in it, is built in a set of moose antlers on the side of a building!

This raven nest, with 2 babies in it, is built in a set of moose antlers on the side of a building!

You can see how much of a mess the raven family has made with guano all over the steps, propane tanks and the side of the building.

Ravens nest in a set of moose antlersWhat a work of art!

Raven young in nest

The “babies” were absolutely quiet and watchful while I snapped photos and even climbed up on a nearby truck to get on the same level as them.  They did not seem traumatized. 🙂

Jack had a close encounter with a very friendly raven a few years ago too.

Raven sitting on Jack's truck hood and peering inside the windshield.

Raven sitting on Jack’s truck hood and peering inside the cab.

Don’t worry, I discussed with Jack how it’s not appropriate to feed wild animals and that it might even be against the law! 🙂

They are amazing creatures.  So smart!

Mod Lift at Alpine

Hard to believe this was 10 years ago, Jack says.  This is a mod lift at the Alpine oil fields (mod is short for modular), back when he was doing heavy haul.  Since it’s been so many years all he had to say about it was that he hauled this prefabricated unit to Alpine from Valdez and the workers there got busy lifting it off his truck.  It took all day actually.  That was one part of heavy haul he doesn’t miss.

 

Donjek River Bridge, follow up

A few months after Jack helped haul bridge beams to the Donjek River Bridge in Canada, he went back to haul the beams from the staging area off the road onto the ice where they were constructing the bridge. (Best viewed if you click on the first one and scroll to the right.)  See captions for more info.

Driving the Dalton

Jack finally took a video of driving down the road.  It seems like a silly thing to do but people have requested more videos and this one shows what most of his job is like, on the good days.  🙂

(If these appear blurry change your resolution settings on the bottom right side of the player.)

 

Happy New Year!!

Alaska Highway Dreams

If only we were on the road again

Driving the Alaska Highway

This is Kluane Lake, Yukon Territory, Canada, when we were coming back from our long 6 week trip to the states in 2012.  Memories!

(Best viewed if you click on one and scroll to the side.)

Lady Moose Wanders Through

A lady moose visited us the other day, wandering through on her search for bigger and better twigs to nibble.  How an animal that size can sustain a pregnancy nibbling twigs, I have no idea.  But you can see that she is big in the belly and really is on a search for the best most tender nutritious twigs.  She makes her rounds daily I suspect, if our dog’s fear of going outside lately is any indication.

Moose and dogs are natural enemies since dog’s ancestors, wolves, are predators of moose.  You would never see our dog trying to take down a moose though (lol).  Somehow over the centuries the barking mechanism has taken over for the “try-to-eat” mechanism I guess.  You can find examples of the moose-dog feud on You Tube.

Pregnant Moose - Fairbanks, Alaska

Female moose with calves can be quite aggressive and believe it or not, violent.  There have been quite a few moose tramplings in Alaska over the years, mostly in Anchorage.  At least one man was killed by a moose protecting her calf in 1995.

So, this one doesn’t have a calf but it’s likely that her hormones have kicked in and she would probably not back down from a challenge.  I stayed up on the deck totally out of her reach.  When a person jogged by with their dog she was very attentive.

Alert Moose

As they ran by, she didn’t take her eyes off of them until they were out of sight.  And her ears were locked straight forward.  I’ve never seen a moose so obviously aware of every movement in its surroundings.

She might be tough, but look at those beautiful eyelashes!

Lady Moose

Lady Moose

Nice beard, too!  🙂

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How does Jack stay warm? Part 2

Another way Jack stays warm has to do with the generator in his truck that enables him to turn off the truck’s engine in the winter and not worry about the cab freezing or the engine not starting again.  In fact, this generator is supposed to run at all times that the truck isn’t and keep the cab at room temperature or close to it.  Unfortunately, reality is not quite that ideal.  The generator sometimes breaks down and at those times Jack is forced to run the truck all night at any temperature below about 40 or 50 degrees (since even though Jack has an inner furnace, even he has a hard time sleeping when it’s below 50 degrees).Generator in Big RIg

When I first learned that trucking companies run big trucks all the time during the winter, or at least used to before they got generators to keep the cab warm even when the truck was not running, I was shocked at the amount of fuel that must be needed on a daily basis throughout the winter.  This is unfortunate, and it’s impressive that Carlile is one of the first trucking companies in Alaska to start using the generators in order to cut down on fuel use.

This 4KW generator runs on diesel which it draws from the truck’s fuel tank.  It powers an electric heater under the bed in the cab and a fan blows heated air into the cab from there.  On top of that, the generator serves another purpose:  to circulate antifreeze through the truck’s engine in cold temperatures, preventing it from getting too cold to start.  It’s a great deal and all big rigs driven up here should have them to cut down on fuel usage.

Generator in a Big Rig

Generator in a Big Rig

How does Jack stay warm out there? Part 1

You know how some people just have an inner furnace that keeps them warm all the time?  That’s Jack.  At 40 or 50 below he’ll bundle up with Carhartt bibs, and a hat, or maybe a face mask.  But 20 below, that’s just normal to him.

A reader, John Webb, asked “I was just wondering when Jack is out on the Dalton swapping cogs how does he keep warm at night sleeping in his truck and why does’nt he ever wear a serious coat/jacket/parka, I feel cold just watching him get out when he’s hitchin up to his next load.”

Jack's Frostbit EarJack might have an inner furnace, but even he can misgauge temperatures when wind is a factor.  A few years ago at 20 above, Jack frostbit his ear.  This was a serious miscalculation on his part, and it shows what even a minor breeze can result in when it’s still above zero.  (You can see the blister on the outer part but if you notice, almost half of the ear is red and swollen.)

So this is serious stuff to miscalculate on and Jack paid the price this time.

He does wear a serious jacket at those colder temperatures but oftentimes if it’s just a quick jump outside to check the load before leaving, his long-sleeved shirt (over a T-shirt) is enough.  You balance the hassle of getting out your coat, which could be buried in the back under your cooler or lunch or logbook, with how much cold you can handle on your short trip out into it.

As for how he stays warm at night in the truck, stay tuned!

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Back at Home in Alaska

Jack and I are at home enjoying normal life again.  We had a wonderful trip coming back, saw more wildlife and beautiful landscapes… gained hours but lost sunlight and warmth.   And now we’re settled in for the winter.

The thousands of photos I took on our trip down south will enable us to revel in our great times for days to come.  We’ll be sharing them with you over the next couple of months.

It was cloudy most of the way through Canada until the last day of our trip when we crossed over into Alaska.  Clear and cold!

Jack bought a trailer and plow in Minnesota.  The truck took a bit of a beating.

…a wonderful trip, but it’s good to see the Alaska Range again!

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