The Shelf Road of Colorado

If any of you are very familiar with the great state of Colorado you may have heard of the Shelf Road that runs between the towns of Canon City and Cripple Creek (lots of Cs in that part of the world).  It’s a mountainous dirt road with steep drop offs, hair-raising corners, and not even a hint of a guard rail on the whole 24 miles.

The Shelf Road is actually part of the Gold Belt Byway, a string of scenic roads in Colorado so called because of the gold mining in the area.

The average person wouldn’t drive this road, but my husband is not your average person.  After buying a pick up in Texas and a camper to sit on top of it in Colorado, he chooses to christen our new rig by taking it on the Shelf Road.  Let me just say right now, as the person who sat on the side of the ledge, that it was total insanity.  It may have been enjoyable in a Jeep or something but as it was, our huge lumbering beast met a small truck and I was so busy white-knuckling it that I forgot to take a photo!

Below are photos of the drive, with some captions that you can see if you click on the image and scroll to the right, and below those are some photos of Cripple Creek and the mountaintop mine nearby.

Our reward for completing the harrowing Shelf Road was getting to Cripple Creek, a town that is clearly proud of their mountaintop removal!  Here is a satellite image of the mine and some from the town itself.  Hope you get there someday if you haven’t been already.

 

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Sunrise/sunset, same thing

Call it sunrise or sunset, whatever you want, but the sun has officially shown up in Prudhoe Bay (the photo was taken the 21st of January).  From November 24th to January 17th it doesn’t break the horizon but on the 18th it’s just above the horizon for about an hour.  During those two months it’s not pitch black all day but instead it’s varying degrees of twilight for a couple of hours each day.  On the 19th of January it’s up for an hour and a half, 30 minutes more than the day before, and each day more and more light is gained, though the gain slows down to about 12 minutes a day by the end of January.  So people who live and work up there notice a drastic increase in light over this time.  At the beginning of February the length of day is about 5 hours and by the end of February it’s about 9.5 hours!  At March 21st the length of day is about 12.5 hours and by the 15th of May the sun never sets!  This is all according to the website http://www.timeanddate.com (and corroborated by Jack 😉 ).

 

 

Purposeful avalanches on Atigun Pass

About a week ago the State of Alaska triggered some avalanches on Atigun Pass and then cleared a path through for the trucks.  The first video is a short one taken right after the loader and blower were done and the second one is longer and that’s when Jack was heading back the other direction, toward Prudhoe Bay.  Thanks to the State for being proactive in keeping our truckers safe!

 

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Loads from days past

Here’s a gallery of photos of various loads Jack has hauled or encountered in his days of driving the Dalton.  Click on the first one and scroll to the right.

 

 

Caribou & moose herds

This is what it looks like when caribou cross your path on the Dalton Highway (click on the first one and scroll to the right to see them full size):

And here are three moose next to the Welcome to Fairbanks sign on the Parks Highway, taken the day after the caribou but there was no snow in Fairbanks at that time (10 days ago).  Jack says this is a bull and his harem.  You can barely see the one on the other side of the bushes but Jack says he’s a young bull trying to build a harem.  The moose on the right looks to me like a young moose, possibly a calf of the cow.   All-about-moose.com says about this topic:  “The taiga moose calf will stay within visible proximity whereas with tundra moose calves they will generally avoid the harems the bulls collect. Bulls will tolerate yearlings but for the most part calves avoid the harem group.”  We didn’t even know there was a difference between taiga and tundra moose.

 

Two truckers caught in an avalanche

Two truckers were caught in an avalanche Monday night on the Dalton.  Jack was not involved and neither of the drivers were seriously hurt.  The road is now closed and the State is working on trying to trigger avalanches before they reopen.  We’ve had tons of snow, seems like a record breaking year for snow actually, but for some reason no one made the decision to deal with this before it got to this point.

There is a short dash cam video on the Alaska DOT Facebook page.  And from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

Two tankers in an avalanche - The Jack Jessee Blog

Photo credit: Jonothan James Kasak via the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner website

“One of the trucks that was stuck was a tanker carrying methanol; the other one carried glycol. When the highway reopens, the state Department of Environmental Conservation will evaluate whether there were any spills. The other two trucks were able to proceed with minimal assistance from a Department of Transportation crew, Bailey said.

Atigun Pass is one of a handful of mountain passes where work crews frequently fire Howitzer artillery at snowcovered slopes to trigger avalanches in order to prevent unplanned slides. Avalanche gates were installed on the south side of the pass three years ago to stop vehicles headed into avalanche danger. This was the first time the gate has been used.”

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Even Texas looks like Alaska!

Well at least the top corner of it did on January 7th.  It appears that snow fell on a majority of states in the continental US in January.  These images are from the NASA Earth Observatory website – the one of the southwest was taken quite recently, January 28th.