Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Termination Dust

A sight that makes some around here want to cry. This photo was not taken in Fairbanks but around four hundred miles north along the Dalton Highway. And, for those of you who have forgotten what this is, it's snow aka termination dust. We left at 7:00am in a university truck for Toolik Lake Field Station. We stopped for coffee at the Yukon River bridge and at the Arctic Circle turnout since the other two had never been up this road before. We got to Coldfoot at 1:00 for lunch and fuel before heading up and over Atigun Pass, elevation 4739, arriving at Toolik Lake Field Camp around 4:00 or so. There was a lot of snow at the pass but since I was driving, no pictures and absolutely no safe places to pull over. We were really into the clouds so visibility was only a few hundred feet anyway. As we descended, the temperature warmed up but small ponds were already frozen. The road also deteriorated as we went up and over the pass to lots of frozen ruts.

 I am up here to install some instrumentation in support of a UAF research project and needed to get it done before the end of the summer field season. Plus I would never pass up an opportunity to come up here. It is a beautiful trip with vast open spaces. I was last up here around seven years ago to install a VoIP system and get the network up and running. Since then, the camp has grown considerably and it is a wonderful facility to work in. We are having some difficulty already as the fiber optic cable we are working with is heavily armored and very difficult to get into.

We looked hard but didn't spot any wildlife except for a couple of squirrels. This is one of the sections of road north of the Arctic Circle where you can really see the remoteness of this location. From here, the truckstop at Coldfoot is the only place to get fuel and food before you get to Deadhorse. Gas was $5.19/gallon but the food was very reasonably priced with generous portions. I'll try to get some photos of the pass on the way back as some of the views are incredible.

Toolik Lake


  1. Richard,
    Thanks for the great photos. You live in a beautiful but clearly unforgiving environment. We hope to cruise up the coast of Alaska as an extension to our Canada trip in the relatively near future.

  2. Richard:

    gas at $5.19/us gal is cheap for us. We have been over $5.+ for a while now. I filled up with premium on the weekend and it was $5.62/us gal. Just 25 miles south at Pt Roberts it is under $4. /us gal.

    I've never heard the term "termination dust", but sounds much better than snow. One day I would like to drive the Alaska Highway so photos are appreciated.

    Riding the Wet Coast

  3. Termination Dust - seem apprapo for snow. I used to drive in that stuff 9 months out of the year up north. Here in Victoria it sends all the islanders into a freak fest - terrible to be out on the roads when that happens.

    Lovely pictures. I don't know if I could live in that remote of a location, I think I would go a little loopy.

  4. Richard,
    You are considerably more hardy than myself. I would have to be pointed south when the snow starts :)

    $5.19/gal hurts my feelings. It's $3.39/gal here and that has me chapped as it is.

    Alaska is beautiful country. We definately have to visit sometime.

    If the winter gets unbearable, there's a guest room in the Atlanta area you are welcome to!


  5. Geoff James:
    I don't know about the unforgiving part but it is definitely beautiful.

    For here, it is a bit high. In town it is about $4/gallon. I kind of like termination dust as well. I had forgotten all about the term until someone used it up here. After all, it really only applies to the very first snowfall.

    There are some who say anyone who lives in Alaska is a bit loopy especially those in the interior or remote parts of the state. Anchorage is too "big city" for me and is almost feels like another world.

    Alaska sort of grows on you. After a while, the snow and cold doesn't even phase you. It is just a part of how things are and you adjust.

    Thank you all for stopping by and commenting.

  6. Awesome photos Richard. It sure looks beautiful up there.

    I like the name for snow, termination dust. How appropriate.

  7. Dear Richard:

    Some day, I am going to visit places with names like Dead Horse and Cold Foot. To stabnd in frsh snow, before September is out, must be one of the most disheartening feelings. The dogwood trees are turning here in Pennsylvania, and there is a slash of orange on the oak tree at the end of the driveway. This is a bittersweet fall for me, as I am moving, in the aftermath of my third divorce, and heaed back to the community of Lake Placid, NY. The first snowfall could be by Halloween...

    These pictures are hauntingly beautiful.

    Fondest regards,
    Twisted Roads

  8. Jack
    I am truly sorry to hear that things haven't worked out and that you are moving. But I remember reading you saying wonderful things about Lake Placid. The only places I've ever been to in NY have been Ithaca a couple of times and NYC. All work related. Ithaca was wonderful.

    Hopefully, next summer I'll get the opportunity to ride up to Deadhorse. It is another part of Alaska to explore.


  9. Termination Dust seems so annoyingly appropriate.

    The area looks beautiful and I'm happy you had the opportunity to get back up that way.