Alaska Day 13 - Going south via 'North Pole' and a roadhouse
Copper Center Travel Blog› entry 720 of 1090 › view all entries
Time to leave and for heading back south. We had actually started that last night driving back to Fairbanks. The most northern point in Alaska (and the US) for us had been on the Chena Hot Springs Road. Compared to Norway, Europe not even that far north, about 150 km north of Trondheim.
After the short distances of the past day we would have a big travel leg today: 422 km (262 miles) from Fairbanks to Copper Center, almost as southern as Anchorage, but more to the east. We would travel one of Alaska's oldest highways, the Richardson Highway, the 592- km (368 mile) long road from Fairbanks to Valdez. The highway dates back to 1898 when it started as a pack trail to provide access to the Klondike gold mine area.
Although we headed south we passed North Pole a small little village just 20 km outside Fairbanks. For Europeans Santa Claus lives in Finland (Or Greenland) but for Americans Santa lives in North Pole. The village is completely dedicated to this Christmas saint. All the street lanterns look like huge Christmas candy canes, several streets are named after Christmas like items: Santa Claus, Snowman, St Nicholas, etc.
After 144 km (89 mile) we arrived at Big Delta. This place had been an important crossing point of the Tanana River. Nowadays a suspension bridge facilitates the traveler, in the past days it used to be a small ferry. One of the roadhouses, as mentioned above, stood at this place: Rika's Landing Roadhouse.
Her roadhouse still lives, thanks to the Big Delta State Historical Park, which has preserved the roadhouse and its surrounding as a nice open air museum. The roadhouse is open for visitors and decorated as it should have looked in Rika's time.
At 158 km (98 mile), in the village of Delta Junction, the Richardson Highway heads further south and the much younger ALCAN Highway heads east towards Canada. This road was built after the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor (see here) to provide an overland route from Alaska to the 48 lower states.
We just kept going on the Richardson Highway. Many miles of deserted land passed by. Sometimes really breathtaking, sometimes a bit dull. At some places the wind picked up and dust storms hit our car. The Trans Alaska Pipeline basically follows the highway so we often saw the shiny structure looping and twisting its way over and around the neighboring hills. We stopped at pipeline mile 562. A quick calculation shows that the oil that flowed in the pipe when we first saw it at Fox (at mile 450) should be flowing here at the very same time: 800 mile in 11 days -> 73 mile /day -> 109 mile in 1.5 day. 450 + 109 = 559 ≈ 562.
In the afternoon we reached a new "home" for two days: the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge.
More pictures below!