Day 113 - Come Fly with Me to the Arctic Circle

Trip Start May 01, 2013
Trip End May 01, 2014

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What I did
Arctic Circle

Flag of United States  , Alaska
Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Day 113 - 8/20/13  Today was the much anticipated flight to the Arctic Circle and a little town called Bettles to explore that area and have lunch at the historic Bettles Lodge.  Well, we woke up to heavy rain and I wasn't thrilled with that.  Nick was not going.  So off to the airfield we went prepared for the worst, and hoping for the best.  After all, so far we have been very lucky to have the rain that we have had not matter all that much, but today was different.  There were 14 of us going in two Piper Navajo aircraft (the kind my dad flew for years).  We did manage to get off the ground around 10 a.m. for our hour flight up to this lodge.  Our pilot was named Bill and he was quite knowledgeable since he'd been in Alaska for 40 years and flying this route and others to Barrow and Deadhorse for many years.  He really made our day!

For the most part the flight up was all instruments since the clouds were thick.  We got up to 11,000 feet just to get above the clouds and once we did it was quite pretty as you will witness.  You will think you were on this flight.  Every now and then the clouds would break and you could see a bit of ground here and there.  As we progressed the cloud cover dissipated and we actually had some great viewings.  We followed the pipeline for quite a few miles as well as the Yukon River and the Ice Highway.  Our destination was probably just short of 200 miles from Fairbanks.

After a very smooth landing on a hard packed gravel runway, we land in front of the Bettles Lodge - WHAT, no scenic view of a river?  No beautiful long porch with rockers looking at the Brooks Range of Mountains?  NO charm?  Where AM I?  You know how you fantasize (ok, romanticize) about a place? (Nick said I was describing Cracker Barrel!!!   Well, this was NOT in my dreams.  It was built in the 50's and it was rather small and not so nice to be quite honest.  I'm sure the hunters who come there could care less, but it was not what was expected.  Mind you the sun has come out, so all is not terribly wrong with the world or the Arctic for that matter.  

We split up the group and half goes in one direction and the others of us in another.  Our first destination was a tour of the town?  Town, what they heck is she talking about town?  There are about 66 people living here in the summer and half of them are smart enough to leave in the winter!!!!  The school had to close because there is only one 10 year old girl living here (poor thing).  They have a post office - lucky them...they have a viewing cottage for when the Northern Lights come (good for them) they have a lake for the float planes to land in (yea).  We see about 15 homes along our tour in various states of disrepair.  AND, the junk that is around is so sad to see.  But, there is no way to get rid of the  old cars, the tires, the crap that people pile up outside their little bungalos.  I'm suggesting one big ass bon fire when the temp heats up to minus 50!!! Who wouldn't think THAT was a great idea???  Pass the marshmallows!

We cross over into the next "town" of Evansville population maybe 6? And all in all if we drove for 7 miles it was a lot.  Some of the Elders from the tribe live there.  The tribe owns all the land and you can build a house, but you can't own the land.   So after our extensive land tour of 30 minutes we come back to the lodge for lunch.  OMG, that was awful!  
Next we switch and we go over to the VERY NICE and LARGE National Park Service building and museum.  That place saved the day!  We had a talk by a lady ranger who lives there full time and has for 6 years???  During the winter there are only two of them that man this place.
She gave us a great overview of the area and how they manage the gazillion acres that the park manages.  The National Park up there is called the Gates of the Arctic and get this - NO roads in, NO trails, NO cell service (for emergency calls) and NO back country passes needed to go in.  NO ONE KNOWS YOU ARE THERE?  So how many people go in they have no idea, and how many come out, no one has any idea???  Ok, so how many are eaten by those large bears?  No one seems to know or even to care...ya, I'm going there!!!  Obviously Bear Grills would love this place, wouldn't he?  Oh yea, they have a heard up there of 100,000 Caribou?!  

We all gathered around 2:30 for our flight back to civilization (actually we more like ran pushing and shoving to make sure we got on).  Bill was our pilot, and he really saved the day.  He was a great guy.  On the way back he flew low so that we could see all kinds of things along the way back.  We saw the pipeline, where the ice highway is in winter (Not the one Ice Truckers use - they use the real road) across frozen rivers, streams, tundra, perm-frost and hard packed snow. We learned that 10 feet of show packs down to 3 feet because there is no water in it.  He also showed us the only bridge to cross the Yukon River (wow), and where the fires had been and where the perm-frost is still burning underground, and the actual site where there is a sign that denotes the "entrance" to the Arctic Circle.  It was a great flight and we really did learn a lot.

Turns our Bill owns the Pump House Restaurant that we had seen the day before on our boat trip. We decided to go there for dinner and he was nice enough to buy the 4 of us a nice bottle of wine. 

All in all, we were all glad to have made the trip that not many get to experience. Oh, and by the way, NO ANIMALS???  Where ARE they hiding????     Enjoy the trip!! 
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kimberish on

Your post made me laugh! Very entertaining!

Pamela on

Great pictures Sandy. I loved Nick's comment about your vision of Cracker Barrel!! haha

Diane on

I do like adventure, but not sure I would have gone up in that plane if it was bad weather. You are brave!

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