So, this sign breaks one of my self-imposed rules.
When I first started this project, I was adamant that I would only take photos of signs that included the word “welcome”. If it didn’t say welcome, I wasn’t interested. Except in extreme circumstances, I have adhered to this rule. My trip this week to the Arctic Circle can certainly be categorized as an extreme circumstance. The journey to reach it was slow and arduous, traversing the monotonous yet extreme environment that characterizes Interior Alaska.
The Arctic Circle is the parallel of latitude 66° 33′ 44″ north of the equator, and it passes through only eight countries. The only road to cross the Arctic Circle in the U.S. is the Dalton Highway. Originally built in the mid-1970s to service the construction of the Trans-Alaska pipeline, the Dalton Highway is a mostly unpaved road that has been featured on the reality television series Ice Road Truckers.
At mile 115, the Dawson Highway crosses the Arctic Circle in a low-key fashion. There is a pull-off where travelers can take photos next to a sign marking the invisible boundary. In addition to the sign, there are some explanatory placards that describe the summer and winter solstices and an outhouse. That’s it.
Although a relatively boring drive, the Dalton Highway does provide the opportunity to experience one of the most remote locations on earth in relative (I use this term loosely) safety and comfort. The landscape is transformed before your eyes from one of aspens and black spruces to a treeless tundra that protects the delicate permafrost beneath. The Trans-Alaska pipeline snakes above ground for major portions alongside the Dalton Highway, providing a glimpse at this man-made marvel. And crossing the mighty Yukon River – the third-longest river in North America – was the highlight for me.