crankwalk
crankwalk Dork
8/8/17 7:55 p.m.

Caveat: I post a lot of Alaska E36 M3. We aren't connected to other states so if I do a trip it's usually international or somewhere here these days. Because I feel like for whatever reason the media likes to shove Alaska down people's throats with 600 fake TV shows, this may be uninteresting to some of you and I get it. Anyway,that's my disclaimer.

I've always wanted to go to Barrow just because it was as far as you could go north in the US. Over the last two days I went there, flew on miles and I was determined to do it all less than $100. This is a place where gas is $9 and a gallon of milk is about the same. It's just that far away from everything.

There is no road in or out of Barrow and it is air and seasonal sea traffic only and the latter is just for shipping cargo.

Barrow is one of the oldest Native settlements on the Alaskan north slope. In addition to the oil infrastructure, the community still supplements a lot of their diet with harvesting roots and whatever they can get from the tundra and whaling/seal hunting.

In the winter, the sun doesn't rise for almost 3 months and the opposite is true in the summer. Being so far above the Arctic Circle, it stays chilly all summer long around mid 40s and then winter is -40s/-50s with a wind chill off the Arctic that would make you weep. In my quest to be cheap and really take it all in, I slept on the beach on the Arctic Ocean with no tent and walked the village all night avoiding the occasional drunk and polar bear off in the distance. I bought the high school's sweatshirt The Whalers and a couple meals at Sam and Lee's Chinese restaurant. The owners were super hospitable and wanted to house me for the night when I told them my cheap ass purposefully didn't have a hotel room.

It's one of the harshest living conditions you can imagine and it shows on everything. Wind beaten shacks, rusty busted everything. BUT, the Arctic Ocean and ancient charm have a real beautiful dichotomy that contradicts itself pretty starkly at times. Friendly, crazy, hardy people live here and it was a pleasure hanging out at the top of the US for a few days.

This should give you an idea:

Welcome sign with the Inupiat language featured. In the native tongue, Barrow's original name is Utqiagvik. (And they spell that like 4 different ways too)

Pups of Barrow:

Me at the whale bone arch:

Off to the camp spot on the beach. 40* and intense fog at 2 AM.

Arctic Ocean:

Homemade palm trees from baleen whale parts:

The blue astroturf field for the kids to play football on. Blue so you can still kind of see in the snow.

Check the tag:

Dumpster art

Some pretty hardcore buggy action. (Thats pretty grassroots IMO):

454 swap from a marine engine in a totally hammered shell? Maybe a someday project for someone.

mndsm
mndsm MegaDork
8/8/17 8:05 p.m.

Super cool. That kind of isolation both intrigues and frightens me.

Dusterbd13
Dusterbd13 UltimaDork
8/8/17 8:09 p.m.

That looks like heaven. I live desolate, isolated places.

Alaska is my someday. Just get lost up there. Or the Yukon.

Please keep sharing. The tv crap ain't what i want to see. (Even if i watched tv).

dculberson
dculberson PowerDork
8/8/17 8:14 p.m.

The baleen bone palm trees are straight up post apocalyptic. Really cool thanks for sharing.

crankwalk
crankwalk Dork
8/8/17 8:20 p.m.
mndsm wrote: Super cool. That kind of isolation both intrigues and frightens me.

That's it exactly. I want to be there to experience it yet at 2am in silence, on the Arctic Ocean seeing polar bears about 1/2 mile away with nothing but some bear spray and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, just makes you feel like prey, because you are.

I didn't check a handgun because I was traveling light and I was planning to be on the move and away from the bear areas. However, though Barrow is a dry city , plenty of the locals drink and drink hard at all hours of the night. It's no darker than sunset so at 2 am so people hang out all night.

Let's just say a drunk individual I passed on the street wanted to fight but then convinced himself I was an undercover cop and so he stumbled away. Once I felt that in town wasn't a good spot to not have a room in the witching hours, the beach was the next best spot. It worked out but it's a really really weird ominous feeling over night. Still better than a $2xx hotel that still sucks.

wlkelley3
wlkelley3 UltraDork
8/8/17 8:34 p.m.

Spent a month WNW of there in the winter once a long time ago. 85 below with wind chill 100 below is dam cold.

Have you gone to see the national forest of Kotzebue yet? They are mighty proud of it and have the one tree protected with a 10'chain link fence.
For those that might not understand, not a lot of trees grow north of the artic circle.

Slippery
Slippery SuperDork
8/8/17 9:02 p.m.

Very cool!

Where did you fly in from? I am assuming its a small plane.

NOT A TA
NOT A TA Dork
8/8/17 9:13 p.m.

Great story & pics! Thanks for sharing it with us. I learned a few things today because of it.

crankwalk
crankwalk Dork
8/8/17 10:15 p.m.
wlkelley3 wrote: Spent a month WNW of there in the winter once a long time ago. 85 below with wind chill 100 below is dam cold. Have you gone to see the national forest of Kotzebue yet? They are mighty proud of it and have the one tree protected with a 10'chain link fence. For those that might not understand, not a lot of trees grow north of the artic circle.

I haven't done Kotzebue yet. I'd like to do Nome at the end of the Iditarod at the finish line one year though. So you were WNW of Barrow? Were you on a boat or an oil rig by chance?

Slippery wrote: Very cool! Where did you fly in from? I am assuming its a small plane.

I actually flew in from Anchorage direct in 2 hours on a 737. I flew out on a smaller jet to Fairbanks then Anchorage. It's not hard to get to, just takes a while. Alaska Airlines and Ravn has a respectable sized operation up there due to the North Slope oil traffic.

wlkelley3
wlkelley3 UltraDork
8/9/17 11:38 a.m.
crankwalk wrote:
wlkelley3 wrote: Spent a month WNW of there in the winter once a long time ago. 85 below with wind chill 100 below is dam cold. Have you gone to see the national forest of Kotzebue yet? They are mighty proud of it and have the one tree protected with a 10'chain link fence. For those that might not understand, not a lot of trees grow north of the artic circle.

I haven't done Kotzebue yet. I'd like to do Nome at the end of the Iditarod at the finish line one year though. So you were WNW of Barrow? Were you on a boat or an oil rig by chance?

Slippery wrote: Very cool! Where did you fly in from? I am assuming its a small plane.

I actually flew in from Anchorage direct in 2 hours on a 737. I flew out on a smaller jet to Fairbanks then Anchorage. It's not hard to get to, just takes a while. Alaska Airlines and Ravn has a respectable sized operation up there due to the North Slope oil traffic.

I'm sorry, East North East. On an island north of Alaska towards the Canada border. We were flying resupply to base camps setup on the icepack. Kinda up where the north pole is. Multi-branch military thing. I was a Chinook helicopter flight engineer in the army stationed at Fairbanks back in the mid-80's.

java230
java230 SuperDork
8/9/17 12:29 p.m.

Very cool, the arctic ocean is on my must see list. I have wanted to drive from Seattle up, in the winter, one day...

Gunchsta
Gunchsta Reader
8/15/17 9:53 a.m.

You are a much braver man than I. Super interesting, thanks for sharing. I love reading about this type of stuff but know myself well enough to stay away- I am not hardy enough.

I don't comprehend how you could have slept in daylight on that cold damp beach with no tent. I don't even actually know if I could grasp the sun not setting.

Bravo sir, Bravo.

crankwalk
crankwalk Dork
8/15/17 10:25 a.m.
Gunchsta wrote: You are a much braver man than I. Super interesting, thanks for sharing. I love reading about this type of stuff but know myself well enough to stay away- I am not hardy enough. I don't comprehend how you could have slept in daylight on that cold damp beach with no tent. I don't even actually know if I could grasp the sun not setting. Bravo sir, Bravo.

The daylight thing i'm used to. Polar bears a couple miles away was what made me have a hard time sleeping.

Gunchsta
Gunchsta Reader
8/15/17 10:37 a.m.

In reply to crankwalk:

Nope, I couldn't do it.

I'm trying to come up with more questions to ask because I want to hear more about this, but I have nothing. This is so far out of my comfort zone I can't even think of what to ask. Was there a specific reason for wanting to do this so cheaply?

crankwalk
crankwalk Dork
8/15/17 2:23 p.m.
Gunchsta wrote: In reply to crankwalk: Nope, I couldn't do it. I'm trying to come up with more questions to ask because I want to hear more about this, but I have nothing. This is so far out of my comfort zone I can't even think of what to ask. Was there a specific reason for wanting to do this so cheaply?

The reason for doing it so cheaply was that I didn't have a good reason for doing this trip (other than fun) so I wanted to minimize cost. We have travelled internationally a ton this year so when I told the wife I'm skipping work for a couple days to go to Barrow, you can justify it more when you say "I'm camping! It'll be cheap!" It's a 1h 45m flight for me from Anchorage so it's a quick up and back.

My cost breakdown was :

$7 Alaska Airlines fee to use miles

$25 for Szechuan chicken chow mein at Sam and Lee's Chinese

$59 for a Barrow Whalers sweatshirt

Not terrible for a couple days in the Arctic.

Gunchsta
Gunchsta Reader
8/15/17 2:47 p.m.

In reply to crankwalk:

Very cool. I can get behind that mentality- sometimes less is more.

It's also kinda crazy that you can go from the warmth of home (I presume- Anchorage) and take a 2 hour flight to what looks like a very barren, cold, post apocalyptic city.

4cylndrfury
4cylndrfury MegaDork
8/15/17 3:52 p.m.
wlkelley3 wrote: Spent a month WNW of there in the winter once a long time ago. 85 below with wind chill 100 below is dam cold. Have you gone to see the national forest of Kotzebue yet? They are mighty proud of it and have the one tree protected with a 10'chain link fence. For those that might not understand, not a lot of trees grow north of the artic circle.

woah...hes not kidding (historical photo)

wlkelley3
wlkelley3 UltraDork
8/15/17 8:48 p.m.
4cylndrfury wrote:
wlkelley3 wrote: Spent a month WNW of there in the winter once a long time ago. 85 below with wind chill 100 below is dam cold. Have you gone to see the national forest of Kotzebue yet? They are mighty proud of it and have the one tree protected with a 10'chain link fence. For those that might not understand, not a lot of trees grow north of the artic circle.

woah...hes not kidding (historical photo)

Wouldn't kid about a national forest.
Even more barren in the winter which is when I saw it. Then sitting on the docks there with beer in my pockets so they wouldn't freeze watching the snowmobile races on the frozen ocean.

Was fun when I was in my 20's. Not so much in my late 50's now.

Woody
Woody MegaDork
8/16/17 3:14 a.m.

I am most surprised that there is a football field up there

Mr. Lee
Mr. Lee UberDork
11/20/17 10:04 a.m.

LOL My wife jokingly applied for a library position up there. She was shocked when they called her for a phone interview, then even more shocked when they made an offer. Even with the pay they were offering to make the move, we decided against it just due to the age of our "kids". (dogs) It was a contract position, that offered pay plus per diem and a living expenses allowance. Looks like it definitely would have been an adventure.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
11/20/17 11:13 a.m.

I used to work up north - working for First Air. I love it, the desolation has the same harsh beauty as the desert. I only spent 30 minutes in Alaska once on a DEW line stop, but I used to fly back and forth across the Canadian Arctic based out of Yellowknife and occasionally Iqualuit. It's a different sort of environment than Alaska because it doesn't have the mountains or the proximity to the ocean.

Thanks for sharing. Man, I miss that country.

crankwalk
crankwalk Dork
11/20/17 10:20 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

I used to work up north - working for First Air. I love it, the desolation has the same harsh beauty as the desert. I only spent 30 minutes in Alaska once on a DEW line stop, but I used to fly back and forth across the Canadian Arctic based out of Yellowknife and occasionally Iqualuit. It's a different sort of environment than Alaska because it doesn't have the mountains or the proximity to the ocean.

Thanks for sharing. Man, I miss that country.

This is why I live in southcentral AK, so I get the mountains AND the ocean. I didn't want to pick. wink

pheo
pheo New Reader
11/21/17 6:40 a.m.

I left Alaska with my family in 1974 as a 2nd grader. The military sent me back in 1989, then drug me, kicking and screaming, back out in 1993. I do miss the wilderness and some of the winter.

The pictures really were cool, so was the trip. Keep up the good work!

PS I was in Anchorage and Seward mostly, but I did make a trip to Fairbanks once.

pinchvalve
pinchvalve MegaDork
11/21/17 8:25 a.m.

Thank you for sharing the photos, really cool to see.  It's  a place I need to visit someday.  

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