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Chasing the Midnight Sun – Dalton Highway Drive to the Arctic Ocean

By Xiao

As we drive north, we constantly find ourselves losing track of time, not because of the time zones, but because of the longer and longer daytime. When we expect sun to set, it is hard to believe the sun is still shining at midnight. It was great, we thought. When it is dark, you do not see much on the road, but now, we get the quieter traffic, and the nice surprise of wildlife from time to time, rabbits, moose, bears, you name it. It was peachy until we realized one problem, we had to fool our bodies into thinking it is dark to get to sleep. I had one week of similar experience when I visited Russia, when I got only two hours of darkness each night. I was having fever for couple of days, so the day light did not help, I was miserable. But I will take the sun even if I get less sleep. When I was in northern Minnesota during winter, our shifts robbed me of sunlight for weeks, getting up in cold darkness and returning in the same cold darkness, I have to say, it was depressing. So we were on our way, chasing the midnight sun on Dalton highway.

The 500 miles of unpaved highway was not fun to drive on. There are amazing sights, following the Alaska pipeline. The intense wave after wave of pink, purple, and blue of the Fireweed, Inidian Potato, and Forget-Me-Not rolled into our sight with the changing landscape as we traveled north. Entering the arctic circle, we reached Deadhorse, the biggest oil field in north America. Pity that there is no public access to the Arctic Ocean. We had to register for the commercial tour for the next day. Slept under the arctic midnight sun, we went on the tour, got the introduction to the operation and life at the oil company town. Finally dipped our toes in the cold Arctic Ocean water and earned ourselves a certificate. I was not satisfied. A 500 mile trip, but we got stopped at the end, something was lacking, to say the least. A bit tired, a bit sunburned, we returned on the same road, to finish the thousand mile chase of the midnight sun.

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