The Journey of 3,816 miles begins with a cab ride
Hauling my 55lb bag down 3 flights of stairs to a waiting cab at 6:15 am is a great way to start your morning, right? Well maybe not, but it was the start of this amazing adventure I was so fortunate to have been chosen for. The full day of flights was uneventful – except having to sit in the middle seat of the very last row on my flight to Fairbanks (phew…now I can cross that one of my life list). After a full day in Fairbanks catching up on my PolarTREC assignments and buying bear spray at Fred Meyer, I felt ready to go.
Dalton Highway and the Obligatory Shot
My journey to Toolik began bright and early – you have to start early when the average drive time is 10 hours. The Dalton Highway(known to some of you from the tv show Ice Road Truckers), parallels the Alaskan oil pipeline and runs from just north of Fairbanks to the oil fields in Prudhoe Bay at the Arctic Ocean. It’s about 400 miles long and is largely unpaved. Let’s just say it was a LONG, bumpy ride. The highlights were the photo opportunity at the Arctic Circle and breathtaking views of the Brooks Range.
Upon arriving at Toolik, my researcher, Amanda Koltz and the team’s research assistants Kiki Contreras and Sarah Meierotto were nowhere to be found…evidently they had gone on a quick run after a long day identifying arthropods in the lab. I grabbed dinner (the food here is legendary), went through my orientation and met up with Team Spider. The amazing Kiki had screen printed us some awesome t-shirts to wear to the annual trivia competition. I’m proud to say that Team Spider won the trivia competition, although no photos were taken so as not to embarrass the non-winners.
Hiking the Brooks Range
The next morning, the team decided to head out on a moderate hike. We packed some lunches, hopped in the truck and headed out to our destination. As we approached the small mountain, I started to feel the pit developing in my stomach. Clearly I was out of my league, but I soldiered through and everybody was extremely courteous in slowing down to my speed. Not a lot of hills in Illinois, so the straight up verticals were not exactly something I was used to!
After a full day hike, everyone was tired. Post dinner and sauna, we all retreated to our Weatherports for some well deserved shut-eye. If my first two days are any indication of what the next month is going to be, I can’t wait!