And so we set off for the Arctic Circle where Grand #1 had plans to stand in his boxer shorts for a photo op and lifetime bragging rights as a part of his North American Travel Scholarship!  

As we began our long journey north, the faded sunlight was reminiscent of a dim lamp being shown onto the vast, frozen tundra.  For hours, our large van traveled across the Dalton Highway which began north of Fairbanks and ended at Deadhorse near the Prudhoe Bay Oil Fields and the Arctic Ocean.  The Dalton Highway (a 2-lane gravel road) was once called the North Slope Haul Road as it was built in 1974 as the supply road for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Due to its construction above and below ground, the Pipeline would periodically appear above ground and after a quick stop to get a sense of its massive scale, we continued our trek through a barren landscape as the sun began its descent into darkness.

Five hours into our journey we arrived at the Yukon River Camp for a mid afternoon meal.  Temperatures were hovering around -30 and we were about to enter the only building that we had seen in hours.  The Yukon River, positioned beside the Camp, was frozen solid, covered in a thick blanket of snow, making it impossible to know the line between land and water.  As we entered the Camp we were greeted by a store filled with friendly staff, delicious food, and large bathroom facilities.  I couldn’t help but wonder where the staff lived and when I asked I was told that they lived at the River Camp in a dormitory and periodically rotated for time off.

After a nice rest we returned to the van for the final push to the Arctic Circle, arriving there around 6PM.  We had been traveling for hours and had seen 2-3 gas stations, approximately 12-15 tractor trailer trucks (mostly loaded with oil), and a handful of passenger cars.  It was hours and hours of nothingness and yet, it was spectacular!   

While an imaginary line, you sense when you cross over the latitude of 66°30′ N you are entering into another world of wild beauty.  You literally feel the difference.  And, due to the Earth’s tilt of about 23 1/2° there is one day (around June 21st) when the sun does not set and a day (around December 21) when the sun does not rise making the Arctic Circle unlike any other part of the world.  

While our fellow travelers piled out of the van, Grand #1, rising to a dare from his brothers, asked the driver if he could strip down to his shorts.  Imagine our surprise when he said, “Oh yes!  Trust me, I’ve seen some adults do crazier things.”  So, with permission, Grand #1 stripped to his boxer shorts (including his shoes), placed the Russian fur hat (purchased on a trip to St. Petersburg) on his head, and scurried to the Arctic Circle sign for his photo.  It only took seconds for the blood to begin rushing to the {other} outer? edges of his skin as his body responded to the extreme cold.

But how incredible to be standing at the Arctic Circle with Grand #1! 

Mary Beth I have a passion for creating and experiencing unforgettable moments and sharing those with others. I hope that this story has helped you experience one of those moments.

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