Saturday, September 17, 2016

Medley: Dalton Highway

"There is just one hope of repulsing the tyrannical ambition of civilization to conquer every niche on the whole earth. That hope is the organization of spirited people who will fight for the freedom of the wilderness.
In a civilization which requires most lives to be passed amid inordinate dissonance, pressure and intrusion, the chance of retiring now and then to the quietude and privacy of sylvan haunts becomes for some people a psychic necessity.
The preservation of a few samples of undeveloped territory is one of the most clamant issues before us today. Just a few more years of hesitation and the only trace of that wilderness which has exerted such a fundamental influence in molding American character will lie in the musty pages of pioneer books ... To avoid this catastrophe demands immediate action." - Robert (Bob) Marshall, Co-founder, The Wilderness Society 
Posting a veritable smörgåsbord of random notes, snapshots and sketches from a recent road-trip up the haul road. Above are two spectacular panoramas: the one on top is of Atigun Gorge, which is an entry point to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge accessed off the Dalton Highway, and the bottom view was from a feeder stream to nearby Galbraith Lake, also looking over towards the Refuge. If I would have turned around the view would instead be of the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, so it is quite the magnificent vista nomatter where one looks or what direction you face.

Our small group of National Park Service seasonal trainees + accompanying ranger for the Fairbanks Public Lands Information Center (down at the Morris Thompson Center) took a run up the Dalton Highway for a few days early this spring as part of training on the various recreational resources that abound in our neck of the woods (or tundra in this case). After making base camp in a Coldfoot cabin we ventured further up north, through the infamous Atigun Pass. Spring was just a couple weeks behind us in the Interior, and snow still blanketed the sides of the road and greenup was just getting underway.

Early risers: Saxifraga and Black bear emerging from their winter slumber

The Bureau of Land Management's Arctic Interagency Visitor Center is an absolute must-stop for anyone seeking more information about outdoor activity along the pipeline corridor. A couple of the sketches posted here (the Dall sheep + wolverine) were from mounts on display in their exhibit area.

These are some quick sketches drawn while sitting in the passenger seat of the SUV as it bounced along the gravel road and we wound our way through the Brooks Range and emerged at the edge of the Arctic plateau that stretched on and on until the eventual shore of the Arctic Ocean.

Looking back on the experience of viewing a horizon line that was well over half-full of the north face of one single mountain range was certainly illuminating and a powerful vision. Equally important but infinitely more personal was sitting down and watching a pair of Arctic loons through binoculars, as they swam along a river in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, far above the arctic circle no less.

Mount Sukapak is a popular pulloff attraction what with it's distinctive profile: it was cool to finally get to see it in person especially after working it into an earlier commissioned design and having to resort to photo-reference.

True to my reoccurring assignments in drawing classes, I have a penchant for dead hairy animals and will always try to catch a mount wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself. No wait, that sounds really weird. Just like my frequent assignments in the classroom I'll always get few quick sketches of stuffed critters, and the visitor center in Coldfoot had some very nice displays set up. This wolverine made for a good study with pen & ink + wash.

At the crest of Atigun Pass, looking back at the North side of the Brooks, and ahead at the arctic plateau.

These recent snapshots dovetail quite nicely with the collection of other excursions (see more here) I'v collected on my treks about Alaska over the years, and setting foot back on the tundra roused a too-long dormant sense of connection to head for the hills again.

But lest anyone think this road trip was all fun and games, some serious interludes were devoted to channeling raw inspiration from the primeval wilderness...
Occasionally keen-eyed readers will often catch specific locations snuck into compositions: bonus detail in that mountain range in background is based on reference sketch shown earlier.

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