My destination - Toolik Lake Camp in the county of North Slope - 68'38'' N latitude - 5'5'' N of the Arctic Circle - in the land of the Ice Road Truckers. Like all my far journeys let's begin at the airport, this one is halfway between my airport of departure and airport of arrival in Seattle, Washington, west coast USA.
A little after take off I log on to the in-air Wifi and begin my online food safety course. Manditory to cook at the field camp/station.
Heading out of Washington.
A sea of white peaked mountains and ambient clouds.
3.5 hours later. Landing in Fairbanks, Alaska. Red sky = fire. If northern Alaska is dry this year there will be many fires, including tundra fires. The fires are playing a huge role in the warming of the North.
A night in a hotel then first thing early next morning off to the races. Pretty much my first and final stop in Fairbanks, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where I meet the head chef of Toolik and get reunited with the 1970's Chevy truck that I cooked/slept/lived in in 2009 while field cheffing for the 2009 UAF Geology and Geophysics Field Camp. It sits lonely in the parking lot behind the Geophysics building...
and I'm now a staff member associated with one of the white trailers that are further beyond the parking lot and further into the woods. Welcome to the off-site management trailer T4. I'm moving up in this biz.
Before we depart to Toolik we load up a few trucks with mail and tools.
I love this school.
Let's do this. Driving 350 miles north of Fairbanks, roughly 8 hours on a sometimes-paved ice road.
Several hours later we hit the Yukon river, a river I studied heavily throughout my last year at university. And guess what, the pipeline that I warned could pose a risk to salmon population and native subsistance if damaged (like by earthquakes) was right next us on the bridge. It's neat to see one thing in a book or on a powerpoint, but even better to see it live. Man, the Yukon river is much bigger than what I had expected.
A few miles past the monster river was Hotspot, the coolest ice road trucker pit stop where tourists and pretty much everyone along the Dalton stop at.
The have tanktops...
Air hockey tables...
And crowds of Princess bus tourists.
In the Hotspot driveway is a natural spring that spits out some holy water.
They also have a lush northern Alaskan garden.
A half an hour north of Hotspot is the Arctic Circle boundary.
Then it's just amazing Alaskan landscapes for hours.
Gas station at Coldfoot. The next city, gas station, is a hundred miles north in Deadhorse. If I could name Toolik a true cowboy name I'd call it Bigf*ckenmosquito.
Despite the whole 'coldfoot' idea, I'm wearing flip flops.
Once again, further north. I know I'm saying north a lot, but just wait 4 months and all I'll be saying is south, south, south, south...
Lie. I found a couple more youngins a few yards up.
Heading into the Brooks range.
In the heart of it.
Coming out of it. Notice the trans-Alaskan pipeline next to the highway.
Hey, what's that...
Home sweet home. 40 degrees, strong winds, snow, a frozen lake, brand new kitchen, ptarmigans chirping.
They housed me in a weatherport palace.
My wee weatherport. Don't you try to mess with me Arctic squirrels!
Needs a weatherport makeover asap.
There we go.
Next morning I wake and head to work. Ontop one of the buildings is a giant bird of prey.
The golden eagle.
And I'm now back in a kitchen for many months to come. In 48 hours I've made gumbo, tofu gumbo, chili, split pea and ham soup, plenty of rice, shephard's pie, brie and toasted tempeh roulade, mango and atomic salsa, and the tofu stir fry and baked ziti is all prepped for tomorrow. Our population will peak at 150, we have about 6 cooks, but only 3, including myself, are here right now. We work between 11-16 hours a day, several weeks straight. Our clients are primarily postdoc and grad students (and girls) that are focused on tundra, wildlife and overall physical geography of the area. I am focused on working long hours, producing good food in short notice and running many miles during my one break midway through my day.
I will do my best to keep you folks on the low down, but in a couple weeks we are going to be slammed. Remember, this is only day 2 of my 280 day bipolar cooking gig... 140 days here in the Arctic and 140 days in Antarctica.