In the spring of 2006 I headed up to Fairbanks Alaska. My intent was to spend the summer, enjoy experiencing all that Alaska had to offer, and then to head to Seattle Washington. However, as the summer was wrapping up I was invited to join a work crew in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska (aka The North Slope) that was supposed to run into December. I jumped at the chance knowing that it would put me inside the Arctic Circle and allow me the opportunity to watch the transition from 24 hours of direct sunlight (in the summer) to 24 hours with NO direct sunlight (in the heart of winter). Not to mention it was a chance to experience a cultural context that would be completely foreign to anything I had experienced before as a kid who was born and raised in Texas with all our extended family in the deep South.
The work crew I joined was tasked with remodeling a “man-camp” that had been sitting desolate for a number of years. Once complete it was going to be hauled out to one of the remote platforms where oil companies were housing workers as they built and manned one of the oil rigs.
I worked up on the North Slope from September to mid December. I experienced 24 hours of daylight when I first arrived and the beautiful and otherworldly experience in December when the sun never breaks the horizon line but instead skirts just below it for nearly 6 hours creating a beautiful pre-dawn light.
It was regularly -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-28 degrees Celsius). But as I always joke, it was a dry cold. Honestly speaking, bundled up in the right gear it was actually pleasant to be working outside in the dry, crisp, cold air. At 3pm it would be dark and the sky full of stars. It was beautiful and awe inspiring. I would take those cold dry nights any day over the wet cold storms that hit Dallas in the winter! Dallas winter storms were far more miserable than what I experienced in Alaska over the winter.
The following pictures were taken during my last days on the North Slope. You can see one section of the man-camp on the truck just before we hauled it out to it’s remote location. And the bearded construction guy is yours truly during one of our brief breaks to warm up, thaw our beards, and grab a snack.
What about you? What adventures have you gone on that stretched your comfort zone but opened up amazing experiences that you’ll remember forever?