Travel Route: Fairbanks – Delta Junction – Chitina

The Uniqueness of Fairbanks: A Gateway to the North

I arrived in Fairbanks, anticipating a small mining town. Contrary to my expectations, I discovered that Fairbanks is much more than a mining town. It is a thriving city of over 30,000 people, a transportation and tourism center with a massive military presence. It began as a gold-mining town in 1901, but the constructions of the Alcan Road during WWII and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in 1973-77 propelled its status into a hub city for rural Alaskans. In addition, Fairbanks’ location, 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle, and the vast wilderness surrounding it, made it an attractive destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

It is an uncommon experience for someone living in Los Angeles to see the sunset at 12:47 am, only to appear again two hours later. And despite it being the middle of the night, the two hours of darkness were not dark at all but more akin to the light of twilight. This phenomenon is integral to Fairbanks’ life cycle, being so close to the North Pole.

In addition, Fairbanks is one of the best spots to view the Aurora Borealis. Websites, like the University of Alaska’s Geophysical Institute, provide detailed predictions of when the Northern Lights can be seen, making it easier for visitors to plan their trip accordingly. I read that it is a euphoric and spiritual experience to watch.

The ALCAN Road: A Journey Through Untamed Nature

The ALCAN Road (Alaska-Canadian Highway) was constructed in 1942 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to connect the contiguous United States to Alaska across Canada. Its construction, which involved more than 10,000 troops, was finished in a record-breaking amount of time—less than a year. The drive from Fairbanks and Delta Junction is part of the historic ALCAN Road. The primary military justification for the construction was the defense and re-supply of the skyway to Alaska and Siberia. Russian pilots picked up over 7000 aircraft in Fairbanks and flew them across Siberia to the Russian front. The airplanes helped the soviets withstand the full force of the German Army until the Allies could open a Second Front with D-Day Invasion at Normandy in 1944.

The Trans-Alaska pipeline snaked through the vast expanse of the wilderness like a silver ribbon, cutting through the crisp air. The morning was gray and misty, with occasional patches of sunshine breaking through the clouds. Cars are rarely seen, and the human outposts can be counted on one hand. It was a scene of pure and untamed nature. The green of the grass and trees was made all the more vivid by the lack of buildings and other human structures.