Haul Road to Canada: Walking Treeline

The “Haul Road” is what I grew up calling the “Dalton Highway.” It crosses the Brooks Range at Atigun Pass, just beyond Chandalar Shelf.

Right off the road at Chandalar Shelf is a large tributary of the North Fork of the Chandalar River. For a couple decades I have wanted to reach Arctic Village by way of this trib, by going over a pass on a horse trail up Thru Creek to the West Fork of Your Creek, paddling down that to Your Creek, then hiking over to the Wind River, across mountains and up Smoke Creek to the Junjik River, then down the Junjik to Arctic Village.

Well, I left the Haul Road with four 21 year old kids, three of whom had no real experience packrafting, and got them down miles and miles of splashy high water Class II on all three of those rivers (N. Fork Chandalar, W. Fork Your Creek, Junjik, super fun in the big run-off of this year’s June). Instead of continuing to Arctic Village we walked to the Coleen River by way of Water Creek, Flat Rock Creek, East Fork of Chandalar, and Sheenjek. From the east side of the Coleen Basin I headed home and sent the four kids on their way to Joe Creek, with the coordinates of the northernmost spruce tree in Alaska and the most remote place east of the Haul Road that I’d found before the trip.

They had the time of their lives on this route that is a south-side classic laced with Porcupine Caribou Herd trails and good beginner water.