The Great Way Way North

Ever dream about having your “adventure of a lifetime”? About going to a far away land and explore the world?

When I was in high school, I was planning a trip to Niagara Falls with a group of friends. We were supposed to rent a van and drive up to the Falls after graduation.

As you can probably guess, that never happened. Still, the desire to go as far north as I possibly can has never really left me, and a few days ago I found myself longing for that missed adventure once more. This time, my target isn’t Niagara. Instead, it’s simply “as far north as I can possibly drive.”

I went on to Google Maps and started to look for the northernmost cities I could find. I wanted to keep it in the U.S., for the sake of simplicity, I suppose, so Prudhoe Bay and Barrow (both in Alaska) were the first places I looked for. (If anyone can offer good choices in Canada, I’m all ears.) I even went as far as finding an address within those cities (hotels and businesses) and looking for driving directions. Sadly, I couldn’t find any way to get from here to there, at least not driving.

I started exploring the lines in the map which indicated some kind of road, and tried to follow them as far south as I could. Maybe I could eek something out? No luck. I guess I won’t be driving up with my Civic any time soon. Or with an H2, for that matter. I’ve heard of towns where the only way to get in or out is by flying — guess I just found a couple.

Exploring the map further, I saw a couple of parks (outlined in green) in north Canada, including one which I can only surmise is where the North Pole is. I’d love to visit those too. But for now, I think I’m more interested in Barrow, and towns like it, in Canada or the U.S. Not because the parks don’t catch my interest — I’d gladly go in a moment’s notice if given the chance — but because I’d like to know what type of people make their way that far north. Are we talking just Eskimos here, or are there people who were once just curious, like me, who wanted to see what was up there, and found themselves staying for the long haul?

From the maps I’ve seen, I’ve also noticed a large number of oil fields up there, big ones. The first I found in this famous picture, by noticing that relatively large, lit spot in north Alaska. Turns out there’s a big oil field up there. (I can’t find the information on it now, but I’m sure you can Google it if you’re really interested.) I’ve seen indications of more, but I’m not looking for oil fields, I’m looking for —

What am I looking for again? Civilization in the most extreme climate imaginable? An alien environment? Maybe. Or maybe I’m just looking for the adventure of my lifetime. (The trip, not the cities. I’m not sure I can have many adventures here. Then again, I’ve been wrong before about such things. And this looks promising.)

Found something of interest out in Greenland, with the town of Qaanaq. (Likewise, here’s a Google search for information on the town.) Population of 650 people. Kind of hard for me to imagine something that small. Then again, I don’t expect there to be a major thriving metropolis that near to the North Pole.”

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