Complaining won’t change a gosh-darn thing

Peru Lake Titicaca

We cycled through the high Peruvian Andes in the middle of the worst winter on record.

We were cycling in southern Peru on the shores of Lake Titicaca at about 12,000 feet in the Andes. It was smack dab in the middle of the coldest winter on record and I was bundled up with wool tights, wool sweater, wool hat and gloves. My face, the only part of body not covered against the frigid wind blowing over the waters of Lake Titicaca, was glowing red in protest.

I was pedaling my heavily loaded bicycle toward Bolivia when I noticed my knees lifting just a tad bit higher than they should have. “That’s odd,” I thought as I climbed off my bike to check the clamp that held my seat at the proper height.

In that moment I learned to never underestimate the importance of the little things.

A seat post clamp is a little thing. It’s a tiny ring that, as I found out when it fell off my bike into my hand, is very important.

Peruvian village in high Andes

Small villages in Peru are picturesque, but with very limited services.

For the next ten miles into town I pedaled with my seat all the way down. ALL the way down and, with each pedal stroke, my knees hit my chin.

My automatic reaction was to complain. Isn’t that what we all do in moments like that? We bitch, moan, and complain as if that is going to change something. As I cycled into town with my seat six inches too low, I remembered the words of my son. “Complaining isn’t going to change anything, Mom.”

It was a few months earlier that we had arrived into Trujillo, Peru’s 2nd largest city in the northern part of the country. For three weeks we had struggled to get there. We had endured high equatorial temperatures as we cycled through the stark, barren coastal desert. Mother Nature sent every single one of her wind warriors to greet us.

Many tons of sand blow across that desert highway every day, and every single grain of it found our legs. For the record, blowing sand feels like BBs.

cycling the peruvian desert

The Peruvian desert, while beautiful in its own way, is very stark and barren. And windy.

It had been a horrible three weeks. All four of us got sick one day, and the bugs were atrocious. Hotels were dismal when we could find them, our tent was buried in sand when we couldn’t.

By the time we reached Trujillo, I was done. I had had it with Peru.

Peru was, in my mind, a terrible horrible no good very bad country. And I let that be known. Loudly.

I complained about the desert. I complained about the wind. As my mind continued its downward spiral, I complained about the people and hotels and food. There was nothing – absolutely nothing – positive about Peru.

“You won’t change anything by complaining, Mom,” my 12-year-old son said as we walked through the city one day. “Complaining won’t change anything.”

That stopped me in my tracks.

“All you can do is keep going and things will get better,” he continued.

Peru push bikes through sand

Pushing bikes through sand is hard work.

Why don’t we adults have the wisdom of kids?

He was right, of course.  Complaining wouldn’t change a gosh-darn thing. All I could do was keep going and things would turn around.

The desert wasn’t any less bleak, or the wind was less severe. Hotels were still dismal and food was inedible. What I can say is that when I stopped complaining, they somehow didn’t seem quite so bad.

As I pedaled into town with my knees banging on my chin months later, I thought about Daryl’s words. “Complaining won’t change anything, Mom.”

All I could do was carry on and things would get better. He was right. Complaining wouldn’t change a gosh-darn thing.

Cycling in the Peruvian Andes

This post is part of a collaborative effort from families living and traveling around the world about lessons we’ve learned from travel. Check out these other posts as well:

Bohemian Travelers: Travel Lessons: Can You Embrace the Unknown

The Nomadic Family: I Know Nothing (and 99 Other Things The Road Has Taught Me)

Pearce On Earth: 5 Life Lessons Learned from Traveling

Living Outside of the Box – 6 Life Lessons From the Road

A King’s Life:  Two things I know for sure

Flashpacker Family – Lessons from the road of life

Family Travel Bucket List – 3 Things We’ve Learned While Living Outside of the USA

RambleCrunch – 15 lessons I’ve learned traveling the world

Grow in Grace Life -  By Any Road..Lessons from the Journey

Our Travel Lifestyle – Travel: Teaching us about ourselves

Travel with Bender – You won’t believe what we have learnt!

Life Changing Year – Life Lessons From The Road – A Little Bit Of Planning Goes A Loooong Way!

 

 

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Sea Turtles

Sea turtles are amazing animals. In this report, we’ll talk about the amount of eggs they lay, how they survive all of the dangers, and how many species there are.

Common varieties of sea turtles

sea turtle

There are many species of sea turtles.

The Leatherback is the biggest sea turtle in the world. It can grow to be over 6 feet long and get up to 1,400 pounds! The Leatherback doesn’t have a hard shell, but it has a rubbery skin to protect it.

The Loggerhead sea turtle is the most commonly seen in Florida. Over 50,000 nests are found yearly there. The Loggerhead got its name for its large head.

The Kemp Ridley sea turtle is the most endangered sea turtle in the world. They are the smallest of the sea turtles.

The Olive Ridley sea turtle grows up to 2 to 2.5 feet and they come to Costa Rica to lay their eggs.

Sea turtle eggs

A female sea turtle walks up on the beach, finds a place that looks safe and digs a body pit with her front flippers. Then she digs an egg hole with her rear flippers in the body pit. After all that, she starts laying her eggs. She can lay up to 200 eggs in one “clutch”. A clutch is the name for a group of turtle eggs.

Then she covers the hole. There are three reasons why she covers the eggs. One, to keep them safe from predators. Two, to keep them warm (if it gets below 55 degrees Fahrenheit they will die). And three, to keep them moist.

In the egg they face the danger of humans digging them up and eating them, but they also have dangers when they hatch after up to 50 days in the egg. Once they hatch, they start a dangerous walk to the ocean. On the way to the water, birds will try to eat them, and in the ocean sharks and other predators will try and eat them. Overall about 3% will survive the trip.

Sea turtles are fascinating to watch.

sea turtle

Sea turtles leave the water to lay their eggs in the sand.

sea turtle

They dig a hole above the high tide line.

sea turtle

A Green Turtle

sea turtle

A Green Turtle comes up for air.

sea turtle

Turtles are very graceful in the water.

by Davy & Daryl

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Leafcutter Ants

Leafcutter ants

Leafcutter ants descending from a tree, each with a piece of a leaf.

Once I was walking through a forest and came across an ant trail. There were thousands of tiny ants carrying huge pieces of leaves – all following one path through the forest. Leaf cutter ants are only found in the warmer parts of the Americas so I had never seen them before.

Leafcutter Ant Nests

Ant nests are huge! They can get up to 30 feet wide and 20 feet deep. They have many entrances, sometimes hundreds of yards apart. They are maze-like with many different rooms. One of the types of rooms are the rooms where they put their leaves. Those rooms can be football sized. There can be over 300 of these rooms in one nest.

Food for Leafcutter Ants

Ants don’t actually eat the leaves; they put them in the leaf rooms I explained earlier. They mix it with poop and fungus spores. The fungus will grow and the ants eat the fungus. The fungus grown is only able to grow in these rooms. The ants spread out their food to prevent disaster if the leaves are poisoned or are harmful to the fungus. The ants eat up to 0.2 of the forest around them. However they spread out the trees they take leaves from which is probably why they have so many entrances.

The Ants

The ant colony is basically divided in three parts.

  • The small workers are the ones who go on top of the leaves to check for any impurities, like fly eggs.
  • The big workers, who cut off the leaves and bring them back. They can carry 10-20 times their own weight.
  • The soldiers, who guard the nest and the workers.

Their mandibles are plenty big and strong enough to cut up human skin. To see one, stomp on a nest and they will come pouring out. There is also the queen but she isn’t a category. She starts out her life with wings which she uses for mating. After mating she goes to a colony, loses her wings, and starts laying her eggs. She will spend the rest of her life laying eggs.

Leafcutter ants

Leafcutter ants can carry up to 20 times their own weight!

Leafcutter ants

You can see the trail of ants from a long ways away.

Leafcutter ants

If something blocks their path, the ants scramble around trying to figure out a way around.

Leafcutter ants

Ants going one direction carry leaves. Those going the other way are empty handed.

by Daryl E. Vogel

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Types of lava flows

Depending on the type of lava flow, the resulting rocks look very different. This was a pahoehoe flow.

A lava flow is caused by a volcanic eruption. The lava can flow down the volcano at speeds ranging from 1/24 to 50 meters an hour. They can be 1,300 degrees fahrenheit or more. They are very destructive.

The theory on how volcanoes erupt

The theory is that pressure and other factors in the gas cause some upward pressure. Magma is formed when the earth’s upper crust melts (for some bizarre reason it’s magma under the earth and lava above). The magma falls down with gravity and is pushed up with the pressure of the gases. When the pressure gets high enough the magma shoots out of the volcano turning it into lava.

Pyroclastic Eruptions

Pyroclastic eruptions are formed when water and other gases get dissolved into the magma. The magma rises and the water separates. When the ratio of the gases is more in the magma it disintegrates into a combination of mostly rocks and a little bit of lava, and the volcano erupts explosively.

Pahoehoe Lava

Pahoehoe lava flows very smooth and thin. They are about 1-2 meters thick and go up to 50 meters an hour. They are formed by liquid basalt. They move in “tongues” and can be identified by their smooth glassy skin. When the Pahoehoe cools it has a smooth surface

Sheet lava

Sheet lava is usually 10 to 30 meters thick. They are very fast. They also tend to fill in low lying areas or pool in them. Almost always the top part of the lava cools first. The interior can stay lava for a long time. Sometimes, the liquid lava trapped beneath the hardened crust continues to flow, leaving an empty tube. The top crust can eventually break open, exposing the tube.

A’a flows

A’a flows can come out of the volcano up to 50km per hour. They can push down houses, walls, and forests. When it cools it is sharp and broken into many pieces called clinker. It can be dangerous to walk over because it’s so sharp. The clinkers can range from 1cm to 1m in size.

Block lavas

Block lava is thicker and slower than a’a lava. They move at 1 to 5 meters a day. When they solidify they often make cube like structures that are rather smooth. They are more viscous than a’a lava flows. Block lava is solidified much like sheet lava. Read more about how volcanos form and types of lava.

San Cristobal Volcano in Nicaragua spews gas and steam and bit of rock in a pyroclastic flow.
Tungurahua Volcano in Ecuador is also pyroclastic. At times the rocks shoot out with a lot of force and fall on the houses below.
Some volcanoes erupt just once and then are done. Others continue to erupt for many years.
You can see where air got trapped in the lava. When it cooled, it left a rock with lots of holes in it.
In Ecuador, engineers have built these channels so the lava from Tungurahua has an easy route down. They hope the lava will stay in the channels and not flow over the houses.
There are a lot of factors that cause lava to be different – temperature, chemical composition, and amount of pressure all contribute to different types of volcanic flows.
Just by looking at the lava thousands of years after the eruption, you can see exactly what type of flow it was.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Forest fire benefits for wildlife

We all recognize Smoky the Bear and his message: Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires. Smoky’s message is very important – we don’t want to start fires in the forests.

But that doesn’t mean that all fires are bad. Many times fires are started by lightning or the Forest Service might even start fires. Those fires serve a very important purpose. Forest fire benefits extend to many plants and animals.

Bears love huckleberries, and one of the best places for huckleberries to grow is in areas burned by forest fires. Huckleberries like lots of sunshine, so they won’t grow where there are lots of trees. When a fire comes through, it will burn off the huckleberry bush but, if the fire isn’t too hot, the bush will regrow from its roots. All the ashes around serve as fertilizer and make the new bushes grow even better than before.

If you are looking for bears – go to areas that burned down a few years ago. That’s where the bears go!

Fires open up forests so that sunshine can get through, which encourages plants to grow. The ash from the burned trees and bushes serves as fertilizer to make plants grow better. Certain shrubs and grasses start growing very quickly after a fire – and that’s where the elk go. Elk rely on those shrubs and grasses in the winter, so the fire actually help the elk.

Antelope also benefit from wildfires. Antelope live on prairies – open grasslands with few shrubs. When a fire comes through, it burns out shrubs and young trees that had grown in the grasslands. The native bunchgrasses and wildflowers grow fast after a fire, which gives the antelope plenty of food to eat.

More than forty kinds of insects make a beeline to forest fires. They can burrow into the fire-softened wood easily. Birds come to the burned areas seeking the insects.

Many animals depend on fires in one way or another. They have figured out that forest fires mean food! But that’s all after the fire. What do animals do during the fire itself? Most animals have a very keen sense of smell and simply walk away from fires before they even get near. Although some animals do get caught in fires, most do not.

In short – fires are good for animals in the long run.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

What to do if you meet a bear

bear on Alaska Highway

Although there are many kinds of bears, the two types of bear you will be most likely to encounter in Canada are black bears and grizzlies.

Know Your Bears

The main differences between black and grizzly bears are:

  • Grizzlies have a hump over their shoulders; black bears do not.
  • The highest point on a black bear is over its hind legs, whereas the highest point on a grizzly is their hump.
  • In looking at their profiles, the black bear’s face makes a straight line down to its nose, but the grizzly has a very distinct brow.
  • Claws are longer on the grizzly.
  • Tracks of grizzlies will include claw imprints, while those of a black bear often do not.

Both black bears and grizzlies eat primarily vegetation, including berries. However, in years when their natural food sources are scarce, they will forage widely for food – including human-made food.

 

How to Avoid Problems with Bears

bear on Alaska HighwayWhen you venture out into bear country, there are several things you can do to minimize risks:

  • Stay alert. Keep an eye out for bears and be sure to give them plenty of room. Look for signs of recent bear activity including tracks, scat, fresh diggings, or tree scratches.
  • Choose routes with good visibility whenever possible.
  • Travel in groups. Bears are less likely to be aggressive toward groups.
  • Make noise. Let the bears know you are there, especially in thick brush, berry patches, or near running water. Loud talking or singing is better than bells.
  • Don’t approach a bear for a better look. Use binoculars.
  • Choose a campsite well away from places known to attract bears – wildlife trails, spawning streams, and berry patches.
  • Keep all food and garbage in odor-proof containers and store it well away from your campsite – preferably downwind.

 

If You Do Encounter a Bear

Even if you do all the above, there is still a chance you might encounter a bear. If you do see a bear, stop, remain calm, and assess the situation.

If the bear does not know you’re there:

  • Move away quietly, being careful not to startle it. Shouting at the bear could provoke an attack.

If the bear is aware of your presence:

  • Stay calm.
  • Talk to it in a low respectful voice.
  • Wave your arms slowly.
  • Back slowly away, avoiding sudden movements.
  • Be certain not to run – running could trigger a chase.

bear on Alaska Highway

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

History of the Alaska Highway

One very important segment of the Pan-American Highway is the Alaska Highway. The Alaska Highway was constructed during World War II and connects the Continental US with Alaska. It starts in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, and extends 1422 miles until it ends in Delta Junction, Alaska.

Prior to World War II there was no land route to Alaska. Although people had talked about the possibility of building a road, there wasn’t enough interest. After all, there were only a few thousand people living in the area, and the road would be very expensive.

The war changed all that. Suddenly there was the threat of a Japanese invasion – and the USA had no way of defending Alaska. Seeing as how there was no road, the Army had no way of getting there, should a problem arise. The government quickly reconsidered and decided they needed the road for military purposes.

In 1942, thousands of soldiers were sent to Alaska, British Columbia, and the Yukon to build the Alaska Highway. In 8 ½ months, they cut 1422 miles of road through the forest. Crews worked from both ends, and met on September 24, 1942 at Mile 588 at Contact Creek. The highway was dedicated on November 20, 1942 at Soldiers Summit.

At that time, the road was merely a rough dirt track through the forest. There were very, very steep hills and some sections of the road were so muddy they were nearly impassable.

Over the years, however, the road has been steadily improved. Some sections of the highway have been redesigned so they aren’t so steep, others have been straightened out so they aren’t so twisty and windy. The muddy sections have been covered with layer upon layer of gravel. The entire road has been widened and paved.

Now, the Alaska Highway is a great road with a mostly smooth surface and an adequate shoulder most of the way. It still travels through very wild country, however, and is certainly a road to adventure.

The history of the Alaska Highway is a journey through time.

cycling the Alaska Highway

Alaska Highway

bear on Alaska Highway

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Stone Sheep

Stone sheep

Stone sheep are named after the American hunter-explorer Andrew J. Stone. They are a subspecies of Dall sheep, and are sometimes referred to as “thinhorns” because their horns are smaller than the bighorn sheep found farther south.

Male Stone sheep have large, strongly curved horns , while the females have smaller, straighter horns. Their horns continue to grow throughout their lives – they don’t fall off like the horns of members of the deer family.

The size of a ram’s horns determines his status in a herd. Males use their horns for battering each other during mating season.

Stone sheep eat grass, wildflowers, and leaves of shrubs. They seek out salt deposits to lick wherever they can find them.

 

Stone sheep

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Folded Mountains

twisted mountain

Notice the twisted rock layers in this mountain – they are all topsy-turvy!

This mountain is an example of how the Rocky Mountains were formed.

All the land on the earth is in a bunch of pieces of land that ‘float’ around on a deep layer of melted rock deep in the ground. These pieces are called ‘tectonic plates’. They move slowly, but over thousands of years, their movement causes huge changes to the surface of the earth.

Originally, all the rock in the Rockies lay flat on a shallow seabed of the western continental shelf – one of the tectonic plates that make up the surface of the earth. It took many millions of years for all the layers of rock to form.

About 175 million years ago, two tectonic plates moved toward each other and caught the continental shelf in the squeeze. As the plate was squeezed from both sides, the flat-lying layers of rock slowly buckled into folds.

It took about 50 million years for the Rockies to fold and buckle enough to show above the sea.

The Rocky Mountains continued to grow for 75 million years, and were (at one time) higher than the Himalayas. About 45 million years ago, they stopped growing and have now eroded away to a small fraction of their original size.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Growing up in an Inuit village

“I was born in a canvas tent back in 1953,” Murphy Patterson told me. “My mother told me they had just finished fishing season at the time.”

Patterson, of the Inuit people, was telling me about his life in the far north.

InuitIn his village of Narvik, there was no electricity or running water as he grew up, but the area was rich with wildlife. The people of the Narvik village were very poor and only had what they could get from the land, air, and water. Even so, nature provided everything they needed and they were never hungry or cold in the arctic winters.

Patterson and his playmates had to be very creative as they were growing , as they had no toys other than the ones they built with their own hands.

Patterson’s mother would sometimes have a rabbit to cook. She would either roast it or make rabbit soup for the family. After the meal was finished and the all the meat cleaned off the bones, the children would remove the lower jaw from the skull and that became a toy sled.

Or maybe the family would kill a caribou. After the meat was stripped from the bones, the vertebrae flavored soup. From the soup pot, the Inuit children fished out the bones and they became toy airplanes.

The children of Narvik were always very creative – making soccer ball from the skin of an animal and stuffing it with dry grasses from the tundra, or playing marbles with rocks found along the coastline.

Narvik now boasts a population of about 750 people, but when Patterson was growing up there were only about 350.

Life for the Inuit children is very different from how most of us grow up. But for them, it’s just the way it is, and they can’t imagine anything else.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

What is Permafrost?

Alaska pipeline

The Alaska pipeline had to be built on stilts. If they hadn’t done that, the heat from the oil would have warmed up the ground, melting the permafrost, and the pipeline would sink.

Have you ever sloshed through a big mud puddle in the springtime? Or have you ever slopped through icky, gicky mud? You end up with mud caked on your shoes and your mom yelling at you not to track all that mud into the house – right? Maybe you are like me and think, “It was so much easier a few months ago when it was all frozen!”

Watching the ground thaw and freeze is as much a part of the yearly cycle as starting a new school year in the fall and finishing in June. There are some things that just… are.

Yet in many areas around the globe, the ground never does thaw out. Rather, it remains frozen throughout the year and has its own set of characteristics. This ground is called the permafrost and is very common in the Arctic tundra.

How does the permafrost happen?

In the winter, temperatures plummet and the ground freezes to a certain depth – that depth is dependent on many factors:

  • air temperature
  • what kinds of plants
  • how many plants there are in the region
  • how much snow falls
  • what kind of soil it is
  • how well water can drain out

In most regions on earth, the ground thaws out in the spring and summer, but in some areas – mostly way up high in the mountains, or in the arctic and antarctic regions, the ground never does completely thaw. In these regions there will be a thin layer of soil on top that thaws – called the active layer. The depth of the active layer is dependent on the same factors as listed above, and will affect life in the area dramatically. The part of the ground that never thaws out is called the permafrost.

How can plants grow in the permafrost?

They can’t. Plants can only grow in soil that thaws at least part of the year, which means they can only grow in the active layer. The type of plants that can grow in areas with an underlying permafrost layer are very distinctive. Given the harsh conditions of the arctic tundra, there aren’t a whole lot of plants that can survive there. Plants you will find growing in the harsh permafrost soil tend to:

  • be small
  • have shallow root systems
  • grow grouped together to resist the winds
  • have flowers with a fuzzy coating to protect them from the wind
  • produce flowers quickly because they have a very short growing season
  • some flowers are cup-shaped to direct the sun’s rays into the center of the flower for warmth

How does the permafrost affect construction?

Imagine building a shack on the ice in the middle of the winter. Then imagine leaving that shack there once spring comes. What would happen? The ice would melt and the shack would sink to the bottom of the lake. That’s a lot like what happens when you try to build on the permafrost. Building on permafrost is difficult because the heat from the building (or pipeline) will melt the permafrost and the building will sink into the mud.

This problem has three common solutions.

  • using foundations on wood piles: You can drill holes deep into the frozen layer and place ‘stilts’ down into the holes, then build your building on top of those stilts. If your stilts are deep enough that the heat from the building will never reach that far, the ground under the stilt will remain solid and continue to hold up your building. Depending on where you are, you may need to dig down fifteen meters or more! That’s about as far underground as a two story building is tall!
  • building on a thick gravel pad: Sometimes engineers choose to place the building, road, or pipline on a thick layer of gravel. The layer is generally one-two meters thick – that’s about as thick as a normal person is tall! By using the gravel, the heat from the structure does not reach the permafrost layer.
  • using anhydrous ammonia heat pipes. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System uses insulated heat pipes to prevent the pipeline from sinking. These specially designed pipes transport heat away from the ground into the air.

 

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Why are there no trees in the Arctic tundra?

There are no trees in the Arctic tundra. In fact, the very first tree is 180 miles from the end of the road!

A lot of people think there are no trees in the far north because of the cold, strong winds, permafrost, or the lack of water. While all those are contributing factors, they aren’t the main reason.

The main reason there are no trees in the Arctic tundra is simply because there are not enough sunny days for photosynthesis to occur.

It takes a lot of energy to produce and maintain the large woody stems and trunks of trees, and there aren’t enough sunny days to support them. That’s why are there no trees in the arctic tundra.

Here’s a video I made to explain it all:

 

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Arctic Grasses

As you look out at the Arctic tundra, it appears to be a smooth, flat meadow of grasses waving gently in the wind. Once you try to walk across it, however, you quickly realize just how wrong you were.

Arctic tundra

The northern slope of Alaska is covered with huge plains of arctic grasses.

The tundra is covered with small mounds of vegetation called tussocks. The tussocks, small bits of semi-solid ground, wobble when you walk on them, and it is often wet between them.Tussocks form when some kind of grass seed takes hold and grows in the wet swampy bog of the spring thaw. In the fall, the blades of grass freeze and die while the plant continues to live in the ground – just like the grass in your yard at home.

The following spring, the plant sends up more shoots in the middle of the old dead leaves from last summer.

That fall, the new blades of grass freeze and die, just like they did last summer.

The cycle continues. Each spring new shoots grow, each fall they freeze and die – just like the grass in your yard.

The difference here is that the old dead leaves don’t decompose. In most places dead organic matter like grasses and flowers would be broken down quickly by various small organisms and turned into soil.

In the Arctic tundra, however, the summer season is so short the organisms don’t have time to do their job. What would only take one year in most places to break down into soil can take many years in the far northern regions.

The tussocks then, are clumps made up of whatever new growth grew this year, the dead undecomposed leaves from prior years, and whatever soil the microorganisms have managed to make.

Arctic tundra

The flat tundra is covered by tussocks, or small bits of semi-solid ground.

Arctic tundra

In the arctic, old dead grasses don’t decompose like in other parts of the world.

Arctic tundra tussocks

The clumps of grass are wobbly and hard to walk on.

 

Arctic tundra flowers

Due to the harsh climate of the arctic, flowers are very small – but beautiful.

 

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

How Deadhorse got its name

Back in the 1960’s, oil companies flocked to Prudhoe Bay to explore the region. They hoped to find vast reserves of oil beneath the sea.

Once oil had been discovered, it became apparent they needed a road north from Fairbanks. A 414-mile road across the Arctic tundra requires a lot of gravel, and the oil company hired a local man from Fairbanks to haul that gravel.

The gravel-hauler quickly realized it would take far more than his paltry fleet of trucks to haul the quantities of gravel needed for such a massive project, so he approached his father for a loan.

His father, who didn’t believe in the viability of oil fields in the far north, felt his son was crazy for pursuing the job.

“You’re kicking a dead horse,” he told his son.

The son, to his credit, persisted in hauling gravel northward – trying to reach “that dead horse”.

The name stuck.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel