It's nearly 500 miles from Fairbanks to the oilfields at Prudhoe Bay, most of it along the Dalton Highway, a gravel road that parallels the Alaska pipeline into the tundra and across the Brooks Range.
My husband and I drove it one July in a borrowed SUV with an extra spare tire, a gas can and a CB radio.
Eager to see wildlife, we spotted Arctic silver fox, Dall sheep and a moose on a slope above the road. As we neared Deadhorse, a little village at Prudhoe Bay, we saw our first caribou -- the first one grazing alone some distance from the road, then others, two or three at a time, and finally a big group, noses to the earth, wandering around Deadhorse.
But no bears.
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On our drive back to Fairbanks, I kept the binoculars to my eyes, sweeping the landscape. Nothing.
South of Coldfoot, we picked up a hitchhiker. He was a wildlife guide and people called him Caribou Bob. He'd been out in the wild for a week or so. Bears? No, he hadn't seen any bears. He seemed puzzled that we had expected to spot any from the highway, but entertained us with stories about the backcountry. We dropped him off north of Fairbanks and spent the rest of the drive rehashing his stories.
We never did see a bear. But Caribou Bob, we agreed, was the most interesting wildlife of all.
This is one in a series of postcards by Marjie Lambert, assistant Travel editor, who has been to all 50 states.