An extremely bright and vivid rainbow in the sky over Coldfoot seen from the parking lot of the Arctic Interagency Visitor Center (2004).
MP 175 James W. Dalton Highway, Coldfoot, Alaska: Friday, 23 June 2017
Although it is tempting to stop at each and every turnout along the way, travelling the James W. Dalton Highway (AK 11) with lodging reservations requires that certain daily deadlines be met. In the case of our rental at the Hicker family's Arctic Getaway in Wiseman, we were to check-in by 2100 hours or contact them otherwise. Of course, there is no way to contact anyone on the Dalton save for the emergency satellite telephone we were carrying.
Passing through Coldfoot at 2036 hours, we still had about thirty minutes of driving before we arrived at Arctic Getaway. It was close; my first photograph of the Hicker's home, built as a gold rush dance hall in 1910, was taken at 2105 hours. Uta Hicker, who assured us that our tardy arrival time was no matter, got us settled into the Aurora Cabin and let us know when to come over for breakfast the following morning. As for dinner and gasoline, we needed to head back down to Coldfoot.
There was no doubt that we were hungry, but Mom pointed out that the Arctic Interagency Visitor Center closed at 2200 hours. Not knowing how much time we would have here on our way back down, it was best to visit now and not take any chances. Deciding to fuel up and eat at Coldfoot Camp afterward, we first went to the center so that we could explore its exhibits before they closed.
Opening with a commemoration ceremony on Tuesday, 29 June 2004, the Arctic Interagency Visitor Center is a facility of the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who have worked "collaboratively in Coldfoot since 1989 to provide information to visitors traveling the Dalton Highway." The Arctic Interagency Visitor Center is "almost ten times the size of the previous [center] and offers a wide array of interpretative displays and exhibits."
We spoke with the rangers on duty about our Dalton animal sightings and looked at some of the displays before we had to let them lock up. Walking outside at 2159 hours, I was immediately struck by the sight of a large, extremely bright and vivid rainbow stretching across the sky from north to south. Moving into the parking lot to photograph it, I remarked that this was the brightest rainbow that I have ever seen. Even the rangers were seemingly awed by the phenomenon.
I was frustrated while taking my photographs because I could only focus the images properly when at a wide focal length; each closeup was blurry despite my efforts. Processing these pictures now, I was disappointed how most failed to capture the awesome brilliance of the spectacle as we saw it in person. I do not know enough about the science to theorize why this rainbow was so spectacular, but perhaps our position sixty miles north of the Arctic Circle or the sun's twenty-four-hours of daylight had something to do with it.
While not as exciting as our numerous animal encounters, the welcome appearance of this rainbow followed the pattern of good fortune I experienced while exploring Alaska. As to the Arctic Interagency Visitor Center, we were fortunate to have the time to spend nearly an hour-and-a-half there during our southbound journey to Fairbanks on Monday, 26 June 2017.