And the real ones are much larger!
Actually, except for 2 days, the mosquitoes
were non-existent. 
     Sadly, it is time to depart Alaska.  Fairbanks was our last stop and it was fun as well as productive. Fairbanks is more like a large town than a city, but it has all the services and is a great jumping off point for a lot cool opportunities.  We ended up staying 12 days and took advantage of everything Fairbanks had to offer, including a few repairs to the rig and car in preparation for our journey back to the lower 48.
Downtown Fairbanks, AK.
A Chena River sternwheeler.
     First, as a Denali postscript, upon arrival in Fairbanks we learned that a stretch of the 92 mile road in Denali suffered a major landslide stranding visitors and employees for several days.  Since the road is narrow and is often perched on the edge of sheer cliffs, this was a dangerous situation.  We were glad that we didn't get caught on the wrong side of that catastrophe.
The pipeline.  This thing is an engineering marvel.  In general, the pipeline is
buried beneath the surface.  However, when permafrost is encountered, the pipeline must
be elevated due to unstable subsurface conditions.  Notice the 2 antenna-like objects at the top
of the support structure.  These are connected to a subsurface heat exchange system to ensure
that the permafrost remains frozen.  Should the permafrost become too warm, it will melt and the
pipeline will sink into the earth.
The Dalton Highway or the "haul road" extends 415 miles north to Prudhoe
Bay on the Arctic Ocean.  It is all dirt/mud and potholes.  The sign at the start of the highway
was our furthest point north 114 miles south of the Arctic Circle.
     While in Fairbanks we visited the University of Alaska's Museum of the North, the Riverboat Discovery tour on the Chena River, Pioneer Park, Gold Dredge #8, Creamer's Field, the Tanana Valley State Fair, and Chena Hot Springs.  All wonderful places.  The Museum of the North was one of the best museum's of our journey through Canada and Alaska.  It was full of artifacts and exhibits regarding all facets of Alaska history, including the native population; Alaskan wildlife, both current and prehistoric; and the Alaskan Pipeline.  It was a great place to spend a rainy afternoon.
Tanana Valley State Fair.
The town of North Pole, Alaska.
The town was named in anticipationof commerical expectations.  
It didn't seem to work, except at Christmas when parents want to have mail 
sent to their children from the North Pole.  There is nothing in this town except 
the above boring store.  However, all the buildings in town are either decorated 
with candy canes or are painted in candy cane colors.  Very exciting!???
A giant santa in North Pole, AK.
I can't believe that I wasted 2 photos in this
blog on North Pole, AK.
     The Riverboat Discovery is an Alaskan sternwheeler which tours the Chena River.  It stops at a replica of an early native Alaskan village as well as Susan Butcher's Kennels.  Susan Butcher was was the first woman to win the Iditarod, a grueling, mid-winter, 1,000 mile dog sled race from Anchorage to Nome.  Competitors have to race through harsh Alaskan winter conditions, which include blinding snow and temperatures dropping to -40 degrees Fahrenheit or worse.  This amazing woman won the race 4 times, but sadly died of leukemia at age 54.
Susan Butcher's kennel.
Chena Village.
Salmon being dried to feed the sled dogs in Chena Village.
A monument to Susan Butcher's famous lead dog.
Granite was the runt of the litter and Susan was told
that Granite would never be able to be a sled dog.
Caribou at Chena Village.
The primary difference between caribou and reindeer
is that reindeer are domesticated and caribou remain wild.
     Gold Dredge #8 was an abandoned gold dredge used to pull gold from an Alaskan river valley long after the gold rush subsided.  This thing tore into the earth at an alarming rate and removed million of tons of soil in search of gold.  For us the best part was the gold panning lesson.  Basically, we were provided with a clump of dirt and, with the use of water, we panned for gold flakes.  And yes we were successful as Nancy and I were able to "find color" to the tune of $28 dollars of gold flakes. It was a very touristy, but fun event.
Gold Dredge #8.
Nancy trying to strike it rich.
$28 worth of gold flakes.
When I offered to sell the gold back,
I received a polite refusal. 
A gold nugget worth $75,000.00!
     Our favorite attraction was Chena Hot Springs.  The hot springs are part of a private resort at the end of a 60 mile road from Fairbanks and is full of recreational opportunities.  Since we had 2-for-1 coupons for several of activities our day full of fun.  The day stated with a short hike up a mountain to view "tors."  "Tors" are rock outcroppings resulting from erosion.  These things stick out of the earth creating unique and interesting geological formations.
A "tor."
     After the hike, it was a great time to soak in the hot springs.  These springs are HOT as temperatures ranged from 103 degrees to over 115 degrees.  At times it almost felt scalding.  I kept getting flashes from the movie "Dante's Peak" were some hot springs bathers got boiled alive-yikes! While there, 1 person passed out from the heat and another came up from an underwater jaunt, choking and coughing and gasping for air.  So after helping drag the unconscious bather out of the water, we decided it would be a smart time to get out of the pressure cooker.  Apparently, it is common for a bather to pass out in the springs.
Chena Hot Springs.
     Since we were now looking to cool down we thought that a visit to the Ice Museum would be a nice contrast.  So from 115 degrees to 25 degrees we went.  With winter coats provided, 45 minutes in this arctic environment was no big deal.  The museum had several interesting sculptures and the tour concluded with "appletinis" served in ice martini glasses at an ice bar.  After the tour the martini glasses were ours to keep--they lasted about 15 minutes in the 75-80 degree weather.
Ice sculpture.
Martini glasses.
Ice sculptures.
The martini ice bar.
     Since we also had a 2-for-1 coupon for an ATV tour, we decided to go for it.  The ATV's turned out to be "more fun than a barrel of monkeys."  The tour lasted almost an hour and our guide was not timid about speed.  We splashed through mud-holes, crossed creeks deep enough to soak us well over our ankles, skidded around corners, and flew over all sorts of rocks and bumps.  We even saw a moose!  Yes, I am aware of the environmental objections regarding these things, but we still had a wicked-blast!

      Since our time in Fairbanks had ended, it was off to the town of Chicken, Alaska.  Weird place--no phone service; limited water availability; electricity is available only via generators; and the road to town is closed during the winter.  There were only 4 permanent residents and 23 seasonal residents, but in the summer Chicken gets heaps of tourists.

Chicken, AK
     The name "Chicken" came from a bunch of gold minors, who decided to create a town and name it "ptarmigan."  However, after a long discussion it turned out that nobody could spell "ptarmigan."  So they threw up their arms in frustration and when somebody suggested naming the town "Chicken" it carried the day.

Chicken, AK
     We stayed the night for free camped in front of "downtown" Chicken.  Downtown Chicken is a building with storefronts for a gift shop, a bar, a cafe and a chicken coop.  The bar was interesting...it seemed that the primary activity was convincing females to part with their panties. When the garb was offered up, the bartender loaded the panties into a small canon and then...BOOM...the panties were shot into the air.  The pieces of the panties were then tacked onto the wall of the bar.  Much to the relief of the younger patrons, Nancy politely declined.  Sounds like a big night in Chicken!
Downtown Chicken Saloon.
Downtown Chicken.  There is nothing else except 2 RV parks.
We camped in front of the Saloon.
    Chicken is on the Klondike Loop which leaves the Alaska Highway to connect Tok, Alaska with Dawson City and Whitehorse in the Yukon Territories.  The road is paved for 65 miles and is dirt for 100 miles.  The paved section of the road to Chicken is full of frost heaves with gravel breaks.  The dirt section is gravel, washboard and potholes.  However, it is a few miles after leaving Chicken that the "Top of the Wold Highway" starts and the road is almost all dirt.  The name "Top of the World Highway" is descriptive as a large part of the drive is high up in the mountains along the edge of precipitous cliffs where we could see the clouds in the valleys below.  What a way to exit Alaska!

The start of the Alaska High from the
northern terminus in Delta Junction, Alaska.
Top of the World!



  1. It has been great following your trip. Sure brought back many memories. Travel Safe!!!!


Post a Comment