Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Chena Hot Springs Road

We liked the Granite Tor Campground on the Chena Hot Springs Road so much we stayed there for 2 nights, 7/25 and 26.  We picked a nice spot in the campground and then hung out in the picnic area next to the river most of the day.
Mr Universe

casual life around the campfire


A raven friend

The highbush cranberries were ripe. I picked enough to make sauce for a lunch dessert.  I also noticed that there were other red berries that might confuse the careless picker.  Closer to the ground were some very poisonous baneberries.  I knew this because I had read "Alaska Wildflowers" by Verna Pratt.
The highbush cranberries are on the left and the poisonous baneberries are on the right.

We shared a bowl of real Alaskan cranberry sauce. Lots of little flat seeds that we left in the bowl.
All was wonderful until we went back to our camp site about 9PM.  We had chosen one right next to the camp host, Bob, since it was closer to the host and he knew we were in the picnic area.  We had left our rug and our levelers, since we had no other way to mark that we had paid for that site.  The levelers were gone.  Someone parked in our spot, packed the five old levelers that were out on the ground back up into the ragged leveler bag and drove off with it. Bob said no one was responsible but us for leaving our stuff there. We had even given him a serving of rhubarb cobbler I had made.

The 27th we drove the rest of the way into Chena Hot Springs.  This is a very interesting place.  The owner has worked hard to maximally develop the hot springs. Besides the RV park, lodge, restaurant, gift shop and hot springs pools, he has developed power generation from the hot springs, lots of green houses, horseback riding trails and an ice museum.  We soaked in the hot springs, ate a lovely lunch at the restaurant and walked all over.
The outdoor pool

The dragon is a BBQ on the other side

Flowers with pools in the background

I liked this bridge

Outdoor vegetables too. 
They use all the vegetables they grow in the restaurant and have to buy some now. But the owner has plans to ship vegetables to Fairbanks in the winter. The resort is open year round and the owner has just bought some more land to put in a ski run.
We were walking back to the RV in the parking lot when William spotted a Moose coming our way from the RV park. Luckily there was a small island with small trees on it between us and the moose. We kept the island between us and the moose. He was headed for the main resort at a trot when an employee came out on a four track and steered it back off into the woods. I don't think that was even a very old bull moose, but it was still really tall.  Moose have 4 thoughts. "Chew, run, charge and Huh?" I think this moose was was stuck in "Huh?"
We wanted to just camp on a gravel bar by the river, so after trying a few spots we finally found a very good one.
North Fork of the Chena River

Nice driftwood campfire and I found a palm sized piece of Alaska Jade in the pebbles. I was looking for a gold nugget.
7/28 We stopped by the Alaska Pipeline display on our way back to Fairbanks.  We like it here a lot, but I don't think I would enjoy winter at 40+  below zero. Although we are told, it is a "dry" cold.
Retired Pig? William chose the background

Me and the pipeline
We are back at the River's Edge RV Park next to the Chena River, after stopping at the Farmers Market and then buying a new set of levelers. More relaxation time.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Two More Fun Days in Fairbanks

Yesterday, 7/23, we spent much of the day at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Museum of the North. We overstayed the parking pass of 4 hours. But I bet the parking guards are not too tough on obvious tourists.
The campus has a lovely view of the city and the building is very dramatic. Ravens love to dive and play off of the “cliff” face.

We paid extra for the movies and the recorded commentary. Worth the price.
Bill and Otto

Many small houses outside of town are dry cabins.  Hard to keep plumbing from freezing. This is a sample fancy Alaska outhouse.
Ravens in Pink

Curious bear

Me and the raven chick (made of nails)

Today, 7/24, we went on the Discovery Stern wheeler down the Chena River.
Before we went out we had plenty of time in the Gift Shop. We tried the 40 below zero experience. They close you in a freezer for a few minutes.
Inside the 40 below experience I felt like my nose hairs were  freezing.

 They ran two boats this morning about 10 minutes apart as they had about 1000 people. Then they ran the same boats for the same number this afternoon. It is a short trip, but packed with lots of interesting sights and stops along the way.

 A super cub pilot demonstrates water landings and take offs. Susan Butcher's dogs did a demonstration pull.
Off they go pulling 600 pounds.


 We disembarked for 4 different presentations at the Indian/fish camp. The presenters were native UA students.
Modeling a beautiful Eskimo parka

Monday, July 23, 2012

WEIO and Alaskaland

7/22 We again went to the World Eskimo Indian Olympics.
Bernard Clark from Wasilla came in second in the bench reach.  You place a wooden peg as far out as you can reach then sit back up without touching the floor. You have to be very agile and strong.

This old couple guarded the seal oil lamp.

Miss WEIO from Point Hope on her throne.

Fancy tricks on the blanket toss.

Kyle from Anchorage did not win, but we cheered for him. We met him at the Cultural  Center in Anchorage where he demonstrated games.
7/22 We spent today at Alaskaland in Pioneer Park in Fairbanks.  We watched the end of the duct tape boat race.

This possum boat was one of the last to finish.
Free burgers with the governor.
The Artic Cats band from the nearby military base.

An old riverboat

In the boat they had dioramas of all the towns it served. This is Fort Yukon.

Ranger cabin from the first head of Denali National Park.
The Bathtub race

More bathtub racers
The sled dog racer

Friday, July 20, 2012

On to Fairbanks

On the 10th we went on the flight around Mt McKinley that we had reserved. We had signed up for a long flight, but no glacier landing at Base Camp. Because all the other customers had signed up for a glacier landing, we were just upgraded. It was a pretty good day for a flight as it was only partly cloudy. I wish I had been able to enjoy it, but with a cold/flu the whole experience ranged between lost to unpleasant. I managed to take a picture of Ruth Glacier.

We landed at base camp at 7,200 feet. This is the first of five camps for those who climb Mt McKinley. I do look like death warmed over in this picture. William was holding me up.

William took a few pictures of the cliffs surrounding Base Camp. Mt McKinley is the far snow capped peak in this picture.

We spent 3 nights, Monday the 9th until Thursday the 12th, at the Talkeetna Camper Park. We were only ½ mile stroll from “downtown” Talkeetna. Lots of gift stores and Nagley's General Store. Nagley's was a tiny store with items stocked from the ceiling to the floor. Best to ask for what you want. They even had an upstairs that came close to the lovely hardware store in Skagway for variety, just on a smaller scale.

Leaving Talkeetna, heading to Denali, we stopped to visit Paula who used to work for Frank. She and her husband have a lovely house on 5 acres at Trapper Creek. It is a log home that has been upgraded and has really nice burl posts across the front. She has worked hard at getting acquainted and is on the council representing Trapper Creek. The town has a nice entrance sign now thanks to her.

We spent time outside Denali and three nights at Teklanika Campground on the park road inside the park from the 14th to the 17th. We took the bus trip for a couple of hours into the Eielson Visitor Center on the 15th. To cut down on traffic in the park you just take the bus in most of the way. The bus would stop whenever the driver or passengers would spot an animal. They were mostly up on the tundra hillsides. The adult grizzlies we saw were golden in color. Good thing Bill had his good binoculars. One bear was eating something that had been alive. They are fond of ground squirrels and dig mighty holes to catch them. Two twin cubs were play fighting. One was golden and the other was brown. Only the caribou were close enough for a picture.
At Toklat Ranger Station

William the caribou

Grizzly food running around at Eielson Visitor Center

These moose locked horns fighting and died locked up

Dwarf Fireweed

headed out on the tundra

Eielson Visitor Center nested into the hillside

roadside caribou

At the park we went for a short ranger hike.
Between the ranger hike and hiking around Teklanika on moose trails we saw quite a few wild flowers common to the tundra. We saw only birds and ground squirrels. Old Tripod, the three legged grizzly, was not around.
hiking around Teklanika

On our way back to the entrance visitor center complex from Teklanika on the 17th we spotted this lovely low rainbow.
Low ground mist rainbow

We wandered through the dog kennels before heading toward Fairbanks. No Snow Machines in Denali. All winter park patrolling is done by dog team.

The only tourist thing we have done in Fairbanks so far is go to the World Eskimo Indian Olympics yesterday the 19th. My favorite events so far were the blanket toss and the muktuk eating contest. Muktuk is a chunk of whale blubber and skin. Sharp knife or ulu required. Salt not allowed. We were told that early explorers died of scurvy rather than eat muktuk. Muktuk would have saved their lives as it is high in vitamin C.
3 ounce serving of Muktuk

Ulu at the ready, first one done is the winner