Adventure Caravans / tours by RV to Alaska and the Canadian Rockies in 2008
Adventure Caravans / tours by RV to Alaska and the Canadian Rockies in 2008
Days 24 - 25 - 26 thru 28 in Fairbanks, AK
Day 24
The day started out a little damp, but the road was straight and the mountains were in view. We never did drive into the mountains, so today consisted of mostly flat driving with a few steep assents and desents. At Delta Junction we came to the end of the Alaskan Highway. Here Sharon and Dave Wilson pose beside it.
There are some interesting signs in Alaska, but this one is very descriptive. However, the mosquitos are unbelievable. I thought Minnesota had large mosquitos, but Alaska certainly has them beat. Wow, that has to leave a mark!
After visiting the visitor center, we were invited to visit the Sullivan Roadhouse and we are very happy we did. This is one of the few roadhouses that still exists. They were placed about every 30 miles along the trail from Dawson City to Fairbanks so the people traveling the trail would have a place to warm up, eat and spend the night if necessary. This one was moved about 9 miles to it's present location.
There was a volunteer who was able to explain the history of the roadhouse along with a number of relevant facts about it and the function it performed. The garden was magnificent. In the roadhouse days, a garden was a necessity to provide the vegetables used to prepare the meals. Thise Tiger Lilies caught my attention.
The next place we stopped was Rika's Roadhouse and Landing, a Historical Park. This is the original roadhouse. This log building has a sod roof, as most of the buildings did in the late 1800's and early 1900's. However, some of them started using corrigated steel and then placing the sod on top. This provided great insulation and kept the dust from the sod out of the house.
Rika's has a great restaurant. Here Clint & Jill Bauman, Tom & Rosamund Wentling and Susan Shallbetter pose beside the "Welcome Moose" outside the restaurant. This is the Alaskan Pipeline crossing the Tanana River; the Pipeline Bridge is also shown on the left side of the picture.
Another "Must stop" was the Knotty Shop. Reason: you get a free ice cream cone when you bring in your Milepost magazine. However, it does have a wide selection of Alaskan art and at fairly reasonable prices.
This 3D diorama was on one end of the Knotty Shop. This is one of the knotty animals displayed on the front lawn of the Knotty Shop.
This is another view of the Tanana River as it widens out to create a delta. We thought we might see bear or moose in this area, but no such luck.

We will be staying for four days and five nights in Fairbanks. This is a much welcome stay after all the driving we have been doing. It seemed strange to be driving on a four lane divided highway again after the two lane roads we have been on for the previous 23 days.

The campground is called The River's Edge; as you can see from the picture, it is appropriately named.

Day 25 - Fairbanks, AK
This morning started bright and early as we boarded our bus at 8:30 AM to head to our first destination. It is called Riverboat Discovery. When we arrived there were tour busses from a number of cruise lines unloading their passengers. They have a wonderful store that sells all sorts of Alaskan crafts and clothing.
We boarded the boat according to the color ticket we had, but there was plenty of room for everyone. As we cruised along the river we saw homes of all descriptions. This one had an airplane with a very short landing strip.
We then got a demonstration of the capabilities of a Piper Super Cub on floats. It took off and landed next to the paddle wheeler we were on. Click below for movies of:
Super Cub taking off (6.75 MB)
Super Cub landing (10.75 MB)
The day was crisp and clear with no wind and slightly overcast skies As you can see the Chena River is not very wide. It is fed solely from glacier runoff.
This is one of the gorgeous homes on the river. This is my kind of place, they have all the required toys: aluminum jet-boat, waver runner, and an airplane on floats. I assume they would also have snowmobiles for the winter.
We stopped by Trailbreaker Kennels and received a talk about sled dogs from David Munson, the owner. He hitched a team up to a 4 wheeler and had the dogs pull him around the lake. He estimated the speed to be over 20 miles per hour.
We then cruised up stream to the Chena Village. It resembles the original Chena Atabascan Indian Village of the early 1900's and it is located near the original site. David Munson came to the village and gave a talk on raising, training and using the Husky sled dogs. They are a very intelligent breed and no two look alike in coloring.
This is a log cabin using the traditional way of building. The roof is covered with sod to keep the rain out in the summer and to provide insulation in the winter. This is a Trapper's cabin. Cabins like this would be located about 30 miles apart and would be used by trappers as they tended their traps.
This is bead-work done by Dixie Alexander. She only does commissions and her work is on display throughout the world. It is on permanent display in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC
This is a woman's winter coat made from a number of different furs. It is valued at $65,000.
We then visited the Reindeer enclosure. Both male and female reindeer have antlers. The male is on the left and the female is on the right. It surprised me how relatively small they are. The male seemed to be having problems lifting his head with the huge rack he had.
This is a replica fishing camp that would be setup in the summer by a Athabascan family. They would live in the tents and use the fish wheel to catch salmon. Dixie talked about her summer's at their families fish camp. She is demonstrating how to clean a salmon for drying.
It took her way less than a minute to get to this point. This is the drying tent with a smoky wood fire burning in the back of the tent.
Our next stop was for lunch at the Pump House. It was a buffet that was absolutely delicious. Wonderful split pea soup, salads, vegetables, beef chop suey, chicken dish and and cod dish along with a delicious peach cobbler to finish up.
Our next stop was the Eldorado Gold Mine. We were all loaded into a train for a ride
We were given talks about the ways miners extracted gold. This is an individual miner's claim where he would be using a homebuilt sluice box and miner's pan to extract the gold. This was a pit mine where they extract gold laden soil in the winter and then extract the gold from the soil in the summer. He was using a steam driven engine that raised the bucket and deposited the soil in a large heap at the end of the line.
We were greeted by the owner and given a short history of the Eldorado Gold mine. We were directed to seats on either side of an open sluice and they described how it functioned.
They have a big digger that shovels the gold laden soil into a hopper as they release water from a large holding pond above. This washes the soil down the sluice and the heavier gold gravitates to the bottom of the grids on the sluice.
They then took some of the soil from the "test grid" at the top of the sluice and five of the staff used the miner's pad to extract the gold. This is the result of what the five staff were able to extract in less than five minutes. Notice the nugget she has around her neck. That came from this mine.
We were then give a small pouch of soil, directed to be seated at one of the troughs, given a miners pan and small plastic container in which to save our booty. We were all successful in extracting some amount of gold. This is Susan Shallbetter's gold. Bill and Susan extracted over $33.00 worth of gold.
We went into the office / sales room to have our gold weighed and valued. We are then given the opportunity to purchase necklaces, earrings, bracelets, etc into which we could put our gold. At prices of from $39 to over $80. I love it, they were "Mining the miners" very well. This is a 19 ounce nugget they had on display. You were allowed to pick it up and hold it. Wow, what a find that must have been to the person who found it.

Here the other owner, and husband of the lady who welcomed us, talks with Jerry Fox before we leave for the short ride back to the train station and our bus back to the campground.

This was a very full day, but a very enjoyable one. I can see how you could very easily get hooked on gold panning.

Days 26 - 28 Fairbanks, AK

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