Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Alaska and the Yukon - Dawson City to Fairbanks, AK

July 13
Dawson City, Yukon to Fairbanks, AK

Today is a travel day as we fly from Dawson City to Fairbanks, Alaska.  We didn’t have to leave for the airport until 1:00 PM so we were able to sleep in and have a leisurely morning.  Our luggage had to be ready for pickup before 10:00 AM and we had to be checked out by 10:00 so we decided to have a late breakfast after checking out.  After breakfast we still had a couple of hours to kill so I decided to wander around town and take some pictures.  The morning was drizzly and overcast, but it wasn’t too cold.  As I wandered around I came across the Locomotive Barn which was part of the Dawson City Historical Museum so I walked around in there and checked out some of the old engines from the early mining days.  I went back to the hotel and told Val that the museum was open so we decided to go back and check out the main part of the museum.  As you might expect, it was mostly centered on the gold rush times and was very interesting.

The Westmark Inn where we were staying.
The Dawson Museum

After the museum we went back to the hotel and had about a half hour before departure time.  They had airport security at the hotel to check us through before we got on the bus so that was taken care of, and we were on our way to the airport.  As we left we found out that because of the weather our plane was late so we went on an impromptu tour of an old gold dredge just outside of town.  A gold dredge is huge and looks like a large three or four story building that sits in the river.  It dredges from the front, runs the diggings through a sluice that separates the gold, and then spits the tailings out the back.  That is where all the huge piles of tailings along the rivers around Dawson came from.  When they finish dredging an area the dredge is moved up about 10 feet and they start again.  They move about a half mile a year.  We were given an abbreviated tour of Dredge No. 4, which was very interesting and then we were back on our way to the airport where our plane had finally arrived.

This was an enormous operation.  When we went inside we wondered what it must have been like with the noise, shaking, dirt and dust.

This is a chart showing the operation of a dredge.
These are the buckets they used to scoop rocks and gravel from the river, and the pins they pivoted on.  The couldn't use any oil lubricants as any contact with the gold would allow it to float away instead of settle to the bottom of the sluice. Because of the lack of oil, they went through many of these parts and they are sitting around all over.

The size of the machinery inside was enormous.

This was a charter flight so our group had plenty of room in the 737 and we could spread out, which made for a pleasant flight.  The runway of the small Dawson City Airport was gravel and you could really tell as we rolled down the runway for takeoff, but we were soon airborne and on our way to Fairbanks.   

Our plane awaits as we arrive on the bus in the rain.
Our last look at Dawson City and the Yukon River as we fly to Fairbanks.
After landing we went through customs and were bused to the Westmark Hotel where we would be staying for our two days in Fairbanks.

On our way to the hotel we saw the world's northernmost Denny's. 
After relaxing a bit we decided to eat at the hotel restaurant and had a very good dinner.  After staying at the Westmark Hotels in the isolated towns of Whitehorse and Dawson City, the Westmark in Fairbanks was a very nice change as it is a nice, modern hotel.  Tomorrow we are scheduled to visit a gold dredge and take a river cruise so we have a full day ahead.

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