Saturday, August 9, 2014

Alaska and the Yukon - Fairbanks, AK

July 14
Fairbanks, AK

When we woke up this morning the sun was shining and the skies were blue, it looked like a great day in Fairbanks.  Today we would be taking the Riverboat Discovery stern wheeler cruise on the Chena River and then going to a gold dredge where we would be able to pan for gold.
After a quick breakfast, we went down to catch our tour bus at 8:00.  After a short drive we were at the Riverboat Discovery landing and ready to board.  There were many buses there and it was obvious we would be cruising with a large group of people.  Also obvious was that the blue skies were rapidly turning into dark clouds and a cold wind was blowing.

The Discovery III waits for us to board.
A view down the Chena River.

This is a small river boat they use for training.

This was a tightly orchestrated cruise with a narrator, video and demonstrations from shore with the audio heard through the ships PA system.  The boat would stop in front of property on shore, and due to technology, the people could talk to us on board the boat.  No need for us to get off the boat.  The first stop was the home and kennels of the late Susan Buthcer, a four-time Iditarod Champion,  where her husband and daughters showed us their dogs and then did a (wheeled) dogsled run.  

These dogs are anxious to run.

Can't wait!
Off they go.

Coming down the back stretch.
A good swim after their run.

I hope he sees the sign in the lower right.

We continued cruising on the river where we saw many beautiful homes on the riverfront among the trees.  When we reached the confluence of the Chena and Tanana River the boat turned around and we started our trip back.

It was a cold, damp day.
The Chena River joins the Tanana River.
Our next stop was a historical site featuring an Athabascan Indian village and trapper’s cabins depicting the lodgings they lived in, the lives they led and how they survived the brutal winters.  From the boat we saw a demonstration of a fishing wheel used for catching salmon and a demonstration of cutting up and smoking the salmon.  After the demonstration we were able to get off the boat and see several presentations of both the Athabascan and trapper life.  Despite what it may sound like, it was quite interesting.

The Athabascan Village with a fishing wheel in the foreground.
A fishing wheel.

A demonstration of filleting salmon in preparation for smoking.
This is how they stayed warm in the winter.

A trapper's cabin.

Colorful native bead work

The Discovery III awaits our return.
After reboarding the boat, we returned to our starting point where we were served a very good lunch before starting the next phase of our trip.  

During lunch we heard a talk by Lance Mackey, another Iditarod and Yukon Quest champion who had broken Susan Butcher's record for Iditarod wins.  After lunch we had some time before we left to wander around a bit   One interesting display was a cold room where you could experience -40 degree F temperatures.  We tried it out and I can tell you, it was really cold!

After our lunch break, it was back on the bus and off to our next stop, Gold Dredge No. 8.  The first thing you see when you arrive at the Gold Dredge site is the Alaskan Pipeline, it was very impressive, much larger than I expected.

The Alaskan Pipeline.

After hearing an interesting talk on the pipeline, we boarded a narrow gauge train to travel to the Gold Dredge site.  By this time a light rain had started to fall, but it wasn't too bad.  When we arrived at the Gold Dredge we listened to a talk about its history and how it worked, and then we were led to an area where we were given a small bag of gravel and a gold pan so we could try our luck at finding some gold.  Gold panning is much harder than it looked, but Val and I managed to pan $18 between us.  The highest for our tour group was $57, which was pretty impressive.  After getting our gold assayed we got back on the train and returned to our bus for the return trip to Fairbanks.

The narrow gauge train we took to the gold dredge complete with viewing screens.

We had fun panning for gold.
It was much harder than it looked.

Gold Dredge No. 8

Here I am holding a polished mammoth tusk.  There is still a lot of mining going on
and the miners often find fossilized mammoth tusks, which they can sell for a very decent price.
Tomorrow we take the bus to Denali and have to have our bags out for pickup at 6:30 AM.  It doesn't sound like we're going to have very good weather in Denali, but we'll hope for the best and enjoy whatever happens.

No comments:

Post a Comment