8/2/15 -8/6/15 (7,334 miles)
Having given up on seeing The Tall One, we drove northward to Fairbanks. Fairbanks, along with the Yukon River and Nome, was a major gold-mining area. Gold is still mined here, but the operations are much more limited and controlled than in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
We started our tour of Fairbanks at the Visitor Center and museum. There was, in addition to historical information, some very interesting and unusual artwork.
From the museum, we walked to Goodheart Park to see the marker for the Fairbanks end of the Al-Can Highway.
Goodheart Park also had a memorial to the Lend-Lease program of World War II. Because the allies of the USA needed war materiel and the German U-Boats were so successful at sinking transport ships in the north Atlantic Ocean, the US began sending airplanes, ammunition, guns, boots, uniforms, food and all manner of necessities across from Alaska to Russia over Siberia. The need to ship things via this route and support that effort was largely responsible for the building of the Al-Can Highway.
Goodheart Park has a number of monuments, open places for walking and playing, and some unusual artwork such as this antler arch.
We also went to Creamer’s Field to see the sandhill cranes that were migrating through. This area once belonged to a dairy, but when the dairy went out of business, local people wanted the land preserved to host the annual migration of cranes. More local people than tourists were visiting here. We found one banded bird and phoned Cathy Nowak, the Ranger who had taken us for a tour of Ladd’s Marsh in LaGrande. She is doing research on these birds and was thrilled to hear of our sighting.
Of course, another major tourist attraction in the Fairbanks area is the TransAlaska Pipeline. There is a viewing site near the highway of a portion of this 800 mile long pipe.
On Tuesday we rode a train to Gold Dredge 8, learned about various methods of mining for gold, and joined in panning for gold. Valya was most successful at this.
In celebration of her gold-panning success, she had her first beer in the USA. This was at the Silver Gulch Brewery that advertises itself as the northern-most brewery in the USA at 64.56.11 North Latitude.
We also toured the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum and had a great time there. In addition to the beautifully restored and unique cars, there were a lot of manikins wearing gorgeous period costumes. Because the cameras were in the hands of Stephen and Vladimir, we have a lot of photos of cars, nearly no photos of costumes.
Arriving back at our house, we had dinner outside, as there was now some sunshine. We have seen very little sunshine, so this was a real pleasure.
Wednesday took us to the Riverboat Discovery III and a trip down the Chena River to Chena Village, a re-creation of an Athabascan village. As we departed for our trip, a bush pilot took off in his float-plane.
The tour included a demonstration of sled dogs presented by Susan Butcher’s daughter. The dogs are amazing!
At Chena Village we saw a demonstration of the Athabascan method of preparing and drying salmon for preservation.
We also saw some of the furs they prepared and a stunning parka made all from animal hides. The hostess asked if anyone in the crowd was from Texas. Of course a number of proud Texans raised their hands. Then we were shown the pelt of an ermine, that was described as a Texas polar bear.
Everywhere we went the flowers were wonderful, and Gardener Valya especially enjoyed them.
On his hunting and gathering trip in the afternoon, Stephen found some sweet corn and brought it home, having little confidence that it would be very good. It was WONDERFUL, and we attacked it with four different eating strategies.
The big winner of the trip is Gustav. Valya is his new favorite person, and he stays as near her as he can. She doesn’t yell at him as his mom and dad do.
Valya cleaned the floor for the evening, and we prepared to depart Fairbanks on Thursday. We had found another interesting and beautiful Alaskan town, filled with friendly natives and hordes of (also friendly) tourists.