Saturday, June 30, 2012

Going down the River

Our plans for today are to take the boat cruise on the Riverboat Discovery. the stern wheeler travels down the Chena River to the Tanana River. it was cloudy when we left the campground and we wondered if we were going to get more rain. however, once we got there, got our tickets and were on board, the sun was out and we actually lucked out with a very nice day. it got warm enough to shed our coats.


The cruise was three hours long and very enjoyable. One of the first things we saw was a bush pilot demonstrate a take off and landing. Bush pilots and their planes play an important part in transportation in Alaska to make deliveries to many of the remote areas of this large state.


We floated by the houses dotted along the shores.


    The picture above is a boat that was built but was unfortunately too heavy and couldn't float. The owner then turned it into a house.
Our next stop was the home and kennels of the late Susan Butcher, a four time winner of the Iditarod Sled dog races. Her husband, Dave Monson, a champion of the Yukon Quest, still trains the dogs and came out on the lawn and gave a talk on how the dogs were trained from puppy hood to be able to join the team and  become champion racers. The dogs were out in force and  we saw them give a demo pulling an ATV. They even have older dogs that have been retired from racing but still are valuable in helping train the future racers.

        Another stop was at an Athabascan fish camp where one of the guides gave a demo on cutting the fish and how it prepared or dried on racks. Chum salmon, or as the Native Americans call it, dog salmon is only used for dogs. The sled dogs each get a salmon a day. Other higher grades of salmon caught for human consumption.


We did see some wildlife, caribou along the banks of the river.


One of the highlights of the trip was a stop at the Chena Indian Village where we all got off the boat and took a tour of the village. The guides we saw were two young Athabascan Indian women who were students at the University of Alaska and work as guides to proudly impart information on what life was like in the villages in Alaska. One of the guides modeled a parka with what is called a sunshine ruff that circles her face. When they slaughter the animals they use every bit of the animal so they is no waste.

       We then walked over and checked out the garden. The cabbage below will be around 60 pounds later this season. Vegetables are hugh due to the long days this time of the year. We then visited a fenced in area where some of Susan Butchers Kennel keeps some of the sled dogs so visitors can get up close and personal with the dog. More information was given there on the dogs'  life.  Some of their dog houses were there. They stay outside even in the cold Alaskan winters but there dog houses are very warm and comfortable for them.

We then headed back just enjoying the day. We also got samples of some smoked salmon appetizers which were very good.

        What a very interesting tour and another great day in Alaska. This is our last day and Saturday we finally head to Chena Hot Springs.                                                                                                        

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