Friday, June 19, 2015

There's Gold in Them There Hills - Fairbanks

We spent a few weeks in the Fairbanks overall the last time we were in Alaska. We decided to stay at Chena Lake's Recreation Area again. There was a hugh disaster in 1967 where Fairbanks, the second largest city in Alaska was almost completely floodedby the Chena River. Major flood control projects were undertaken and the reservior build by the Corp of Engineers was one of the projects. There are actually two campgrounds, one River Park and another Lake PArk, which is where we stayed.

We are only staying three nights this time. We decided to take two tours, one a new one for us and another we took before but really liked a lot. We had bought a tour book again which includes many of the tours in Alaska on a buy one get one free basis. The two trips we took paid for the book and we know we will be using it over the next 6 weeks or so. The first trip was to Gold Dredge 8 which is a 2 hour tour to the gold fields in the Tanana Valley. The tour begins right by part of the Alaskan Pipeline, which products 15% of the nation's oil production. It goes from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.

We then hoped aboard a replica of the Tanana Valley railroad, where we listened to a short talk on the way to the Dredge. The narrator also was a musician and sang a few tunes. Gold Dredge 8 extracted millions of ounces of gold from the frozen Alaska ground. It is now a National Historic Site that pays tribute to the hard working miners who built Fairbanks. The train made stops while we listened to demostrations and talks about mining in Alaska. Gold mining was a big part of Alaska's history and towns grew and some turned to ghost towns when the gold was no longer available.

We then stopped and everyone got to try their hand at finding gold. We were given a poke of pay dirt which we put into a pan and told how to tip the pan into the water washing away the dirt and rocks until only gold is left. I think everyone got a little gold. Of course there is a store there where you can find out how much your gold in worth and then have it put into a necklace or earring. Joe only got 7 dollars worth and I got 19 dollars worth but I combined them into a necklace. It was a fun trip though it isn't anything we would do a second time.

Atrip we did do for a second time was the Riverboat Discovery. Besides being just a nice boat ride on the Chena River, the three hour tour was filled with Alaska history. It started with a bush pilot taking off and landing near the boat. The pilot talked about the importance of planes in the bush country.

We passed a lot of interesting looking homes on the river side. No cookie cutter houses here.

We passed the Pump House which is a restaurant we went to later that night.

We also stopped to see the Susan Butcher Kennels. Susan was a four time Iditarod Champion. She died a number of years ago but her husband and family carry on the tradition and train the champion sled dogs.

We watched a dog mushing demo and then watched the dogs happily play in the water.
We continued on with a stop to see a demo of an Athabascan Indian filleting and drying salmon. We also took a walking tour of an Athabascan Indian Village. There were talks on the construction of log cabins, a primitive spruce bark hut, how some animals such as fox and beaver were used for food and protection in the harsh artic winters.

They also had some of Susan Butchers dogs there to pet and hear about their life in Alaska.

We  headed back enjoying a nice warm day on the water. Fairbanks has some of the warmest weather in Alaska. They get some of the hottest days but also some of the coldest in the winter at 60 below zero.

We headed back to our campsite and later that evening drove all the way back to the Pump House. If we had known it was right near the Discovery Boat area we would have taken the tour later in the day and went right from there to dinner. We had a reservation but weren't able to see outside as it was full. We ate in the atrium room which was still nice as we could see some of the rivr. We didn't have a good start as we sat there for almost 20 minutes without a waiter coming over. Joe had to finally go complain. They said there must have been a mixup though you would think someone would have noticed us sitting there without anything but water. When we finally got someone to wait on us he did go out of his way to make up for it with good service. The food was very good. We had a oyster shooter each and shared some steamed clams. Joe had a bacon wrapped meat dish and I had seafood risotto with shrimp, crab and scallops. All very good.

Next we are on our way to Denali where we are staying at one of National Park's campground.

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