Wednesday, July 28, 2010

ALASKA Day Two Fairbanks

I awoke at 2:30 AM and peeked out between the room darkening drapes.  The sky was pink.  In Fairbanks the sky never really got dark.  Being just south of the Arctic Circle the sun did dip below the horizon for an hour or two but it never got darker than dusk..  I grabbed my camera and took the picture, Fairbanks Dawn, and went back to bed. 
            The dining room opened for breakfast brunch at 6:00 and we were up to taste the caribou sausage and have scrambled eggs, bacon, strawberry yogurt crepes and many other delicious and filling things. 
            The bus left for the gold mine tour at 8:00.  On the way to the gold mine we stopped to see the Alaska Oil Pipeline.  It was quite an engineering project.  They seem to have thought of everything.  The oil is very hot when it is pumped from deep in the earth and the pipeline is built over permafrost.  In the photos you can see the heat dispersing flanges atop each leg of the support system that keeps the pipe above the ground.  Another consideration was the frequent earth quakes in the area.  The structure is designed so the pipe rides on crossbeams and can bounce up and down as well as shift side to side if it needs to.  Another interesting fact,  the caribou herds in the area are thriving,  they love to huddle near the pipeline to enjoy what warmth is gives off in the cold Alaska winter.
            We stood in the pouring rain to watch how the gold ore is pre-washed in running water and  caught in a washboard like ditch to eliminate much of the gravel before panning for the actual flakes.  We were each then given a pan with some gravel in it and taught how to wash the rest of the gravel away to reveal a few flakes of gold.  Together we both found about $20 worth of the yellow metal.  The gift shop weighed everyone’s findings and put them in a plastic container for us.  We then shopped for souvenirs until the bus left.
            The next adventure was an afternoon  riverboat ride on a stern wheeler.  The spruce trees in the area are strange looking because they struggle to grow in the permafrost.  They are tall and skinny and the branches are not neatly graduated from top to bottom like we are used to seeing.  They had lots of “character”.  We floated past log cabins and the home of  Iditerod champion, Susan Butcher, and saw her dogs.  After training runs around the property they all jump in the river to cool off during the summer.  The boat also went to a replica of a native village where we saw examples of furs, native clothing, salmon being smoked and there was a huge stuffed moose. 
            Our third event of the day was an evening salmon bake and a comedy show about life in Alaska.  The best skit was a take off on the “whose on first” done as a sled dog race.  It was still daylight when we arrived back at our hotel. And, though it was still daylight,  we were tired and ready to sleep and we had to have our bags out in the hall at 7:00 the next morning.

To see all the photos for day 2 please visit my photostream on Flickr

Coming soon,  Alaska Day 3 Denali

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