Sunday, July 22, 2007

Denali & Fairbanks, AK

Travel log entry #6 (musings edition)
On our way up to Denali from Anchorage, we stopped for a stroll at this WWII memorial . When the Japanese Imperial forces captured a couple of the outlying Aleutian islands and were about to build some airfields to be able to be in striking distance to the US mainland, there were many battles to dislodge the invaders at a cost of many lives. The state of Alaska did not wait for a national memorial to be built and built this tribute to those who gave their lives in defense of their homeland. The grounds were silent and

We checked into the McKinley Village Lodge and soon were picked up by a converted schoolbus to take us to Denali National Park.
The weather was horrible with rain off and on throughout our stay in the park. The trip down the Park Road was very scenic in spite of the weather. We strolled into the woods to see the Savage Cabin, a preserved backcountry log cabin and listen to some of the history of the early settlers.
Unfortunately, this was not one of the few days out of the year
when Mt McKinley was not obscured by cloud cover. No pictures of Mt. McKinley, or in Athabaskan... Denali.. "the high one".

With an amazing stroke of luck, I captured this scene of a lynx in pursuit of a snow hare... OK .. I admit it, it was only a display at the park museum.
Note the big feet on both animals.. kind of like built-in snow shoes.
We spent more time in the museum than in the park environs due to the poor weather. Ah, maybe next time.

We visited Jeff King's Goose Lake Kennel A/K/A Husky Homestead. Jeff is a four-time Iditarod Champion. Here's
Linda with one of the husky puppies. They were adorable.
Jeff and his crew are real masters at the sport of dogsledding
and showed us his training techniques and judging from his
recollections of his early days in this sport, he truly loves the
sport and treats his dogs with care and compassion.

We traveled in luxury from Denali to Fairbanks on the famous
Wilderness Express railcars. This is a two story railroad car that has a wrap-around glass upper viewing coach with wide comfortable seats and full bar with gourmet dining on the lower level. The prime rib was excellent.
The scenery was fantastic. This photo shows the Nenana River deep down in the gorge. The viewing was great all the way into Fairbanks.

While in Fairbanks, we stayed at this place on the banks of the Chena River. A lot of younger people sign up for trips to Denali where they will camp out for a couple of days and stay at a lodge the 3'rd day, etc.. Sounds great, this way one can get a good hot shower and comfy bed every 3'rd day.

Since it was Sunday, not many places were open in downtown
Fairbanks. We had lunch at this place. Burgers and fries but not bad. The help consisted of young college girls from the University of Alaska just outside of town.
Note the flowers cascading from their window boxes. Everything was in bloom while we were there.

This is the Unknown First Family sculpture located at the Golden Heart Plaza. It is surrounded by comfortable wooden bench style
seats. After scouring the downtown area, it was great to just sit here and listen to the water fountain as the splashing of the water was hypnotically soothing. As I sat there, I felt the sun on my neck and realized that it was hot. Temps were around 80F.
This sculpture was an example of wisdom in public statuary. By calling the first family "Unknown", the sculptor honored both the native indians who settled here eons ago and the first modern settlers.

These flowers surrounded the entire plaza. They were everywhere. Had I more time, I would have taken hundreds of flower pics.
The Chena River runs right beside this plaza. It is also a glacially fed river and has a dark sandy appearance as it is filled with fine silt. The river is wide here so it looks very peacefull but in areas where it narrows, it looks like wild rapids with continuous white water.

We visited the Eldorado Gold Mine and saw a real active gold mine in operation. Our effort at panning produce a combined $26 worth of gold after we had it weighed. Sorry, no nuggets, just some flakes. At the weigh station, there was a display with a 28 ounce nugget (approx worth $20,000+) which they graciously let us handle (but only near the counter).
Later I snapped this picture of this Piper Super Cub landing near the Riverboat Discovery on the Chena River. It seems almost evryone here owns a truck and a plane. The riverboat made its way past Susan Butcher's (Iditerod Champion) homesite and on to
the Chena Athabascan Village on the huge Tanana River.
Here is a raindeer (AKA Caribou) that was one of many at the Chena Village. They were very uncomfortable today due to the heat (close to 80F) and no wind. Those antlers must weigh a lot.
At the village there were many displays of routine daily activity of a typical Athabascan village both past and present. All the guides were Athabascan natives.. mostly young college-aged girls.

Well that's it. We took an Alaska Airlines flight from the Fairbanks airport to Seatle. I took this last pic from the plane as we cruised at 30,000 feet above the Coast Mountains in British Columbia.
Left Fairbanks at 4PM Monday and landed in Boston Tuesday 7AM in dense ground-clinging fog. A nerve-wracking landing.


Pete's Blog said...

Looks like a pretty state Roman. Bet the Russians with they didn't sell.


roman said...

Hi Pete... Yes, I think that the czar was very shortsighted in his decision to sell. Seward's Folly turned out to be a bargain. said...

Hey Roman ,
Nice pictures , brings back some great memorys.
Thanks, Clay

roman said...

Hi Clay,

I wanted to try out a new digital camera so I took around 320 pictures. There was no shortage of subject matter to shoot in Alaska.
Glad you liked them...

Renegade Eye said...

With Alaska's unique economy, climate, scenery and culture; did you feel in another country?

roman said...


With the exception of Anchorage and Fairbanks, I did feel like we were in a different country. The wilderness is very evident just outside every community. No urban sprawl here,to be sure.
Food prices are high. A bag of potato chips...$5.00 in the small towns. I can readily see why a lot of the native indians still maintain a partial subsistence lifestyle. In the 250 or so tribal towns still in existence, clothing is mostly modern but hunting, trapping and fishing are still preferred.

jams o donnell said...

Great posts Roman. It really sounds like you had a great holiday

Dr Kuha said...

Amazing travels. Alaska is near the top of my travel list...Just hope I manage to get to it someday.

beakerkin said...


What about the mosquitoes? People swear that they are pretty bad over there.

Actually when my folks visited Alaska the locals were thankful for Walmart. It seems Walmart does bring help to high prices even in Alaska.

roman said...

It was one of the best trips.

I highly recommend it.

The mosquitoes were not too bad. We sprayed a little OFF and were not bothered at all. When I think mosquitoes, I always compare it to a trip down I-75,the notorious "Alligator Alley" in June. I should have never ventured out of my car. That was the worst. They were biting right through layers of clothing. Thank God for the huge dragonflies that hovered inches from my face picking them off one by one.

Renegade Eye said...

The part of your post about WWII memorial, was interesting.

Raindeer = caribou?

roman said...


"Raindeer = caribou?" Yes.
The interesting thing is that raindeer are domesticated caribou and tend to be much larger due to the better diet.