Alaska's Winter Horizon

Alaska's Winter Horizon

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fairbanks to Tok

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Early Sunday morning in Fairbanks we headed over to Creamer's Field for some bird-watching. This land was once a huge dairy farm that ceased operation in 1966. Today about 2000 acres are part of this migratory waterfowl refuge. Even though most of the Sand Hill Cranes left over the previous week, we still managed to see several feeding in the fields. We saw lots of Canadian geese at the refuge in these same fields. We spent about 2 hours walking the trails and wandering around this beautiful refuge right in the middle of Fairbanks. Upon leaving Creamer's Field we headed to Pioneer Park formerly known as AlaskaLand. We didn't quite know what to expect but it turned out to be another charming place. It was full of restored cabins and shops moved to this area from various locations around town. There was also an Aviation Museum, rides for the children, playground, a train, and the Nenana riverboat. In one area there was a building that housed Native Alaskan artifacts. On the grounds near the Native Alaskan Museum were replicas of several earthen homes. Here is Doris standing on the roof of the home as I am coming out the front door. Another piece of American history was found right inside the front gate. The train car used by President Warren Harding on his journey through Alaska is on permanent display. President Harding was quite the ladies' man and brought along both his wife and his mistress on the train. He died soon after leaving Alaska and it has been rumored that he was poisoned, perhaps by one of the ladies. His death has been ruled as the result of a stroke. At this point we were all getting hungry and decided to hit the road to Tok.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Doris meets Santa!

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We drove on and finally made our way into the city of Fairbanks. This is not a huge city but the town itself has about 30,000 people. The layout is similar to Cookeville or a city of the same size in Tennessee. After the hustle and bustle of Anchorage, we quite enjoyed the way Fairbanks was spread out allowing you to enjoy plenty of space. We settled on a little cabin for the night near the Chena River. We drove around and checked out the town a bit before making our way to......North Pole, Alaska, home of Santa Claus!! We didn't really know what to expect but were immediately charmed by this festive little town. It's basically Christmas here 365 days a year. The streetlights are candy canes and most all the local businesses were decked out for the holiday. There were even colored lights and a decorated Christmas tree inside the Wendy's restaurant.
The streets had great names like Santa Claus Lane and Saint Nicholas Way. After driving around for awhile we finally made our way to the home of St. Nick. Upon entering Santa's home/gift shop, we saw a line of people of all ages waiting to meet the jolly old elf. We browsed for a bit until the line got shorter and Doris and Greg made their way over to meet Santa. Doris later said this was the highlight of her trip when she got to talk to Santa. Notice her big smile! Greg told Santa that me being married to him was like Christmas for me everyday. Santa did agree but I secretly hope this lie doesn't put Greg on the naughty list. Speaking of the nice/naughty list, we noticed that some of you should try really hard to be nice these last few months before December based on Santa's preliminary reports. Even the outdoor area of Santa's home is ready for the holidays. His reindeer are looking good with plush beautiful coats and velvety antlers. Here is a pic of Doris and me in a sled. After all that excitement, we headed back to our cabin to get some rest.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Labor Day weekend, part 2

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Our next stop along the highway was the town of Nenana.
This town is well-known for the annual Nenana Ice Classic. This traditional guessing game originated in 1917 by railroad workers during the harsh winters. They began to bet when the river would thaw and boats would be able to reach them with supplies. This betting game morphed into the annual Ice Classic where anyone can buy a ticket and try to guess the closest time when a striped tripod placed on the river will fall as the ice weakens. This is a huge event since Alaska has no lottery. The jackpot has been over $300,000 dollars. Here is one of the famous striped tripods waiting to be placed on the frozen river in a few months. Nenana is also famous because it was at this point in 1925 when diphtheria antitoxin was taken from the railroad cars that brought it up from Anchorage. From this small town, dog sleds carried the antitoxin on to Nome. The town is located in the junction of the Nenana and Tanana Rivers. About 400 people call this town home. Nenana was originally home to Athabascan Natives. Nearly half the town's current residents are of Athabascan descent. Greg, Doris, and I wandered around this quaint town a bit before heading on.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Labor Day weekend

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Picked our friend, Doris, up around 9:00 Saturday morning and headed north toward Fairbanks. The roads weren't too busy and the day was gorgeous and sunny. We weren't too far from Talkeetna when we managed to first spot the top of Denali among the puffy white clouds. Shortly after entering the Denali borough we spotted a huge patch of wild blueberries on the side of the road. Doris and I wandered out into the meadow to try our hand at blueberry picking in the wild. In just a few minutes we both had a small handful to nibble on! They were sweet and yummy! Our setting was so beautiful we could have easily spent the rest of the afternoon here. But as we still had a long drive ahead of us, we jumped back in the car and headed north.