We arrived in Fairbanks after an hour and a half late after a five hour train ride from Denali. This is the Fairbanks Princess Hotel at about eleven PM. The sun ducked below the horizon at about midnight and was up again by three thirty AM.
The first activity for our full day in Fairbanks was a riverboat trip; execllant theatre due to all the special happenings on the shores along the way. Here is the first attraction; a short grassy airport where they did a "bush" style takeoff and landing in less than two hundred feet.
Many of the local residents are building brand new log cabins from white spruce. The ridge pole on this new home is over eighteen inches in diameter and the walls are better than a foot.
Susan Butcher, three time Iditerod winner, just happens to have her kennel on the banks and also just happens to be wired so we can hear her over the riverboat PA system. As at the other stops, the tour guide could talk with the folks on the bank and the TV cameraman on the boat would zoom in for closeups we could see on monitors mounted all over the boat.
Here at the "meeting of the waters" you can see the silt laden glacier water on the left mixing with the clear spring water from the creek arriving on the right.
Here we see a reproduction Fish Trap as used by the native residents about a hundered years ago. As salmon arrive they are scooped into a holding basket for the Indians to process. The traps are now illegal and this one has had the net removed so it doesn't really catch any fish.
The most fashionable residences are on the bluffs beside the river.
Here we see the TV monitors on the boat and the reproduction Athebascan Indian fish camp. The young lady proceeded to explain how they built these camps, caught the fish and smoked them. She then proceeded to cut two filets from a large salmon so that they were connected at the tail. They were then hung to dry on the rack prior to being smoked in the shelter at the back. To the right are shelters for the camp dogs and beyond for the workers.
The next stop was a little more interesting than the Butcher kennel, this young lady just starting her career actually had a team hooked up and took them for a couple turns around the building with the moose racks. The dogs are so powerful they can easily pull the sled on dry land at full speed. It's harder on the sled but it doesn't slow them down.
After turning around the boat off-loaded the passengers at a presentation area. Here there were a number of "theatres" in a nicely landscaped area. Lots of these and other flowers.
The first theatre we visited showed the post-contact Athebascan life style. he young lady modelled a "chief's coat" while her collegue to the left showed the beading techniques used on the coat. (The beader was the one who did the salmon filleting at the previous stop.)
Here's the back of the coat.
This stop on the tour showed the care and training of the dogs. After explaining why the dogs were not as large as people expect (they're bred for speed and endurance rather than power) they showed the harness and bad weather coats and boots the dogs wear.
A third portion of the presentation showed the pre-contact village with its bark and willow pole lodge, birch bark canoe and game preparation area for moose and caribou. Here there were also some tame reindeer (same species as the caribou) I took the chance to photograph close up.
Here is a close-up of the beading on that chief's coat of a few shots back.
And some shots of the current work of beads on leather.
And more flowers; this time the blue bells.
Here's the riverboat. That rack on the back is not for show; it is a real stern wheeler driven by that rack. No hidden propeller.
Even the churches are built of logs. This one is being raised by the members of the congregation.
After the riverboat trip we stopped at the gift shop associated with the riverboat, had lunch at the hotel and boarded a bus for the afternoon excursion. Along the way we stopped at THE PIPELINE. Eight Hundred Miles of insulated oil transport. As we arrived I commented to the bus driver that this was the first stop in Alaska I saw without a Gift Shop in view. (A running joke it seems.)
I was wrong, in the background on the right is the gift shop.
The afternoon trip was to a gold mine owned by the same people who owned the riverboat and it was as well played. You can see the conducter on the "mine train" here as well a the video monitors placed so you didn't miss anything. The presentation was well scripted but the experience was authentic.
The train first took us into a mine where they had originally used steam to melt the permafrost and dig out the gold bearing sediments. Then we saw this cabin where the living conditions of the miners were reproduced.
This Water Cannon was used to melt the permafrost in the mines.
This donkey engine and trap line was used to move the ore.
Here in front of the Gift Shop posing as mine headquarters is a rig set up to show how the steam engine was rigged over the pit dug to access the ore.
Behind the main building was a sluice manned by a miner, his wife and their assistants. Beautiful theatre! They explained the process of concentrating the ore in this modern sluice (Backhoe puts ore in hopper, water is released from pond above, heavy gold is dropped as the horizontal bars disturb the water flow, resulting concentrate is manually panned.)
Here are the nuggets and gold the three panners extracted during the demonstration. We then picked up our bags of concentrate and headed to the panning area.
Everyone was guaranteed some gold. I suspect the demo was salted but Mary Louise and I gathere about thirteen dollars worth between our two pans. We then spent thirty dollars for a locket and chain to hold the gold and triple that for a ring she liked. At forty bucks a head you can figure out where the real gold is to be mined. It's really there but the labor to get it out isn't economical. (Calculate fifty dollars of gold for the one hour in three of panning you do and it's more profitable to ask "Do you want fries ...?".