|Taken after midnight outside "our" home in Fairbanks|
Detailed notes about the house and locality from our exchangers were greatly appreciated. A couple things were different living in Fairbanks. Drinking water in the area was ever so slightly tainted with arsenic, so although some people chose to consume it, we opted to drink water treated with a reverse osmosis filter. Also popular with locals was Fox Spring water, but apparently that also contains arsenic. Another difference was no trash collection, and we had to drop it off at a transfer station a mile or so south of the house.
|Our first exploratory foray into Denali NP|
Our second day in Fairbanks, curiosity about Denali drove us to make a scouting trip, since it was only a couple hours away. Now in retrospect, it seems a little crazy that we got back on the road after just one day's rest! But we were glad we did because it gave us a chance to better understand how we wanted to see the National Park. We drove down the first 12 miles of the road into the park, which is the only part section which allows private vehicles, and made plans to take the bus all the way in when we returned later in the month. A Northern Goshawk perched high in a treetop along the road had attracted a crowd, so we stopped to take a look as well. We noticed the train running past Denali to Fairbanks, a trip we hope to make someday. Finally we drove past a B&B near Healy, recommended by our home exchangers, and decided it would be a nice area to stay when we returned.
|Large Animal Research Station (UofA)|
|Muskox at LARS|
Next we made a visit to Creamers Field Migratory Wildlife Refuge, and saw our first Sandhill Cranes. We came back another time or two before leaving Fairbanks to enjoy the birds and wild iris, and also entered their quilt raffle.
|Sandhill Cranes at Creamers Field|
|Museum of the North|
Monday we headed to Chena Hot Springs for the spa as well as in hopes of seeing moose, said to be common in that area. And moose we did see on the way, but when we got out to take a picture, mosquitoes absolutely swarmed us.
|Moose on the way to Chena Hot Springs|
|Moose and calf at Chena Hot Springs|
|The Rock Pool at Chena Hot Springs|
On the way home we stopped at the Alyeska Pipeline Visitor Center, an interesting pipeline viewpoint, then popped our father's day cards in the mail.
|Alaska Pipeline near Fox, AK|
|Susan at the Georgeson Botanical Gardens|
We took a short drive to the nearby berg of Ester but it didn't take long to see the former gold mining camp. We got bad tar on our car from chip seal repairs after the recent earthquake.
|Entering the Nenana Ice Classic lottery|
|Nenana Ice Classic tripod|
From the visitor center we went out to find the tripod that we hoped would move either May 2 or 9th. A local museum contained a lot of Ice Classic memorabilia as well as Athabascan cultural information, and we also stopped in a little railroad musem. An hour and a half later we were on our way back to Fairbanks, with Mike once again amused by the signage for a local pub called Skinny Dick's Halfway Inn.
The last stop of the day was an overdue car wash. We found a place which guaranteed to get your vehicle clean. We went through twice and the car was still filthy, but at least we could better see the nasty spots of tar Mike had to scrub off!
|Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska|
|Unknown First Family in Fairbanks|
Back in Fairbanks, we strolled around the town center and checked out the Unknown First Family sculpture by the Chena River. Later that afternoon, with only 4 days away from the Summer Solstice, we headed out the Steese Highway towards Circle to the most northern point we would experience. Surprisingly, you can see the road in street view Google Maps! We headed back to Fox for another tasty dinner at Silver Gulch.
On and off we had discussed the possibility of going up to Prudhoe Bay. The Dalton Highway, or Haul Road, is a 360 mile service road for oil operations. It is very rough and the risk of vehicle damage is high, particularly when passing big trucks, so we didn't want to take our car. The option that appealed to us the most was taking a bus up and flying back, but the weather for flying was iffy and ultimately we didn't make the trip. Prudhoe Bay has been added to our "next time" list.
Our last few days in Fairbanks were spent restfully revisiting spots we had enjoyed previously, taking walks, and generally looking around appreciating this place we had called home for 11 days. Without darkness to signal the days' end, we often found ourselves up quite late. Our sleep schedule was often unusual, but Kirt Glassman, an Estes Park friend who'd lived many years in Alaska said,
We also started thinking about where to head next. On the drive up it had worked well to stop when we felt tired. But now we would heading into the more populated areas around Anchorage and the southeast, and with the July 4th weekend approaching, we (especially me) worried about availability, and so we decided to make some plans. From the downstairs office/library where we also enjoyed our home exchangers' extensive classical music collection, we spent a fair amount of time planning our itinerary and making reservations for accommodations through July 9th.
The day before we left we opted out of the Summer Solstice festivities and instead cleaned, did laundry and packed up. Anchorage, Seward, Homer, Kenai, Valdez, Palmer and Chitina would soon be more than dots on a map.