Friday, June 26, 2009

22-2009 Last few days in Fairbanks Alaska



As a full timer, the simplest things can make me happy. It rained out for 24 hours and today, the sun came out, the air is fresh and crisp and I feel wonderful. After a quick breakfast I headed out to Chena Hot Springs about 60 miles east of Fairbanks. Talk about a drive into the wilderness. 60 miles of heavy wooded countryside filled with marsh land, lakes, numerous tributaries of the Chena River and remote cabins and homes tucked away down dirt and sometimes very soggy roads. The road dead ends at Chena Hot Springs.

Side note: There are very few roads throughout Alaska. If you look on a map, you’ll see that well over half to 2/3’s of the state has no roads at all. Guess that’s why they have so many float planes.

I noticed a big Lincoln continental behind me and it finally passed by. Well, it passed and passed and passed by me. It was the biggest stretch limo I’ve ever seen. Way out here in the middle of no where. Shortly after that, a huge Chinook helicopter came buzzing by. When I got to Chena Hot Springs I found out it was carrying a General most likely from the Army base in Fairbanks. The staff at the resort said there were military surrounding the grounds as well. Now I didn’t see any others that were that important in the area and there were only a half a dozen of us in the hot springs, so I’m unable to report on what he was doing out here.

The hot springs were well worth the trip out here. I stayed in the natural hot springs outside, though they do have additional swimming pools and hot tubs inside. I would not recommend the resorts dining room. Food was not well prepared and a waste of money. However, while I was having lunch there, a gal pointed out the window at a moose that was drinking from one of the springs ponds. I of course jumped up, ran outside with camera in hand and got a couple great shots of a young moose buck. His rack just beginning to grow into a nice sized set of antlers.

My last day in Fairbanks, I still can’t believe I made it this far up north. Just amazing to me that I’ve been able to do this. I took a leisurely tour of the Pioneer Village, considering most of the buildings and shops weren’t open when I got here around 9:30. I was hoping the Presidential Warren G Harding train car would be something worth seeing. Unfortunately, the car was not open and looking inside as well as the outside, it appears to be in pretty bad shape. The interior was mostly gutted to the bare walls. I did enjoy seeing all the original log cabins from the Fairbanks area. Amazing that there are still so many more around town. Really gives Fairbanks that frontier feeling mixed in among all the newer buildings in town.

Since I had plenty of time, I went back to the University of Alaska Fairbanks to their Large Animal Research Station where they have Musk Oxen, Caribou, Wood Caribou and Reindeer. The Musk Oxen had become extinct in the late 1800’s in Alaska due to over hunting as well as in Europe and Scandinavia. The only remaining location where Musk Oxen remained, was in Greenland. Greenland helped repopulate Alaska, Canada as well as areas in Scandinavia and Europe. The Musk Oxen are the last descendants of the dinosaur era. They can only survive in this cold environment. They were first brought to Nunivak Island where they continued to repopulate before being reintroduced throughout Alaska. Quite an experience to see these unique animals back in their original habitat.

Also learned that the caribou run in very large herds of as many as 120,000 in one herd. That’s a lot of caribou ay. Where as the musk oxen usually are in groups of 20-30. The musk oxen do have predators after them and they defend themselves by forming a tight circle facing outward, with the weaker oxen in the center as well as the young. With their horns, they are able to defeat most predators. The caribou don’t really use their antlers to defend themselves and can run for long distances to get away from their predators. Ok, that’s your history lesson for today.

I’m off to get some pizza at Pizza Hut.

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