bike trail bridge
July 4th 2008
Happy Belated Canada Day!!!!
We hope everyone has enjoyed their long weekend off enjoying Canadian things to do!
Our story continues...in Fairbanks, Alaska, a lovely city of 80,000ish people (more than the total people who live above latitude 60 in the whole of Canada). We wandered through the Museum of the North where there were great displays of wildlife, native culture and the ice age. They had two interesting replicas of frozen ice age animals found in Alaska, a baby wooly mammoth and a bison, dated to about 30,000 years ago. We browsed the art gallery and found a most peculiar room of sound. The seismic activity of the area was translated into vibration and sound which pulsated through the room as you sat on a bench looking at walls lighted with coloured lights that fluctuated in intensity with the daylight outside. I felt like I could hear mother earth’s heart beat. Apparently the northern lights would give quite a show in this room.
As we now had a campsite in an RV park where we didn’t have to watch out for bears, we cooked up some nice sea food dinners for two days.
The sunny days in Fairbanks accompanied us on our visit to Pioneer Park where we saw many ancient machines of the gold rush mining days, stories of the brothels and red light district, visited the little shops selling everything carved from ivory, bone, jade, hematite. The stores themselves were heritage cabins of the old town in the early 1900’s. We came across an interesting item...birch syrup, made from birch trees (who knew?). Apparently from the native culture, this syrup takes 4-5 times as much sap as maple. So to make 1 litre of it you need 200 litres of sap. It tastes like molasses but is thinner and spicier. After a nice bike ride along the river we headed back to the campsite for a refreshing shower and supper. Just when things were settling in, a parade of antique cars rolled through our park, beeping their horns and playing old music before parking up for a visit. Dave chatted with a model T owner and got to drive it, stalling it on the first try. The pedals are very strange to operate (the middle pedal depressed was neutral, the other two were a to engage the gears, very odd).
Mount McKinley, Alaska
from a far away view on the highway
Leaving Fairbanks the next day we headed south towards Denali National Park. We were pumped again for wilderness hikes, but when we arrived, the tour buses, and the overwhelming amount of people made us scatter quickly to quieter parks. There is such hipe about Denali (aka Mount McKinely--the tallest in North America) that it becomes a big tourist trap, charging you big bucks just to be in the park itself. Why would we pay large sums of money when we can camp for free at camp D and T! We continued south enjoying the scenery of mountains and snow capped peaks, and yes, we could see Denali clearly that day, as it towered over other mountains with a height of just over 20,000 feet.
As we packed up camp the next day, fighting off mosquitos, we made good miles in the rain towards Valdez, Alaska. A few sunny breaks allowed us to see the magnificent views on the highway of the mountainous terrain, canyons and waterfalls. A few places we were above the tree line in the high elevations of the mountains. We stopped in at Worthington Glacier where we could learn about glacier activity on the information boards,
for the midnight sun
and hike right up to it. Touching the glacier was an amazing experience. Just knowing these powerful structures have shaped our land to what it is today...and maybe another ice age is just around the corner?....oh ya, ice worms...they do exist!
Descending down to sea level we arrived in Valdez. We did an amazing 6 hour boat tour (on the Lulu Belle) to the Columbia Glacier in all of its splendor, riding amongst the small icebergs in the sea in the Prince William Sound. On the way, we saw 3 humpback whales, some sea otters, stellar sea lions and even had some dall’s porpoises (type of dolphin) riding along the bow of the boat!
And just when we thought there was nothing more spectacular than that, the next day we stopped in at the Valdez Glacier next to town and launched the canoe into the glacial water getting up close and personal with the icebergs. We kept our distance from the face of the glacier to prevent capsizing due to slidey chips of ice entering the boat or causing a mini tsunami. Hypothermia would not be on my list of things to experience. The lake was just below
This is where Chris McCandless started off his journey "Into the Wild", It's also where he was last seen alive.
zero (due to the giant ice cubes) as the we gently ploughed through the thin ice on top of some parts of the calm lake. The sun made rainbow colours in the leafy designs of glass. The blue ice was spectacular up close as you heard trickles of water everywhere and crackling sounds.
We headed towards the Canada border and stopped in at a very odd little place called Chicken, Alaska (pop’n 15), so named because the spelling of ptarmigan was very difficult to decide upon. So they went with Chicken! There were half a dozen buildings: the Chicken Cafe, the Chicken Bar, the Chicken Gift Shop and the outhouses were called the Chicken Poop. There was every chicken joke you could think of on every souvenir, including rubber chickens! It was a cool place to hang out in the endless rain. We traversed the Top of the World highway in the pouring rain and crossed the Canadian border on Canada Day. Missing many of the views due to cloud (we were actually in them because of the elevation), the cream de la cream was that the border guy said it was snowing for 5 minutes or so! Yes,
it is always snowing somewhere in Canada, eh?
So this brings us to Dawson City, Yukon! A lovely town of 1800 that was the hub of the gold rush in 1898. Gold, gold, gold!!!! Lots of lovely store fronts in the design of the gold rush times, artisans, and did I mention, gold? We are spending a few days here, learning about the poet, Robert Service and the author, Jack London, who were both inspired by life in the Yukon, and just stopping to smell the flowers, get a tan in the midnight sun, and vegge! I’m still wearing my sleeping mask! The peak heat of the day here starts at about 1 pm and relentlessly continues until the sun sets around midnight (then comes back up at about 1 am). Needless to say, we are filling our vitamin D requirements just fine!!!! The temps this week are in the 30’s!
One more thing...Dave did the Sour-toe Cocktail at the Downtown Hotel last night. The drink features a real toe (preserved) from someone's frostbitten misfortune in a shot of Yukon Jack whiskey. In order to be a Sourtoe Club member, Dave had to actually kiss the toe whilst
drinking down the whiskey. Well, he did more than that! He put the entire gross thing in his mouth!!!!eeeeeeeewwwwwww!!! grooooosssssss!!!!! (the events will be in the DVD)
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