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Published: June 13th 2018
Alaska or Canada from the air
We flew over lots of white stuff on the second flight. Seattle to Fairbanks.
Stepping out of the Fairbanks airport just after midnight we walked into bright sunshine. Expected. We also walked into a swarm of ostrich sized mosquitos, intent on devouring our flesh. We were less prepared for that and Leanne and Craig in particular were worried about what they had gotten themselves into. But like at home, mozzies are worst at dusk and we didn’t encounter gargantuan insects in such numbers again.
Fairbanks itself is the end of the line to someone like me. I’m not prepared to march off into the wilderness in search of complete isolation. Some folks are and we met one. His log cabin was nearly finished and he would be moving there permanently in the coming months so that he could live off the land, hunting and fishing. For vegetables he would grow onions and potatoes only; he doesn’t like anything else. It seemed strange that someone would want to avoid human contact so much, especially someone who came up to us to start a conversation and wanted to have a long chat whilst we waited for a bus, but this is the decision he has made. He didn’t say that they would take him out of
Museum of the North
There were some pieces we could touch. This is a Grizzly skull. I haven't seen one with fur on yet!
his cabin in a pine box one day, instead he expected to end up as ‘bear scat’. Everyone has their own ambitions. Interestingly, this man had come over to apologies to us about one of the other locals, who was blind drunk and had told us we would all go to hell. I’m sure that she will be waiting there for us as her life style will fast track her admission. Alcohol seems to be a problem for the community in far north Fairbanks. Whilst it is sunny here 21 hours a day in June, at another time of the year the absence of daylight might cause more depression and mental illness. I guess that could explain a high incidence of alcoholism and domestic violence in Fairbanks.
We enjoyed a morning in the sun then, when afternoon rain set in we visited the Museum of the North, which is part of the university. We had a behind the scenes tour of the collection of millions of artefacts and fossils with a detailed explanation from one of the staff. But the main reason for visiting Fairbanks was because of its proximity to Denali and we had the first of three
Alaska Railroad train rides to get to ‘the great one’. That is what Denali means in Athabaskan, the tribe native to the region around the present day national park.
In this park we didn’t explore in the way we had in other parks before. We expected to do lots of walking, but rain and snow prevented this on two of our three days. Snow is not common in the middle of summer, but this is Alaska and it is not unheard of, particularly at higher altitudes. For one day only, the mountains took on a different appearance as the light dusting of snow had melted after another 21 hours of daylight. We did an ATV tour and luckily, we avoided the rain that morning. Great fun for all of us! We also took a bus 66-miles into the park. The road is 92 miles in total, but an 8-hour tour was long enough for us and we went as far as Eielson station where you can view Denali occasionally. Due to all of the snow clouds this was not one of those occasions. We also saw some of the park’s wildlife. Twice we saw three moose, a mother with
her two young ones. The little moose chased each other through the bushes and liked to but heads. Practice for when they grow up I guess. We also saw a family of foxes, dall sheep standing on the steep high slopes eating the sparse vegetation and caribou running through the snow.
One other thing we did in Denali was to visit the sled dogs, who are all resting up over summer in preparation for another season of transporting rangers around the park for the months when this place is completely white. They use sleds instead of motorized vehicles here, because sleds don’t break down in the cold.
And now we are in Anchorage after our second Alaska Railroad train ride. Out the windows we have seen mountains, rivers, snow and trees. A lot of scenic travelling. Then there was also the informative narration by one of the railway employees. They told us all about Alaskan beavers. Much bigger than those found in other states. There are the family beavers and the bachelor beavers. I imagine the bachelor beavers come out to play more often and are more active at night time.
In our short time in Alaska
One of our walks in Denali
We didn't do many, but the sun shone this afternoon and we made the most of it.
so far, we have seen and done quite a bit, but I have still only seen one bear and it was a black bear from the window of the train. No grizzlies yet. Everyone else that we talk to has seen one and I’m sure there were plenty in those forests that we passed through. Then again, I didn’t see any beavers either.
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