Our first day in Alaska

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June 14th 2013
Published: June 15th 2013
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So remember how I said that I wasn't sure whether it would get any darker? That's a negative...it got lighter! I woke up around 4am and the sunlight peeking out around the room darkening blinds made it look like it was noon outside. Of course, my brain knew that breakfast wasn't until 8:15 and I could sleep until at least 7 so I went back to sleep. I can't say it was the best night's sleep I've ever had...it really is strange how the light just really wants you to wake up, but I did rest and was able to get up and function just fine in the morning.

Breakfast was great...there are two other older retired couples staying at the B&B on their way to a cruise and were a lot of fun to chat with over our breakfast. The owner, Marnie, recommended that we go on this river cruise and we were able to book the tickets through her. After breakfast was over we headed back to the room to grab a few last things before heading out for the day. Let me say something here...the customs in Alaska is that you take your shoes off inside, much like you would in Japan. Since this is essentially a house, we're expected to do this when we enter our own room or the main part of the house. It's really interesting that they do this. I've read reviews of various B&Bs online where past visitors actually complained about this. Honestly, one of the best things about staying in a bed and breakfast is getting more exposure to local customs and culture than you would if you stayed in chain hotel. The way I see it, if you're looking for an impersonal experience then you should stick to the nearest Best Western. Okay...I'm off my soap box now 😊

After we left the house we went straight to the Tourist Information Center, which has a really nice exhibit about native culture and wildlife. We asked the employee there what she recommended and the first flyer she pulled out was for the Large Animal Research Station that's owned by University of Alaska. They have muskoxen, caribou, and reindeer. It was only $10 and sounded really interesting, plus it worked well with the timeline we had for the riverboat cruise. We had about an hour to kill before we had to be at the Research Center for the tour so we decided to check out some of the tourist shops we passed on our way to the Tourist Information Center. The first one we went to was the best. We didn't buy anything but the woman working there was SO informative about the different products she was selling. They were advertising that they had ivory and Matt and I were both wondering how that was possible. It's walrus ivory and has to be carved (and harvested too, I think) by a Native Alaskan to be legal. A lot of the products there had to made by natives to be legal and she was very informative about what to look for.

The Large Animal Research Center was really great. It was a 45 minute tour and they have muskoxen, caribou, and reindeer living there at the center. The animals are all wild, not domesticated, and we weren't able to pet any of them but it was really interesting to see them up close and to learn all about them. They are all arctic animals and are able to survive in extreme subzero temperatures. Speaking of temperatures, it's 82 degrees today, clear and sunny. I was not expecting to be at risk of a sunburn in Alaska! It's also zero percent humidity here and I'm so dry I just keep drinking bottle after bottle of water. We've heard several times today that Alaska is actually an arctic desert because of the lack of humidity.

After leaving the Research Center we stopped at the grocery store before heading to the riverboat cruise to pick up car trip snacks and bottled water. The cruise is run by Riverboat Discovery and was very well done. The large paddle boat holds up to 900 people, although it wasn't nearly that full, and cruises the Chena River. We looked to be the youngest on board but met a really great pair of ladies on board, Nikki and Caroline, who were traveling together. The cruise brought in lots of elements from the river and the riverbanks. The were in radio contact with a sea plane pilot who demonstrated taking off and landing in a small area and we passed by Susan Butcher's kennels. She won the Iditerod four times and, even though she has passed, her husband is still operating the kennels and did a mushing demonstration on the banks with some of their dogs. Different homes and points of interest were explained to us along the way and we stopped for about an hour in a mock native village to learn about local culture, including the catching and smoking of salmon. We got to pet a few of the sled dogs that we had seen earlier on the banks and some of the local natives did some nice demonstrations on the wildlife and culture in the area.

After an hour in the village everyone boarded the boat again and returned to the dock. Along the way, Nikki and Caroline invited Matt and I to join them for dinner at The Pump House and we happily joined them. They are in Alaska for a National Geographic tour and we discovered over dinner that the schedule for the land portion of their tour is the same as ours for the next few days. We're all leaving for Denali National Park tomorrow and will be there for three days, but they're staying WAY in the park and we're staying just outside of it. But our next stop on both of our itineraries is not only the same but we're staying in the same hotel! After dinner we dropped them at their hotel after trading phone numbers, and headed back to our room to try and get some sleep.

It's about 9:45pm right now and it looks like it's 2 in the afternoon. Sleep is going to be interesting but tomorrow we pan for gold and have a several hour drive to Denali so we need our sleep!


15th June 2013

My trip to Alaska
Hi Matt and Mandi, In I960 when I was 5 years old my family drove from Panama City, Florida to Ladd AFB in Fairbanks. My dad was in the Air Force, and Alaska was his next duty station. Our trip took forever since we drove. What I remember most was the snow. I'd love to go back now as an adult because there are so many places I'd love to see. Have a great trip! Debbi J.

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