A Travellerspoint blog

Day Ten - Tundra Wilderness Tour

Friday, 4 September 2015

Up early again this morning and off to the Sourdough Music Hall. Hearty if rustic buffet with plenty of choices and even some fruit. After breakfast we gathered at the Main Lodge to board the bus for our eight hour Tundra Wilderness Tour. The weather has turned miserable and there is a cold drizzle with the promise of serious rain.

The bus is a converted school bus but has some neat features. There were some drop-down video screens connected to a serious camera operated by the driver/guide. the name of the game was to spot wildlife. A shout of STOP !! would stop the bus - where safe to do so. It was then a matter of determining what had been seen and where it was. Once the driver locked onto the subject we could all see it in detail on the screens.
We drove out on the mainly unsealed mountain road for about 52 miles in four hours with comfort stops every 90 minutes or so. With about two dozen buses on this narrow winding road the task of the driver was not insignificant. With something like 50 sets of eyes trying to spot wildlife I expected many calls to stop. Not so.

We spotter - a long way away - a Dall Sheep - totally white and almost impossible to distinguish from a patch of snow. Next someone spotted a wolf feeding off to the side, far enough to be difficult to photograph. We were informed that there are fewer than 50 wolves in this 6 million acre park. Seeing one of them is indeed a rare event. There were a number of bear sightings, most of them at a distance too far to be clearly photographed.

On our way back, after a brief comfort stop, someone spotter a bear coming down the hill-side. Our driver revved up the old bus and parked on the bridge over the river so that we could get an unobstructed view. The bear came down the hill entered the river and waded across less that 20 meters from where we were stopped. Definitely the shot of the day.

There were more sightings of moose and caribou but none of them could spark my enthusiasm after catching that shot of the bear. We were a bunch of weary travellers who disembarked at the Lodge. A wonderful day out and the weather stayed reasonable. The vivid tapestry of colours in the landscape was somewhat ignored and outdone by the more spectacular wildlife sightings.

The day is not over, tonight we dined in the Sourdough Music Hall. Long tables and 'family style' service. Servers were upbeat and very attentive, all one had to do was wave a napkin and shout a name. This jovial atmosphere prevailed when the servers became actors in a melodramatic telling of the story of the men who first climbed Mt Danali. Well done and interesting, one of the girls had a particularly great voice.
No WiFi in the room so will need to upload this from the Great Hall.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view photo for today by following this link to my main album.

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 22:00 Archived in USA Tagged danali Comments (1)

Day Nine - Fairbanks to Denali

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Quite an early start with the coach taking us to the Fairbanks Railroad Depot where we boarded the train to take us the four hours to Danali. Beautifully appointed Alaskan Rail Road Gold Class domed car. Recliner seats and complementary non-alcoholic beverages. There was also an open air vestibule at the end of the car where we could take unobstructed images, no glass but pesky trees whenever I pressed the shutter. Awesome landscape of trees and distant mountains.

The Princess Denali Lodge is spread over a wide area with groups of rooms housed in separate buildings. After our luggage found us we went off to lunch in the King Salmon dinning room. Hearty menu and great food. I've developed a nasty cough over the past day or so. In an attempt to nip that cold in the bud we ventured off to find some medication. There's no pharmacy in Danali and the recommended place to find something was the Sled Dog Liquor Store. Sounds unlikely but it worked. There was an impressive array of cold and cough medication.

Back in the room I took a good dose and promptly flaked out on the bed - woke up four hours later and declined to go to dinner. Jenny went of for dinner in King Salmon and I was fast asleep when she returned. She woke me up and dosed me again about 23:00 and next thing I know it is time to get up.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view photo for today by following this link to my main album.

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 21:58 Archived in USA Tagged danali Comments (0)

Day Eight - Busy Day Around Fairbanks

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Enjoyed a buffet breakfast and happened to walk past the dreaded Gift Shop. On reviewing our luggage last night I realised I was short of a lightweight rain/wind jacket. Marked down on special for just US$24.95 were just the jacket I needed. Jenny decided she could use one as well so another US$50 on the credit card.

First activity for the day was the Riverboat cruise on the Discovery III. She is four decks tall, weighs 250 tons and built in the style of the Mississippi paddle steamers. The MC for the tour was a vastly knowledgeable guy with a smooth delivery and an ability to continue talking whilst underwater. His first trick was to call up a mate in a float-plane who demonstrated the bush pilot's ability to take off and land in confined spaces. All the while the pilot is providing a commentary and explaining the history and reliance on these nimble aircraft. Impressive show.

We sail along the Chena River looking into the back yards of some impressive log-cabin mansions. We pull up alongside a breeding/training facility for sled dogs. There are dozens of very excited multicoloured mutts barking and jumping around. We were provided with a commentary from the widower husband of Susan Howlet Butcher (December 26, 1954 – August 5, 2006) she was an American dog musher, noteworthy as the second woman to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 1986, the second four-time winner in 1990, and the first to win four out of five sequential years. She is commemorated in Alaska by the Susan Butcher Day. The take home message was about her dog 'Granite' who was ridiculed and considered worthless and went on to lead her to victory.

Next stop was a recreation of a Chana Village where we received detailed and beautifully presented explanation of village life for the local Athabascan Indians. Most of the presenters were summer hired student from the University of Alaska. All of them were descendant from local or other Native Alaskan people. Very knowledgeable and confident presenters.

Back on the boat and returned to Steamboat Landing where we were treated to a hot beef stew, roast vegetables and chocolate brownie desert. There must have been over 300 people there and we were all fed and out into the gift shop within 45 minutes. The entire morning was first class and reflected a well practised team of skilled operators.

back on the coach and off to the Goldstream Dredge No. 8 which is a ladder dredge operated by the Fairbanks Exploration Co. from 1928 to 1959. It is located on the old Steese Highway between Fairbanks and Fox in the central part of the U.S. state of Alaska. Starting in the 1920s, water was brought to the area through the 90-mile (145 km) Davidson Ditch for gold mining. The Goldstream Dredge No. 8 cut a 4.5-mile (7.2 km) track and produced 7.5 million ounces of gold. The dredge was named a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1986. In 1984, it was listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.

We panned for gold and between us we fount US$ 44 worth which was then preserved in a locket costing an additional US$ 129. There must be some logic there ??

Back on the coach and back to the lodge with just sufficient time to change for a five course dinner with wine. I thought the food was great, but then I've never knocked back any food. The wine was fine, not so in the opinion of more knowledgeable individuals at the table.

Tomorrow the luggage must be outside the room by 06:00 and the coach departs at 07:00. Chris, the tour guide, introduced the suffix 'ish' when dealing with arrival times but departure times are as stated. We should arrive at our next destination about 12:30 ish depending on travel conditions.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view photo for today by following this link to my main album. There is also an additional shot in my alternate album

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 23:02 Archived in USA Tagged fairbanks Comments (0)

Day Seven - On to Fairbanks

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

All packed and with a tasty breakfast under our belts we headed off in the hotel shuttle to the airport. We had plenty of time and chatted with a local who was flying to Fairbanks for work. He's an engineer working on the laying of fibre optic line from Fairbanks to some remote place I don't remember. Some work can only be done in Winter and other jobs only in Summer. He claims the limits are imposed more by the material or the equipment. The manpower is expected to continue on regardless.

The flight was uneventful and we were treated to spectacular views of the snow topped mountains. Fairbanks looked much more extensive than I'd imagined. The city is the Northern railhead for the Alaskan railway. All material arrives by rail and is then distributed either locally or further afield including the Arctic construction projects.

On arrival we were greeted by the young lady at the Princess Information desk. We were provided with room key, special luggage tags and a detailed schedule for the next two days. We waited a while and then boarded a coach to take us to the Lodge. Officially The Fairbanks Riverside Princess Lodge which will be home for two nights. We were about two hours early for check-in and it was suggested we grab a lunch in Tracker's Restaurant. There was an adequate menu and we selected 'Fish and Chips'. Turned out to be a great choice, the fish was beautifully cooked and the chips (French Fries) were crisp hot and plentiful.

After lunch the room was ready and we found our luggage already deposited there. We left it for now and bought two shuttle tickets for the coach which ferried us into down-town where we visited some of the local attractions and then were picked up and transported back to the lodge. Found to my surprise that the local WiFi was available in the rooms and FREE. I had assumed that the remote location would preclude access, obviously the friendly engineer we met in Anchorage or his mates had already provided fibre broadband.

Returned to Tracker's for a light meal and tackled the task of splitting our luggage. We finished up with one case which will be transported directly to the port where we will meet up with it in just over a week. Then there's the case which will catch up with us each stop. It will be transported separately and we are warned that they may arrive much later because of delays due to the condition of the roads. Then there's the 'carry-on' which carried the daily essentials and board the coach with us. Sounds like a concept fraught with dangers but we've had a stab at it.
Time to kick back and catch up on some sleep - it looks like a busy day ahead.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view photo for today by following this link to my main album

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 21:34 Archived in USA Tagged fairbanks Comments (0)

Day Six - Anchorage in Lock-down

Monday, 31 August 2015

Clear sky and sharp breeze welcomed us for today's visit to Anchorage Downtown. Bus fare for all-day travel for two Seniors is just $5. All that was needed was our proof of ID. The trip into the city centre was quick and interesting. Given we travelled on a major road there were mainly commercial premises and many of those were eateries. There must have been a dozen burger joints and most of them independent operators.

Many of the downtown streets were closed to vehicle traffic and there were only a few pedestrians. With a number of government buildings also closed there wasn't much activity.

We visited some interesting stores including Trader Jack featuring a massive range of Alaskan gifts and souvenirs. Items ranged from cheap knickknacks to upmarket clothing and artworks. An enormous inventory. Then Big Ray's Army and Navy store, a true frontier outfitter store. Outdoor leisure and working gear in a range of sizes up to 5X. Also looked for a while in a fur store. Amazing apparel at incredible prices. All of it absolutely beautiful.

Back to the hotel and crossed the street to get a bite for lunch, honest - NO extra large chilly today. No incentive to do anything much except prepare for the start of the Land Tour when we touch down at Fairbanks. The frequency of blog updates will take a dive due to the lack of Internet access. I'll write the stories each day but won't be able to post them for about a week.

Caught up with a bit more sleep then wandered off to a local - across the street - Italian joint. Cheap certainly but uninspired food.
Back to the hotel and booked a shuttle for 08:30 tomorrow to take us to the airport. Flight is scheduled for 10:35 with a flight of just over an hour to Fairbanks.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view photo for today by following this link to my main album

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 20:13 Archived in USA Tagged anchorage Comments (1)

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