Tonight will likely be the last 11pm sunset we see for quite some time! Tomorrow we leave Fairbanks and begin the trek south. Our plan is to make it to Juneau in a week, but the Alaska Marine Highway is currently closed due to a strike that started 8 days ago. Hard to know what will happen, but for now we will being making our way toward Haines in the hopes that the negotiations will pan out before we are set to sail on 8/9. If not, we will figure something else out. We are getting quite good at that on the road!
It’s been a fun few days here. Brian and Cathy drove up with us from Denali so we got to enjoy an extra night (and decadent dinner at The Pump House) with them before they flew home. Since they left, we’ve been taking in the local sights and doing a bit of touristing. Sadly we won’t catch the northern lights. The season officially starts a bit later in August, when there is a little bit of actual darkness, now it just still gets kind of dusky for a few hours.
On campus at University of Alaska Fairbanks.
They have a pretty awesome botanical garden on campus which includes the official seed gene bank for a variety of sub arctic berry plants, rhubarb, peonies and mint. They also had an experimental dye garden for coloring yarn and other textiles.
Scott with the Alaska giant cabbages! Sadly we were not allowed to taste anything.
Yesterday we hiked the Angel Rocks trail on our way to Chena Hot Springs. Gorgeous views from the granite “tors” that were created by volcanic activity and then exposed through erosion. (Header photo shows several of the tors we hiked around.)
On the rocks.
And the reward at the end of the hike…Chena Hot Springs. A wonderful place to soak and relax.
Today we visited Gold Dredge #8. This behemoth was built in Philadelphia, shipped piece by piece, and reassembled just north of Fairbanks. During its 26 years of operation it mined 600,000 ounces of gold as it made a very slow 4.6 mile crawl and dig through the area. The process for excavating gold in this area is wild, including removing about 150 feet of surface soil and gravel, then injecting water to defrost the permafrost, before flooding it so that the dredge can float and scoop rock for sluicing (rinsing with water) to harvest the gold. The whole process is basically the same as panning for gold: scoop, shake, rinse, collect!
Which is exactly what we got to do at the end!
Waiting to see what we got.
Whoop! $53 worth! About half a gas tank. This is probably not our get rich quick strategy.
Our tour ended with a talk about the Alaska Pipeline, which moves a lot more money around these days than the gold industry. To date the pipeline has carried over 17 billion barrels of oil across the state, from the oil field in the north to Valdez, AK, the northernmost ice free harbor in North America.
And a few photos from around downtown Fairbanks tonight…
Success…we found a recycle bin! Recycling on the road has been a bit of a challenge, but we have been doing ok. It helps that we only buy aluminum cans since that seems to be the most common bin we happen upon!
Technically we are past the end of the Alaska Highway, but this milepost marks Mile 1523 from the start of the road in Dawson Creek. We will be back on it tomorrow…southbound!