Wrapping Up A Wonderful Tour
Thursday, July 15 brought us to Fairbanks, and the River's Edge Campground, which is, appropriately, right on the edge of the Chena River. We spent three days here, wrapping up our 6 week odyssey with a farewell dinner on Sunday, June 18.
What a great 6 weeks it has been! With the exception of the occasional smoke, the weather has been outstanding. We have made many new friends and seen things that we most likely would not have seen had we come by ourselves.
Fairbanks is an interesting city. It isn't very big -- only about 20,000 people, but it has maintained a lot of its frontier appeal. This despite the impact of the large tour operators that bring in hordes of people every day.
On Thursday evening, we went to the Alaska Salmon Bake for dinner. This is situated in the city's "Pioneer Park" area, where many of the community's older buildings have been relocated, and then restored. The dinner consisted of a buffet, with all the Halibut, Salmon, Ling Cod and Prime Rib you could eat. Delicious!
Friday, we went on a tour of the city, which included a stop at the Trans Alaska Pipeline and at the El Dorado Gold Mine for a tour and more gold panning. The gold mine tour was extremely well done, almost up to Disney standards in terms of presentation and information.
Friday afternoon, we visited the University of Alaska museum, which was sort of like going through someone's attic. Lots of interesting stuff, but not much of a theme, or central thread. Kathy and Andy, you may remember the large Grizzly Bear that was there on our 1981 trip. He's still there, and he still looks just as imposing as the first time we saw him.
Saturday was a "free" day, in that there were no scheduled activities, so we packed a lunch, loaded Bob and Jo Lynch into the Yukon with us and headed out on a 400 mile round-trip visit to the Arctic Circle, something we had wanted to do since our last Alaska trip in the early 80's. Just click on the underlined words to go to a separate Arctic Circle web page.
Sunday morning we took a boat cruise on the Chena River on the Riverboat "Discovery" along with a bunch of tour groups. The boat holds nearly 1,000 people and it was just about full. To give you an idea of the impact of tours on the Fairbanks community, they do this cruise twice a day, seven days a week, for four months!
Like the mine tour, this was also very well done. As the boat passed down the Chena and Tanana rivers, we passed several "staged" events -- a bush plane takeoff and landing, a musher's kennel, various native villages and fishing operations. These were all narrated from shore.
As it turns out, both the mine tour and the boat tour are operated by the same local business that has been doing this for many years. They have continued to grow and change with the times, perhaps with some counseling from the tour operators/cruise lines. It's kind of a bad news/good news story, because on one hand, it's pretty touristy, but it provides good employment for a lot of the locals and it IS well done.
Sunday evening was our farewell dinner -- a happy/sad event that signified the end of our formal tour. It was a happy event because we all had a great time, but sad because we were leaving our new friends. We were also struck with the realization that we would have to go back to making our own travel plans, and paying for everything as we go.
We'll be headed back to Houston, about 60 miles north of Anchorage, to the same campground we stayed at on our way north. We should be there for about a week of R&R and some fishing, with Bob and Jo Lynch. Then Barb and Doug Rolls from Tucson join us for 10 days for some more fishing, and we will slowly move down to the Kenai, ending up in Seward.
After that, who knows. We'll probably hang around the Kenai until about the middle of August, then slowly drift back to the "Lower 48." This will be the last of our regular web updates for a while, unless something significant happens, such as catching some really big fish!
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