Alaska, the Last Frontier - Summer 2012 travel blog


We’ve returned to the Fairbanks area where we celebrated the Solstice almost exactly two months ago. The trip included a drive through Nenana, a river town that served as a construction base for the Alaska Railroad. President Warren Harding drove the gold spike here, commemorating its completion. Today Nenana is a major transportation hub from May through September as barges and tug boats traverse the interior river system bringing tons of freight to otherwise inaccessible villages. Because the rivers are shallow and silty the barges move about 12mph downstream and 5mph upstream. Nanana is best known for the annual Ice Classic, a contest that offers cash prizes to the lucky winner who guesses to the exact minute when the ice on the Tanana River breaks up in the spring. Folks all over the state buy tickets to make a guess. Festivities begin in February when a tripod is raised. When it is dislodged by the surging ice, a line attached to the tripod trips a clock and the official ice break up time is established. Buying lottery tickets should be this much fun.

We’re here to take a three day trip across the Arctic Circle to Prudhoe Bay. Supposedly we can dip our toes in the Arctic Ocean. I doubt it will be warm enough to take off a shoe since we are already hearing overnight frost warnings here. We’ve read blogs of folks who have made this 800 mile round trip drive themselves, one even with an RV. But the gravel road is built for commercial truckers on a schedule who drive like bats out of hell, the road is narrow and it sounds like a white knuckle ride. We’ve decided to leave the driving to the pros and spare our equipment more abuse. It’ will still be a long drive home. The tour will spend two days driving north and return to Fairbanks by plane. Seeing the Northern Lights is a possibility. Our luggage is severely limited and I won’t even have my laptop along. So a few days may go by before we can share an account of this journey farther north than we have ever been.

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