We left Teklanika early so that we could make the hour trip out of Denali and dump before continuing on to North Pole, AK, where we arrived shortly after noon on Tuesday. The drive up was uneventful except for contending with the continuing smoke from the many fires currently burning in Alaska. Over one million acres have burned so far. They are not trying to put them out, just control them enough to keep personal property from being burned. Since the areas are sparsley populated that means little fire control.
We are staying at Santaland RV Park which is a very nice park. North Pole is about ten miles East of Fairbanks and serves as a good base to do our sightseeing in the Fairbanks area. We have everything: full hookups with 50 amps, cable TV and the best wireless internet we have had in any of the campgrounds. The sites are not huge but very adequate. We were lucky enough to get one of the largers sites in our row. The office personnel are very knowledgeable of the surrounding area and go the extra mile to help you get reservations or whatever you need in the area.
Wednesday we went to the Ice Museum in downtown Fairbanks. They show an interesting movie about the annual Ice Carving Contest and then give a short ice carving demo after allowing you to walk through a few rooms full of different ice carvings. It was kind of rinky-dink but different enough to be worthwhile. We then went to Pioneer Park to get a quick look and see how much time we were going to need there on Sunday when we go back for the annual Governor's Picnic. In a couple of hours, we actually were able to see about everything we wanted to see. We have made reservations to go to the Palace Theater for a comedy revue on Saturday night. The theater is also located in Pioneer Park. The park is getting a lot of use this week as this is Golden Pioneer Days week in Fairbanks. The picnic on Sunday winds up the festivities and Governor Palin will be there to hand the reins over to now Lt. Governor Parnell as she resigns her office. Wednesday afternoon we went to ride the Riverboat Discovery on the Chena River. While were waiting for the boat to leave we went into a room at minus 40 degrees. Not only is this temperature common in Fairbanks it is unusual because that is the only temperature where Centigrade and Fahrenheit is the same. It wasn't too bad but then we were only in it for five minutes, just long enough for our noses to feel frozen and us to throw boiling water in the air and see it crystalize before hitting the ground.
We then went on the riverboat tour where we saw a float plane take off and land and some kayakers next to the boat. We then stopped along the way at the Trail Breaker Kennels where Susan Butcher's husband, David Monson gave us a demonstration with the sled dogs and talked about the daily life of a musher and raising the dogs. For those that don't know, Susan Butcher won the Ididarod for four out of five years between 1986 and 1990. She also was the only person to get a whole sled dog team to the top of Mt. McKinley which she accomplished in 1979. She died of leukemia in 2006 at the age of 51.
Next we went to a replicated native village where we learned how the Athabascans have lived and survived in these lands for hundreds of years. Young Athabascan girls gave us talks and described how their ancestors lived and how many of their relatives still live. One even modeled some beatiful clothing made by the Athabascans. The one coat I snapped pictures of was truly a work of art. The different colors are the result of using the furs of different animals. They also have very intricate beadwork on them.