Thursday, July 31, 2014

Continued Activities in Fairbanks!

Tuesday, July 29th

Tuesday was an unusual day since Rich was packing up his RV for his travels to Coos Bay, Oregon for the MI rally.  Weather was nice enough, we were able to grill outside and eat outside - something we haven't been able to do very much of.  Teddy has moved into the Ehlenberg's RV while his Dad is away.  Teddy and Patti play endlessly, but not quite as much since they are together all the time.  Patti is definitely our Alfa Dog wanting everything her way.  Teddy is too much of a gentleman to put her in her place.

Wednesday was the day to go panning for gold.  Found the area recommended to surely find gold.  The weather was perfect - clear skies and temps around 70.  All was going well - NO gold - when Betty decided to turn around and lost her balance and ended up in the creek.    That then ended the gold panning although Tam brought a bucket of tailings back with her.  Betty had to change her clothes before we could continue on with our day.

After leaving the campground for the 2nd time, Ray and Jack treated Tam and Betty to a luxurious lunch at Sam's Club.  Upon returning to the cg, we were able to enjoy both Happy Hour and dinner outside.  We grilled some of our salmon from Homer - yummy!!!

The day was the best we've had in Alaska.  We actually sat outside until after 8pm.  Heard on the news that Mt. Denali was visible most of the day thanks to the clear weather.

Since our blogger is out of pocket for many days, we are trying to keep everyone up to date.  Not sure if there will be any pictures.  Rich did explain how to do it, but not sure any of us passed the course.

The Tanenna State Fair starts tomorrow.  We hope to enjoy it before departing Fairbanks on Sunday, Aug. 3rd.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fairbanks Activities Continued

Gold Dredge No. 8

All over Alaska, we have encountered "gold rush history"!  There were gold strikes in almost every part of the central part of the state back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and in fact, some of the mines are still producing gold.  A look back at our post from the Kenai Peninsula shows Tam, Betty, and Ray panning for gold up near Independence Mine.

In the Fairbanks area, the gold rush was started by Felix Pedro who found one or more gold nuggets in a creek to the northeast of town.  Fairbanks barely existed then, but the gold rush swelled its population quickly around the turn of the 20th century.  Most of that early mining was done by panning for gold in the streams or digging into the earth to find a gold seam.  It was hard work with often no rewards.  But folks streamed up into Alaska seeking their fortunes in gold!

Eventually, mechanized mining came into the forefront.  Instead of sinking shafts into the earth--down through the perma-frost which might extend for 30 feet or more below the surface--a form of "open pit" mining was introduced (of course, it wasn't called that back then!).  First a mining operation had to strip off the permafrost layers.  This was frozen ground, so many different approaches were used to thaw--actually, melt--the ground so it could be removed.  Rather than digging it out, it was melted by injecting steam into the ground and then hosing off the unfrozen gravel with power nozzles of water.  This required months of labor to relieve the claim from what was called its "overburden".  Once down to bedrock, the true mining could begin, whether is was to dredge up the rocks in the seam or to dynamite the bedrock and scoop up the loosened ore for grinding and refining. 

Out to the northeast of Fairbanks, in the direction of Felix Pedro's first claim, is a tourista tour destination--Gold Dredge No. 8.  We did go out to ride the little train through the claim to learn about the practice of gold mining by dredge!

OK, here we are in the 'cattle car' ready to ride the train through Gold Dredge No. 8!
Earl was our on-board entertainment...he fronted for Johnny Cash on several of Cash's Alaska tours!
The train took us through the mining property with a tour guide who explained all about the claims history, the early mining techniques, and the final dredging operation which produced the gold.  On this claim, the mining company had invested $15 million in preparation costs before they were ready to begin recovering the gold!!  And this was $15 million back in the early part of the 20th Century!

A replica of an early shaft mine.
Our first stop was at a working replica of an early mine.  Digging down through the permafrost, which was very difficult because it was frozen ground, a miner on his claim dug a shaft into the earth like all of us know about mining!  Using a wood-fired boiler [left in the picture to drive a steam-powered wench [right of the shaft frame], he hauled up the dirt and piled it off to the side of the mine.  Once to the gold-seam, he would dig during the winter, piling up the dirt, and then when the thaw came in the Spring, he would wash--sluice--the dirt pile to recover whatever gold was there!  Winter under ground digging--summer washing the dirt pile!  Pretty hard-scrabble life, I guess!

Our tour guide showing us a power washer extraordinare!
With the advent of more mechanized mining into the second decade of the 20th Century, removing the "overburden" became one of unfreezing the permafrost and washing away the gravel.  Here you can see both the injection hoses into the permafrost and the tour guide holding the "nozzle".  Pipes were hammered--literally--into the permafrost, hoses were attached [see two to the right in the picture], and water or steam was injected into the permafrost.  Once it was thawed sufficiently, it was hosed off into piles to get on down to the next layer.  Note the big pile of gravel in the rear of the picture.  All over the valleys to the northeast of Fairbanks, one can see big berms of gravel from this process.
This is Gold Dredge No. 8
Once the "overburden" had been excavated, which might take months, a big dredge was assembled on the site and began digging the gravel/bedrock.  It was scooped up by the bucket fulls, hauled up into the dredge innards, and washed down sluices to recover the gold flakes.  Eventually, there was enough gold to transport it to Fairbanks--under armed guard!!  This dredge recovered over 430,000 ounces of gold during its operation some 90 years ago!

Once we had reached the "Main Camp" of this gold mining operation, we stopped so that all of us could do our own "gold panning"!  As we walked off the train, each of us was handed a "poke"--a little sack of dirt and gravel!  Could there be some gold in that poke???  [Nah, the tour company wouldn't 'seed' these pokes, would they?]  Well, of course, we all grabbed our pokes and headed for the panning troughs!  Here we are, dumping our pokes and washing out the crap to see if we had any gold in them thar hills!

Jack thinks he sees gold already...he has just dumped his poke and thinks he sees a fleck of yellow!

Ray and Tam dump their pokes into their pans, hoping to find a nugget or two!

Jack still has a lot of rocks and pebbles in his pan!  Wash it down, guy, wash it down!

Betty and Jack check their little canisters to see if they have much gold!

"No, Betty, look!  There's one!  You missed it!"

"Oh, look, Ray, I found three more flakes!"
So we had a fun and educational time at Gold Dredge No. 8.  And we came away with about $12 to $15 each in gold flakes!  I had mine put into a small locket which was then glued to a very small gold pan magnet and now resides proudly on my refrigerator in Camelot House!!

Alaska cannot be explained has to be experienced!  We have done tourista things, explored museums big and small, and wandered hither and thither on our own.  We are all enthralled with this wonderful state and what it has to offer!  Come up here, if you haven't!  Return, as I will, if you have!

All our best from almost the Arctic Circle!

The Alaska Odyssey!

More Fairbanks Activities

Being Tourists in Fairbanks!

We have found lots to do here in Fairbanks!  And we have had time to just "chill" and catch up on some chores around the RVs--like doing laundry, getting cars washed, cleaning, fixing, paying bills--you know, routine stuff!!

The Ice Museum

There is an old movie theatre in downtown Fairbanks that has been converted into an unusual museum.  With the advent of the multiplex, modern movie theatres in suburban shopping centers, the old, central, downtown, one-screen theatres have become a relic of our collective pasts.  In the case of Fairbanks, the old place has new life as The Ice Museum.
Here we are, huddled in the back refrigerator--check out the thermometer behind us:  minus 20 F!!!
I was in my shirt sleeves; Ray and Tam had their jackets on; Betty and Jack were "freezing!!"  It was brisk, but it was a "dry cold"--just like in Arizona people say it is "dry heat"!  Frankly, my Norwegian heritage liked the freezer much better than the "dry" desert heat!! 

In late winter, one of the headline activities here in Fairbanks is an international Ice Carving Championship.  There is a pond which produces what they call "diamond ice":  it is crystal clear.  The organizers of the championship chain saw huge blocks of ice off of the pond and transport it into some woods which is a park.  Ice carvers (artists, really!!) then have a set amount of time to create their masterpieces.  There are two classes:  single block and multi-block.  In the multi-block category, up to four carvers work on their creations--most using scaffolding to reach the upper most blocks!
Once the time deadline is reached, the judges make their choices, and the woods are opened to the public for viewing this year's creations.  The creations are often lit with colored lights, so it is quite an artistic endeavor!

What the city has done is put some refrigeration equipment into the old movie theatre to showcase some of the ice carvings.  All along the left side of the theatre is an ice slide:  you can take a special sled, walk up to the back of the theatre--inside of the refrigerated "room", of course!--put your sled on the top of the slide, and take a toboggan ride down to the "front" of the theatre on the ice slide!  None of us tried it, but there were several in the crowd who did!

An "ice slider" gets ready to shove off on his ice slide ride!

Another fellow says, "Honey, are you watchin'?"  [In the South, it would have been, "Hey, y'all!  Watch this!"]

All along the right side of the theatre is an "ice room" which has the ice carvings of a musher, his sled, and dog team.  Here are a couple of pictures:
This would be a carving from the multi-block catergory--a bit hard to see it in this photo!

One of the dogs in the sled team.  Note his tongue hanging out!

Note the background--all carved out of the "diamond ice" from the special pond in Fairbanks!
Up behind the stage, there is a large "ice room" with various carvings which allow for viewer participation.  While we were not dressed for freezing temperatures, we had to join in the frivolity and pose for the camera:
Ray and Tam make like Icekimos!

Then it is Jack and Betty's turn...note the frosted bonnet over Betty's head--all part of the carver's skill!

Give a wave, there, Ritchie!
There were many ice carvings in the back room:  one was a full sized bar, and Rich stepped behind it to act like an ice-tender!!
"Martini, please, shaken, not stirred--if you please!!"
Then there was the ski-mobile which had a bath mat for a seat so that one could pose without doing too much freezing to his privates!
"OK, quick, click the shutter!  This is a cool ride"
In the back of the theatre [or the front, depending on your orientation!] was another "ice room" with lovely carvings...a few of them:
Tam is walking through the back ice room which was full of carvings.  Check out the evergreens behind her!!

I had planned to add in our trip to Gold Dredge No. 8, but I want to get a post made to our blog, so I will close this one on the Ice Museum and save the gold trip for posting tomorrow or whenever!
Lovin' Alaska!!
For the Alaska Odyssey team, Good Night and God Speed!
Rich H.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Riverboat Cruise on the Chena River

July 21, 2014

One of the multiple opportunities that was on our list to get to, or do, in Fairbanks was a cruise on the Chena River which runs from east to west through the heart of the city.  The lady in the campground office recommended the Discovery paddlewheeler because it was likely the most informative.  So, we signed up to go on Monday afternoon--today, of course!  Reason?  The weather was to be in the 70s and partly cloudy!  Not on both counts!!  Cloudy, some rain late in the cruise, and cool:  high didn't reach the high 60s let alone the 70s!!
Nonetheless, we had a most enjoyable cruise, and it was very informative--in other years, or terms, that would have been educational!  (Well, yes, it was!!)
Here is our sailing ship, The Discovery!  Carried 900 if full at $60 apiece!!  Twice a day!!  Go figure!!
We sailed down the Chena River from Fairbanks, meaning we went west!  The Chena runs from the east to the west through the city.  Down the way, we came to Susan Butcher's cabin and kennels.  She won the Iditarod Sled Dog Race...not just once!!  Her lead dog, Granite, piloted her team to wins three times in a row!  Only lead dog ever to do that!!  YOU GO, Granite!!
Statue of Granite outside a Native replica village down the Chena River from Fairbanks
Tekala, Susan Butcher's eldest daughter, talks to us from the Butcher Kennel

These are 9 week old puppies...being trained to follow!

"Cmon, guys, up over the logs!  Good training!"

Look in the middle background...a team pulling a rolling sled and going full out!

And here they come barreling into the yard!  Whoa!!
As we sailed down the river, we saw some really great homes!  Maybe some were the Obama One Percenters...but he has no clue about Alaska!!  Or anywhere else, seems to me!
OK, OK, enough about politics and incompetence!!  Some nice places along the Chena River!
Great set of flowering hanging baskets here!

Most likely a 1 percenter!

Another view...

Then there is this one!!

View 2!

View 3!!
This is one of Granite's progeny...fourth generation!

Tekla...Susan Butcher's eldest daughter, with my book dedicated to Teddy!
So, how soon will I add an Iditarod dog puller to my Camelot House??  Tomorrow, maybe!!  But no, I am happy with The Tedds in my coach...a good fit!  But man oh man, would I love to have one of these "pullers" to add to my caretaking!  Maybe one day....
Lovin' Alaska!

Picture Update to Jack and Betty's Posts!!


Look back at them...the EDITOR has caught up with their posts and added some photos, and an occasional comment!
Trying to make all the pictures in our albums may not want to spend the time to see everything we shot...and many of the same view...but I would like all the photos to be up on the web for review, so once I have found the keys to doing that, I will let you followers know!
We are LOVIN' ALASKA, as you can tell, I hope!
Best regards from just under the Arctic Circle!!
Rich H.

Monday, July 21, 2014


Thursday July 17th

We left Fairbanks at 4:00 pm and traveled 30 miles north on the Steese Highway to Poker Flat Research Range where they test solid fuel rockets [ED. COM:  and launch special payload research rockets.  The facility is associated with the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and it is the only university facility in the US which launches research rockets.].

Learning about the Block House, named for "Frank"!!

All the telemetry antennas are up on the ridge above Poker Flats!

  At Poker Flats, we visited the launch pads and assembly buildings.  It is a great area to test [and launch] because there is almost nothing around.  We also visited the weather balloon facilities there where weather balloons are launched to sample weather conditions prior to a launch.

This ain't licorice spaghetti!!  Just a channel of cables coming from Launch Pad 1!!

We learn about one of the launch pads...with a mock up of a rocket to view.  And no, the balloons are not necessary for the launch of any of the rockets!!

This launch pad is enclosed by a movable "garage" which is pulled away prior to the launch.
[ED. COM.:  the launch window is from early January to mid- to late-March because they are mostly studying the Aurora Borealis from this facility.  Several launch pads have "garages" like you see in the pictures which are heated--a good idea for the scientists and technicians who are mounting the stages of the launch!  When the launch vehicle is ready, a big roadgrader pulls the garage shell away from the pad, and the launch sequence gets underway.]

On the way we stopped at the Alaskan Pipeline where there was [were] signs posted about the design of the pipeline.  Quite a design where you have a hot pipeline and outside temperatures down to -70.
Walking up to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline north of Fairbanks

We marvel at the length and design!

Ritchie says, "Hey, I can reach this!"

And here we are, under the oil channel from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez!  Check out our sizes compared to the pipe!!
[ED. COM.:  as we got out of the car, and started up to the pipeline, Jack says, "Hey, the flow of this thing is really down--about 500 barrels a day!"  ANOTHER JACKISM!!  No, Jack, it is down to 500,000 barrels a day--you are off by a factor of a 1000!!  Informed of the correct number:  "Oh, right, I meant 500,000!"  To his credit, the flow is much below the pipeline's capacity of over 2,000,000 barrels a day!  So he was "right" that the flow is way down!]

After the tour we stopped for dinner at the Chatanika Lodge a couple miles south.  This was a very colorful lodge formally used during the gold dredging days.

As Jack pointed out, this was one of the very few totem poles we have seen so far!!

If you could read the white sign in the middle of the photo, it says, "Reserved for 1955 T-Bird Only"!  It was parked out back of the restaurant!

[ED. COM.:  immediately across the street from this lodge was a major gold dredging pond.  The dredge is still visible through the trees.  We learned from a video played as we sat waiting for our food how this operation worked!  One amazing fact:  it might take as much as 7 months (or was it years?) to clear off the perma-frost soil and then the "tailings" to get down to where there might be some gold!  Sounds a bit like a boon-doogle investment to me!]
Anyway, this [with pics and ED.COM.] posted by