Greetings from Fairbanks-the interior of Alaska and land of the midnight sun
We technically stepped into Alaska on July 4th, but we really arrived into the main part of the state yesterday after leaving the Yukon Territory. Getting to the state of Alaska takes a lot of patience and many, many miles of driving every kind of road you can imagine. There are lots of paved roads, but then there are parts with gravel only, torn up pieces of gravel and road base, construction galore, and everything else in between. But having finally arrived into Alaska and seeing all it's beauty makes all those miles worth it.
I know Doug has been posting quite often to keep you all up to date, but I thought I would fill in the blanks as to the actual details and such. First of all, I'm really upset and sad because as of now, we can't get up to the Arctic ocean which was my Mom's biggest dream this year. In order to actually get to that part of the world requires a trip up the Dempster highway which is about a 400 miles dirt and gravel road to Inuvik, Northwest Territories. The road passes through some incredibly gorgeous country that seems unreal with all it's beauty. At the end of the Dempster brings you to the town of Inuvik, and from there you take a one hour plane ride to Tuktoyuktuk. The town of Tuktoyuktuk lies right on the Arctic ocean where you take a tour which includes a visit to the town's ice house constructed out of the permafrost. Plus the tour actually takes you to the ocean where you can join the polar group by putting your foot, half your body, all of your body, or your body and no clothes into the Arctic ocean. Crazy huh? Just seeing that part of the world has been on my Mom's bucket list for quite a while and now we may not be able to go. Why? Being this far up north means that you live life according to the weather and the conditions around you and that being said, the Dempster highway is currently closed. There are two river crossings by ferry and they are closed due to high winds. Plus there has been a lot of rain so there are several washouts on the road which makes it impassable. So for now, until something else changes, Tuktoyuktuk is not within reach and that breaks my heart. My Mom never asks for much and this was something she looked forward to all year. Maybe something will change and the road will reopen plus we'll have time that we can still make this happen. All I remember my Mom telling me last year was that she was afraid she would die and not see the Arctic ocean. Sorry to go on and on, but as you can tell, I'm so frustrated and saddened so thank you for listening!
We left Dawson City, Yukon early, and I mean early, Thursday morning for Alaska. There was a caravan in our campground of about 24 RVs that were leaving Dawson City and the ferry over the Yukon river only takes about 2-3 RVs at a time so we thought it best to get out of there before the big backup and possibly a 4 hour wait. But getting up so early was a little tough! We did make it across the river though and funny enough, we were the only RV on the ferry. It was great.
The road to Alaska from Dawson City is called Top of the World highway and it lives up to it's name and then some. At every turn there are incredible views of the Yukon river and valleys below. The road is mostly gravel with some paved areas, but overall it's a great road. You actually feel like you're on top of the world with such expansive views all around. Then about 65 miles down the road is the US/Canadian border. The US border, as you can see from our pictures on flickr, is the northern most border in the US with only 2 people living there. Now, who do you think the border agent pissed off to get that post? I mean it's in the middle of nowhere, only yourself and one other person, and during the summer, the temperatures average about 40 degrees. But thankfully for the agent, the border closes during the winter as the road gets many feet of snow for about 8 months.
The first town after crossing the border into Alaska is Chicken which is a town but not a town. There are maybe 25 people or so living there during the summer months, but maybe 10 at the most during the winter and it's usually cold year round. There's a post office, several RV campgrounds, a gift shop, and a restaurant or two, but that's about it. And how it got the name of Chicken you ask-well it was originally called Ptarmigan, but nobody could spell it hence it became Chicken. I always love that story!!
From Chicken, we arrived into a town called Tok which is famous for all the dog mushers living there. It's really not much of a town, but it's the first real town you get to once you arrive into Alaska. It's also known for it's incredibly cold winter temperatures which average about 20 to 30 below in January through the end of winter. Now those are some hardy people and I know I couldn't do it.
And after all that, I'm finally caught up to today and what's happening!!! We arrived here in Fairbanks this afternoon with incredibly gorgeous hot weather in the 70's. Finally some warm weather up north! Our campground is really beautiful as it lies right along the Chena river, which runs through Fairbanks, where there's a lot of wildlife, like the momma duck with her five ducklings that have been swimming by countless times, in addition to many locals going up and down the river in aluminum boats, jet skies, kayaks, rafts, and canoes. And this is where I'm sitting now, right along the river watching the locals enjoy this beautiful evening. It's 11 p.m. now and the sun is still shining strong which is still amazing to me. This far north, the sun is out for about 22 hours a day and that's what makes Alaska so fun in the summer. And yes, it's opposite in the winter so they get about 22 hours of darkness with average temperatures of 40-50 below zero. That means that between the summer temps and winter temps, there's a variation of over a hundred degrees!! The only problem is that when you get up in the morning, you think it's 7 a.m., but in reality it's usually only about 2 a.m.!!
Tomorrow we head to the farmer's market in Fairbanks which is awesome to experience. There is quite a lot of pottery, jewelry, soaps and lotions, plus the best feature is the gigantic vegetables grown locally. Because the area get about 22 hours of sunlight a day, the vegetables grew to immense size sometimes breaking records for their weight. We'll take pictures tomorrow as we explore the market so you can get an idea of what I mean. Then after the market, we'll take a trip to the other side of Fairbanks for an up close view of the Alaska pipeline. You can walk right up to the pipeline which in this day and age always amazes me. I guess they must have cameras all around because it's such a vital piece of the economy.
So as the sun goes behind the spruce trees with no sunset in sight, I bid you all a good night! Thank you everyone for following along with us on this adventure of a lifetime. Also, please feel free to comment on any posts plus if there's something more you would like to know or see, let us know. I'm just loving that we have all of you along for the ride, but I really enjoy hearing from you even if it's just to say hello. I hope you all have a great weekend wherever you are and we'll be in touch tomorrow. I guess I can take off my sunglasses since the sun is behind the trees for now!!!