2018 July 11 – Tok to Fairbanks, Alaska

We left our cozy little cabin (Well, sort of cozy.  When I turned on the shower the handle came off in my hand.  It was broken and just put in place.  So, no shower) at 9:15 this morning, under sunny skies, that soon turned overcast once again.  Obviously the fire hazard rating in this part of Alaska is low right now with all the cool weather and rain.  The drive fromTok to Fairbanks takes about 3 1/2 hours.  We arrived at 4 pm which gives us a traveling time of almost 7 hours.  We never claim to be speedy on road trips.We could see much of the Alaska Range as we drove out of Tok. It felt like driving into the Canadian Rockies – with much smaller trees.  There was a geocache hidden at a rest stop and this was about the last view of the mountains that we got.  All of the rivers we crossed were very muddy.  This is the Robertson River.

We were blessed with a good sighting of another moose today. She was just off the highway having a very satisfying breakfast of fireweed and bushes.   She was very sleek and healthy.  John couldn’t get over how her hide looked like a well-groomed horse. Geocache hiders are a perverse lot we have discovered.  There may be tons of bushes and rocks and trees within 1 or two meters (3-10 feet) of the road but the cache will be hidden 50-80 meters (160-260 feet) into the forest.  This is bear country.  Why they would have you wandering around deep in the bush is beyond me.  We only looked for caches that were quite near the road.Delta Junction is the official end of the Alcan (Alaska Highway).  We stopped for a rest, to see the exhibits and to find a geocache.The mosquito is ‘unofficially’ Alaska’s State ‘Bird.’  So far we have not found them to be nearly as voracious and abundant as northern BC, and the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.  But we are just beginning our sojourn in Alaska.

As we left Delta Junction we drove a long distance past the above-ground pipes of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.  None of my photos turned out though as by then it was raining.There was no information about this funky little log cabin on the Visitor’s Center grounds.

The geocache was across the street where there were a few pieces of old equipment from the 1940s that were used to build the Alaska Highway.                                      1945 Studebaker 6 x 6

          The geocache was hidden in the back of this old roller.

              A 1942 Caterpillar                          and aTurnapull earth scraper.  The Tanana River. We crossed it several times and drove alongside it for miles. There is a large military prescence in the area of Fairbanks.  And we passed the Eielson Air Force Base about 40 km (25 miles) from the city.  It was a huge complex.

The spot I had to stop along our trip today was North Pole, Alaska.  In 1949 Con and Nellie Miller and their two children came to Alaska to start a new life.  He became a fur trader and merchant and at Christmas time, he played Santa Claus for the village children – the first St. Nick they had ever seen.  In 1952 they  built a trading post and when a young boy recognized Con he said, “Hi Santa, are you building a new house?”  The light came on, the trading post got a name, and a town grew. Current population is about 2,200.

There was a geocache at the North Pole Visitor’s Center and we took forever to find it.  The young gal in the center did not know where it was and had been asked on several occasions about the location.  We were just about to give up when I spotted it.  We told the lady where it was as well.  She took our photo for us at the “North Pole.” There was a cluster of birch trees beside the Visitor’s Center near where we were searching for the cache and I couldn’t stop myself from photographing the gorgeous bark – so white, and the black lines so defined.  God is an awesome designer.We didn’t go into Santa’s House.  I resisted because I have plenty of decorations. We did drive by though.Every year the post office receives hundreds of thousands of letters to Santa Claus or cards people want to have the north pole postal stamp on.  They have a huge business sending letters from Santa all over the world. And we stopped at the Antler College to take some photos of the reindeer.You can purchase a 30-minute tour to spend time with the reindeer.  How cool is that?

This fellow was not with the other neat and tidy reindeer. He, obviously, hasn’t finished shedding yet.  He was also having a dickens of a time trying to reach an itchy spot on his foot with his antlers.  It was only about 20 minutes drive from North Pole to Fairbanks.  Then we spent another half hour trying to find our hotel.  It is not on the main highway and, in fact, sits all by itself on a loop road in the middle of the bush, across the river, and behind the Pioneer Park.  I have never seen a Best Western hotel in such an out-of-the-way place.  The upside is there is no traffic noise at night.

Tomorrow it is off to explore Fairbanks.  They have here, among other things: an antique auto museum, a railroad museum, a mining museum, a community museum, a Museum of the North, a pioneer air museum, a children’s museum, a Pioneer Heritage Park, and an ice museum.  Should be fun…..

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