Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Alaxsxaq. Alyeska. Alaska: Fairbanks/Chena River

Wow. Oh Wow.  It is gonna be tough to write about our trip to Alaska because words are generally required to write about something, and words just can't do justice to Alaska.

I have the good fortune to travel with a professional photographer, so he has the responsibility to capture the really important images!  He carried his very heavy camera stuff everywhere we went!  I will choose some of his fabulous images to share later, but for now here are a few photos we both took with our little "point and shoot" cameras.

Our trip began in Fairbanks, which is in the interior of Alaska. The first day we traveled the Chena River on the Discovery, a paddle-wheel steamer riverboat.
Here's the big paddle wheel in motion.

All along the river there were wonderful things to see.  We learned right away about float planes and the HUGE  importance of airplanes in Alaska.  We saw this float plane take off and land right outside the riverboat.

Further downriver, we heard a presentation from Susan Butcher's husband Dave Monson.  Susan won the Iditarod four times (not the first woman to win, but... she won four times!!!).  She died of cancer in 2007.  Her legacy lives on through her husband, daughters, and Trailbreaker Kennel.  The dogs were not at all what I expected sled dogs to look like.  I thought they would be larger and more furry!  They are scrappy and wiry and always Raring To Go. 
 This log set-up is part of the puppy training routine.  They learn to crawl over these big logs and eventually learn to jump over them.  So Cute!!!
Now the dogs are getting ready to pull Dave on the ATV.  They have realized it is THAT TIME in the presentation and they are so excited! It is hard to capture their excitement in a still photo.  At the moment this photo was taken there was a lot of barking and jumping around!  These dogs LIVE to run.
 Here they are coming back through the gates after their run.
As soon as they arrived at the finish line, the handlers unhooked them and off they ran to jump into the river!

Later we saw this statue of Granite... "greatest lead dog in Iditarod history".  He led Susan Butcher to victory in 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1990. 
 Speed, strength and intense determination.  These dogs are superior athletes in every way.
Further downriver we cruised by the original Discovery.  The new one carrying us is much larger and more modern - although still a paddle-wheel!

After seeing the sled dog presentation, we arrived at the Chena Indian Village.  This darling girl was one of the guides at the village, where we disembarked for about an hour.  All of the guides here (and everywhere in Alaska) were fantastic.  She is modeling a fabulous fur parka. Indians who lived near Fairbanks in villages like this had to endure winter temperatures of 70 below zero!  (So, fur = OK.)

and back...
More incredible native clothing...
 Bear skins...
Everywhere you go in Alaska, you are warned about bears...  here's one reason why...

Listening and learning at Chena Indian Village...

I have always wondered about this...  This is a reindeer.  A reindeer is a caribou that is being kept by man.  Like Rudolph with Santa.

Wonderful log cabin at Chena Village.  Look at those flowers.

This is the Chena Village post office!

A moose.  Well, once a moose.  OK, still a moose, but, well, let's just say that no tourist at Chena Village was trampled by this big old moose.  
 Fabulous examples of native Indian beading. 
 Birch bark canoe...  incredible.

In person, it felt like this garden at Chena Village was from Jurassic Park!  It's hard to tell, but everything is huge.


The riverboat trip ended with a wonderful lunch including two kinds of hot soup served in big iron kettles.  We met Lance Mackey, who, like Susan Butcher, has won the Iditarod four times!  He gave a presentation about his life as a musher.  He has overcome many obstacles - including throat cancer.  He actually won the Iditarod while undergoing cancer treatment and using a feeding tube.  Beyond comprehension... but it's true.  Here he is with Mike and me and "Amp".  Lance has also won the other big dog sled race, the Yukon Quest, FOUR times.  In 2007 and 2008 he won both the Iditarod AND the Yukon Quest!  I regret not buying his book, but I bet I can find it online.

I'll post our pics from the rest of our stay in the Fairbanks area soon.  Our trip actually spanned the distance from Fairbanks all the way to Vancouver, B.C.  So, there is a lot of ground to cover!
Have you been to Alaska?


  1. Hi Amy, I don't know if I've commented before-I love your hooked rugs, I'm a beginner. Thank you for sharing so much about your Alaska trip; it's one of the places my husband and I hope to see.
    My sympathies to you on the passing of your Dad.

  2. Hi guys, it was an awesome trip to Alaska and being with you for 2 weeks was the most fun of all! On Board with Becky's gang was a great group and a fun time was had by all! I wish I was still in magnificent Alaska. Your blog pictures are incredible!
    Much Love,

  3. Hi Amy - Sounds like you had a great time in Alaska! So much interesting information about the sled dogs! On Labor Day hubby & I attended the Sheepdog Trials here in Utah, and it was so fascinating to watch those animals work with their handlers using only whistles and hand signals to herd the sheep to exactly the right space - amazing! We went to Alaska two summers ago - did a cruise up the coast. The weather was perfect - cool and sunny the entire time - and we loved it. I think the paddle boat would be lots of fun too! Thanks for telling us all about your adventure.

  4. Hi Amy-
    Just letting you know that a reindeer is a domesticated animal that can be traced back to thousands of years ago. Many people think reindeer and caribou are the same just depends on what side of the fence they are on which is wrong. They are different sub species and have many different traits. Same as the differences b/w a dog and a wolf. Glad to see you had a good time in Alaska!

  5. Amy ~
    LOVED this post. So much information and beautiful pictures.
    Thanks for sharing and looking forward to more.
    Pug hugs :)

  6. Yes! Alaska is the most wonderful place I've ever been! I can't wait to get together and share stories, in fact, we're talking about going again. We were there 16 years ago, and I really want to go back. I even contemplated moving there early in my teaching career (although there is that "weather issue"). All these pictures are wonderful, and I have shots that Mike sent to Jim, who sent to me of your trip that I plan on looking at today.

    Amy, so sorry about your father.... I didn't know until I saw the post. Really hope we can all get together soon.


  7. Amy: Love your Alaska pictures of Chena River/Discovery cruise! Your pictures brought back such pleasant memories of our Alaska experience. Rick and I were there last year in late August and loved the entire trip. I even named the kitten that came to us when we returned home "Chena". Your pictures are gorgeous.

    I am so sorry about your loss of your father.

    Lou (from Mexico MO)


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