The show must go on…

or in our case the adventure. We spent a portion of the morning posting to social media about George the missing monkey. We crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.

I decided to eat Breakfast out. I’d driven by Sam’s Sourdough Cafe a few times and the parking lot was always packed. I’m happy to report it was a much better experience than yesterday’s eating out option. I walked through the door and was greeted within about 2 seconds. I was told I could sit anywhere Id like. It was busy but also big so I found an empty seat. Shortly after sitting a friendly waitress stopped by with a glass of ice water, a menu and asked if i wanted anything to drink. As soon as I put the menu down she was back to take my order. I ordered the sourdough pancake sandwich. It was ready promptly, served on a warm plate and tasted delicious.
 The sun was trying to shine so we headed up to the university as it supposedly has the best view in town, the neatest architecture and sculptures. Unfortunately do to road construction and the fact they had the only parking meters in town (I had no change) we didn’t stop.


We made a quick detour to Creamers field the big bird watching place. However I’m not a bird watcher and it’s not the kind of place you walk dogs I snapped a few photos and was on my way.


 It was back to the campground to pack up and try to clean up a bit before the noon check out. After hitching up we moved to the day use area so I could take the girls swimming.


We headed in to town and back to the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors centre. We’d been on the weekend but learned they had live performance and craft workshops on weekdays. I saw a fiddle performance and watched the youth dancing.


 Then I learned how to make Porcupine Quill Earings. It was so nice learning from the youth. The girls helped with the beading or worked on their own projects while the boys were learning how to make fresh baked bread. I would have happily spent the day there but it wasn’t fair to the girls who were waiting in the car. I quickly finished my earrings and was complimented on my speed at beading.


I asked for a photo with the lovely young lady that had taught me and then we headed out of town on a short day trip.  

We stopped by the pipeline viewing spot to stretch our legs.


    We swung by Fox but both businesses were closed. I guess Monday’s are slow in Fox Alaska.


 We skipped the number 8 dredge tour even though it had great reviews and chose to do our gold panning right on the creak. We had a slight detour as we missed a turn but headed out the Steese highway to Pedro creek where gold was first discovered in the area back in July of 1902, and the reason Fairbanks exists. It is open to recreational gold panning. I didn’t stay long as we had a busy day planned but I took the girls for a walk along the interpretive walk and crossed the road to pan in the creak. There were a few others there too. There was lots of fools gold which would be very exciting for kids. Even the water glittered in the sun like it was full of billions of particles of gold. I found one baby flake which I’m positive is real gold (I circled it) and more fools gold.

    

Although I had a few errands to run in Fairbanks before leaving town I bi-passed it and headed 11 miles south to North Pole, Alaska. I’d read that Santa Clause House closed early and didn’t want to miss it. When I arrived I saw it was open till 8 and could have easily stopped on my way south.


              I headed back to the visitors centre in Fairbanks to check my email one last time in hopes George had been found. I fed the girls we went for a walk to the Antler Arch but there was no sign of him. We briefly debated staying at Walmart with the masses but grabbed some groceries, gassed up at Fred Meyeres and hit the road.

The scenery was spectacular with the sun shining. We stopped and took a few pictures and found a pullout to park at just north of Delta Junction.


          Despite losing George and it being cloudy and damp 90% of my time there. Fairbanks has been my favorite city so far on this trip. There have been some spectacular lakes (Boya, Kluane, Meziadin) some breath taking views such as the Portage Glacier hike however as far as cities go Fairbanks has been my favorite. I know I didn’t visit the coast but that’s because an Alaskan cruise is also on my bucket list someday. If I ever fly back to Alaska perhaps on a Spring Break to see the northern lights I’ll fly to Fairbanks. Time it to take a course at the Fairbanks Folk School or learn how to make more intricate bead work at Cultural centre.


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Wild life sightings: squirrels at the campground and 1 rabbit

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Have you seen my Monkey 

I asked a few people that this evening as George is missing. We tried to find an app to create a missing persons poster but the best we got was a wanted poster.


After noticing him missing at the Pioneer Park Train we went back to the car to search. When we couldn’t find him it was like panic. I’ve joked that if I ever lost George I’d be like Tom Hanks in Cast Away when Wilson goes missing. Although this blog is relatively new I’ve had George since 2001 and we’ve traveled lots of places together. Today I found myself in that exact situation, I dropped everything and drove across town to retrace my footsteps. When I couldn’t find him at the Antler Arch in Fairbanks or on the path back to where I’d parked in Griffin Park. I drove back to Pioneer Park and asked at the train station in case I dropped him accidentally when Id gotten money out to pay. I left contact info at lost and found and now we wait and see.

Missing Stuffed Monkey

Last seen: Fairbanks Antler Arch Alaska

Date: July 19th, 2015 at approximately 5pm

Height: 8 inches

Weight: 1/2 a pound

Wearing: red shirt and hat

I’d really like him back if you find him please let me know.

Georgethemissingmonkey@gmail.com

Riding the Riverboat 

Today the girls hung ou at the trailer while I headed off on a Riverboat ride that was more than just a ride on a riverboat.


 It starts out at a massive gift shop that’s reasonably priced. The gift shop has some displays for photo opportunities. The first is of 4 time Iditarod champion Susan Butcher. 
Then there is the 40 Below experience. You walk in to a meat locker like room that is -40 Ferenheit. They snap a picture of you and will email it to you for $6 or print it for $10. The picture of me wasn’t that great but I did manage to snap one of George for free on my phone


They entire gift shop staff come out to wave goodbye and you are off on your way. The ride is narrated and there is a videographer that films the experience and lots of TVs to watch it from. I chose to be outside despite the light mist. Shockingly there was only one other couple that chose to ride the river from the front deck. The rest stayed inside and only came out to snap a few photos. Shortly after the boat ride begins they have a ‘bush pilot’ waiting to demonstrate. He takes off circles the boat for photos and then lands again.   

The next visit is with the husband, daughters and dogs of Iditarod Champion Susan Butcher. Sadly Susan passed away a few years ago after losing a battle with leukemia. They told some stories and did a demo of a dog and cart run. Later we’d get to meet them in person.

 We then did a drive by of an Athabaskan Indian Village. Where a lady did a demonstration on filleting salmon to prepare it for smoking. After riding on the boat until it met the mouth of another River about 15 minutes down stream we turned around and visited the village. They broke us up into groups and gave us a tour and explained about Athabaskan culture pre and post contact.    

They even had live Reindeer for you to see.  
And a life size stuffed Moose               

After returning to the trailer to let the girls out. We headed out for lunch. We headed to the cookie jar restaurant as it had been recommended by my Denali bus driver. I also saw an ad that mentioned it had been featured on ‘Diners, drive-ins and Dives’. I arrived at about 2pm as I’d taken the girls for a walk and stopped at an awesome fabric shop (Material Girls). The parking lot was packed but I assumed it was mostly Sunday Brunch crowd. I went inside there were a couple people seated waiting for a table, a couple more lined up at the 2 cashiers to pay and a lot of staff. None of the staff acknowledged me. I get that they are busy I’ve worked in the industry but I also know a quick ‘Hi, we’ll be right with you’ goes a long way. Even a smile or eye contact would have been nice. A couple of minutes passed and the line up to pay was gone. I figured it was my turn. I now had a few people behind me. However I figured wrong. The staff busied them self with rolling cutlery, cashing out a till, calling people to sit. I started to get impatient. I’m certified to instruct BC’s Hospitality Service Program ‘World Host’ I could quote all about how the first impression is a lasting one and at this point it wasn’t good. I was extremely tempted to turn around and leave but I’d heard good things about the food so I stayed but I started a timer. Another 3:49 seconds passed before I was greeted by a lady I assume was a manager. She’d recently come from the back had done a phone order of take out before greeting me. In total I’d say I waited 7-10 minutes before being greated, it should be done within 15-30 seconds. After finally be acknowledged service was prompt and friendly. I was seated at a table within a couple of minutes. I ordered a chicken salad sandwich from the ‘Fairbanks Favorites’ with a side of loaded baked potato soup. The soup was excellent. The sandwich was good but by no means spectacular presentation was plain a sandwich on a plate like you’d get at home. Maybe that’s the look they were after but a sprig of parcly or something with color would have been nice. The price was fair, food was good (not superb), service was friendly but sadly my first impression was not a good one. If this is some of the best food Fairbanks has to offer they could sure use some decent food establishments such a fun city could use some foody food.

Ok that was a bit of a rant, I apologize it’s just that I only eat one meal out a day, sometimes none and I had such high hopes for that one.

After lunch the girls and I stopped briefly at Walmart and was shocked to see how much they cater to RVs. Free parking and free electrical hookups. If we decide to stay one more night in Fairbanks we might move there, but I’ve enjoyed my stay at the state park.


It was then time to explore some of the art scene downtown. They have a lot of public art and even a free map and guide. We only checked out a few installations as Huuna doesn’t walk far these days.


 
We then headed back to Pioneer Park for a ride on the train as I didn’t have time the day before. I really enjoyed Pioneer Park. I love that it’s free to enter and that I can walk around with the dogs. It’s also amazing that most of the museums are also free with a donation box. I think only one charges money. The train is a great deal too only $2 for a narrated ride around the park twice. In total about 15 minutes. Even the gift shops I visited were reasonably priced. It’s really great bang for your tourism buck, you can see most of it for free. Once I was on the train I opened my backpack to get George and he wasn’t there. I assumed he was back in the car so happily rode the train.


I then went into the boat to take a look around before heading back to the trailer to feed the girls and make dinner.
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Wildlife sightings: Rosie’s nemesis the squirrels at the campground.

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Fun times in Fairbanks 

It was raining this morning so we went back to sleep. When we got up we picked wild raspberries right at our site to go wig breakfast. At 10am we headed over to the farmers market to browse the vendors.


We then headed over to reserve ‘The Riverboat Discovery’ tour for 9am tomorrow. It’s a 3 hour tour and is more expensive than my 8 hour Denali shuttle bus so we shall see how it is. The guide book rates it quite high.


 On the way back to the trailer we stopped by the bowl factory but didn’t buy anything. After a dog walk through the park trails we had a nap. It’s so nice having the trailer at such a nice campground so centrally located.


 After our nap we headed over to the ‘World Eskimo Indian Olympics’ we’d missed the qualifying rounds but checked out all the artisans in the market. The finals were tonight at 6pm but I decided to hang with the girls as they will be left alone tomorrow morning while I’m on the riverboat.

We headed to the tourism bureau downtown to check out the museum quality displays and grab some pamphlets.


      Then we headed to Pioneer Park. It was so nice to be able to walk around with the girls. We checked out all the various areas and then it was back to the car for the girls so I could pop in to a couple of the display houses and shops.


            I finished off my afternoon at pioneer park by dining at ‘The Alaskan Salmon Bake’


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Wildlife sightings: the bloody squirrels that keep tormenting Rosie at the campground

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In to the wild

Today we left Cantwell at 11 after sleeping in and having a leisurely morning. We explored a bit more of Denali, yesterday was all day on the bus and the straight back to the campground for Huuna’s insulin. So today we drove into the park and visited the info centre and took the girls for a walk. There is very limited space that is open to leashed dogs so we had to stick to designated trails.     

We then drove along the Nenana River and stopped in Healey for lunch at the 49th state brewery.

 

The bus from ‘Into the Wild’ is there and you can go right in it.



They also have some of his pictures on display and journal entries/ postcards sent.


      The service was prompt, the food was great and the atmosphere was awesome. Well worth a stop. Outside in the beer gardens they had the bus, darts, horseshoes, corn hole, disc golf, fire pit. You name it they had it. What an awesome idea. Sadly the weather was windy and there was no one sitting outside.


We continued on North stopping for a nap and another walk. We were hoping to make it to Fairbanks for Huuna time but stopped at a lookout 15 miles outside of town so that we’d not be rushed finding a campground.


 We didn’t have reservations as we wanted to check out three places. The most expensive was a large commercial RV lot with some trees, showers and full hook ups. It was full but I was ok with that. The cheapest option was a pavement parking lot outside pioneer park for $15. My middle of the road choice was a state park just off the highway and a block from Fred Meyer, but it’s a beautiful forested site with trails and lots of privacy for $20 a night no hook ups. $30 for electric but I chose a dry campsite as it was spacious and private. We are here for three nights and will leave the trailer while we explore Fairbanks.


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Wildlife Sightings: 2 squirrels at the campsite that are driving Rosie bonkers.

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Exploring Denali

for those of you who know me you know how much I dislike busses. I’m prone to car sickness and busses are the worst. However they don’t allow cars in the backcountry of Denali National Park. So I booked a shuttle bus and hoped for the best. I had a dog sitter booked at my RV park, so although I knew the girls wouldn’t be happy I knew they’d be safe and get out for 3 walks.

I arrived extra early so I could get a seat at the front.

As soon as the 9am bus loaded I lined up first in line and then waited the 30 minutes for my bus.

I was rewarded with the front passenger window seat. I knew that although my legs would be squished I was at the front and able to see and open the window if need be so hopefully I wouldn’t get sick.


We drove to the end of the paved road and checked in the ‘Savage Station’ before heading out in to the ‘back country’.

The scenery was stunning and it was nice to let someone else drive the gravel roads with hairpin turns.



We got to stop and get off the bus at a few specific locations

We’d also stop and stay on the bus to take pictures of animals
Though most were off in the distance too far away for my iPhone camera. Our grizzlies we saw were so far away that even with binoculars they were still tiny. Someone described them as 400 pound ants.


We also would stop to take pictures of Denali / Mnt. McKinley when it came in to view. Although I didn’t get to see it in all its postcard glory I’m lucky to have seen the various glimpses of it over the past 2 days. 70% of the visitors to the park don’t actually see it as its socked in with cloud cover.


  
We arrived at Eilson visitor center and had a 30 minute break. Denali was hiding but I went on a refreshing 20 min walk.


On the way back we stopped at the same rest areas but it was still fun

On the way back it was my side of the bus that was on the edge as we went around the hairpin curves. A few times it took my breath away. I don’t think mom could have handled it.


We arrived back at the wilderness centre just over 8 hours after we left. It was a long time on the bus but an enjoyable day with breathtaking scenery with an amazing guide.  In the morning the guy loading the busses told me I was lucky as we had such a great driver. He said that Mr. Elton Parks was one of the best and made sure everyone had fun. That sadly he couldn’t say that about all the drivers. I can’t compare him to the others but he was great. So knowledgeable, friendly and full of fun stories, he made the time fly by. He also made every effort to make sure we got to see wildlife and could take pictures of the mountain when it came in to view as it wasn’t always visible from the scheduled viewpoints. I didn’t book the ‘guided tour’ which included a boxed lunch but was about $100 more. I was simply on a ‘shuttle bus’ and  I’m positive that my driver was as good or even better than the guides on the tour busses.

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Wildlife Sightings:

  • Caribou 11
  • Dahl Sheep 4
  • Grizzly ‘ants’ 3
  • Moose 1
  • Arctic ground squirrel 9
  • Brown squirrel 2

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Headed to Denali

This morning we left my cousins and headed north on the parks highway. We stopped briefly at a gallery in Willow

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There was recently a forest fire near Willow and it was neat to see all the signs of appreciation for the firefighters.


    Next we headed to Talkeetna. From the viewpoint heading in to town we could see the top of Mount McKinley poking out above the clouds. I don’t think it’s very visible in my iPhone photos but hopefully my other camera did a good job of capturing it. (Even better yet would be clearer weather in the next 2 days)


We headed in to Talkeetna to wonder around. It was a busy place with lots of tourist shops.


      The girls and I walked to the river but it had clouded up even more and there was no clear view.


The other neat thing about Talkeetna was all the painted moose.

        

 Then we were back on the road as we had reservations in Cantwell tonight. We drove past Wal Mike in Trapper Creek and  just had to stop for photos


      We reached the south Denali lookout but was too overcast to see mout McKinley


 The clouds cleared a bit near the parks hwy sumit but not in the direction of the mountains


We came across this igloo not sure what it’s about


In the morning we head in to the park to hopefully see wildlife. It’s currently red sky at night so hopefully that’s sailors delight and we have clear weather


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Wildlife Sightings: 2 squirrels

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