Driving the Alaska Highway with the Colorado Traveling Ducks

Ready to drive the Alaska Highway?   Here, in Delta Junction, Alaska, the Alaska Highway, or Alcan (Alaska Canada Highway) officially ends.

Alaska Canada Highway

But for us, it is just beginning.

Ready to start on Alaska Highway

We bought this blue Jeep from Eider’s dad’s estate near Fairbanks.  Now we are driving it home to Colorado.   Yesterday Eider and I took Soapy and his mom to Santa’s House and then to the Knotty Shop.   This morning our first stop is the Visitor’s Center in Delta Junction.

Welcome Center and gift shop

Those are gold dredge buckets in front of the building, by the flower pots.  This is also a gift shop.   Great wood plaques.

Lots of wood

Outside we saw these giant mosquitos.

Mosquitos.

Again, Alaska has big mosquitos, but thankfully, not this huge.   This is the official start of the Alaska Highway for our trip.

Alaska Highway

Our adventure begins.   Now the highway is paved all the way.   Didn’t used to be paved.   Really hard on tires and windshields then.   We are told there are enough gas stations, but always stop.   The next one might be closed.   Several campgrounds and some motels.  A couple times we quickly stopped as huge Alaskan moose crossed the road.   They were too quick for us to get cameras.  The terrain was hilly with mountains to the south, toward Valdez and the end of the TransAlaskan Pipeline.   Best part was only seeing another vehicle every 15-30 minutes.   So peaceful.  About 200 miles (500 km) from Delta Junction, we reached the Canadian border.   We will enter Canada’s Yukon Territory.

Welcome to Canada’s Yukon Territory

This is the first time for us ducks to visit Canada.   The humans were here before we joined the family.   We are sitting on the Friendship Bench.

Friendship Bench

Americans and Canadians are friends.   We see the International Boundary stake, showing the 20 foot (6 meter) path cut by surveyors from 1904 to 1920 along the 141st meridian.

International boundary

And for those entering Alaska, this sign is a must stop.

Welcome to Alaska

Of course, we had to sit under this sign also.  Isn’t this a beautiful lake, and at the international border.

Love the lake near international boundary

We love these views.   Driving another 10 miles, we stop at the official customs station.   The official was very nice and efficient.   We decided to stop in the first Canadian town.   This is Beaver Creek.   Our Alaska travel planner, The Milepost, says Beaver Creek is the most westerly Canadian community.   This is our motel, 1202 Motor Inn.

Our motel 1202 Motor Inn

Soapy and his mom like the room totally dark for sleeping.   That is hard to do with the long summer days.   There are only a few hours of darkness in the summer.   Mom and I like more windows and some light.   Soapy had a room in the front, with no windows.   Mom and I had a room in the back with windows.

Our room

This is actually a trailer attached to the building.   We were all happy.  Looking across the street, we loved these snow covered mountains.

From front of our hotel

After walking around town, then eating dinner, we slept really well.   Tomorrow we will see more of the Canadian Yukon.

Advertisements

Discovery Riverboat Tour, Fairbanks, Alaska with the Colorado Traveling Ducks

I, Zeb the Duck, had a great surprise last night.   Soapy Smith Duck and his mom flew to Alaska to be with us.   That is wonderful.   Today, I, Zeb, Eider and Soapy Smith Duck, took our two humans on a three hour riverboat tour.   Before getting on the riverboat, we had to look through the gift shop.   In reality, the moms were getting cold.   It was about 50 F (10 C) and the wind along the river was rather chilly.   They had long sleeves and light weight jackets, but they were still cold.   We ducks think they just wanted new jackets.   But, even that is fine.   Of course they bought jackets and we looked around.   Alaska is famous for dog sled racing, and a woman, Susan Butcher was a famous racer.   We loved this display dedicated to her.

Dog sled with photo of Susan Butcher

We will tell you more about Susan later.   Well, time to get on our riverboat.

Riverboat Discovery III

This is Riverboat Discovery III.   One of the few sternwheeler boats in use.   We love the paddlewheel in the back.   The information says there are 20 paddles turned by hydraulic motors.   We will show you later.  Shortly after beginning our cruise on the Chena River, we watched a small plane take off on the river.   He circled the area and then, with pontoons, landed on the river.   In Alaska, and most of the Arctic, small planes are the way to travel.   The harsh climate makes building and maintaining roads very difficult.  Our first stop was the dog kennels now owned by Susan Butcher’s daughter, Tekla.   Sure a pretty place.

Tekla, daughter of Susan Butcher talks about her sled dogs

Susan Butcher won the Iditarod Race 4 times.   This is the famous dog sled race from Anchorage, Alaska to Nome, Alaska 1,100 miles away.  Susan passed away August 5, 2006 after a battle with leukemia.   Tekla explains that the dogs want to run.   They will pull that 4 wheeler around the kennel area.   We watch more of the run, but some is just too far out of our view.   We were not allowed to get off the boat.   And this is dog training?

Tekla and young dogs

Tekla says the young dogs are learning to socialize.   Also they are learning commands.   It looks like fun playing on the muddy riverbank.   It is nice that training can also be fun.  Continuing along the river, we come to the meeting of the Chena River and the Tanana River.

Meeting of Chena and Tanana Rivers

These rivers are tributaries for the Yukon River.   Isn’t this a pretty place?  In 1898 Charles M. Binkley hiked over Chilkoot Pass with other stampeders during the gold rush.   However, he was not particularly looking for gold, he wanted to chart and navigate the Yukon River and its tributaries.   Now, over 100 years and 5 generations of the Binkley family are offering very popular riverboat tours.   Our next stop, is Chena Indian Village.   While still on the boat, this lady, an Athabaskan Indian, shows us how to prepare salmon for the drying racks.

Salmon cut and ready for drying racks

Skinned, filleted, cut or scored, and ready for the drying racks now.

Salmon drying

She made it look so easy.   We get off Discovery III, our riverboat, and explore this village.   This is a fish wheel.

Fish wheel

The fish swim into the turning wheel and get caught.   This is easier that using an actual fishing pole.   The Athabaskans only catch and keep what they need.   During the long Arctic winters people may get lost or delayed while traveling.   This is a cache.   Notice that it is too high for animals to get inside.

Cache

It keeps necessary supplies for whom ever needs them.   Also, the cache is supplied by the owner for his own travels.   If you use something from the cache, try to replace it when you can for the next person.   Remember these winters have long nights and short days.   Temperatures of -40 (same for F and C) are not uncommon.   People help each other to survive these harsh conditions.   Of course in the summer, the days are long and the nights very short. In Fairbanks, in late June, there are 3 or less hours of darkness.   While in Chena Indian Village, we were taught some of the ways of the Athabaskan Indians.   We met the reindeer.

Reindeer

This reindeer are kept in a large enclosure for us to see.   They receive a healthy diet and are well cared for.   These are samples of fur pelts.

Fur pelts

These furs are very warm and necessary during the cold winters.   Here is a young lady wearing a very warm fur coat.

Athabaskan Indian girl in warm, decorative fur coat

Much work goes into making this coat and it is certainly well cared for and a prize possession.  Our last stop was the gift shop.  This is a statue of Granite.

Granite. Lead sled dog

Granite was the runt of the dog litter, but Susan Butcher saw great potential in him.  Granite became her lead sled dog and Granite lead her team to four wins in the Iditarod Dog Sled Race.   Discovery III is waiting to take us back to the starting point and to our cars.

Our boat, Discovery III, waiting for us

That is a great paddlewheel.   This a great boat tour.   When in Fairbanks we hope you enjoy this trip.   We loved it.

The Knotty Shop With Zeb and Eider Duck. Only in Alaska

It is time for a little shopping in an unusual store.   This is The Knotty Shop in Salcha, Alaska. Follow the Richardson Highway south from Fairbanks to Salcha and you will discover The Knotty Shop.   Founded in 1989 to showcase Alaskan made gift items, this is a great store.

The Knotty Shop.  We are by a moose head.

The posts and animals in front of the store are made of knotty pine.   Alaska has giant mosquitoes, but we are glad they are not really this big.

Giant mosquito

That stinger could kill humans and small ducks.

animal

There are a few animals carved here.

animal

Even if the store wasn’t fascinating, and it is, these animals of knotty pine would make us enter this shop.  Toward the back of the store, we enjoyed this mountain with Alaska’s animals.

Animals of Alaska

We Colorado Traveling Ducks have seen most of these alive while exploring Alaska.   The sock displays always intrigue mom.

Sock display

We have some of these socks at home now.

Ulu Knives

The Ulu knife of Alaska is handy for chopping and cutting.   This is a nice display with many choices for Ulu purchasing.  Hungry?

Alaskan made jams, jellies and sausage.

If you weren’t these jams and jellies will tease your taste buds.   And the sausage is flavorful.   Go ahead and indulge.   They are delicious.   These painted gold pans and saw blades are useful and decorative.

Painted gold pans and saw blades

We have gold pans and gold mining in Colorado, but we love these pans with Alaska scenes.   After a hard afternoon of shopping, we needed some ice cream.

We love ice cream

Of course, mom bought her favorite, mint chocolate chip.   It is our favorite also.   Sitting on the knotty pine picnic tables eating Alaska made ice cream was a great end to our shopping trip.

Zeb and Eider Duck Visit Nenana, Alaska

Driving south from Fairbanks on the Parks Highway, Nenana captured our attention.   Driving over the Alaska Native Veterans’ Honor Bridge, we stopped near the Visitor’s Center.   A sign explained that this bridge was dedicated to Native Alaskans, Eskimo and Indian, that fought in the wars for the United States.

Memorial Bridge over Tanana River. Entering Nenana, Alaska

A great cause and a great bridge.    Another sign and statue was dedicated to The Alaska Territorial Guard.

Alaska Territorial Guard

The sign referred to the years 1942-1947.   Here is a wooden tug boat, Taku Chief.

Taku Chief

Taku Chief was one of the last wooden tugs used on inland Alaskan rivers.   The wooden tug was designed by H. C. Hanson and launched by Olson and Sunde Marine Works in 1938.   Taku Chief was retired here, in Nenana, in 1978.  Further into town we visited the  Alaska Railroad Museum.

Train station and Alaska Railroad Mseum

The railroad depot was completed in 1923, the same year that Presiden Warren Harding arrived here to drive the final golden spike, near the bridge, to commemorate the completion of the railroad between Anchorage and Nenana.   Near the train station is the site of the Nenana Ice Classic.

Nenana Ice Classic

Every spring there is a huge contest to predict the exact month, day, hour, minute and second of the ice break up on the Tanana River.   This tripod, attached to a clock, sits on the ice.   When the tripod moves, the ice has melted enough and the  winner of the spring classic is declared.  The winner wins several thousand US dollars.   One of the oldest buildings in Nenana, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church was built in 1905.

St.Mark’s Episcopal Church

The inside is beautiful.

Inside St. Mark’s Episcopal Church

In the early years, school was held here also.    Continuing through town, we stopped at the cultural center.

Nenana Cultrual Center

We watched some young boys practicing on drums.   The next building really called to us.

Bakery

Bakeries are always good.   We saw large cinnamon rolls with carmel topping.

Fresh, hot cinammon roll. Delicious!

The lady told us those were baked yesterday.   She would go upstairs to get a fresher one.   The baker sent her downstairs to get oven mits for our roll.   You can’t get baked goods any fresher!   And it was delicious.  After savoring our roll, we walked behind the bakery and admired the boats on the bank of the Tanana River.

Boat on bank of Tanana River

We really liked Nenana and will stop here if we are ever in the area again.   It would be nice to see you there also.

The Alaska Pipeline with Zeb and Eider Duck

Today Eider Duck wants to show us the famous Alaska Pipeline.   Remember, Eider lived with his dad in North Pole, Alaska, near Fairbanks.   He knows what the tourists wanted to see.   A few miles north of Fairbanks, at Fox, Alaska, we can see and touch the pipeline.   But first, a little about the famous Alaska Pipeline.  The real name is Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS).

Alaska Pipeline Facts

The pipeline was built to transport oil from the Prudhoe Bay oil fields, north of Arctic Circle and near the Arctic Ocean, to the ice free port of Valdez.  This was a very big engineering accomplishment in the 1970’s.

Zeb and Eider on the Alaska Pipeline

While this looks like the pipeline is rather low to the round, it isn’t.   Mom could hardly reach this ledge for us to sit.   This pipeline is 800 miles (1300 km) long.  An average of 1.5 million barrels of oil are transported through the pipeline every day.   It takes 11.9 days to reach Valdez.   The oil travels at 3.7 miles per hour (6 kilometers per hour).   There is a constant need to clean the inside of the pipe.

Pigs in the Pipeline

Items, called pigs, are put in the pipeline at Prudhoe Bay, for cleaning and other maintenance reasons.   Let’s look at the original and the current pigs.

Retired Pig and Current Pig

They have made changes since 1977.  The pipeline is elevated to protect the frozen ground.  Oil from the ground enters the pipeline at 120 degrees F (49C).   The oil cools to 111 degrees (44C) while traveling through the pipeline.    Permanently frozen ground is called permafrost.   If this permafrost thaws, the ground becomes unstable.   This is not good.  The pipe is insulated to keep the ground cold and release the heat into the air.   Also, moose, caribou, and reindeer migrate through much of northern Alaska.   These large animals must be able to walk under the pipeline.   An Alaskan moose is often 6 feet tall.   Sometimes the pipeline is underground.

Pipeline emerging from underground

Here we can see the underground pipe breaking through the earth’s surface and continuing above ground.   When the pipeline is above ground, it has a zig zag pattern.   This zig zag layout allows for movement in the line, caused by heat, weather conditions and earthquakes.   This part of the Alaska Pipeline is south of Delta Junction, about 120 miles from Valdez.

Pipeline  Photo from internet free photos.

From the hill, you can see the zig zag pattern of the pipeline, heading toward the mountains.  Before building the pipeline, a 360 mile road from the Yukon River to Prudhoe Bay, needed to be built.   This road is used by excellent truck drivers, all year, to carry supplies to the people working in Prudhoe Bay.   The frozen area, north of the Arctic Circle, is difficult for construction.   The frigid winter temperatures, ice, wind, and snow, make living and driving conditions very difficult.   We, the Colorado Traveling Ducks and humans are in awe of those that built, maintain and work in these conditions.

Return to North Pole, Alaska with Zeb and Eider Duck

Here we are.  Back in North Pole, Alaska.

North Pole, Alaska

North Pole is a small town about 10-15 miles from Fairbanks.   First stop was Visitor’s Center, but they were closed.

Visitor’s Center in North Pole, Alaska

Yes, that is grass growing on the roof.   Good insulation.   In Fairbanks, we went to Denny’s for a quick meal.

Northern most Denny’s. Fairbanks, Alaska

And, we were at the most northern Denny’s in the world.   Quite impressive.   The town of North Pole is devoted to Christmas, all year long.

Santa at North Pole

Santa has his house here, since he does live at the North Pole.

Santa lives here.

He also has a really nice gift shop.   As we entered, we saw so many Christmas decorations.

Christmas ornaments and decorations

And more Christmas decorations.

So much for Christmas

They have so much and it is so much fun to look around.   There are ornaments and items from Alaska, and some from other parts of the world.   Another section of the shop features t-shirts and other clothing.

Santa shirts

They even have great flannel one piece pajamas.   And a trap door in the seat for humans when they get up during the night.   They are really warm.   Perfect for the long cold Alaskan winter nights.   After shopping, we discovered the fudge counter at Santa’s House.   Yum!   Going outside, next to Santa’s House, is the Antler Academy.

Antler Academy

Do you see the reindeer to the right of the Antler Academy?   They are real!  This is where the reindeer learn to fly so they can lead Santa’s sleigh around the world on Christmas Eve.

These graduates can fly

These are graduates of Antler Academy.   Flying with Santa now to practice for the very important trip in late December.   North Pole is a nice town with all modern shopping and restaurants.   But they have Santa’s House and the Antler Academy, also.   We hope you visit, we recommend summer, and enjoy the North Pole.

Reminder to Sam’s Club Members on Road Trips

We, the Colorado Traveling Ducks, and humans have memberships to Sam’s Club.   This is part of Walmart corporation that sells in larger quantities.   We shop there, and often after shopping, we have a quick lunch.   Today we ordered a hot dog, a soft pretzel, and a soft drink.

This is a lot of food

We want to remind you that this is cheap.   Our total bill was $2.69.   This is in a western suburb of Denver, Colorado.    Prices vary by location, but if you are on a road trip, eating can get expensive.   Sam’s Club can give you financial relief.   Of course, while on road trips, we often eat at small local restaurants, but sometimes we just don’t want much.  And this much food today, was really too much.   If you are a Sam’s Club member, check out the snack bar.   They have 16 inch pizzas for $8.99.   They had really great looking salads, with chicken and ripe strawberries, blueberries and walnuts.    And only $5.48.

Looks delicious

Just a thought for all of us taking road trips this summer, or any time, really. Again, Nathan’s All Beef hot dog, soft pretzel and soft drink.

Nathan’s Hot Dogs. All beef and large.

Just $2.69.

Only $2.68

And free refills on soft drinks.   Diameter of hot dogs is larger than a quarter.   They have ice cream, also.   Just a reminder for travelers.