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.

An Alaskan Dog Sled Ride for Zeb and Eider Duck

Let’s ride on a dog sled!   Mom really said those words and we quickly agreed.   We are in North Pole, Alaska, near Fairbanks, to work on Eider’s dad’s estate, but not today.    Mom made reservations and our friend, Barbara, drove us to Sirius Winter Sled Dog Tours .   Arriving for our 6 mile, one hour trip, we watched our dog team get harnessed to our sleds.

This is our dog team and sleds. Ready to go

This is our sled, with mom.   Barbara has another set of sleds with her driver, or musher.   I, Zeb the Duck, and cousin Eider Duck are on the second sled.

Ducks on sled, ready to ride.

This is Avett, one our dogs.   While riding, Nita, our guide and musher, stood behind the first sled and guided the dogs.   We rode with mom, standing on the back of the second sled.   Standing gave us a great view, and wasn’t as cold as sitting so close to the snow.   Mom stood, with her knees bent, on the ride.   She said it felt like water skiing.   During our ride we did not take photos.   We were moving fast; going up and down small hills, and over frozen creeks.   Dog sleds on ice feel a little different.   During turns, Nita told us how to lean to make things easier for the dogs.   We loved our ride.   Here we are, sitting on the first sled, exhilarated after our exciting and wonderful tour.

Nita, our guide and musher is standing on the first sled, waving to mom.

We love these sleds and the Alaskan Huskies that pulled us through the wooded snow area.   The trails were groomed, but Nita told us the untouched snow would be almost waist deep.   That’s a lot of snow.   We just had to pose for another photo on our sled, with our dog, Avett.

Ducks with Avett

While we still wanted to go further, we aren’t ready for the Iditarod.   That famous dog sled race began Sunday, March 4, 2018.   The official start was crossing frozen Lake Willow, 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Anchorage.   The finish line in Nome, Alaska, on the Bering Strait, will be reached in about 9 days.   That is too much for us.   Isn’t this a great picture of the dogs pulling the sled?

Dogs pulling sled through woods

This photo came from Sirius Dog web page.   The only time we were on the trails with dogs, we were on the sled.     These winter sled dog tours are available from Sirius from November through March.   We hope you enjoy a dog sled ride soon.   Of course, they are available in Alaska, but many other locations also.   They are offered in Colorado, in many of our ski areas.   We had never been on a dog sled before, and we love it!   Maybe again sometime?   Driving back home, we again drove on snowy roads and under branches, bent from the heavy wet snow.

Driving on a snowy road with low hanging snow covered branched

This was a perfect day in Alaska.   This is the end to this Alaska trip.   But we want to show you one more photo.   This was taken about 15 minutes before official sunrise, from our back window.

So blue, just before sunrise

The morning really did not look so blue to us, but we heard that the time just before sunrise and after sunset has great light for photos.   We just love the blue in this photo.   We took many photos, but this one has the most blue.   Mom did not enhance or alter anything about the photo.    This is just how it came with our iPhone.   Next time we will show you more of our beautiful Colorado.

The Knotty Store in Alaska with Eider Duck

Our Alaska cousin, Eider Duck, wanted to show us his favorite gift shop.   Near Fairbanks, in Salcha, Alaska you can find The Knotty Shop.

The Knotty Store

The Knotty Store

The name comes from the Knotty Pine wood.   Inside the store you will find so many Alaskan gifts.   Much is handcrafted by Alaska’s residents.   There is a large selection of clothing.   The knives feature the Alaskan ulu knife, some of them with the handle and stand crafted from Alaska’s diamond willow wood.   Wooden bowls are also popular items at The Knotty Store, as is a birch stein with a lid.   The food section features many flavors of syrup.   Fireweed syrup is available, as is salmonberry syrup, (what is salmonberry?) along with a favorite, wild blueberry syrup.   The Wildlife Museum highlights several Alaskan mounts.

Indoor Wildlife Museum

Indoor Wildlife Museum

Eider lives here, so these animals do not make him nervous.

Love the fox

Love the fox

We think the fox could be our friend.   While the selection of gifts is incredible, the real attraction is outside.

Large

Large

Eider wants you to see several of these carved animals.

Great

Great

We really think they all are wonderful.

Adorable

Adorable

Such talent to make these.

Takes talent

Takes talent

Eider loves to visit this store.

Eider rides again

Eider rides again

We could not choose a favorite.

Moose or caribou?

Moose, reindeer or caribou?

But these antlers do grab and hold our attention.   Which is your favorite?   For more information and photos of The Knotty Shop, visit http://www.AlaskaKnottyShop.com   Eider, we love this shop.   Thanks for sending us the photos, cousin Eider.

Fairbanks in the Winter with Eider Duck

I, Zeb the Duck, asked my Alaska cousin, Eider Duck, to show us a little about winter at his home near Fairbanks, Alaska.   Eider brought us some photographs.   Eider said this was a rather mild winter at his house.

These photos were taken in early January 2015.   At that time, the temperature was about 20 degrees below zero.   Eider, some people do not consider that a mild winter.

Dark and cold

Dark and cold

Winter at Eider's house

Winter at Eider’s house

These photos were taken more recently in March.   The wind blew and the snow really fell.

Blowing snow near Fairbanks

Blowing snow near Fairbanks

Eider could not see the house across the street very well.

Neighbor's house

Neighbor’s house

This snow had fallen during a warmer time.

Snow on trees

Snow on trees

The temperatures were close to 15-20 degrees above zero.   We love the snow clinging to the trees.

Fresh snow

Fresh snow

Eider said there was between 2 and 3 feet of snow on the ground.

Near Fairbanks in March 2015

Near Fairbanks in March 2015

Previous snowfall did not melt the way it does in Denver.   Eider said some evaporates and some just compacts as it waits for the spring thaw.

Waiting for spring

Waiting for spring

Eider said that this winter he did experience temperatures of 40 below zero, but not for extended periods of time.

Perfect day to be inside looking out.

Perfect day to be inside looking out.

Well, Eider, we in Denver, would not consider this a mild winter.   Stay warm and stay inside, Eider.  But we certainly appreciate your photographs.   Thanks for sharing with us!