Day Fifteen

This morning we are scheduled to take a riverboat tour that includes a few interesting stops along the way. The Riverboat Discovery is a sternwheeler captained by a family whose steamboating traditions go back five generations to the gold rush times. As transportation needs shifted with the times they transitioned to the excursion business that we enjoy today.

As we slowly move along the river we see the homes of the locals. There are some wonderful log homes and I am really surprised at how large some of them are and how much glass they have. I wouldn’t want to heat them with the price of fuel now! They are beautiful though.

We are introduced to an Alaskan Bush Pilot who talks to us from his plane ( there are monitors conveniently located so everyone can see and hear well), then he does a take off and landing from the water right beside the boat.

A little further on we see the home and kennels of the late Iditarod Champion, Susan Butcher and her husband and we hear about the dogs and see the team in action. They love what they do!

On down the river our clear water Chena flows into the glacier fed Tanana River and you can see the difference in the waters as they join. The glacial water is full of that fine glacial silt.
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Our Bush Pilot is waiting on the sandbar to demonstrate landing on a small sandbar with a different airplane this time, one with wheels. Airplane is the only way in and out of so many places in Alaska and often there is not much space to maneuver! He has no problem!

Before long we stop to see some reindeer from a local reindeer farm. We hear that reindeer were a very important part of the Indian/Eskimo economy. These are shedding their winter coats.

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Moving along, we come to Chena Indian Village a recreated Athabascan cultural experience. We see a fish wheel in motion and can see how it would scoop salmon from the river, and we see a demonstration of filleting and preparing a salmon to be smoked. It took about 5 seconds! We docked and went ashore for about an hour to explore the village and visit each of the main areas where native guides would talk and demonstrate features of the culture. It was extremely well done and interesting. There was also a more in-depth visit with the sled dog team, there.

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The whole tour took about three and a half hours and when we were back at the landing we looked around the gift shop and grabbed a quick reindeer hotdog lunch before getting back on the bus to go to the afternoon’s adventure the gold mine!

The El Dorado Gold Mine was great fun! We rode the narrow-gauge train into the permafrost tunnel to learn about past underground mining methods and modern mining techniques. We saw demonstrations by local miners. While touring the present day working gold mine we met the couple who would introduce us to panning. She said she had come to Alaska as young woman to look for gold and he said “That ain’t ALL she was alookin’ for!” She said, ” Well, he did have some mighty fine nuggets!” and it went on from there!! They showed us how the huge pile of dirt and rocks gets dumped into the wooden sluice and water washes down and starts the separartion process. After a demonstration on how to “pan” we each get a “poke” of the concentrate from the sluice and we try our hand at striking it rich. We are guaranteed at least 8 pieces of gold or we get a new “poke”. I stopped counting at 12 pieces and when it was all over I had about 3.5 grams. Charlie’s and mine together was about 6 grams and we had it put into a little gold and clear locket for posterity.

On the way back to the Lodge, we stopped at the Alaska Pipeline which is 800 miles long; 420 miles of it above the surface because of the permafrost but 380 miles of it is buried where there is stable bedrock. It is high enough to not impede the migration of the caribou.

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Currently about a million barrels of oil per day are transported through the system which has a max daily capacity of 2.1 million barrels. The pipe’s diameter is 48″.

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This was a full day and we are tired. We re-distribute our stuff and re-pack our suitcases and hope we are not overweight for the flight home tomorrow!

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2 Responses to “Day Fifteen”

  1. Gwynette Says:

    Ruth, I’m glad you got to take this adventurous journey, but I really hate that you are winding it up tomorrow. I’ve eagerly ‘traveled’ with you each day. I’m sure there is a quilt in there somewhere!

  2. Ruth Says:

    Oh, yes, I got ideas! But apparently I think I am still on vacation as I haven’t sewn a bit!

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