Pretty neat truck
We woke to a chilly cloudy day! But no rain. After a filling buffet breakfast, we headed to the Riverboat. Sue put the Art Gallery up. The pictures of the ” moose” are unbelievable. Believe me, they don’t even come close to looking like anything! Rembrandt is not related to anyone on this coach! Sue will announce the prize winners on the way to the Gold Dredge.
On our way to Steamboat Landing, Sue told us we should be watching for moose. She guaranteed that we would see one and it wasn’t the moose crossing sign. Everyone kept looking around for the moose in amongst the trees. There were actually 2 moose but they were painted on a garage door. The group was not impressed.
Moose – do your drawings look like them at all?
We arrived at Steamboat landing and immediately were into retail therapy. What a gift shop! Way too many choices. Many picked out what they wanted but decided to wait until after lunch to purchase.
Then it was time to board the Sternwheeler Discovery III and set sail on the Chena River. The staff stayed up all night making us complimentary homemade blueberry doughnuts and coffee. That is all we do is eat! There are not that many people on our boat so we have lots of room.
We saw a bush pilot, Steve, take off and land on the river. The private aircraft is essential to the delivery of supplies in Alaska. The pilot spoke to us about the plane and how valuable it is to his life in Alaska. He actually found the discarded plane and refurbished it. We learned that he will need to put skies on his plane by Halloween because the ice on the river will be 4 feet by then.
Coming in for the landing
Wildlife, they look like ours at home, ducks and geese.
The next stop was at the home and kennels of the late Susan Butcher, four time Iditarod champion, where her husband, Dave Munson, spoke with us about the Alaskan Husky dogs. We saw several puppies being trained for confidence by jumping into boats and walking on the dock. They showed us how they exercise the dogs in the summer. They harness them to a non-motorized 4-wheeler and the dogs pull it just like a sled. It was unbelievable! The strength those dogs have and the energy is unreal. The dogs are trained to know the commands to go, to go right or left, but once they’re running they don’t like to stop. The 4-wheeler does have a brake. It was a good run. It was 3.06 minutes. The dogs are pulling over 600 pounds with Dave and the 4-wheeler. Trailblazer Kennels was an interesting stop.
Dave Munson at Trailblazer Kennels
Waiting for a practice run
Let’s cool off
A fish wheel was pointed out to us. The Athabascans use the fish wheel to make fishing for salmon go quicker and faster.
The fish wheel
We saw reindeer! We found out that reindeer and caribou are the same animal. Reindeer are domesticated caribou and they don’t fly – unless they belong to Santa Claus! None of them had a red nose either. Caribou means deer who shovels. In the winter they dig for their food with their hooves.
The pilot of the boat told us about the 2 rivers joining, the Chena and the Tennana. You can actually see the difference in the water between the 2 rivers. The Tennana is the largest Glacier fed river in the world.
Where the river meets
An Athabascan native, Denay, showed us how to fillet a salmon. It was the kind of salmon that they feed to the dogs. She was at the fish camp which is the summer home for interior Athabascan natives. She showed us where the salmon are hung up and then the smoke house. She also told us about fish head soup which they also feed to the dogs.
Denay at fish camp
We then continued on to Chena Village and the boat stopped. We went unto shore to visit the village and visited various places with guides. We discovered a moose who had been real at one time. Obviously it ate too much like us and was now stuffed!
A stuffed moose
We saw how the Athabascan’s lived in cabins made from spruce logs with sod roofs. We saw the primitive shelters and an authentic birch bark canoe. The cache was a real treat to see. It’s where they kept their supplies so the critters couldn’t get them. We saw beautiful animal pelts and how the Athabascan’s tanned the hides of the larger animals like moose and caribou. We were shown the garments that the Athabascan’s made. Kiley modeled a fur coat for us. It was very lovely. It weighs 50 pounds and is appraised at $20,000 but really is priceless.
The beautiful handmade parka.
A statue of Granite, Susan Butchert’s lead dog
A dug out
After the village, we headed back to Steamboat Landing. While we cruised, we were given samples of salmon dip on crackers. It’s a pretty simple recipe. One can of salmon to 4 ounces of cream cheese. What a nice treat! Our guide continued to give us interesting facts about Fairbanks, the river, the boat we were on and the Binkley family who are the owners of Riverboat Discovery and the Gold Dredge 8.
Then we were on to lunch. We went to the dining room and were served Miners Stew with salad and a variety of vegetables. It was served family style in big cast iron pots. Just like the miners! One of the waitresses was the niece of the late Susan Butcher. Also, she lives in Woodberry, MN and goes to the University of Minnesota. The chocolate brownies were great! Just ask Bill.
Our waitress, the late Susan Butcher’s niece
Many went off to finish their therapy and it was all too soon to move on.
On the way to the Gold Dredge, Sue announced the winners of the “moose migration” pictures. It was a stretch to call them moose! Grand prize went to Jim. 2nd prize went to Carol. The random prize went to Roger. The “I can’t tell what this is” or worse moose went to Sharron. Everyone needs art lessons or at least see more moose!
We arrived at the Gold Dredge 8 with several other coaches. We off loaded and waited for Tim to tell us about the Alyeska pipeline. We went under the Alyeska pipeline. The 800 mile long Trans Alaska Pipeline System is one of the largest pipeline systems in the world. Everyone was amazed at how big it is. We’ll see more of it tomorrow as we travel to Valdez. We had a very informative presentation about the pipeline.
Waiting to hear about the pipeline
We spent some quality time at the Gold Dredge #8. A ride on the Tenana Valley Railroad took us into the adventure after we were serenaded by our conductor, Earl Hughes. He sang and played the guitar for us. We rode through the area around the dredge and were given some very interesting information about mining. Tim told us about the changes in mining throughout history. We met Yukon Yolonda, a female miner, who told us about the dredge. We all wanted her nuggets which were made in jewelry. Then we had a demonstration about panning for gold. That’s when the adventure really started. It was soon our turn and they gave us a poke and we tried to get “rich”. We determined it wasn’t easy and we’re glad that’s not how we earn our living. The most was $45 for a couple. We added it up for our coach, which wasn’t easy. We did it in our head. We got a total of $560.
Gold Dredge No. 8
Serious stuff, panning for gold
What did you get?
Fortunately, it didn’t matter how much gold we got, we still got to have fresh homemade cookies and coffee or hot chocolate. This, of course, was served in the “gift shop” and we were captive until the train was ready to take us back. Many ladies were sporting new jewelry.
This is a note for all the children of our Alaskan “family” who are reading this. Your parents are coming home with “gold” but don’t get too excited. It isn’t enough for you to be able to retire!
We headed back to our hotel. We have had such a great day. We made a quick stop at Fred Meyers and most of the coach picked up some goodies for later. Then we were back “home”. A Block Party soon happened outside a couple of cottages and everyone was enjoying snacks and refreshments. Some went for dinner and some settled in for the night.
Our new Alaskan family is having a wonderful time. Everyone is really enjoying each other and we are having good laughs and lots of fun!