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christianj. Fairbanks - A travel report by Christian
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Fairbanks,  United States - flag United States -  Alaska
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christianj.'s travel reports

Alaska for beginners...

  27 votes
We met them in Rotorua, New Zealand, at an impressive cultural event of the Maori (Natives of New Zealand) and decided to have a beer together. They told us they were from Alaska. In the era of internet and email keeping in contact was easy - ... report of the month contest
Dec 2004


Fairbanks travelogue picture
...two years later we sat on their balcony in Fairbanks from where we started our round-trip…….. Alaska, 1.700.138 square kilometres, more or less 620.000 inhabitants, more than a 100 State-Parks, 5000 glaciers, 3000 rivers, waterfalls, fjords, forests, steppe, meadows and 3.000.000 lakes. And: Alaska means ice + snow; there must be ice and snow the whole year – for me as an European greenhorn there was no doubt about that. Well, one of the first things we’ve learned from our new friends: In big parts of Alaska you can even find four seasons: June, July, August and winter! So we visited this wonderful country in July and had temperatures between 5° and 28° Celsius. By the way, the USA bought Alaska in 1867 for the amount of 7.2 Million Dollar from the Russians, but Alaska did not become the 49th State of the United States until 1959. The inhabitants call it ‘The last frontier’. Apart from the south and south-east, you find permafrost in whole Alaska. That means the ground is permanently frozen down to 300 meters. Only in summer, the top layer melts for a short time. In these regions, you can find lots of wood what they call ‘drunken forest’: A forest whose trees don’t stand upright but rather criss-cross – these shallow root trees lose their footing in the melted ground. Also houses, that are badly positioned, ‘swim’ on the melted ground and get bad damages. Well, life over there has rather different demands than in the ‘lower 48’ (the other 48 states of the US), even if you do not live in the wilderness. To explore Alaska, you might need much more than some weeks, maybe a lifetime. For our first visit, we decided to explore the easy part, the part where you find comfortable roads and the safety of civilisation. The round-trip we did is an example for a typical one, and can be done by motor home or car as well as by motorcycle; even by bike.

Favourite spots:
Fairbanks travelogue picture
We travelled by car and spend, most of the time, the night in B & B’s, where we got - beside its vital - a warm contact to its owners, insider-information and an impression of how people live there. On the map below, you find the route we took – approximately 1800 miles in 3 weeks.

What is the fascination beside this impressing, terrific landscape, that gives to you such an intensive feeling of freedom and harmony? For nearly all visitors it’s the wildlife. Sometimes you’re able to discover more wildlife on a short drive than you will see during your whole life at home in Europe. The fauna is as manifold as the country itself. Caribou-herds move through the tundra, bears fish salmon in the rivers (mainly in July/August) or search for roots and berries. You can find Dall-sheep, ram, buffalos, musk oxen, bieber, reindeers, and, of course: Moose. There are these danger signs everywhere along the roads: Beware of Moose!


What's really great:
Fairbanks travelogue picture
I tell you: Our first moose we saw was one day after arrival! It was taking a bath in a small lake, having a square meal of water plants. You think that’s a good start? Sure, but after that impressive meeting, we didn’t see any more during the whole round-trip. All travellers we spoke to, told us how many moose they saw beside the road, the newspapers were full of reports about accidents with those large animals, only these two German guys began to wonder if there were more moose than just the one they had seen the very first day….

About 400 breeds of birds call Alaska their home: Songbirds, seabirds, swans, cranes, ducks and geese; also birds of prey like hawks, falcons and different species of owls. There you can find more bald eagles than in the rest of the USA. The cliffy coast is home to numerous marine-mammals like sea lions (there is a colony with approximately 1.000.000 animals on Pribilof island), walruses, otter and approx. 16 kinds of whales.

Sights:
Look at the pipline behind the bridge
Look at the pipline behind the bridge
To have a look at them, I would recommend to you to book one of the boat-trips they offer at the coast, basically on the Kenai-peninsula and in Valdez. Oops, excuse me, please do yourself a favour and don’t book one of these huge tourist-boats. There might be enough opportunities to find a smaller boat with a more motivated crew. We were lucky to find one of those guys: We started from Valdez on board of the Lu-Lu Belle (www.lulubelletours.com) to a wonderful trip. We visited a glacier, saw otter, bald eagles, puffins and other kinds of seabirds – and whales: One humpback whale and killer whales. Believe me: There was a devotional silence on the boat!


To talk about Alaska also means to talk about gold. The first finding happened in 1868 in Circle und Fortymile, 1880 at Gastineau Channel and 1896 at Bonanza Creek. The gold attracted more than 100.000 adventurers to Alaska, but only a quarter of them arrived. Many of them capitulated or died. But that gold rush was not the only one.

Accommodations:
Fish-wheel near Chitina
Fish-wheel near Chitina
In 1968 black gold was found: Oil! In 1973, the Congress approved the plans for the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline with its southern terminus at Valdez. The first oil entered the pipeline at Pump Station One, at Prudhoe Bay, on June 20, 1977 and reached the 1.280 KM remoted Valdez on July 28. In November of 1997, the 12 billionth barrel of oil reached Valdez. There are plenty of opportunities to catch a look at the monumental pipeline – don’t miss that.

Travel tips in clockwise order of our roundtrip, starting and ending in Fairbanks:

Region Fairbanks:

Fairbanks Ice Museum ‘Ice Alaska’: Ice sculptures and the story of the ‘World Ice Art Championships’ /www.icealaska.com

University of Alaska museum: Alaska’s history /www.uaf.edu/museum

Chena Hot Springs: Take a bath in hot mineral spring /www.chenahotsprings.com

Santa Claus House, North Pole (Mile 349, Richardson Highway): The home of Santa Claus…. /www.santaclaushouse.com

Nightlife:
Fairbanks travelogue picture
Valdez: Lu-Lu Belle tours: This is a boat-trip I can highly recommend! Captain Fred takes all the time you need to explore glaciers and fauna, especially: whale-watching, Tip: Take the afternoon-trip!! /www.lulubelletours.com

Edgerton Highway: Copper Center: Scotty’s Alaska Trail Ventures Guided quad-tours, have fun! /www.alaskaatv.com

Near Chitina: Have a look at the fish-wheels of the natives at the Copper River. Maybe you’ll meet some of them, standing around a fire, having a beer – cheers!

Glenn Highway: Between Glennallen and Palmer: Matanuska Glacier Park / www.matanuskaglacier.com

Kenai Peninsula: Good area for fishing, kayaking, boat-trips, bear-watching-trips, hiking (We spent a wonderful day with kayaking near homer. Highlight were the otter, hunting and eating directly beside our kayaks.)

Seward: Alaska SeaLife Center /www.alaskasealife.org

Wasilla: Plettner Sled Dog Kennels: Lynda Plettner finished her 11th Iditarod-Race in 2004! /www.plettner-kennels.com

Hangouts:
Killer-whales - just playing!
Killer-whales - just playing!
Denali National Park: Denali, the ‘High One’, is the name Athabascan native people gave the massive peak that crowns the 960-Kilometer-wide Alaska Range. Denali is also the name of an immense national park and preserve. Here you’ll have a good chance to see caribous and bears. /www.denali.national-park.com

Accomodation:

While being ‘on the road’, you can get help in each of the Visitor Centers to find a bed for the night.

If you like B&B’s, there are a couple of organisations, for example: www.alaskaone.com

Some B&B’s, we can highly recommend:

Valdez: Gussie’s Lowe Street Bed & Breakfast, wonderful breakfast! - www.alaskaone.com/gussiesbb


Kenai Peninsula: Kasilof: Inn Between, best prepared if you stay there for fishing - www.alaskainnbetween.com

Kenai Peninsula: Homer: The Chocolate Mousse, great hosts - www.chocolatemoussealaska.com


Wasilla: Alaska’s Lake Lucille B&B - www.alaskalakelucillebnb.com

Restaurants:
Just a short break!
Just a short break!
Beware of midges! In summer they are a real plague. To be protected, you should buy one of these sprays on the spot, for example: ‘OFF’

If you plan to explore Alaska, there is one thing you should not forget to take with you: The Milepost! This guidebook provides the Alaska traveller with all the support (lodging, gas stations, dining, vehicle repairs, medical, etc.) and sight-seeing information needed to have a safe, comfortable and informative journey. It details this information on mile-by-mile basis which allows the traveller to know the joys and potential hazards of the trip. It also provides this same detail for all of the major roads that lead to and from the Alaska Highway and throughout Alaska. - www.themilepost.com

Other recommendations:
Have you ever seen such a red coloured salmon?
Have you ever seen such a red coloured salmon?
…. and for your reassurance: Returned to Fairbanks, on our very last day, just a few hours before our plane took off, our friends insisted on having a last try to demonstrate, that there are more moose than the one we saw the first day (in the meantime we were already afraid that there is no one alive any more – we had a wonderful moose-steak the evening before). To cut a long story short: There are still a lot of moose living in Alaska. As if they wanted to say ‘Good bye’, we saw a couple of them that very last day! Isn’t that a wonderful end of an unbelievable trip? Thanks to the moose and big hugs to you, K. & J. ….

Further information:

www.travel-alaska.de
www.alaska-info.com
www.alaska-tour.com
www.alaskaoutdoorsontheweb.com

Published on Sunday December 5th, 2004


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Tue, Nov 18 2008 - 07:04 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Very interesting report and pictures. You had a wonderful adventure in Alaska!

Thu, Nov 10 2005 - 01:28 PM rating by vbx000

Great report, full of beautiful pictures and helpful information.

Thu, Jan 27 2005 - 09:13 AM rating by ardelia

This is very informative and pleasant reading. I have no idea when I will be visiting the States but I'm sure if I do one day, i'll be referring to your report, this one particularly!! Nice pictures too. I love the one with the whale flipping its tail! A good one

Ardelia

Mon, Jan 17 2005 - 06:09 PM rating by tahtisade

It is nice what u wrote. I will go 4 it. I have to reach Alaska sooner or l8r now. Thx.

Sat, Dec 11 2004 - 12:18 AM rating by italian-link

Very nice report, especially about the drunken forest. Very Interesting.
Good pictures too.

Mon, Dec 06 2004 - 01:00 PM rating by fieryfox

Wow, what a great report. Please write more I really enjoy reading them!

Cheers.
Farizan

Mon, Dec 06 2004 - 11:29 AM rating by bear495

Nicely done, Christian.

Mon, Dec 06 2004 - 08:28 AM rating by magsalex

Excellent report packed with lots of info and beautifully illustrated.

Mon, Dec 06 2004 - 06:52 AM rating by gloriajames

well written!!

Mon, Dec 06 2004 - 04:43 AM rating by picasso

Very interesting report especially for nature lovers.
Alaska without any doubt is a nature lovers paradise.
Personally ,I fell sorry for Russians for their infamous Russian- American deal.
Ones again , superb report with a lot of info –*****.

Keep it up with the third ***** IN THE FUTURE

Boris

Mon, Dec 06 2004 - 03:17 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

hii cristian,
excellent report abt alaska.nicely written
ravi

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