Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Places to go, people to meet, things to see, WHEW (Gold Panning, Museum of the North,

To start I would like to tell you about a couple additions I have made to the blog. First (my personal favorite), to help you get in the mood, is the sidebar clickable link to a music video featuring Johnny Horton's "North to Alaska", next is the clickable email link to make it easier for those who wish to contact us, also the weather link (you can click on it to enlarge and take you to current weather page (that is if I remember to update it). Hope this works for you.

Second I want to thank everyone who has contacted us about the blog. We appreciate your interest. This has been a learning experience and I have never claimed to know what I am doing. Please keep the comments coming and pass the site onto anyone you feel may enjoy it. If you send me contact information for those folks I will add them to my "send updates' list.

Now for what has been Happening in Weigleworld
 As the Gatlin Brothers sang:
"All the gold in California is in the bank in the middle of Beverly Hills in somebody else's  name" well, all the gold in Alaska is in the hands of the big mining corporations but that didn't stop us from trying to strike the "mother-lode".

We spent a few hours at the Eldorado Mine and came away with, You guessed it, GOLD

Start with a bag of  PAY DIRT
(provided by the friendly staff at the tourist trap). Thank goodness we didn't have to go out in the creeks or down in the shafts to dig our own. Everyone is guaranteed to find some gold.   

After half hour or so:
WALAA combined gold flakes totaling something like 4-5 grams (about $7) pictured next to a nickle for size comparison. Guess the Mother-Lode is still in the ground.
We did get a nice train ride to the mining camp, through a permafrost tunnel as well as viewing an old mine camp with a log cabin and demonstrations of the pioneer techniques of mining. At the current mining camp we saw a sluice demonstration and panning techniques. The entire event was fun and the fresh warm cookies after our hard work of panning for gold and getting it weighed just made Carl's day. On the train ride we were entertained by Earl, who sang, played fiddle and guitar along with commentary and history.

Next stop University of Fairbanks and the Museum of the North (please click on this link- it is so worth it).
The museum has so much to offer that you will want to spend more than a few hours here exploring the history and life of the Alaskan people. 

The building and its contents are both magnificent. The only word I can think of to describe the architecture is dramatic. Learned it was  designed to evoke images of Alaska's mountain ridges, glaciers, rivers, diving whale's tail and more. I think it succeeded.

The inside is just as unique at the outside. I really can't say enough about this place. We spent hours just taking in all the history, art, and culture. We learned so much our heads are spinning.  The museum has fascinating stories about Alaska's people, places, and wildlife

We saw many pieces of antler furniture at museums throughout our visits in Alaska and the Yukon. This is one great example using sheep, caribou and moose. 

The museum also takes a look at why everybody rushed to Alaska in the first place. We saw  Interior Alaska's largest gold display (small to fist-sized nuggets recovered from streams, as well as gold worked into artistic objects). Many interesting pictures, articles, and artifacts related to the Gold Rush. Particularly liked the story of Annie somebody, who carried her sewing machine across up Chilkoot trail and on to Dawson searching for her son. She never found him, but made a great life sewing costumes for dance hall girls and others.

The pictures just do not do it justice.

Amazing, some of the things these old-timers had made from their gold.

Displays show you how animals were the primary source of food, clothing, and tools for The Athabaskans (native people of the Interior of Alaska).
The extensive exhibits of Alaska Native art and artifacts probably deserves a blog of its own. I took so many photographs, and read everything. Just so fascinating.

The museum galleries (divided by geographical regions of the state) have exhibits detailing everything from dinosaur bone discoveries 

to intricate ivory carvings, a longstanding Eskimo tradition. Both ancient and contemporary ivory carvings depict birds, bears, and other design.

  One interesting display was the world's only restored Ice Age steppe bison mummy. The bison was preserved in permafrost near Fairbanks until recovered several years ago. Its skin is blue from oxidized minerals in the ground, and it is so well preserved that claw scratches from a predator are still visible in the skin.  

Displays of social and ceremonial clothing decorated with trade beads or buttons sewn into clan designs, such as ravens, bears, whales, or other animals.   

Displays on the history of the totem pole, potlatch and various ceremonies all reflecting the culture of Alaska’s Native Indians. We learned how Polar bears, seals, walrus, and bowhead whales played into shaping the lives and migration of the coastal natives. 

Interesting information on seal and walrus hunting by natives. They are hunted for their meat, oil, fur. Natives have hunted for generations and still do so. Seals make large holes in the ice for breathing. The holes remain unfrozen by frequent use. Hunters use nets in which the seals become entangled and drown. Harpoons also are used and still are. 
We spent a quite a while in the exhibit that spans  2,000 years of Alaska art, from ancient ivory carvings to contemporary paintings and sculpture. 

A little fun in the "outhouse" sculpture in the contemporary section.

There are so many exhibits to keep one interested in learning about the history and culture of the state. Probably the exhibit that touched me most was the detention/relocation/internment of Alaska’s Japanese Americans and Aleuts during World War II. Watching a video featuring survivors and children of survivors, reading documents and seeing pictures I learned the Aleutian villages were forced to evacuate "to keep them from being occupied" by the Japanese. To much history for me to include here, but interesting research if anyone cares to follow up on it.
As Alaska belonged to Russia prior to US purchase the Russian influence is pretty obvious through out the exhibits. The Russian Orthodox missionaries traveled throughout the interior and outlying areas establishing churches and schools. Today some of these buildings are still the centers of the village life.

As we are leaving the museum we spy the electric hook ups in the parking area. Alaska winters require most, if not all, vehicles to heat their radiators, oil pan and battery when left for more than 20 minutes. So most businesses offer plug ins. We are told most everyone carries 3 cords with them for that purpose. Interesting huh?

Also spied this "homemade" camper in the parking lot.  


 A day without museums or gold mines. Another banner day for the Great Adventure.

Visiting the the Aurora Ice Museum located at Chena Hot Springs Resort, 65 miles outside of Fairbanks was entirely worth the hour or so drive.  It is an entire building that is refrigerated year-round by locally generated geo-thermal electricity.

 Inside World champion ice carver Steve Bryce and his wife Susan have created a hotel type atmosphere made of ice.

Everything from the beds and chairs

to the fireplace and chandeliers are made of hand-carved ice.  Flickering LED lights and color-changing chandeliers light the area,

You can even sit at the bar and have a martini in a a glass made completely of ice!

One of the bedrooms had a private privy and Carl just had to try the throne.
The ice hotel is complete with chapel where weddings have actually been conducted. Crazy folks

A few more highlights from the Ice Museum, a must see if you are in the area. Bring your own hat and gloves, but coats are provided.

On our way out we saw the shelves of ice martini glasses waiting for the next group. 

Just hated to give up my frozen glass but stepping into the 76 degree sunshine was making it melt in my hand fast. So, what to do with it, of course, give the pretty flowers a drink.

We were anxious to get into the hot springs but first wanted to check out the tour of their geothermal power plant. Good education on how they power their entire resort from the heat and steam from underground.
Below are photos from the time-line display. The time actually started in the 1700s. 

After the power plant we toured the resort green house (run off geothermal energy) and saw wonderful vegetable and flower plants. These tomatoes produce 14 months. Imagine that. They currently only supply the resort needs but have plans to market the produce in the future.
Anyway, as happy as we were to learn about their power plant but quickly put on our suits and headed to the springs.

Here I am under the large sprinkler in the middle of pond cooling off since the water averages 104* 

Are we relaxed or what?
Probably soaked for over an hour. Met a nice couple from Arizona and visited a long time. They gave us several tips of places to stay when we do the Oregon coast after Alaska. And they took this picture for us.

End with a couple pictures of some of the grounds around the resort. 
Nothing says Alaskan Resort like an antler tree!!!

How about this 1959 Polarus? 
Seems we have to photograph old snow machines where ever we go. Carl just can't seem to get it out of his system!

I think it is enough for this page. Still have several days to report but will post a new log for that. As you can tell, we are keeping just busy enough to wet our whistle, add to our knowledge base, and enjoy. Boy are we enjoying.

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