September 1, 2016
We were on our way to our last destination in Alaska – the city of Fairbanks. We took a bus and had a young, attractive guide named Aubrey. I wasn’t able to take pictures because I didn’t get a window seat. Here’s the one good shot I got:
My husband was next to the window, however, and took these pictures of the scenery:
We made a stop in the town of Nenana, which is on the Nenana River. It is distinguished by two events: It is the first stop along the route of the Iditarod,
and the “Ice Classic”, which is a contest held annually since 1917.
In the Ice Classic, a tripod made of wood is placed in the middle of the frozen river in late winter. Townspeople bet money – usually consisting of only a few dollars – on when the tripod will fall into the river; in other words, when the river will thaw. In spite of the relatively small amount of cash that the winner will receive, people in Nenana get very competitive during the Ice Classic, and with the access to the Internet, some people do scientific research to find out what are the meteorological forecasts for the arrival of spring in that region.
Nenana has a small sled dog kennel, where they raise dogs to compete in races like the Iditarod as well as for personal use to get around in the winter. The training the dogs receive is basically the same as we saw in Denali, and visitors are encouraged to hold puppies that are as young as three weeks old!
I held a warm, furry black puppy that trembled the whole time that I, or anyone else, held him. I asked one of the trainers if he was cold or just scared. She replied that the young pups are very new to the socialization process, so they become nervous when held.
Upon arrival in Fairbanks, we were taken immediately to a steamboat dock on the river. First, we had lunch at long dining tables in a room filled with tourists from cruise and land tours like ourselves. Except for our group, the majority of the tourists had been on a Princess cruise.
Line to board the steamboat (taken by Dale Berman)
After lunch, we had a few minutes to shop, where we bought a couple of t-shirts, before we were to board the steamboat. Someone had told me to go directly up to the third level and sit in the front to get the best views. Rows of chairs were set out all along the open deck. We got good seats next to the railing in the front of the boat.
The steamboat took us on a leisurely cruise up the Chena River.
float plane landing
The boat stopped in front of a dog kennel. The trainers told us about their dogs and the training they do with them. Ten dogs had been selected and were harnessed for a short run.
All the dogs get very excited.
And they’re off!
They run by the back of the kennel, a “caboose” behind them!
When they get back, the dogs are hot and tired and ready….
…for a frolic in the river!
Our steamboat ride continued.
We saw captive caribou.
We arrived at Chena Village, where Athabascan youths show tourists different aspects of their ways of life. This village resembles the original Athabascan village of the early 1900s and is located near the original site.
First, while we were still aboard, we saw how the salmon are caught, cut and dried.
Fish drying shed
The steamboat docked and we got off. We were divided into several groups, each with a guide who took us around to different areas where we learned about the activities that would have taken place in the village.
This young man was our guide. He showed us each of the pelts – what animal they were from and how they were used.
Transportation: canoe, snow shoes
Clothing – a young woman models a warm fur coat.
Examples of clothing for men (left of door), women (right)
Animals: Moose were a good catch for trappers, but the people relied on domesticated reindeer for various purposes. (A reindeer is actually a domesticated form of the caribou.)
Housing: Summer and winter camps
An outhouse was a convenience in a settled village!
Winter trapper’s cabin: Most trapping was done in the winter because that is when the animals’ fur would be thickest and warmest. The trappers had to set and maintain their trap lines in the worst winter conditions. “Line cabins” would be built about a day’s journey apart from one another along their winter trapping routes. Simple and rugged, they provided the trappers with adequate shelter during Alaska’s harsh winters, and were meant only to rest, dry out, heat up, and sleep. Although built for their own use, anyone needing shelter would be welcome to use the cabins.
Permanent house in the village
All too soon, it was time to board the steamboat once more.