Friday, August 31, 2007

Day 6: Fairbanks

We went to the University of Fairbanks Museum of the North today. It was $10 to get in, and $5 for the movie "Winter", which we decided to see, since it was starting soon after we arrived. They had another show called "Aurora" which was free though, so we decided to check that out later.

A picture of the Museum driving towards it.

It was interesting to hear from the people of Fairbanks, their views of Alaskan winter. Some people said they actually preferred the winter over the summer. And apparently the dry air makes it feel less cold than in wet climates.

It gets so cold that they have to plug their cars in when they go out, so parking lots have what look like parking meters set up, free to use while they shop. Also, we saw the recent climate changes, and heard a lot about that as well.

They play weird games in the winter, and have a lot of competitions to keep active, since having very little daylight can cause mental issues. They play bowling by pushing people in tubes into the pins..better than another area where I hear they send frozen chickens in place of the bowling ball. They also do a lot of cross-country skiing.

After the show, we finished looking around the museum.

I found the Michio Hoshino display extremely interesting. I loved his words and photographs. Just to give you an idea, he wrote,

"We all die and go back to nature eventually. When we are in the city we tend to forget - we don't really think about it. But nature reminds us...It's not a sad thing. It gives us energy. Nature has a kind of power to encourage you to live because Nature teaches - you are going to die."

Unfortunately I didn't really take many pictures in the museum, so this is the only one I have of his work. It's easy to find online however. I was very impressed.

And then there's Otto, a 1250lb Brown Bear. You can see how big he is compared to that man to the right.

And a few more pieces.

We went outside for a picnic style lunch before watching "Aurora". The show was alright, but I almost fell asleep numerous times. After the show, we went to the Georgeson Botanical Gardens, which had a $2 entry fee, just to see flowers.. It was pretty, and it was beautiful out. We took pictures of the flowers, and sat on the benches for a few minutes to relax.

I few of them reminded me of hair.

I was going to head downtown to see about the ice museum, but as we were driving down College Rd, we came across Creamers Dairy, which I'd seen as a place to check out online.

They had a bird sanctuary, some trails, and a small visitor's center. We decided to take a short walk, since it was nice out, and it was free. We also saw signs to the Bird Observatory, so we decided we'd hike towards that. We passed by 3 serious photographers on the way.

When we followed the trail to the end, we were confused for a second. It looked like a housing development area. If we hadn't seen some people go into this small brown place with the door open, we would never have found it. They didn't have any signs. Later I thought that maybe that was the back door entrance, and they may have had signs in the front. We didn't go out to the front, and didn't check out the gift shop at all.

After the walk back, we decided to gas the car up to be returned tomorrow, and call it a day.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Day 5: Fairbanks, North Pole, Chena Hot Springs

Today we picked up a rental car to help get us around to a few neighboring towns near Fairbanks. It was an economy car, so we could barely fit our 2 largest pieces of luggage in the trunk. It worked though.

When we set off, we found our way to Go North Hostel pretty easily.

It was about 5 minutes from the airport, and it was very well set up. After checking in, and getting our sleeping bags to claim our bunks in the all woman "Moose" tent cabin, we decided to drive to the North Pole and see Santa.

It was about 15 minutes, and besides missing one turn on a rotary, it was easy to find. Candy canes were everywhere..around the fire hydrants, used as street lamps..

The gift shop at Santa's was pretty nice. I decided to get a letter from Santa, and a deed to half a square inch of land in the North Pole for $10, also a Christmas could I not get one there? I also sat on Santa's lap and had my picture taken. It didn't come out all that well, but hey..and Santa's beard was REAL this time.

So yay, I'm a land owner! haha

We drove back to Fairbanks, where I promptly found a Key Bank, and followed the El Dorado Tour Bus route almost..I had seen him drive past a sign that said "to Chena Hot Springs" the day before, so I decided to head that way. Besides missing one turn, which I had a feeling I should have taken, we were back on track, and found Chena Hot Springs easily.

It was over an hour drive, on okay roads, and you just had to drive all of the way down Chena Hot Springs hard is that? haha There were a lot of hiking and camping signs along the way, and my mother said she spotted a huge moose on the side of the road. Knowing a lot of accidents involve moose, and this was definitely where the moose would be, it made me a bit nervous to drive to Chena.

The weather was over-cast up until we arrived in Chena Hot Springs. They had a few fun things to do there, but first we dropped by the springs themselves ($10 each). We hit the pool and hot tubs for a bit too, but we had to rinse off from the hot springs before going into those.

The spring was different than I had thought. The temperature ranged depending on where you stood. Near the rocks, it was so hot in areas, that I didn't want to go near. In the middle it was cooler, and there was a spout in the middle which shot out cold water. Also, cooler water came out of a large pipe to one side, which people could stand in front of with their back to, to get a nice massage.

After showering one last time, we sun-bathed for a short time to dry off a little, then we headed to the activity center. We decided to buy tickets for $15 to the Aurora Ice Museum. The tour hadn't started yet, so we had a picnic "snack" while waiting. It started sprinkling a bit at this point, and the clouds started to come out more. The first photo is just of antler art I saw after leaving the hot springs.

When it was time, we went out to the ice museum and waited for the host. It wasn't raining at that point luckily. We were told to bring jackets, hats, and mittens, and they were right. Not everyone knew this though apparently..I saw kids with shorts, and mothers with sandals.

Though it was a little cold, it was very pretty inside. They had colored lights everywhere, which turned the ice different colors. I would have liked to have seen the Ice Museum in Fairbanks as well, to compare, but the $15 for one was enough. I thought $10 would have been a fair price, since it was small, and the tour wasn't long. Besides, you don't really want to stay in there that long, as it does get cold.

These are pictures upon entering.

Here is a view of the two horses, as well as a strange pineapple like sculpture, and the ceiling, which was similar to the inside of a freezer with light frost..

The colors were rapidly changing, every color you could think of. Visually, it was one of the most beautiful things we'd seen so far. Of course nothing can really beat Denali...there's just something about that place.

The first picture in this set is the top of a fireplace..which is of course what you think of when you think of ice, right? But then the next picture as an igloo..that makes a bit more sense.

They actually perform marriages here as well, as you can see in the next picture, there is an alter. In front of the alter, was a chess board. These were what the chess pieces looked like.

Next, there's another picture of the igloo with part of the coca cola bear standing off to the side. In the next picture you'll see the bear in full view. I found that a strange addition to the museum, but hey..

Someone said you could sleep there for $500 a night, I'm not sure if they were telling the truth or not, but that seems a high price to pay to not get any sleep due to it being too cold haha. I'm sure if it is true though, they give you the ability to be warm..I'd read about an ice hotel in Canada once, and I can't say the thought doesn't interest me at all.. Also, there was an "ice toilet".

Another part of the tour, was the bar, which served "Appletini's" for $15. If the price hadn't been so high, I would have liked one. You could keep the souvenir glass, which I didn't understand, because it was made of ice. There must be a way to preserve it, but I didn't bother asking.

When we left, it had finally begun to rain. We were lucky that it only happened after we were done there. As we drove away, it became sunny again, and remained sunny for the rest of the day. Fairbanks had clear skies, so I was hoping to see the northern lights.

We arrived in Fairbanks a little over an hour after leaving Chena, and decided we'd have my mother's late Mother's Day King Crab Dinner.

After dinner, we went to Pioneer Park because it was free admission, and we had time left. It wasn't very exciting though, and almost every event/museum they had there did cost money. They weren't very expensive mind you, but if you were to do everything there, it would add up. Since I was thinking it was free though, I was very let down to see it wasn't really free at all.

We walked around and took pictures, but didn't stay long.

We decided to play glow-in-the-dark golf, but I didn't know how to get there. I went back to the hostel, and luckily the guy there pointed me in the right direction, Cushman Street.

We had a great time there, though it was short. It was $10 for both of us, with the student discount, because we were students of life haha (the lady asked us if we learned anything today when we said we weren't students).

After that, we went back to the hostel for the night. One of our bunk mates was already there and about to get to sleep because she was doing the Arctic Circle Adventure the next day. I really wish I could have done that, but maybe next time. I tried to get to bed semi-early, and set my alarm to wake me up in the middle of the night. I don't know what's with me, but for some reason I automatically awake minutes before my alarm nowadays. What weirds me out though, is that I woke up before the alarm, and I don't know why because it wasn't when I normally got up.

SO..I finally saw the Aurora, but it wasn't in a very active state, which was too bad. It started to come out, but I thought the city lights might be in the way, so I took the car out of town a ways down Peger St. It was a large green band, almost like a rainbow, just in green, across the sky. At the very left end, there were squiggles going on, and then below to the right, but not the end right, there were squiggles underneath the arch. It was interesting, but I didn't get any picture of it.