FAIRBANKS and the SOLSTICE
We arrived in Fairbanks on June 18, 2015 just in time for all of the summer solstice festivities! Fairbanks schedules a ton of activities including a huge street fair, the Midnight Sun Baseball Game, the Midnight Sun 10K run, and even a midnight golf scramble. There was so much going on that a large number of our RV friends showed up and we had 5 rigs all lined up at Pioneer Park in Fairbanks. It is just a big parking lot but is centrally located so that we could walk to the Midnight Sun baseball game, and it was also the finish line of the 10K run. We got to reconnect with Kristin and Jason aka the Snowmads, Nikki & Jason aka Gone With the Wynns, Chris & Cherie aka Technomadia, Lynn & Clark aka Tales From the Mutiny (can’t believe it had been a year & 1/2 since we last saw them!), and we finally got to meet Josh & Marie aka Ardent Camper and Beth & Taylor aka The Learning Banks. Wow – that’s a whole bunch of fantastic nomadness right there! We spent several nights hanging out and catching up, and resting from our whirlwind drives through Canada (because most of us still work full time and require the internet to do so, and we had limited Canadian data and sometimes no data at all). In fact, we were having so much fun that we neglected to take pictures for most of the time! Chris and Cherie are the only ones who’ve blogged about their time in Fairbanks. Scroll down about 1/2 way the page here to see pics of our little enclave at Pioneer Park and of the members of our crew who dressed up for the 10K fun run.
Fairbanks is about 160 miles south of the Arctic Circle, so although the sun does technically set, it never dips far enough below the horizon for anything like full darkness. We were all having so much fun catching up and chatting about our drives through Canada that it was far too easy to lose track of the time, and many a night we’d sit outside chatting until 2 in the morning. If you lived in the south as I did, your brain is used to judging time by the angle of the sun. All of that goes out the window in Alaska! Your body might be telling you it’s ready for dinner but your brain says “don’t be silly – it’s only 2PM!” It’s very disorienting and our whole group is confused and tired, but happy! The photo below was taken close to 3AM one morning. The pink color to the left is what remains of the sunset, the bright spot in the middle is where the sun is just below the horizon, and the pink color to the right is the beginning of the sunrise. Yikes! Guess it’s time for bed!
In search of more greenery than our asphalt parking lot could provide and exhausted by all the Solstice activities, most of our little group headed south – to the North Pole! North Pole Alaska is a cute little village that has capitalized on its name by erecting street and light post poles with candy cane stripes, you can visit Santa and see his reindeer all year long, and can even take a drive down Santa Claus Lane. ‘Course you can! We all settled in one loop at Chena Lakes Recreation Area. The lake is stocked with trout, and we spent one memorable night by the shore with some of us fishing, some paddle boarding, and some just spectating. Nice and relaxing after all the festivities. In a fun instance of “road serendipity”, Eric and I were strolling through the campground loop when we noticed a ranger fixing a sign and she looked awfully familiar. Turned out to be our friend Kim Ruth who, along with her husband Tom, used to volunteer at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, FL. I knew but had forgotten that they had a house outside Fairbanks. Later in the week we had a great time catching up with them and they took us to some of their favorite places in downtown Fairbanks.
We were a little sad to see the last of our group leave Chena Lakes but we knew we’d see them again soon. Besides, we had one last item to check off on our Fairbanks area list: a trip to the Arctic Circle! We like cool Jeep trips and couldn’t stand being so close without going, so we checked the fire maps and headed out! The 414-mile long Dalton Highway was built in 1974 to support the building of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Although you can drive almost to the Arctic Ocean, the highway is dirt over its entire route which makes it both slow and a little bit dangerous to drive (due to heavy truck traffic on the road), and there are only 3 towns along its entire length. Although seeing the Arctic Ocean would have been great (Eddy Beer is still disappointed he didn’t get to dip his feathers in), we decided the required time and expense were more than we wanted to tackle on this trip. It was raining the day we made our drive, and the mud was incredible! It dried on the jeep like a hard candy shell: we had to wipe the brake lights off twice along the way. We crossed the mighty Yukon River, ate a fantastic lunch at the Hot Spot cafe just north of the river, and had fun reading facts about the Pipeline (such as: the reason most of it is elevated is that the oil is heated and burying the pipeline would thaw the permafrost, it’s very crooked in places to give it stability in the event of an earthquake and the pipe itself can slide from side-to-side on its pylon mountings). We drove far enough past the Arctic Circle itself to see some real tundra vistas, and had a really fun day. We even got a certificate!