Susan’s Travelogue Part VI

[This is a series of blogposts for my friend Susan. I have left all her misspellings included, since they add to the charm of the travel log. I have removed any writing of a personal nature. These writings were given in email form. I offered to post them for her for all her friends on Facebook and others who may have missed her emails because of overactive spam filters. To comment on her log, please go to her Facebook page and comment there. Susan doesn’t have access to comments here on my blog. Sorry.]

July 4th 2011

It is now July and the rain was coming down reindeer and moose.  (You know cats and dogs in the lower 48…..Up here they call the lower 48 “The Southern America”)  Dave and I have done several things that were more fun even when hiding from the rain.  We saw a scientific news reel about the Aurora Borealis and how it comes to be. The natives thought the lights were their ancestors communicating with them.   You might say “why are Susan and Dave going to movies when they could look up in the sky and see the Northern Lights?”  Well here are three facts for the price of one.  The dark time in Alaska at this time of year is so short….and more like dusk than dark so there is no time for the Northern Lights to happen.  Second fact…there is no fireworks shows either because of the lack of light.  The sun sets at about 12:29 am and the sun rise is about 3:11 am.  The time between sun rise which is the moment that the sun shows above the horizon and the moment it touches the horizon is the time of sunset.  So that is why there is not much dark time and the darkness is more like dusk.

Oh, what makes the Northern Lights?  You might be familiar with neon lights?  Well there are different gasses in the glass tubs and when electricity is sent through the tube then the different gasses give off different colors.  Well, the Sun of our solar system is the electricity maker and it has these storms that cause solar flares which send electricity our way.  When it hits the atmosphere of the earth it touches different gasses and makes different colors.  The green, blue and gold colors are common and the red is the least common and they only show up in the dark hours and most often at midnight.  The best months to see the lights are September and March.  We will be home by the end of August so we won’t see these beautiful ungelating light shows.

The other fun thing we did was go to the Pioneer Village while here in Fairbanks.  It is a big with free entre and they take the older homes that need to be moved due to improvements/freeways etc and bring them to the park and make a village.  Each house has a plaque that tells when and where it was built and by whom. Some of these old buildings house merchants/artists who show their art and sell it to people who wander through.  Some have ice cream and others have carved bone or antlers or wood for sale.  The log homes with sod on the roof are the most interesting.  You look up and see grass and even little trees growing on the roof.  They say that it protects the roof from rain and insolates the house in the winter from the cold.

The Gold mine tour was really fun.  You get on a train which takes you into past showing you several types of gold mining equipment and an old log cabin that was used by a minor.  They explain the equipment and show you how it works.  Then the train goes into a mine.  YES into a tunnel that is set up to be like a mine.  A minor is there to explain how they do the work and where the bed rock starts.  He explains the type of gold that is found here and how they get it out.  Then the train stops at a large slues box and the owner of the mine….a women wearing three large gold nuggets (one on each ear and one hanging from a necklace)….tell us the story of her gold mining experience.  She explains and then shows us how the slues box works.  Then she has four young men take some fine gravel out of the first few feet of the slues and they use the gold pan to separate the sand and gold.  Each young man has gold in there pan when they finish.   



Wow, we had gold fever and could not wait to find our fortune.  The next thing they do give us a “poke” which is a cute small bag full of sand, gravel and hopefully gold.  Then take us to a row of (warm) water filled 10 foot long sink like bins.  They give us a gold pan, a bottle to put our gold in and show us how to do the work of a gold miner. Well, many minutes later and with some help from many gold helpers, we have a little bit of gold in each of our pans.  We pick up the gold with a dry finger…if we can get one dry.  Then wipe the tiny flecks into the gold bottle and shake it to make sure it is still there.   We followed the masses of people and took our little bottles in to have them weighed by the authentically dressed young people who are the gold helpers.  People seemed to have between $5 worth and $45 worth.  I got the 5 and had $20.  Well then they go about trying to sell you a necklace to hold you’re newly found gold.  They will put it in a small glass container for about $70 and through in the chain.  Dave and I skipped that part.  The commercial look and feel of the whole tour was evident but it was interesting and fun….other than waiting in line.

On the train there was a local singer with a guitar who said he opened for Willie Nelson when Willie came to Fairbanks way back in.????? I forget when.  He was a good singer and he sang some of the Willie songs as we waited for the train to load on both the ends of the trip.  He sold his CD’s in the big gift shop.  His jokes were fun and he and the Lady gold mine owner were quick to stop and talk with folks and answer questions.  The owner let you hold one of her large gold nuggets and was dressed the part in a pair of jean, a plaid flannel shirt and boots.  In the store they let you pick up a larger nugget that was worth $60,000.  A person watched it constantly.  The nuggets are less than 2% of all the gold that is found. 

On the 5th of July Dave and I moved on to Denali Park.  We were sad to leave our new friends Ted and Janet as they had other plans and we were going different directions at this point in our trip.  The RV Park on the base was really nice even though they were trying to get it up and running after it was closed for a few years.  We met some nice people who were the camp hosts and felt safe as were on the base and it was well guarded.

The drive to Denali was about 3 hours and all sunny.  Wow the sun is with us for the day and when we drove up to the Grizzly RV Park a man asked if we brought the sun with us from Oregon.  We said that the rain has been following us but maybe the sun finally caught up today.  The first thing Dave and I did after set ting up of the RV, having lunch and a beer was to look at the tours.  We were not ready to pay almost $900 for the two of us to fly over the top of Mt McKinley so we opted to take a 4 hour ATV tour tomorrow, July 6th.  Now, those of you that have been following my dizzy person are probably asking is she better.  Well, the answer is yes but it is still a bit dizzy.  The hearing is mostly back in the left ear but the ringing is still loud.  I will wear a sea sick patch and try to enjoy the swishy world as it bounces by.  Please say a prayer with me that the trip does not make it worse.  I will report in the next /Seventh Edition.

So bye for now from Dave and Susan in Denali Park Alaska.


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