Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Saturday, 28 July 2007

The Place You Go to Listen

Chicken, Alaska

We are at 65 degrees North latitude. It’s a month after the summer solstice. The area has been losing 7 minutes a day of daylight since then, but there are still nineteen hours left.

It won’t be dark enough to see the Aurora Borealis until the 2nd week of August. The magnetic fields from the Aurora cause corrosion in pipes, including the Alaska Pipeline, which passes nearby.

The main tourist attractions in Fairbanks were the riverboat ride and the El Dorado gold mine. We do both and find ourselves surrounded on each tour by at least 30 cruise ship tour buses. It’s like déjà vu all over again, but we pan $16 in gold flakes anyway, visit a mock Athabasca native village, see some Caribou in a pen and see some sled dogs pull an ATV around a backyard lake.

We like the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska- Fairbanks campus. My favorite exhibit was “The Place You Go to Listen”. It is a small room that monitors the Sun, Moon, earth tremors and the Aurora Borealis. The Borealis sounds like little bells on the ceiling. The constant tremors come in like a bass drum. The sun has a constant high energy, new age sound.

We drive 300 miles east to Chicken, Alaska. Chicken has a year-round population of 17, but that swells to about 100 during the summer gold mining season. Robin runs the Post Office and Sue makes cinnamon rolls. I don’t expect much internet or phone coverage the next few weeks. Chicken boasts that it doesn’t have indoor plumbing. Legend has it that the locals wanted to name the place Ptarmigan, but couldn’t agree how to spell it. I buy a souvenir T-shirt for my son (not the one that says “I got laid in Chicken, Alaska”).

We gas up at Chicken at $3.50 a gallon before the 100 mile drive gravel road drive to Dawson in Canada, where prices are around $6.00. Before crossing the border we find a campground on a river, provided by the Bureau of Land Management. The fee for camping is negligible and I’m half price because of my Golden Age parks card.

In the 11PM sunlight, I sit in my lawnchair and finish the Michener book about the incredible two-year overland trek from Edmonton to Dawson of Lord Evelyn Luton, son of the Marques of Deal. .These old English explorers had attitude. I begin planning our next trip, a float north to the Arctic Ocean on the Athabasca River.

Here are some shots of Fairbanks and some Denali drive-by pix.

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