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Sternwheeler 'Discovery'

Sunday, June 17, 2007

semi-overcast 0 °F

Beautiful sunny morning in Fairbanks. The RVer across the lane, who has been here for 3 weeks while working in the area, told us that it has rained every single day for the last 3 weeks.

We start the day by checking out the campground's "Klontinental Breakfast". Danish and coffee. Not great, but more than any other campground has offered on the trip. Then we do some reading before lunch and watch a few float planes take off.

After lunch we head over for an afternoon sternwheeler ride on the Discovery. We board the boat with several hundred other tourists, including 10 tour buses, but the sternwheeler is four stories with lots of seats. Even before we leave the dock the announcer gives us info about the boat and the area. He will continue to give great info throughout the 3+ hour trip.

The boat ride is a little pricey (we're in Alaska, everything is $$$) but worth the money. We travel down the Chena River and our first stop is at the late Susan Butcher's dogsledding camp. I had seen Susan on TV over the years when they had stories about the Iditarod dogsled race. She won the Iditarod 4 times (late 80s/early 90s I think). Susan died last August from leukemia, but her husband David Monson, who is also a dog musher, continues to train dogs (along with taking care of their 2 daughters).

He gives a WONDERFUL program about the sled dogs. He has a 3-day old puppy that he is holding for much of the time (they hold the newborns for most of the waking hours for their first 5 days of birth to build trust), and the other dogs are full of energy! They hook 12 dogs up to a 4-wheeler (without an engine) and they drag it over stones on a course they have around their camp. Really fun and interesting to watch.

The next stop is at an Athabascan indian village. A woman demonstrates how her ancestors filleted and dried salmon.
Then we get off the boat and they have 4 different programs to watch. Three are related to the native Athabascans and the other is about the Alaskan huskies used in dogmushing. The tour guides are descendants of various Alaskan native tribes. Very interesting programs.

After the programs, David Monson is signing a children's book that he and Susan had started before her death. It's a children's book about Granite, their Alaskan husky that was the lead dog for Susan when she won the Iditarod. It was released about 3 weeks ago, so I buy one as a souvenir of the trip. It is signed "To Joe" but Joe is embarassed because it's a children's book. I tell him he can read it to his children when he grows up and tell them about his trip to Alaska :-)

I'm touched by some of the people who are getting books signed by David. They offer heartfelt condolences to him about Susan's death and talk to him about how they had followed her career over the years. David graciously accepts their condolences and says that it's been a long year but they're doing fine.

On the boatride back to Fairbanks the skies get very dark and we get some rain again, but it's over quickly and we enjoy the rest of the boat ride.

We then spend the evening making phonecalls and relaxing.

Posted by jengelman 13:11 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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Wow- I had a lot of catching up to do. You got way ahead of me. Things have been so busy here, we got a terrible storm last night, houses were struck by fallen trees, flooding on streets, just a mess. We faired ok, just a leak in the bathroom, but a bit puzzling since we just had a brand new roof put on, no leaks for 20 years, put on a new roof and it leaks, hmmmmmmm. Well, as always I am enjoying your pictures, and scenic tour, LOVE the "north pole" campground, just awesome, and your picture for your christmas letter is great- good idea!!!!
As always, safe travel and I will check in soon.

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