A Special “Thank You!” To Kenneth & Alayna for Hosting, Guiding, and Educating us Along the Way!
This month we took a break from our regular scheduled programming of working on all of our websites, and digging in our garden, to take a trip a ways up north to America’s Last Frontier.
My brother and sister-in-law have lived there for almost a decade, and have truly embraced the Alaska spirit. This was my first (well overdue) visit, along with my husbands, and you can color me quite impressed. I had heard many times from my parents that it’s different than what they expected- and quite beautiful. But it was certainly worth it to take it all in ourselves.
In this post, I’m going to share with you as many photos as I can without overwhelming you, of the Fairbanks area. We went hiking, floating, and exploring all over town. I’m also going to do my best to share some of the things I learned while there, from my brother, sister, and experience. This was only a small portion of what we did and learned, enough to hopefully make you add Alaska to your list of potential destinations.
All photos within this article were taken by either myself or a family member. Please contact me for usage of any of these photos elsewhere.
“Isn’t it Cold There?”
This was probably the #1 question asked by friends and family before we left on our journey. It was the opposite of cold. In the summer, Fairbanks weather often mimics that of the Willamette Valley, where we reside, floating between the 70’s and lower 90’s. It was hot to say the least.
Plus, the sunshine just doesn’t want to leave in the summer. It would be hot until midnight, because darkness wasn’t until 3am- and was fleeting at best. That 9pm summer dusky feeling lasted until 1 or 2 in the morning- and I wasn’t complaining. Though it might have thrown off our sleep patterns, it made for long nights in comfortable weather- something we can’t complain about.
Slightly unexpected, though delightfully embraced, we received a lot of fascinating information about Alaska Agriculture while we were visiting. Our first stop of the trip was the Botanical Gardens on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. Our second day ended with a visit to Running Reindeer Ranch, which was oh so cute and oh so educational.
My brother is currently attending UAF, so we were fortunate enough to get to visit the expansive campus a couple of times. On our first day, we toured haphazardly through the Georgeson Botanical Gardens– which were quite impressive. Being a garden enthusiast- I tried to take a lot of photos but still enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, fresh smells, and sounds of the free live music!
As a part of the School of Natural Resources and Extension at UAF, the research garden is open to the public for visits only from June 1st, through Labor Day weekend. If you’re there during that time, I highly recommend a stop through. If you have kids, they will love the Children’s Garden and shrub maze (that was a little tougher than we first joked it might be). Be sure to check the events calendar, as while we were there a live band was playing with coffee and food available for purchase.
The last two photos in this section are of the Universities’ Engineering Building and Charles Bunnel statue (former president of UofA). Click to Expand and Slide Through.
Not Quite Rudolph: Running Reindeer Ranch
We prided ourselves on doing numerous activities that my parents haven’t done yet in their 3 visits up north. My brother and sister-in-law were most excited to take us to Running Reindeer Ranch. This was by far one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had and cannot wait to go back on our next visit.
The owners of the Ranch, Jane and Doug, are the most welcoming and helpful people who packed a lot of information about the Reindeer and their history in Alaska as a species. My favorite part: They are vegetarians and don’t eat their Reindeer. Of course, Reindeer are typically farmed for their meat, but I definitely couldn’t sniff a sausage twice after spending time with these gentle creatures.
Fun Facts about Reindeer:
Here are some of our favorite facts that we learned from Jane and Doug on our visit to their ranch.
Enjoy These Photos
And if you ever visit Running Reindeer Ranch we want to hear about it! Click to Expand and Slide Through.
Hiking Chena River
The last area I want to show you is from when we went hiking (And saw our first Moose- from a safe distance).
Chena Lake Loops
A trek of our own led us out to Chena Lake Recreation Area next to North Pole, AK. We learned the hard way that forgetting bug spray on the trails out there in mid to late July is a MASSIVE mistake. We can’t say we weren’t warned. My brother sentimentally referred to the mosquito as: “Alaska’s State Bird.”
However, we were still able to enjoy the serenity and views. Plus, on our entry into the park we pulled over in time to see a large Mama Moose and her twins grazing across the other side of the road.
Due to the hot weather and when we were out and about, these would be the only moose we saw on our trip.
The Loops we walked went around the river and followed a few oxbow river bends. In the winter these paths are frequented by cross country skiiers. We saw a lot of grouse and other birds, as well as moose tracks and droppings.
Click to Expand and Slide Through.
My EcoKarma Impression: Fairbanks, AK
As I was putting together these amazing photos and this post, I was mulling over what sort of EcoKarma swing to put on this instead of it just being a “look a these photos!” sort of post.
Here’s a few things that stood out to me from a sustainability standpoint.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle?
Recycling is pretty much not a thing where we were- but it’s obvious that people are taking the more crucial “R’s” into consideration. Reducing, Reusing, and Re-Purposing would probably be the best way to say it. My brother and sister and law told us about the frequent use of Transfer stations, and that taking things there to be re-homed or re-purposed by someone else is more common than throwing things out.
When you have limited outside resources available (particularly in the winter months), you have a tendency to waste less just due to basic survival tactics.
A Respect and Understanding of Nature
Similar to part of Oregon’s culture (and perhaps the PNW in general), I think there is better symbiosis between the people and the environment in Alaska simply because it is less inhabited and affected. Yes, Oil is one of their biggest exports, such a large portion of Alaska is untouched. Keep in mind, it’s 1/5th the size of the entire Lower 48.
When you live among animals as big as Moose, the goal is to respect their territory, understand their behavior (and when necessary- run like hell). You won’t meet a person up there that hasn’t had a unique interaction with a wild animal that we city folk can’t quite relate to. It’s just a way of life- and it’s remarkable.
When you live in the wilderness, living off the grid and finding alternative sources of energy can make a huge difference in the reliability of your power, as well as how much you’re paying for it. Many have been able to live on limited energy, and alternative sources- such as solar panels- are becoming increasingly more common.
We did briefly visit Chena Hot Springs Resort, at the end of Chena Hot Springs Rd. While it was much too hot to use the hot springs, we still explored the Ice Museum and toured the grounds. The owner, Bernie Parks, who has dubbed himself an “imagineer” envisioned a resort powered by completely renewable energy- and he has done just that. Apart from the Geothermal Project he helped pioneer, the resort still has goals and projects revolving on new and innovative ways to save resources and create an environmentally friendly place to visit and vacation.