S and I really felt that if we were going all the way there, we should do it right. So we splurged on the tour that gave us one week on land before the cruise, and we added on one night in Fairbanks so that we could have a day to explore on our own before we started on our escorted land tour with 50 other people. It was this extra day in Fairbanks when we drove out to Chena Hot Springs that got it all started on the right foot. Moose! Blurry moose from a distance, but my goodness, moose none the less!
And then....moose babies! S thought they were deer, but I knew what they were!
And where there are moose babies, surely there are moose mamas?
There you are girl! And she got way more comfortable with the water...
I promise this is not just a horse, ok?
When we managed to pull ourselves away from this miracle sighting (seriously, it is. I live right outside Philadelphia. We don't see moose around these parts.) we headed to our destination, the ice museum/hotel at Chena Hot Springs Resort. You're going into a building that is literally freezing, so beforehand I put on boots, gloves, and donned the heavy parka they give everyone before you go inside.
We sat down here, at the ice bar, to have our appletini in our ice glasses. Let's just say I was super glad I had the gloves on!
One of the mammoth ice sculptures carved by the husband/wife team behind many carving awards. There were 4 igloo bedrooms for anyone brave enough, but they said no one has actually made it through the whole night.
After this long day of museums and driving (eating at place featured on Diners, Drive ins, and Dives, University of Alaska's Museum of the North, Fountainhead antique auto museum, city of North Pole) we finished at Silver Gulch Brewing Co. for some local spirits. I love wine, and often bring wine home as my souvenir from our travels so that I can have something totally unique to that area. If there are no wineries, than brewpubs it is!
The next day we started our official escorted tour, so with our 50 new friends we headed out to Gold Dredge 8 for some gold panning, something that the boyfriend and I really wanted to try.
And you know what, gold panning is hard work. Circling, dipping, dripping, circling...it was quite an arm workout!
Our whopping 24 dollars worth, combined. Not a fortune, but I was impressed with this guy-
I'm calling it a nugglet. Not so much as a nugget, but definitely more 3 dimensional than a fleck. A little nugget. A nugglet, if you will.
Now that, THAT big mama is a NUGGET! Can you imagine coming across something like that??
After Fairbanks (Land of the Midnight Sun) where it was 90 degrees, we were glad to make our way towards Healey, to Denali National Park, where it was cooler at around mid 60's to 70 degrees. This tour into the National Park was an 8 hour tour, and one that I would highly recommend. Other tours (which were less money) do not go as deep into the park, so your chances of seeing wildlife or the mountain are diminished.
It started off as a really cloudy day, and with the wildfires in the area, we weren't sure how it would affect things. So this is the mountain I keep talking about-Denali, otherwise known as Mt. McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America.
I got a little Denali happy, but i'll spare you more photos. I tried different settings with the camera, and the clouds and haze were changing, too. At over 20,000 feet, there's still snow on the mountain.
Caribou in the park. Did you know that caribou and reindeer are the same thing? In the wild they're caribou, but in captivity they are reindeer.
C'mon people, what is so difficult about making out this is a bear? Hmmm??
Back at the ranger station there was an informational rest stop, and I tried my hand at an artsy shot of a moose antler.
And a rare sighting on the blog-me! Me holding an antler, looking all fall like. And happy.
Mushing is the state sport, and in winter the frozen lakes are used for practice. So those lucky people with lakefront property really do use it year round.
Yeah, I found me some local wine! So so delicious! I actually bought the strawberry and rhubarb kind after it was recommended, but the winery was in Homer so there was no way to tour or visit it.
From Denali we went to Mt. McKinley via glass top train, which was another thing on my bucket list that can now get crossed off.
Mt. McKinley lodge, like the Denali lodge, had a real middle of nowhere feel. Much like the rest of Alaska.
It was an hour outside of Talkeetna, the little town that was the inspiration for Northern Exposure, and home of another brewpub. Sadly, not a winery in sight.
After a week of touring the Interior, we relaxed, took in the view, and crossed our fingers that the great weather would continue for our cruise portion.
We have absolutely no regrets about spending the extra money to have an extra week exploring the Interior of Alaska. If you can swing it, please, do it!
Who's with me on the brewpub/winery thing?
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