Saturday, October 26, 2013

Alaska: Botanical Garden and Pioneer Park

The next day, we took it a little easier and visited the Georgeson Botanical Garden at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Many of the plants were still being planted or weren't quite in bloom yet, due to the short growing season. However, we did find several that were ready.

We went to Pioneer Park for a salmon bake dinner, which was really good and filling (all you can eat). Before the salmon bake started, we walked around and checked out a few things.

The Harding Car (used by President Warren G. Harding on his trip to AK in 1923 to drive the spike for the AK railroad)
Many original buildings and cabins are now used as shops and museums

We visited the Pioneer Air Museum (in Pioneer Park), which had more items than you would expect inside. There were lots of interesting things to see there.

Outside the Pioneer Air Museum

Steam-operated shovel used to build the Panama Canal and the Davidson Ditch (the Alaskan "water pipeline")

Next: On to Denali!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Alaska: Riverboat and Gold Panning

Back in Fairbanks, we went on a three-hour tour of the Chena River on the sternwheeler Riverboat Discovery III. The tour included a demonstration of a bush plane taking off and landing on the river, a sled dog team presentation and demonstration, and a walking tour of Chena Indian Village.
Riverboat Discovery III

Bush plane taking off
And a smooth landing

The dog sled team was training for the Iditarod.

When we got to Chena Indian Village, we got off of the boat for a tour. The dog team's musher talked about their training, etc. and let us pet the dogs.

Cute little dog cabins!
They had some native Alaskan staff members show off native clothing and other handmade items, as well as furs.

In the afternoon on the same day, we went to Gold Dredge 8 for a tour and to pan for some gold.

We started at the Tanana Valley Railroad station near the pipeline and got on a replica train to go to Gold Dredge No. 8.

Because of where we were sitting on the train, our photos of the gold dredge are pretty obstructed, so I pulled this one from another web site:

Photo source:

Gold panning demonstration:

While we were at the gold dredge, we got off of the train to pan for gold.

Pay dirt!

Ed was evidently better at panning than I was and got more gold, most likely because he didn't accidentally dump some of his pay dirt two seconds after receiving it, like I did. Oops. Mine came out to around $7, and his came out to around $18. We decided to keep our little flecks of gold as souvenirs. After that, we had just enough time to get some complimentary hot chocolate and cookies before the train left to take us back to the station.

We finished the day with dinner at The Pump House restaurant on the river. Ed had seafood chowder and reindeer tenderloin with mashed sweet potatoes and vegetables. I had a salad and elk meatloaf (wrapped in bacon) with mashed potatoes and vegetables.

The Pump House Restaurant (from the Riverboat Discovery III that morning)
Reindeer tenderloin

Elk meatloaf