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Our trip up to Chatanika was wonderful and exhausting. We averaged almost 300 miles of driving each of the four days. The weather was cool to cold which is very uncharacteristic for this time of year. However, in Alaska the weather can be very unpredictable at any time of year. We found snow flurries both going to and coming from Chatanika from around Denali National Park on Saturday to Fairbanks and headed back on Sunday. I was surprised to see how much snow and ice was left on the ground from winter. A couple waterfalls were still in their frozen state with the movement of water frozen.
Even though we were able to see Mt. McKinley on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, it was cloud-free on Monday morning. The lodge where we stayed on Friday night and Sunday night is just 41 miles from McKinley’s peak. Even in Denali Park (the entrance is about 100 miles further north) and driving back to Wonder Lake, you are further away from the mountain than from the lodge. Anyway, it was magnificent. In all our years living here (89 between the two of us), we had never gotten such a clear view of the mountain. As a general rule, the full mountain is visible about a dozen days in the summer. So, we were blessed.
I brought home some gold from Chatanika, too. We were tired from traveling and didn’t pan for it ourselves, but it is a nice souvenir. The birthday party went well. Everybody had fun, but before we left, we all acknowledged a couple great guys and friends of the birthday gal who had died in the past year. One was Col. Norman Vaughn and the other the Alaska’s former governor, Jay Hammond.
Col. Vaughn was such a delight and inspiration while he was alive. He was with Admiral Byrd at the South Pole, ran the Iditarod race when he was in his 80’s, gave the commencement address at my eldest son’s graduation, and had turned 100 five days prior to his death. We first met him when he worked at the university while my husband and I were students. His motto was to: “Try, but not be afraid to fail.”
Jay Hammond was also a terrific governor and great guy. He was known as the Bush-Rat Governor because he lived the true Alaskan life, out in the bush and away from civilization as much as possible. He was a pilot, trapper, and pretty much lived a subsistence lifestyle across the inlet from here. He was a much loved and respected governor and person.
We had originally planned on overnighting at Chatanika lodge, but they got the reservations mixed up and there was no cell phone service available. So we headed south into Fairbanks where we stayed with a friend. It was so nice to be able to visit with them and for my husband to be able to get caught up on all his friends and politics.
Food! The available food at the breakfast buffet at the lodge made sticking to the BTD guidelines a bit of a challenge. I did manage to eat fresh melon and pineapple, scrambled eggs, and oatmeal with raisins. They also had pastries, bacon, sausage, and potatoes. For the dinner menu, we had even more difficulty choosing from the menu, but finally settled on chicken and coleslaw. With it came French fries.
At the birthday party we had a delicious halibut casserole, beef roast, coleslaw, and salad. I know there was more, but I didn’t try any so I don’t remember what was available. The A’s there had a more difficult time finding acceptable foods, but didn't know it. The food I selected and ate was very good. However, I’m not sure that the kaluha (sp?), rum and cream drink met my dietary considerations! I haven’t had anything other than red wine in many years.
On the way home yesterday, we stopped at a family greenhouse outside of Wasilla where I bought two more blue poppies and a gorgeous pink lily. The blue poppies were developed at Sutton which is about 20 miles away from there. Anyway, bright, true-blue poppies are gorgeous and I’ve had a few plants for a few years. Now, I can add to them and have a nice corner of blue.
I came home to a frost-killed garden. Fortunately, the only things in the garden were zucchini and summer squash. I might be able to get some starts from the greenhouse down the road. The weather had turned quite cold when I was going to plant, so I decided to finish after we got home. The peas haven’t come up yet, so they should be safe. I may try and find some zucchini plants tomorrow and then wait another couple days before setting them out.
Well, this is a recap of our outing. Now my husband is talking about heading north again next month! Till next time…..