Monday, June 13, 2011

Still Catching Up...

In regards to the visit we made to Fort Yukon, visiting the community really made me grateful for what I have.  Too often I take for granted the blessings that are mine.

On the flight back from Fort Yukon, the pilot took us over Fort Knox, AK.  Fort Knox is an open pit gold mine that looks much like the Kennicot copper mine in Utah.  They are currently averaging about 60 lbs. of gold each day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, which in today’s market is about $1.4 million a day.  It is quite the impressive operation.  We finally got back to Fairbanks at about 11:30 P.M. where I was able to get a beautiful picture of the sunset…

On May 29th I left on my first solo tour with revenue guests.  What a great adventure!  Just to give you an idea of what a tour consists of,

On our first day of the tour we depart Fairbanks at about 8:30 A.M. and make our way to North Pole, AK, just 30 minutes SE of Fairbanks.  Here the guests can visit with reindeer, read letters to Santa and if they are lucky, see the big man himself as he works on his Naughty/Nice list.  Interesting note about North Pole, AK…  Every letter that is addressed to Santa at the North Pole is delivered here.  All of the 100s of thousands of letters are read, and those that are answerable (i.e. have a name and return address) are answered by either Santa, or one of his many helpers.  The high school students and the military personnel and their families are busy year long answering these letters.  It is also worth mentioning that the post office will even accept and deliver envelopes with hand drawn stamps…

After about 30 minutes at North Pole we head on down the Richardson Highway toward the historic Rika’s Roadhouse.  Sites seen along the way are Eilson Air Force Base, The Knotty Store, The Alaskan Pipeline and myriad views of the Tanana River and the Alaska Range.  

Rika's Roadhouse at Big Delta State Historical Park, has been a gathering place for Alaskan travelers since 1904. The Valdez-to-Fairbanks trail brought travelers to the banks of the Tanana River, where they crossed by ferry. John Hajdukovich, Yugoslavian entrepreneur, envisioned a business opportunity here, and bought the land along with a fur trading post in 1909. The two-story roadhouse, built of logs that were floated down river, became a year-round oasis for hunters, trappers, prospectors and travelers as well as local Athabascans and homesteaders. However, John had many other interests, including the responsibility of US Game Commissioner. Sitting still and running a roadhouse did not appeal to him very much so he simply asked guests to make themselves at home and leave some money on the table. He ran it in this way until 1918, when finally a dependable, hard-working Swede named Rika Wallen was hired to take over.  The roadhouse was restored in the late 1970's by the state of Alaska and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Rebuilt with original timbers on a new foundation, it is still a welcome retreat from the dusty road. ( )

And, if I might add… they have awesome cinnamon rolls, bearclaws, and a strawberry rhubarb pie that is to die for!

After we take our leave from Rika’s we head through Delta Junction where we meet up with the official end of the Alaska (or AlCan) Highway.  The Alaska Highway is 1500 miles of road that was constructed in 1942 under extremely harsh conditions in just under 8 months by the Army under the direction of our then President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  The road was built as part of the war effort to help protect our borders from Japanese invasion.  A little known fact is that the farthest Aluetian Islands of Alaska are only about 750 miles from Tokyo, Japan and during WWII one of those islands was overrun by Japanese forces making it the first US territory to be taken by enemies since the war of 1812.  The Alaska Highway played a major role in the land-lease program that was set up, transporting 100’s of planes, trains, trucks and other supplies to the Russians for use on the Eastern Front.  Fascinating history!!

The Alaska Highway leads us to Tok, AK which is the final community before we head into the Yukon Territory.  Tok has a population of about … (to be continued…)

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