July 16, Sunday
Today started with a Fairbanks city-trip out to the LARS – Large Animal Research Station, which houses Muskox and Reindeer. The goal of the program was two-fold – to aid in restoration of the endangered Muskox species to Alaska, and to have Muskox provide subsistence for Alaskan peoples. Success! The Muskox is no longer endangered, and one Muskox alone can generate $7,000 a year just through harvesting it’s wool.
The Muskox is a surprisingly compact animal – much shorter than what you would think. They have a dense double-layer coat with a extremely warm and soft undercoat and a very long outer coat that was like the mane of a horse! It is reportedly the warmest fiber that there is, and most scarves and hats and afghans are knitted with a very open weave so that it is not overbearingly hot! The undercoat wool is harvested with a multi-tine long-tooth hair pik, and the Muskox are trained to stand during the process.
Two Muskox were up close to the fence today – a very stout little 3-year-old male that still had another 6” of height to gain, and a mother with an 8-week old calf. The calf was deep in the tall grass napping the whole time we were there. Having seen baby hippos, rhinos, and elephants, I am thinking that a baby Muskox would be more than I could stand, anyway!
There are also reindeer on the farm and a couple girls with their new calves came up to check us out. Reindeer are just the domesticated version of Caribou, although there are a few physiological differences between them. Interbreeding has resulted in Carideer and Reinbou.
We stopped back at the campground to introduce Charlie to the workers that would be walking her tomorrow during our 16-hour trip to the arctic circle. What a nice service this is! Then we were off to lunch at Carl’s burger joint for a “rib-burger” – a regular hamburger patty topped with sweet/smoky BBQ boneless rib meat, and fried onion straws. OH MY . . . .
And, that is not the only “OH MY” I had today . . . in the afternoon I did something with Tom I haven’t done in over 25 years! Yep! We went to the Chena Hot Springs Resort and tried the baths. . . soaked in the healing waters . . . took the water cure . . . absorbed the minerals in the springs . . . you get the idea. We think the last time we did this was with the boys at Glenwood Springs, Colorado when they were under 10 years old.
It is definitely hot mineral water coming right out of the ground, but I am supposing that the soaking pool received a lot of man-made attention. There are locker/shower rooms and an inside set of hot tubs, and a long ramp that leads gradually down into the large outdoor pool. The whole thing has a sandy bottom and is surrounded by a wall of stone/boulders. The water never got more than rib-cage height, and there are some soaking ledges around one end to rest on. We did as others did, and bent at the knees and walked slowly around so that our heads were out of the water. At the far end there was a stream of water surging out from above and aimed at whoever wanted to stand underneath – wonderful water massage. Also at that end we found where the hot water was escaping into the pool – really HOT water! We chatted with other visitors of our age category, and generally bobbed around until we decided that we had enough . . . for the next 25 years!
Sorry – there was no way to get a camera into the soak area for pictures . . . thank-you-Jesus!
Before we left, Tom got a souvenir water sample! Oh, and just to let you know...when your as far north as Fairbanks, AK everything is at the "end of the road" ... Chena was at then end of the road.
Then, back to the camper for dinner – it had been almost a week since we had cooked salmon . . . . The evening was spent preparing to go to the Arctic Circle. Come back and see!
We don’t go camping any more . . . we go ‘streamin’ ! The “SIlvermine and His” is our 2016 23' Airstream, and ‘streamin’ is the name we use to describe our adventures. Stream along as we document everything from weekend trips to longer summer excursions and full-blown vacations. You know what they say: if you’re not in an Airstream – you’re just camping!
Tom & Ella Brown