Fairbanks, the city of the Northern Lights

From Denali NP via Fairbanks to Tok

Railway Museum Nenana
Railway Museum Nenana

( Hier entlang zur deutschen Version.)Here comes the third part of my travel blog about my roundtrip through Alaska and the Yukon Territory.

Yesterday we have been in Denali NP. Today we head north on the George Parks Highway to Fairbanks, the biggest city this far north in Alaska. Well, we wouldn´t talk about a big city, if we talk about a city with about 31.000 inhabitants, but the dimensions vary as soon as you are in this area.

It´s a pity, but the weather is not nice today. The clouds stay low and it rains cats and dogs. Will it going to be better today? Are we going to see anything around us on our next about 200 kilometers?P1140668

We can´t change the weather so we go on. Once in a while the clouds open up a bit and the rain stops. We drive through some small villages, up and down the hills. A lot of forests we find between Denali and Fairbanks, but some of it burned down in a bush fire. It will be years after years until the forest will grow and regenerate. The fir trees grow only very few centimeters per year, due to the mostly cold weather conditions.

Actually we wanted to take a short walk in Nenana, but we decided to be lazy today, so we take only some pictures. In former times this place was an important emporium for trading fur, as it is ideally located at the junction of the Tanana and the Nenana River.

Tanana River
Tanana River

We do not stop anywhere today, the rain pours too heavy, so we arrive in Fairbanks shortly before noon. Normally we could do a lot here, but most things depend on better weather or are only nice, when it doesn´t rain. But, as I might have mentioned before, it rains heavily.

While we drive over one of the many bridges I see a huge wing out of the corner of my eyes. What was that? I go very slowly and then the surprise! A big bird sits in it´s nest on top of the bridge. Is it a bald eagle? I´m not sure. If you got an idea, please give me a hint in the comment line.P1140796

So what are we going to do? We decide to visit the University of Alaska Museum. It gives a real good idea about the flora and fauna of Alaska and their human native inhabitants. Very interesting are also the films about this country that they show once an hour.

Whale skull in the University of Alaska Museum
Whale skull in the University of Alaska Museum

Again and again they emphasize that Fairbanks is the city of Northern Lights. The season already started so we could be lucky, but all these clouds…? It´s only early afternoon so the weather might change until the night.

We learn that there is a chance on about 100 nights per year to watch the Northern Lights. So if you stay in Fairbanks for at least 3 nights you should be lucky, as long as the day light doesn´t stay for 24 hours as it will during summer time.

But it´s not going to get better, so we decide to have a look at all the nicely equipped outdoor stores. If you haven’t got your Alaskan outfit yet, here you´ll find it. We get some more stuff until our stomachs start to growl. We leave our  luggage in the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel. It´s a big hotel, but the rooms are big, comfortable, warm and not as clairaudient as the ones in our former hotel. There is a lot of bustle in the lobby as many tours for “Northern Lights hunters” start here.

University of Alaska Museum
University of Alaska Museum

We drive a bit further outside of Fairbanks to the “Silver Gulch Brewing & Bottling Company”, one of the many little breweries that mostly got a got dinner as well. It´s really rustic here, we try the “house beer” and enjoy a real good dinner.

It is already late when we are finished and the sky is still bright. At home it is pitch dark at this hour. Today I ´m happy when the sun sets, I haven´t lost hope to see a aurora borealis. The rain is gone, will the clouds vanish as well?

I wake up at night, unfortunately not because of amazing lights at the sky but of the pouring rain that hits the window. What a pity. I guess we have to come back J

Next morning brings only few improvement, so we hit the road to Tok.

in North Pole
in North Pole

Not far from Fairbanks we enter the little town North Pole. Sure, we visit Santa Claus who holds court all year long in his Christmassy decorated house and answers heaps of wish lists from all over the world. Christmassy songs and decoration during summer, but it´s fun anyway!

Santa and me!
Santa and me!

During our drive on the Richardson – Alaska Highway through forests, lowlands and hills we look for the buffalo flock that is residing here. They hide in the woods, but the view over the hills on our right and left is amazing. We have clear views, only the wind is blowing hard. Once in a while we see colorful places among all the dark green fir trees, birch trees that have already gotten their autumnal outfit. Low bushes and mostly blueberries that got bright red, yellow and orange leaves.P1140822

Much too early as we will notice later on we arrive in Tok. That is a little town at the junction of the Alaska Highway with the Tok-Cut-Off that turns to Glenn Highway on the way to Anchorage.

We check into the “Golden Bear Motel” and feel like going back in time for at least 50 years. The rooms are clean, but the accommodation seems never to have changed in the time since opening.

We drive around the town, which stretches quite a while along the Alaska Highway. But the impression doesn´t get better. There is nothing to look at, except the tourist information, which is a real nice building. The whole place seems mostly to consist of gas stations, RV parks and one and the other motel that doesn´t look much prettier than ours.

Why didn´t we stay until noon in Fairbanks… So we have nothing better to do than relax a bit, repack our suitcases properly and wait until dinner time. The decision for a restaurant is easy. There seems to be only one, the “Fast Eddy´s” . People say it has a real good pizza.

Unfortunately the electricity is down, so they can´t serve all what they´ve got on the menu. One of the things they got is pizza, so I decide for a hot one. That is the second wrong decision today. I should have taken a burger or salad…. The pizza is big but that´s all.

So we go to bed early as the night life here is very limited, even the TV doesn´t work and we want to hit the road very early, getting away from Tok and going over the Top of the World Highway to Dawson.

Golden Bear Motel
Golden Bear Motel

I´m looking forward for this trip for so long and I hope it stays dry!

Read more of our road trip to Dawson next week. Will we be lucky on our way? Will there be wild animals?

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