Denali National Park
Fairbanks Farewell

Riverboat Discovery

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Hang in there with me, friends...just a couple more days and I'll be through my Alaska posts and onto other more mundane stuff.  Takes awhile to wade through a couple thousand photos....

So....we left the Denali area on a rainy morning and headed north to Fairbanks, our final destination of the trip.  After several hours on the coach, we arrived at our first excursion in the area...a Chena River cruise aboard the sternwheeler Riverboat Discovery.

 

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Of course, before you can actually get on the boat you have to "conveniently" wait about an hour in the gift shop.  Yes, I did succumb and buy a couple of small things...

But I was most fascinated with this huge taxidermied moose scene that has just been on display since June of this year. The story behind it is that these two male moose apparently got their antlers entangled as they were fighting each other, fell into the icy river and drowned together. When they were found the next spring, a group of taxidermists decided to recreate their death fight and put it on display for others to enjoy. HUGE animals!

 

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A grand send-off from the gift shop staff!

 

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Thankfully, the boat was enclosed and we enjoyed the cruise out of the elements. Just outside our window, a demonstration of a seaplane landing and taking off. So many seaplanes around...much more practical than cars in some Alaskan places.

 

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A stop at Trail Breaker Kennel, along the Chena River, ended up being one of the highlights of the river cruise.

 

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It is the kennel where the late Susan Butcher (4-time Iditarod champion) and her husband Dave Monson (Yukon Quest champion) and their two daughters raise and train sled dogs. Susan died a few years ago from leukemia, but her husband (pictured here, in front of the kennels) and daughters are proudly carrying on the family mushing tradition.

 

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I was surprised how the dogs looked...I was expecting the big fuzz-ball dogs like Siberian Huskies. These dogs are crossbreeds, from various husky species with some hound blood in them. They are called Alaskan Huskies, but it's not really a breed but named for their purpose...

 

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...which is SPEED and endurance.  As Dave Monson said, you wouldn't have a team of Clydesdales in a race for speed.

In the summertime, the dogs are trained pulling a motorless ATV along the river trails. 

 

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The dogs are so excited when they get harnessed up...kinda like a racehorse being put into the starting gate.  They cannot WAIT to run!!!

 

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And the ones left behind are jealous...they watch their dog-friends run the track, barking encouragement the whole time.

 

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They are FAST!!!

 

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Their reward?  A romp in the river...

 

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...with Dave and Susan's daughter Tekla, who continues in her mother's mushing tradition. Not being "dog people," Kim and I were both surprised how much we enjoyed the sled dog demonstrations and information. If I lived in northern Alaska, I'm thinking I would have myself a team of sled dogs, oh yes I would....

 

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On down the river, a pen of reindeer...

 

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...just at the edge of the Chena Village, a rebuilt native Athabascan Indian village...

 

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...where we got off the Discovery and meandered through the village in the rain.

 

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Fish camp (that contraption in the river is used to catch salmon)...

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Strips of salmon drying in the smokehouse...

 

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I was loving all the log cabins, rustic furniture, and animal skins. If I believed in reincarnation (I don't, but it's fun to think about...), I'd guess I was an Indian or pioneer maiden living in a place such as this. I just LOVE all this kind of stuff! And thinking about how hard it was just to survive those brutal winters...

 

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No, this is not real.  I mean, it's REAL, but it's not alive.  Still searching in vain for a live moose spotting.....

 

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On the way back, Tekla and her dad brought one of their sled dogs on board and answered questions...again, very interesting!

 

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And speaking of very interesting, there are a few homes along the river that have a whole lot of "character"...

An enjoyable (very touristy and even cheesey at times, but still enjoyable...) afternoon...

...on the Riverboat Discovery.

 

 

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