Denali to Fairbanks
Up early, to the sound of rain falling on the roof of the tent. There's nothing quite like breaking camp in the rain to give camping a bad name. The sin was multiplied by the subsequent passing of four or five full buses.
Still, we did eventually get on a bus and had one last ride, complete with bears again, two hairy marmots (very cuddly creatures) and a willow ptarmigan. The last is the state bird - a surprising choice if you ask me, but I suppose when you're the 49th state a lot of the good ones are already gone.
Then we drove unremarkably to Fairbanks. Fairbanks is the nearest thing to a typical US town that Alaska has offered us so far. For the benefit of our non-US readers, typical in this context involves a dispiriting "strip" of uniformly unimaginative and ugly concrete buildings, all the same, even down to the chains that own them. To complete our anonymous experience we checked into the Super 8 motel and ate at Pizza hut.
Up the next morning, to discover Fairbanks. I have to say that first impressions were not changed at second sight: it's a grotty town. To be fair, the Lonely Planet guide specifically warns against this being the impression you'd get from a "first glance": but I did look twice.
One exception to all this is the University. This boasts a spectacular museum, which includes a fascinating series of exhibits on glaciers, the aurora borealis, and other points of interest. Fortunately for you, I choose not to share this knowledge with all of you.
The University also has a botanical garden - where they grow things like six inch radishes in those twenty hour days - and a large animal research institute, where they have reinbou and carideer. They also have musk ox, possibly the ugliest animal I've ever seen.
(click thumbnails for a larger picture) |
A fairly unphotogenic passage this, so no relevant photographs. By way of compensation, here's a beautiful close-up of a cuddly sea-otter (well, OK, it might be Jan impersonating one, but who can tell the difference?).