Sunday, June 10, 2007

Day 11: Denali to Fairbanks

Sunrise, Icy Strait, Alaska

Due to catch the train again around 4 pm this afternoon in order to head to Fairbanks where we can catch a plane back home. Yup, the trip is nearly over.

In the morning we took a trip in a jet boat down river to visit a small camp where some of the locals talk about their life here and show us how to pan for gold. Yeah, it was all a bit touristy but what the heck. I view it as supporting the local economy, and in any case I can always stand a trip in something with twin Ford marine engines that can travel at well over 30 mph across shallow rapids (most water it ever needs is 6 feet to get up on it's plane).

One guy who talked to us got by as a trapper in the winter. Seems he gets around $500 for an arctic wolf, $300 or so for a fox and somewhere between $100 and $200 for smaller animals like sable etc. His trap line was handed down to him (not clear from whom) and it seems that Alaska does, from his perspective, a very good job of wildlife management. So there you go.

After panning for gold – and finding the odd fleck or two (which everyone does because they buy-in tailings from old mines) – we headed back to the hotel to catch the train. Or not …

There was a fire on the track above DNP that closed the line, so all trains were cancelled therefore. Anyway, the hotel took charge and after a couple of hours they sorted out some buses to ferry us instead. Once we were on the road it seemed like we were finally on the home straight and good to go, until, that is, the bus broke down! After some messing around the driver managed to reach someone on the radio (nope, no cell coverage where we were) and call up the cavalry to supply a replacement bus. We finally got to the hotel around 11 pm or so, but hey it was still light so it didn’t feel quite so late!


Anyway, that was about it. Flew back on day 12, getting home just in time for me to drop my bags, get a night's sleep and then straight away head off to Europe on a business trip.

We had a great time, and would heartily recommend the notion of small ship cruising around the Alaska coastline. Both my wife and I learned a lot from a photographic standpoint and I have to say the wildlife was spectacular and very, very co-operative!

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