All workplaces, as well as most of the restaurants and bars in Fairbanks, are equipped with exterior plugs that are used to keep the cooling systems in vehicles from freezing.  When plug-ins are not available, folks simply leave their vehicles running until they return.  The emission of so much exhaust combined with the freezing temperatures creates “black fog” - frozen carbon particles suspended in the air which reduces visibility to near zero.  But still, Alaskans would rather live here than anywhere else on the planet!  They are a resilient people.  It might be the allure of so many rustic gold-mine era bars and restaurants like the Chatanika Lodge located 30 miles north of Fairbanks that keep some folks here…

Or it may simply be the ability to drive a few hundred miles without encountering another soul…

  Alaska 2010 - Part 2                                                       June 26, 2010

This guy was stalking a ground squirrel which he eventually managed to catch and devour in one quick snap of his jaws…

Look very closely (see arrow) and you will see the squirrel a few inches in front of the wolf.  The Denali Rangers have about 40 sled dogs that they use to patrol the Park in the winter and their kennels, open to the public, offer you the opportunity to pet the dogs and even hang around for a demonstration of dog harnessing and sled pulling…

As well as a nice group of Dall sheep on the rocks near the Toklat visitor’s center…

This is a Willow Ptarmigan hen.  We encountered her leading about a dozen chicks (see arrows) crossing the road in front of us while the male stood between her and our Jeep until they had all safely crossed.  The male, much like the previously mentioned lynx, just wouldn’t stand still long enough to get a clear picture.  My bride, in addition to being a world class wildlife photographer, also enjoys taking pictures of the various wildflowers and shrubs we encounter along the way so I’m leaving her a little room here for this month’s floral arrangement…

We were fortunate in meeting the legendary musher during a previous trip we made to Alaska on one of our Harleys but, sadly, she died of leukemia in 2006 after a stem cell transplant in Seattle. After Fairbanks, we re-traced our route back to Denali and did another of their bus tours into Wonder Lake.  The wildlife viewing was nowhere near as spectacular as it was on our previous trip but we did manage to encounter a rather photogenic fox sitting in the middle of the road…

One hundred fifty miles north of Denali National Park is the town of Fairbanks and the next layover on our “journey to nowhere.”   It was here that we located a glass repair facility and had a few of the rock chips repaired in the windshields of both the Jeep and our urban assault vehicle.  Every road in both the Yukon and Alaska is constantly in alternate states of deterioration or repair leading to unending miles of gravel roadbed resulting in chips, cracks and breaks in nearly every windshield in the state… 

I had no idea that THIS is what they look like!  Glen is a fellow we met at The Forks Roadhouse down a 20 mile dirt and gravel road from the Parks Highway near the gold mining town of Petersville.  Glen sings a variety of both country and pop and, unlike most other saloon singers doesn’t mind, and even encouraged me to sing along with him.  WHAT A GUY!!!!   Although the "town" of Petersville itself is not much more than a few old wooden buildings and a couple of RVs, the area is very popular for gold panners - both weekend and full-time miners.  We like the area especially for the fishing and 4-wheeling…

We were told that it takes a 10 dog team to haul a Ranger and a couple of hundred pounds of equipment through the backcountry snow.  I asked how many dogs would be needed to transport a man of my enviable girth and was told they would have to bring in some extra animals from a nearby “rent a pup” kennel to get the job done.  And THIS is the kind of abuse MY tax dollars go to support!!??  I am definitely cancelling my membership in the ASPCA.  I took what little pride I had left, hitched up the Jeep and headed deep into the back country to heal a bit and get back to my roots…

This is one of the rowdier places you may land in Alaska and it doesn’t hurt a bit to arrive on a Harley.  It was still a tad early, about 8pm, and the local crowds don’t generally arrive until somewhere around midnight which is, coincidentally, when the band starts playing.  Ladies are given a complimentary drink in exchange for an undergarment which must be removed at the bar and nailed to the ceiling.  My bride always wears 2 t-shirts to this place and tries to sweet talk the bartender into accepting one of those as an undergarment.  So far, no luck!  If you are into less adventurous activities, the paddle wheeler Discovery cruises the Chena River and makes stops at an Indian village and the kennels where Susan Butcher once kept her sled dogs…

The Dalton Highway, also known as the “Haul Road” begins about 100 miles north of Fairbanks and consists of 400 miles of dirt and gravel into the Arctic Circle and ending at Prudhoe Bay.  The road was built to haul supplies needed to build the Alaska pipeline and is now used to transport equipment and manpower to the oilfields of the North Slope.  We ventured a few miles north before deciding that a breakdown 150-200 miles north of civilization was just not worth the risk.  I guess we just don’t have the grit required to actually live here full time.  On the day that we drove north on the Dalton Highway there were 85 wildfires burning throughout the state, only 8 of which were being actively fought, and the haze produced by all the smoke made it a bit tricky to get a reasonably clear shot of the pipeline from the road…

After a long day of inhaling both the fire induced pollutants as well as a near constant cloud of road dust, the first place you head on your journey home is the Howling Dog Saloon in Fox, about 10 miles north of Fairbanks…

Purple seems to be the color of the day!  See y’all soon with some fish tales about the ones that didn't get away!  Hugs, Chuck and Zook

Having already participated in this exercise in Whitehorse, we were familiar enough with the process to know that this guy was not following the same procedure we had previously witnessed and his repairs of our various chips turned out to be not nearly as “clean.”  The chips were much more visible after being repaired but at least the epoxy will prevent them from turning into starbursts and cracks which would eventually spread throughout the windshield.  Another of the Alaskan facts of life is the long cold winter which requires preventive measures to keep both people and machinery from freezing…

This photo was taken through the windshield as we were plodding through a part of the road that happens to be an active stream containing water deep enough to occasionally come over the hood of the Jeep.  If you don’t mind getting damp or object to spawning salmon swimming through your vehicle, there are a lot of interesting things to see in this area…

We also encountered a lynx that was entirely too skittish to pose for a picture and several wolves that are part of a pack living in a den just past Toklat…