The caterpillar-looking things above release an abundance of cotton-looking fluff at this time of the year which covers roofs, vehicles, and roadways, and eventually decks, floors and carpets.

She actually wants that lump of coal in her stocking every year…AFTER it has become a diamond!

Santa’s home and toy shop are open to visitors all year and the olde guy makes a really terrific batch of fudge!  YUM!!!

We got the kids on their southbound flight just before midnight Saturday and spent the next few days recuperating while planning for their return visit late next month for a wee bit of guys only salmon fishing on the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers.  Our son, grandson and future son-in-law will be flying in for 4 days of Alaska-style battle fishing for King, Red and Silver salmon.  This should be interesting…heh heh heh.

See y’all next time!  Hugs, C&K

The next morning we headed out once again to the village of Talkeetna, 125 miles south of Denali. If you’ve been paying attention you know that we are now 250 miles south of Fairbanks to which we must return for our kid’s flight home to California.


Our friend, Skip Merkley, runs a fishing guide service out of Talkeetna and stopped by the next morning to pick up the three kids for a day of lake fishing…

And then these guys showed up…

   Gone To The Dogs                                                        June 29, 2013

Our son decided to kick back on the bank of the river and simply enjoy the solitude…

Mary opens her home to many visitors but all depart as friends.  You can contact her through her website if you are interested in an experience that will add that special touch to your Alaska visit.

Since the North Pole is not very far from Fairbanks, we decided to drop in for a visit with the north country’s most famous resident…

Be warned fellow travelers, wayfarers, sojourners and other inhabitants of the open road, this is the update you have been dreading!  It is filled to the brim with pictures of our grandkidlets and 3 generations of Bryan boys…

Kayakers don’t seem to have the right of way around here and can usually be viewed paddling for their lives at the approach of a floatplane.  We once went rafting on the Stanislaus River in California with a whitewater company whose slogan was, “Paddle or Die.”  This truly was one of those “Paddle or Die” moments!

The “riverboat” actually is propelled by a large paddlewheel instead of propellers, much like those that once roamed the Mississippi River from St Louis to New Orleans during the days of Mark Twain…

Notice the bumblebee in the above picture?

Early the next day I broke out the fishing gear and hauled everybody down to the river for some instruction on how to hook Arctic Grayling, the “sailfish of the north,” but in less than an hour I found myself standing alone on the bank of the river holding a fistful of fishing equipment while our “guests” found other forms of amusement…

Mary entertained us in the cabin she and her husband built with stories of her experiences in the Iditarod and Yukon Quest dog races as well as a trip she took with several other Alaskan mushers to Siberia to meet some Russian mushers she had been conversing with by radio for a long time.  Prior to departing Siberia, she was given a handmade parka and hat by her new friend, Vladimir.  She asked one of her most handsome guests to model it for the rest of our crew…

Although they arrived home fishless, they nevertheless had a great day on the water and have pictures of a yearling moose they will never forget.  If you know Jeff, ask to see his moose movie.

While the kids were fishing, my Bride and I took advantage of their absence for a little “catch-up” time over breakfast at the Mt McKinley Princess Lodge in Talkeetna while enjoying an impressive view of the mountain from their outdoor deck…

Most of the kids that Santa sees are on his “Nice” list but every once in a while one of those sneaks from the “Naughty” list slips past a napping elf…

The wildlife sightings were not what we had hoped for but we did manage to spot a few of the “locals” who didn’t mind venturing out in the heat of an 80 degree day…

On Friday morning we set our Urban Assault Vehicle on a northerly course, then cranked up the various game systems and engaged the auto pilot for the 250 mile road trip back to Fairbanks.

Saturday, the kid’s last full day in Alaska, we wanted to give them a more personal vision of Alaska to return home with so we took them to the home of Mary Shields, the first lady to ever finish the Iditarod sled dog race…

In all fairness to that bunch of ingrates, it was already more than 80 degrees at 9am and the fish had long since departed for the icy depths to escape the boiling surface temperature of the river. However, THIS IS ALASKA!!!  People fish to eat up here and solitude is earned when your freezer is full, never given to lollygag about!  So in keeping with local tradition we packed them up and hauled them off, kicking and screaming every inch of the way, for a day of adventure and exploration on the Riverboat Discovery.

This is one of those touristy “must see” events you should check out if you happen to find yourself in Fairbanks.  In addition to a great afternoon of fantastic scenery floating down the Chena River to the confluence of the Tanana River, we also witnessed several float planes taking off and landing on the river, including this one which took flight along the starboard side of our boat…

This is a wonderful spot to enjoy a quiet meal while reflecting on a few of the smaller creations which God has provided for our viewing pleasure…

The mosquitos proved to be a lot more aggressive than the fish so they had to cover up until well away from the shoreline and the heaviest population of these miniature vampires.  Only one fish was landed throughout the day but they had some great views of Mt Denali (McKinley) from the water and an up close and personal encounter with a small male moose who swam out from the shore to say hello. (These pics were shot with the camera on Jeff’s phone and we just couldn’t make them any larger without more loss of clarity)…

The wake that is generated by this wheel is of a sufficient size to attract everyone within a 50-mile radius to follow it along the river with their jet skis…

These guys put on a pretty good show for us with their waterborne aerobatics behind the boat.

One of the stops we made along the way was at the home of Susan Butcher, winner of the Iditarod 4 times before her death of leukemia in August of 2006.  Her husband, Dave Monson, still owns their kennel and raises sled dogs.  We were able to enjoy their antics from the comfort of the boat which the captain maintained our position along the shoreline…

Come Monday morning we packed up our little band of adventurers and trekked the 125 miles south to Denali National Park where we spent the next 2 nights.  We were fortunate in seeing the mountain unencumbered by the usual cloud cover and glistening magnificently beneath a bright afternoon sun…

As interesting a life as Mary has lived and as intriguing as her stories may be, the true “stars” of the show are her dogs, especially the six puppies…

And, of course, we had to make the requisite stop at the Denali sled dog kennel…

They use a 4 wheeler, minus the engine, to train the dogs during the summer months and must run each dog every day to keep them in shape.  If you look closely at the dogs you can see how anxious they are to get mushing!  Every sled dog we have ever seen reacts with unbridled enthusiasm when the musher goes into the kennel area to select the dogs to be harnessed to the gang line with the rest of a team.  The sight is very much like Monty Hall’s Let’s Make a Deal sans the peculiar costumes.

Our one stop which allowed us to disembark for an hour or so was at an Athabascan fishing village where we were treated to demonstrations of village living including the hunting, fishing and craftworks of the native inhabitants…

That’s us: Olde Fart in the middle, son on the right and grandkid on the left.  You can check your local post office for occasional updates which include identifying features and characteristics and modus operandi: usually seen in the company of fish.

We picked them up from the Fairbanks airport shortly after midnight on Sunday, June 16 and hauled them back to our humble abode on the banks of the Chena River…