So now we’ve been as far north, and as far west in Alaska and the US as we’re going to get. It’s all south, and mostly east from here. We spent a rainy night in the Regency Fairbanks Hotel, and felt relieved that we weren’t in our tent. I heard varying reports of how much rain they got, ranging from a couple of inches to 4 inches. However much it was, it was better experienced within 4 walls rather than that flimsy stuff tents are made of these days, although canvas would have been worse – we would never have got it dry!
Yesterday was a ‘town day’ – shopping, getting fuel and sorting out other bits and pieces. We went to the local Farmers Market in Fairbanks, and even though it was wet with part of the outdoor area under water, and early in the Alaska summer growing season, there was an interesting range of produce, food and other homemade goods. We bought raspberry salsa, rhubarb jam and morning tea (Cookie Dough Apple Pie for the sweet tooth, Potsticker dumplings for the savoury lover). A stall was selling wild strawberries that were smaller than my little fingernail, for $8 per small container. We didn’t buy any, and I understand why they were so expensive, it would have been a lot of work collecting them. I would have happily paid a dollar or so to just try a few to see what they were like.
We went shopping for a few things and I saw stuff I’ve never seen before (one of the true joys of traveling) – boxes of new, empty tin cans for people to can their own fish, a stack of preserving jars that was taller than me! The growing and harvesting season here is so short, people make the most of fresh produce by preserving it. We also saw some really heavy-duty vacuum sealers and pressure canning units – like a huge pressure cooker. We went to Subway and had their new Applewood Pulled Pork sandwich for lunch and it was delicious! Note to self: add Pulled Pork to our Thanksgiving menu this year. Greg thinks we should have Deep Fried Oreos as well as our usual Deep Fried Turkey.
Heading east along the Alaska Highway towards Tok, we just had to stop at the little town called North Pole, because it might be as close as we ever get to the real thing. They have a bit of a Christmas/Santa Claus theme going on there – candy cane street light-poles, huge Christmas store where Santa Claus is in attendance every day from 9am to 8pm, and as we drove around the side streets we noticed permanent Christmas decorations in some houses and Santa’s Rest Home. We figured it would be full of old men with long white beards and little old ladies with white hair done up in a bun, wearing aprons and baking cookies.
The Christmas store was as tacky as you can imagine. We visited a similar village in Finland last summer, right on the Arctic Circle line, just north of Rovaniemi. At the time we thought it was bad, but in hindsight it all seems quite tasteful. http://gregspurgin.com/tents-trains-and-tales/travelling-south-through-finland/index.html
We camped a few miles west of Tok, at the Moon Lake State Forest campground – 14 sites around a crescent-shaped lake with toilets, water pump, hardly any mosquitoes and only a couple of other campers. Tomorrow is Independence Day, and a long weekend. We thought we’d see more campers, and maybe there are … just not where we are.
We’re heading to Chicken, north of Tok, and then driving on the Top of the World Highway back to Whitehorse. With a name like that, we can’t miss it!