River Trip

Next morning we went for a long walk down to the river, mainly because there wasn’t anything else to do. Our tour that day didn’t start till 1:00 PM. Amazingly, one thing that Fairbanks doesn’t have is a flood of tourist shops, a condition certainly not true of any other city we visited

The tour consisted of a ride on the Chena river on a paddlewheel boat. The first highlight was a demonstration of short takeoffs and landings by a bush pilot. The next was Ellen’s favorite; a stop at Susan Butcher’s home. She’s the lady who’s won the Iditarod dog sled race four times. We stopped, but didn’t get off. Using a PA system her husband talked about how they raise and train the sled dogs and gave us a demo. The dogs were harnessed to a large fat-tired cart, and went tearing off around a small lake on the property. Those dogs just love to run.

Our next stop, where we did disembark, was a kind of outdoor museum. There were reconstructions of how the native Athabaskan Indians lived before the white man arrived and how their lives changed after the arrival. Another site was the workshop of an old woman who sewed skins of various animals into clothing and decorated them with beadwork.

Our guide through these sites was a cute young woman who showed us this beaded jacket. At one stop she showed us how the natives attracted moose, by scraping a piece of moose antler against a tree. Since moose are very territorial, the moose would come over to see who was invading his space. Then she told us there was another way to call moose too. She held up a megaphone made of birch bark and called "Here, moosey moosey. Here, moosey moosey." But we didn’t believe her.

 

The final stop here was at a pen full of sled dogs. A young woman, like Susan Butcher an Iditarod racer, told us a number of things, the most interesting of which was that the dogs are not an AKC breed, and the racers don’t care. They don’t care what color their eyes and fur are, don’t care whether both ears stand up or down, or one of each. The only thing is can they run fast? They are on the small side, not what you usually think of as sled dogs like the Siberian Huskies and the Malamutes. She said that the Siberians are more like weight lifters, while the sled dogs are more like marathon runners.

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