Tok to Fairbanks Alaska

July 11

Departing from Tok along the Alaska Highway, the milepost suggested a stop at the knotty shop, a cool little shop that had sculptures created out of….knotty wood!

Mosquitos at the knotty shop

If you don’t recognize the image, Bill and Mocha are standing next to a giant Mosquito and check out the flowers, a florists dream.  We have not learned why there are so many flower baskets adorning the buildings but they are everywhere each one more spectacular than the next.

On to the Northern city of Fairbanks. We stopped there because? We had to, it was time to gas up, restock and after all,

it is the gateway to Denali National Park about 120 miles north.

The Rivers Edge Resort & RV park just outside Downtown Fairbanks is on Chena River, a beautiful sleepy river on the outskirts of downtown Fairbanks. The resort boasts of cottages that open to gardened courtyards or the landscaped riverbank. In reality, there were about one hundred or more prefab, little white ticky-tacky boxes, resting on black pebble walk ways that led to either the freeway or a small grassy riverbed area with a few scattered picnic tables lined near the waters edge.  Each cottage had 2 white plastic – the stackable kind- patio chairs and the only other identifying mark besides the cabin number was a big colorful hanging basket of REAL flowers, similar but smaller than those at the knotty shop.  I guess that qualifies as gardened courtyards?  Next to the “Resort” the RV park like so many of the private parks, are paved/or not, with electricity that is no more than a 4×4 board with electrical outlet attached, and water hook-ups meaning a hose bib. The price usually includes coin-op laundry facilities, showers and wifi.  The wifi, if big if you can log on, is so slow that it is almost not worth the bother other than in my case a necessity to pay some bills and organize my thoughts.

The sun came out for part of the day and it was actually warm enough to shed the sweats. Fairbanks typically has less rain than in the interior and to celebrate we took advantage of the day. The University of Alaska at Fairbanks is known for its museum, Artic research center, Geophysical Institute and our choice, the Robert G. White, Large Animal Research Station where the Musk Oxen, Reindeer and Caribou are studied.

mama and baby reindeer

For fiber freaks like me this was like mana from heaven.  For one thing, I had never heard of a Musk Ox before nor did I know that their fur is softer than cashmere.  Because the animals are endangered they are not hunted so inorder to obtain fur, the under-fur is gathered from the ground or at the institute the musk ox are combed, not shaved, in the spring and summer months. These guys who are neither oxen nor musky, actually stem from the goat family. The Inua’s cottage industry is supported by proceeds of garments knitted with the spun wool, Qiviut the profits split between the Inua and the research center to maintain the flock.  If only the knitters were present, it would have been a complete tactile experience.

Later we visited the Botanical Garden that was flooded with Peonies and native plants, wild flowers and indigenous trees.  For once, I left my camera in the car and enjoyed my eye candy.

It turns out there is much more to do and see in Fairbanks than meets the eye.