September 18th, 2009 – by: Hummingbird
We had two tours scheduled for today. The first was north of Fairbanks a few miles and was the El Dorado Gold Mining tour. The second would be after lunch and was the Sternwheeler Riverboat Your. So we were up in time to shower, dress, and go down for breakfast before our first tour.
On the bus we had a fairly fun driver who kept a story line going the entire trip. And at one point he pulled the bus over into a parking area to allow us to get close and take pictures of the what he said was the only place along the entire 800 mile pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to the Valdez Marine Terminal where you could walk up to it this close to take pictures.
Because of the permafrost in the soil the pipeline runs above ground much of the way. There were story board and items of interest and he tried to answer questions too.
When we arrived at the El Dorado Gold Mine we boarded a small train and took a few minute ride around several areas where they described and showed the changes and history of gold mining in Alaska. Then we got off the train, watched them use a large panning operation and then were given a small bag of dirt and a pan and set up at a heated water troth and tried our luck at panning for gold. They said most people would find some in their pan. Between Roger and me we figured less than $20 worth. But inside the building where they dried and weighed it they also tried to sell you a locket for $75 to keep your gold. Silly. They also had quite an array of items for sale and a gallery of art, displays, etc.
You were even given free coffee and freshly baked cookies.
After going back to the hotel for just enough time to get lunch we were whisked off again, to the Sternwheeler Riverboat tour. The Discovery III has three decks inside and one more on the top and can carry lots of passengers on a trip down the Chena River to where it joins the Tanana River at this time. It’s about a four hour tour and along the way you watch a plane take off and land in the river next to you, a sled dog training facility, a reindeer farm, and an Indian village where the boat stops and you are taken through the village with two young ladies who describe life in their culture and showed many items. On the way we had free coffee and donuts and could buy several other food and drink items. At the end we had time to visit the souvenir shop and empty our wallets some more.
Then back to the hotel where we ate fish and chips for dinner in the Pub and Grill. Off to bed early. Never did get the wake up call for the Aurora Borealis., but then we really didn’t expect it. The forecast had been a zero for the last two nights.