Leaving Tok we headed to Fairbanks. On the way, we stopped at a pottery studio outside of Delta Junction. Originally finding no one around we read a sign on the door that invited anyone in to browse, pick a piece and leave the money on a table. Not the way things are done in the lower 48! Eventually, the artist showed up to answer some questions. After, we finished the drive to Fairbanks and arrived at Billies Backpacker Hostel. Billie’s was a great spot in town. Not only is it clean and has great service, but they even let us park our trailer for the drive down the Elliot Highway.
The next day in Fairbanks Stacia and Hannah applied to some jobs for our eventual transition back to reality, while my dad and I ran some errands. On the way, we stopped at the University of Fairbanks Museum and the Large Animal Research Center. The Museum was very well done and gave a lot of information on the natural and cultural history of Alaska. At the Large Animal Research Center, we got to see muskox and reindeer.
After our short stay in Fairbanks, we left the trailer and took the truck and bikes down the Elliot Highway. This 150-mile road which turns to dirt at mile 80, ends in the small town of Manley Hot Springs. Along the way, we got our first flat, which was completely deflated in less than 5 minutes, a real tear!
Manley Hot Springs, a town of around 50 people, has a small school (10-15 students), trading post, roadhouse (restaurant and hotel) and even a local bar called “The Woodshed”. Originally a mining town, most people have lived here for generations and everyone we met was extremely nice and helpful. We camped down by the slough of the Tanana River that the town sits on.
The springs which the town is named for used to be accessible at a resort with a swimming pool and bowling alley, but this was long gone with the mining money. However, a local family has kept a greenhouse complete with grape vines, tomato plants, and various tropical plants, which also contains four pools. For $10 an hour, anyone can use the greenhouse, with all the money going to a local association. A pretty oxymoronic situation for a town that sits less than 100 miles south of the Arctic Circle!
After the springs we took a boat ride up the Tanana river with a local man to his friends weekend cabin. The cabin was a beautiful set up on the river and had a true wilderness feel (especially only being accessible by boat or snowmobile in the winter).
After one more night by the river, we drove back to Fairbanks. On the way, Stacia and I stopped for some climbing at “Grapefruit Rocks”. The “best limestone in the Interior” (super crumbly!). In Fairbanks, we spent one more night at Billie’s before heading south to Denali!