Days 1 to 3, of our Alaskan and Canadian Adventure.
Date : Day 1, Thursday Feb. 1st 2007
Places visited : London Heathrow, then a flight to Seattle, Anchorage (overnight), Nome (overnight), and finally to St Michael on the Bering Sea Coast 150 miles from Russian Siberia.
Distance travelled : 6,877 Miles approximately, spread over four flights.
Weather : We left the grey skies of London behind for wonderful winter weather on the north west American continent. Dry, sunny but somewhat cooler to say the least.
With many thanks to Angie (and David) who looked after Harry and Bethan in our absence.
We had been thinking of holidays and fancied something rather different . . .
A company in Alaska was offering Dog Mushing Treks, a week of travelling rather than just day trips from a single resort. They only ran these treks for ten weeks a year so we had booked well in advance for this February 2007 holiday.
We combined this trip with our first visit to North America and Canada, so with a return itinerary planned for Vancouver, the Rockies and Niagara in Winter, we sought advice, bought our tickets, and packed our travel bags with loads of warm gear.
London Heathrow - now we really were on our way !
We flew the grand circle route to Seattle on America's west coast, chasing the sun all the way.
Seattle Airport and an Alaskan face that would pop up several times over the next ten days.
We didn't stay long as we caught our next flight up the west coast towards Anchorage.
Time to stop travelling, if only temporarily. This was the forecourt of our overnight B&B , The Long House Hotel, Anchorage.
We had a day to explore town before our late afternoon flight on to Nome. This is classic log cabin of old was used as the town Information Centre, complete with log fire, a cheering cup of coffee and loads of useful information provided by it's two lady employees.
According to the signpost we were 50 miles closer to Tokyo than London !
Anchorage isn't all log cabins though. Today it is a busy modern city. This is Fourth Avenue.
On March 3rd this will be the start location for the Iditarod Dog Mushing Sled Race. They could do with a bit more snow before then however.
Check out the current Web Cam view.
The modern Court House but with two replica Totem Poles outside.
We took the opportunity to view the Alaska Public Lands Information Center, to catch up on local history and information while we had chance.
A beautiful morning as we walked round town to see the views and soak up the atmosphere.
Across the harbour and rail yard to the mountains behind.
An old house overlooking Cook Inlet, with someone's attempt at an igloo in the front garden.
Mount Susitna across the Cook Inlet, with another jet making it's final approach to Anchorage's modern international airport, just as we did last night.
Captain Cook was born in Whitby, North Yorkshire, and this statue more or less duplicates the one there. He was one of the great world adventurers and made three voyages to North America using the three different boats depicted in bronze above. He stopped in Anchorage whilst attempting to find the western end of the North West Passage around Canada. It seems some kind person has recently donated a red T-shirt to protect him from the cold !
The cold was such that the Ice Sculptures in the local park were still looking good even though it was a week or so since they were carved.
Soon it was time to catch our next onward flight.
Still dark and blowing a blizzard at at about 8.30 in the morning . Breakfast could wait !
Nome Airport and our final flight westward before we reached our destination.
There was a slight delay while they de-iced the wings of our plane.
10 am sunrise from the cockpit of our plane, 6000 ft up over the Norton Sound
St Michael's airstrip comes up dead ahead, and up on the GPS screen to the left. Very reassuring.
A short car ride later and we were in St Michael at the start of our trek holiday.
This was the view which greeted us as we got out of the car - snow, an Alaskan village and a frozen sea.
Our host for the week was Jerry Austin and his Wilderness Dog Sled Tours
This was his house across the road from our log cabin. We would stay here on the first and last night of our stay and took the opportunity of settling in before lunch.
Quick history lesson - Wyatt Earp was here. Our cabin was on the site of Wyatt Earp's gaming establishment which he established in St Michael (1898) after leaving the dry and dusty Wild West. He made more money here and in Nome from running a hotel, bar and gambling emporium than most of the prospectors who travelled north to Alaska in search of gold.
After lunch we got to know the dogs, how to harness them, and also learnt the basics that we would need to stay safe on the sleds.
Jerry also fitted us out with extra clothing and insulated boots that would help when combating the cold weather in the coming week.
Then we had a couple of hours of afternoon sunshine left to explore the town.
St Michael was an important harbour in the early 1900's. A relatively short distance from the mouth of the Yukon River, it became a major transshipment port during the Gold Rush, and at that time had a thriving ship building industry. The sea freezes over here for eight months a year and many of the relics of olden times still survive, albeit covered by snow or hidden in the ice.
The old Catholic Church in the middle of town.
Ann walking past the local power station - four big diesel generators are housed in portacabins.
One of the two cemeteries with recent graves catching the last of the afternoon sun.
In the evening we were invited indoors and realised that the painted exterior of Jerry's house
hid a classic log cabin interior, full of trophies and mimentos from their busy family life.
and young Kaleb, still under a year old, relaxing on the settee and wearing his granddad's Alaskan Adventures hat.
A parting photo of the late afternoon sun reflecting on a small patch of surface water on the frozen bay.
Tomorrow we would be crossing this frozen sea at the start of our dog mushing trek.
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Technical note: Pictures taken with a Canon G7 Digital camera.
Resized in Photoshop, and built using Dreamweaver.
This site best viewed with . . . the boarding passes for the very long flight.