Yesterday we boarded the Riverboat Discovery, an authentic stern-wheeler paddle-boat that travels up the Chena River to the Tanana for a three-hour cruise (that phrase always makes me want to pack some navigational charts, coconuts, a radio, and an evening gown - the latter just because Mrs. Howell did).
As the boat travels, Alaskiana is highlighted:
- We watched a bush pilot's float plane, a staple in inner Alaska transportation, take off and land next to the riverboat:
- We visited Susan Butcher's musher camp and learned about the Iditarod dogs:
- We visited a traditional Athabascan Indian fishing village:
- We learned how they lived (and how to fillet salmon):
When we boarded, we followed friends' advice to "sit on the left." We will now pass this on to others -- sit on the left!
After dinner, John and I were taking a walk through the campground when we came upon this musical trio, surrounded by a caravan group of RVers in their lawn chairs. They invited us to join them, and we quickly discovered that the music was fantastic. Marty Robbins, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings were sung to perfection, and there was even a recitation of "The Cremation of Sam McGee." It was one of those unexpected campground experiences that "find" you every so often!
He was the lead singer from last night! Turns out his name is Earl Hughes, "Alaska's Ambassador of Country Music."
Placer gold (pronounced plah-SUR) is gold that has been washed down from the mountains by streams, along with the gravel, dirt and silt that are collectively called alluvium. Because it is loose and crumbly, it cannot be mined by digging tunnels. Instead, it is retrieved by water and panning.
First, they showed us how placer gold is extracted. The water comes pouring from the flume (on the left in photo) as the alluvium is dumped in its path by the front-loader. As the water -- now laden with silt and rock -- washes down the center section, the smaller rocks and the gold fall to the bottom and are caught by baffles.
We each got a bag of dirt and a pan, and sat at long water troughs to find "our" gold: