Tuesday, March 29, 2011

North Pole

Only in Alaska would there be a town named North Pole, 1,700 miles south of the real North Pole! This North Pole is a 3,000-person town that thrives on all things Christmas. The town has its Christmas decorations up all year round, the street lamps are decorated in a candy motif and local businesses are encouraged to have a festive theme. Even the famous Golden Arches sit atop a candy cane pole!

We drove along Santa Claus Lane, Snowman Lane and St Nicholas Drive, enjoying the Christmas-themed bus stops and street signs.

We also visited the famous Santa Claus House at 101 St Nicholas Drive. At Christmas time, this place receives hundreds of thousands of letters addressed to the resident Santa. We saw Santa's sled, the largest fibre glass Santa in the world and a couple of Santa's reindeer looking a bit out of shape!

It's considered very lucky to receive mail from North Pole franked with Santa's 99705 postmark, so we mailed ourselves a North Pole postcard. Now we can be naughty for the rest of the year and we should still get Christmas presents...!

Chena Hot Springs

Chena Hot Springs lies 56.5 miles northeast of Fairbanks. It was discovered in 1905 and became famous for curing crippled gold prospectors of their aches and pains with its healing waters. We bravely put on our costumes and scurried out the changerooms and into the Rock Lake. It was amazing to be outside in the sunshine, soaking up all the good minerals from the hot springs, while enjoying the snowy scenery...

Chena is also home to the world's largest year-round ice museum. It was created from over 1,000 tons of ice and snow all harvested at the resort. We went on a tour of the Aurora Ice Museum and were blown away by the sculptures inside, which included a workshop, four bedrooms, a chapel and a bar!

Have An "ICE" Day!

With a population of 35,000, Fairbanks is the second largest city in Alaska. It is known as the Golden Heart City and lies about 150 miles south of the Arctic Circle. We headed upstate for the weekend in the hopes of seeing the Northern Lights. Although we missed out on the Aurora, we still had a lovely time exploring the city along the banks of the Chena River.

We visited the World Ice Art Championships, home to the most amazing ice sculptures carved by teams from America, Japan, China, Norway, Spain and many other countries. Below are some pictures of the remarkable works of art.

In the Single Block Classic teams of two sculpt a 90cm x 150cm x 200cm block of Arctic Diamond Ice weighing 3,500kg.

In the Multi-Block Classic, teams of four are given ten 90cm x 100cm x 180cm blocks of pure Alaskan ice weighing in at 2,000kg each to create their crystal masterpieces.

There were also a few ice sculptures just for fun. We got lost in the incredible ice maze, played in the kids' park, made a phone call and read about the history of the World Champs on an ice wall!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Aurora Borealis

Somewhere near the top of our Alaskan Bucket List was to see the Northern Lights. This dream has been partially achieved as I was treated to an amazing display while Daniel was away on business in Chile. I managed to capture a few amateur photos of the phenomenon.

It was an unbelievable experience to see the green glowing lights moving and dancing in the sky - truly unforgettable! Now let's just hope we both get to see them before we leave...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Good times

It's that time of year again when 62 dog-mushers set off on a thousand mile journey across Alaska. This year we went all out for the start of the Iditarod.

We snow-machined out to our friends' cabin which lies on Crystal Lake, part of the Iditarod trail. 

Dan and Marleanna had spent the morning hauling wood, chairs and tables, a grill and an ice-fishing tent out onto the lake, and we all gathered around the bonfire to watch the teams come past.

It was so cool to see bush planes landing on the lake every ten minutes and then taxiing over to the race. 

The snow-maching was even more fun than last time. It was a (relatively) warm, sunny day, and we had the best view of Denali as we cruised over frozen lakes. Another memorable day in Alaska!