Thursday, October 3, 2013

Ester Dome Singletrack

Autumn mountain biking on my favorite single-track trails in the state: Ester Dome.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Angel Rocks to Chena Hot Springs, a fall tradition.

My sister was visiting, so we brought her along on our fall tradition of enjoying the colors from Angel Rocks to Chena Hot Springs in the Chena River State Recreation Area. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Manley Hot Springs

Hurry, take a picture quickly.  The brilliance of fall colors in Alaska does not last long.  In just a blink of an eye between warm summer days under the midnight sun and moments before the frozen landscape of winter is cast...autumn strikes!

Alaska doesn't have the variety of hardwoods I grew up surrounded by on the East coast; maples, oak, and poplar, but birch and aspen create orange and yellow hues across interior Alaska and the low brush of the tundra turns a burnt fiery red.

On a quest to enjoy the fleeting fall colors, we drove from Fairbanks out across the Minto flats to the end of the road, Manley Hot Springs!

Manley, like most end of the road destinations in Alaska has the quaint charm of a place where time seems to have stood still.  The single store in town that sells gas, groceries and basic necessities is only open from 4-6pm.  Mail comes by plane three times a week.  People give friendly waves and no one rushes anywhere.  The illusion of time standing still was quickly shattered as we watched a helicopter fly over installing a 180 ft cell tower.  Even here at the end of the road, technology pushes us forward, just when we thought we could escape.

We had our choice of prime camp sites along the slough in Manley.  As we sat around our campfire we watched hunters launch boats, motoring down the slough and out to the Tanana River.  We made the journey on foot, via 4 miles of road between Manley and the true end of the road, the banks of the Tanana River.

 Jack and Jodi love to be in places where they can run free and explore.  New sights, new smells, light rain and a cool breeze make for a pre-winter husky heaven.

 Stopping to take in the views we heard geese honking good-bye to Alaska as they headed south, chasing warmer weather.

Ah, the beauty of a birch forrest.  Kesler Woodward's paintings of birch have fueled our fascination with birch forests.  Read Peggy Shumaker's poems in Blaze to further the experience even more.

 When we got to the banks of the Tanana we attempted a family portrait.

The sun shone between the clouds in a brief reprieve from the rain! Twenty-three miles up this river is where the bartender/cook from the Manley Roadhouse told us he spends his winters.  No need to feel crowed by the confines of town with 70 other people hanging around all winter.  He came from Florida to live out in the "bush" and experience real Alaska.

I saved the best of Manley for last!  There isn't actually a commercial hot springs resort still open in Manley, but Chuck and Gladys Dart have concrete pools in their greenhouse where you can soak in water piped from the hot springs while looking up at a canopy of grape vines.  We called ahead from the inn to make a reservation and for $5 per person we had the whole place to ourselves for an hour.


Gladys told me on the phone that we were in for a real rustic Alaskan experience.  I'm not sure rustic would be the way I would describe it at all, it was an exotic romantic getaway!  The baths at Manley Hot Springs were well worth the journey!

~Gretchen (photos by Sam)