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!
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.
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.
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)