Although it took us 19 hours of travel, we finally made it to our hotel room in Fairbanks, Alaska about 10:30 PM last night. We immediately noticed that the sun had not yet gone down. In fact, sunset was listed at 11:50 PM and sunrise was set for 3:18 AM. That’s less that four hours of darkness, which is a misnomer because it was more like a state of perpetual twilight. The days will get even longer until June 21 when there will be 22 hours of sunlight. Then the procedure reverses until there are only three hours of daylight on December 21. The whole thing is mind-blowing. I think I can handle the long days just fine. Those long nights would be a challenge. We saw children out riding their bikes at 10 PM. It’s not really daylight, but it’s definitely not darkness.
So we’ve arrived in Alaska safe and sound and not much worse for the wear. Marlene pointed out that she has now visited all 50 states. I’ve now reached 49, with only Idaho left to go. Alaska holds special interest for me because my parents met in Alaska while serving in the Army in World War II.
Tomorrow we board the domed train for a ride into the Denali National Park where we will see Mt. McKinley up close and personal. This particular tour/cruise offers a wide range of side trips, including a helicopter ride to the surface of a glacier. And because there is so much daylight, you can tour all day long and still have plenty of time for the side trips in the evening. Of course, those side trips aren’t included in the cost of the tour, but I think we will have takers for many of them.
Ron Stansbury organized this tour with some help from Harry Bollback. Harry and Millie will be joining us on Friday for the cruise portion of the trip.
We were given a brochure filled with the “cold, hard facts” about Alaska. The average winter temperature is -12 F, with a bone-chilling -78 F once recorded at Prospect Creek. Right now the daytime temps in Fairbanks are in the 60s and low 70s with nighttime temps in the 40s. Very nice weather for the end of May.
The brochure instructs us to avoid contact with grizzly bears and to learn to spot black bear scat, which is identifiable by the presence of berry and leaf remains. I certainly do not plan to meet any bears on this trip, and if I do, I won’t stop long enough to examine their scat.
One other point. Besides the never-ending day, it’s also three hours earlier in Alaska. I’m writing this about 3:30 PM, which means it is 6:30 PM in Tupelo and 7:30 PM in Raleigh, North Carolina. Coming to our 49th state reminds you that America is a vast country, and this is a great day to celebrate our freedom and to remember those who served our nation in the past and those who today serve in far flung corners of the world.