Circle Hotsprings

11. On the Road Again

I continued north toward Fairbanks and on the morning of June 11th I woke up at Clearwater State Campground near Delta Junction. It was easy to see why it was called Clearwater. The campground sits on the bank of the Delta-Clearwater River which is a tributary to the Tanana River and the water is clear, very clear. Standing on the bank I could see the bottom of the river, perhaps 35 feet away and six feet below the surface. It was a nice change. Many streams and rivers in the southern part of Alaska run off glaciers and have a whitish gray look because of the pulverized stone and earth they carry. Others, that run from lakes, are brownish in color, almost approaching weak black coffee in appearance.

In campgrounds such as this, with only a few people around, Georgia and I took short hikes together. Crowded campgrounds spooked her. Especially when it seemed almost every Winibago came with a dog. Georgia didn’t exactly heel, but stuck pretty close. Sometimes she liked to lead the way and went places where I couldn’t follow.

The following day I arrived at Fairbanks and began the process of getting clean. I washed the van, I washed me, I washed all my dirty clothes, and afterward I felt like I’d been reset to zero.

Fairbanks was the biggest city I had been in for a while. It’s home to a couple of military bases as well as the University of Alaska. People there keep crazy schedules. I woke up one night at 2:00 AM to the sound of heavy traffic on a nearby road. Then, at 4:00 AM, someone started working with a jackhammer. All this activity because it is broad daylight at those hours.

I had several good days for art sales, selling enough to local galleries to put the whole trip back in the black. There seemed to be a shortage of artists. The same ones were featured in all the galleries. What a pleasure it was to be a fresh breeze from California. The only problem was my inventory was getting picked over, and I hadn’t even been to Anchorage.

On the weekend I drove to Circle. A small outpost just fifty miles below the Arctic Circle, situated on the bank of the Yukon River. There is a resort hotel nearby featuring a hot spring as its main attraction. The old timesourdoughs with long flowing white beards congregate there and provide local color. I did a sketch of a sourdough cabin that was typical of many that I saw at Circle Hotsprings. The oil drums in the foreground are also typical anywhere you see a scene like that, some wag has dubbed them the Alaskan State Flower.

Trapper's Cabin

Trapper’s Cabin

I also did some sketching at Circle where there are two tug and barge companies whose  vessels and facilities are picturesque.

The bartender in the local saloon told me a German came through recently who had paddled a canoe all the way from Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. He stopped there, sold his canoe, hitchhiked to Fairbanks, and caught a plane home. Quite a trip! No sooner was I back to my campsite than two Germans came paddling in with a canoe. They were doing the same thing only they were going all the way to Holy Cross, much farther down stream. It took them six days from Dawson.

On the way back to Fairbanks I stopped long enough to take some pictures of gold dredges in action, they can really tear up the countryside. When a gold dredge has finished working over the landscape, it looks like the surface of the moon. I doubt that the Chatanika River, which parallels the Steece Highway up to Circle for some distance, will ever return to nature. It must have been pretty country at one time.

The next day, back at the Chena River Campground in Fairbanks, it was hot (90 degrees) and humid, with little tufts from the cotton wood trees blowing in the breeze. Georgia caught another mouse (number six for the trip). It was fun to watch her learn. She was getting better at it, and always brought her trophies proudly back to the van for display.

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Monday, September 7th, 2009 Chapters 11 — 20 No Comments