Tuesday, July 13, 2010

ALASKA: El Dorado Gold Mine Tour

VIEW today's pictures
At right: Sarah & Annika pan for gold!

I am up early today as there was a discrepancy between my watch and Sarah’s clock and I wasn’t sure which one was accurate – an 1 ½ hours difference! But we all needed to get up and moving as today is our scheduled trip on the Gold Mine train!

We take the Saturn with Annika and Sarah up past Chena Hot Springs Road toward Fox and the Elliot Highway. The mine is located just past the viewing area for the TransAlaska Pipeline. Our reservations are all ready to go and we quickly board the little tour train – very similar to the Sumpter Railroad, except each car has a speaker system and a monitor showing the entertainer playing Alaskan folk songs from the front. Pretty good music in a takeoff from Johnny Cash as we wait for a final tour bus to arrive.

Train gives a good history of mining in the Interior, from the Permafrost tunnel mining to placer mining to rocker sluice boxes and the independent miner. We get a first hand view of an industrial size sluice box with paydirt loaded with a big crane. Then we eat get our own “poke” of paydirt and are directed to a large area of benches with troughs of warm water to pan our gold. It is pretty fun to do, but hard to trust the last part that you aren’t washing the good stuff out! Everyone finds gold and we put it into the little canisters we are given. You can keep what you find, but of course are then directed into a gift shop where they will weigh the gold and value it for you, along with an abundance of jewelry options to put your gold inside! The gold is measured in “grains”, a portion of a troy ounce. Each grain was worth about $4. I had 4 grains, Sarah 5 ½, and Annika and Rick combined 11 ½. All together nearly $84 worth by their measurements. If we take it to an actual gold exchange I would think it would be a little less.

Girls seemed to have a good time. We stopped at the Pipeline viewpoint and awed again at the size of the pipe. They have demos of the “pigs” that flow through the pipe to record pipeline activity (flow, flaws, etc.) I took a picture of Annika and called it a “Pyglet in front of a pig in a pipe!” Rick purchased a funny pipe pig shirt from a discount rack.

Annika gives us a tour of Pearl Creek School and Sarah shows off the Pearl Creek Garden where she worked for a month. Tucked away back in the thick forest of birch trees – all laced with country country ski trails!

Our afternoon is filled with different kind of tours! Rick takes off on Sarah’s bike and explores a major portion of Fairbanks by bike! Shelli, Sarah, Annika, and I go “arting”! Shelli has some tiles to return to a tile artist up on Moose Mountain. The gal, Nancy Johnson, has built as beautiful new home and studio up on a mountain about 10 miles from Fairbanks. What fun to see her work, be inspired to do some things with our leftover glaze, and gaze out at a spectacular view clear down to the Alaska Range (a view somewhat smoke hampered by the flare up from the winds of a fire southwest of Fairbanks). Nancy seemed quite excited to share her work and home and the visit lasted a little longer than we anticipated. We stopped at the Art Annex to view some work similar to Georgia O’Keefe’s flowers, but it was closed. Then to the Great Alaska BowlWorks, which makes wooden bowls and tools from birch burls and other woods. Nice stuff, but expensive and then wouldn’t take my credit card without picture ID! So we found some of it at Fred Meyer instead!

We meet Dave at Pad Thai for dinner. Good meal! Then over to Sarah’s school so she can throw her discus a little. Skies are clouding up – we are supposed to have some rain tomorrow. Maybe that will help the fire smoke plum that we can see rising up south of town. I tried to take more pictures tonight of the girls since Luke told me my blog is suffering from a lack of “People Pictures”!

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