Afternoon: Check into hotel after 3 p.m. Earlier check in may be possible at this time of year. Call the hotel the first day of the program (907-451-6552) to find out if early check in is available. Meet in the hotel lobby at 6:00pm for dinner, followed by orientation at the hotel.
Dinner: Dinner in restaurant.
Evening: A warm welcome to America's Arctic State by Denakkanaaga Road Scholar staff. IMPORTANT NOTE: WE HOPE YOU HAVE A CHANCE TO SEE THE AURORA BOREALIS IN PERSON. BUT THE AURORA IS A NATURAL PHENOMENON AND SIGHTINGS CANNOT BE GUARANTEED. FIRST, THE AURORA HAS TO BE HAPPENING THAT NIGHT. SECOND, THE SKY HAS TO BE CLEAR ENOUGH, WITH NO HEAVY CLOUD LAYER, TO BE ABLE TO SEE THE LIGHTS OF THE AURORA. GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGES ARE GIVING THE ALASKAN INTERIOR CLOUDIER WINTER DAYS AND NIGHTS THAN WE ARE USED TO.
Breakfast: Breakfast in hotel breakfast room.
Morning: NOTE: This itinerary was crafted months ahead of time, using the best available information. Everything on this schedule will be covered but the day/time will change somewhat from the printed Road Scholar catalog schedule. Field trip to the Morris Thompson Cultural Center, a small museum devoted to the life and culture of the Athabascan people, the indigenous people of the vast Alaskan Interior. The Alaska Public Lands Information Center is located in the facility and offers films and presentations on Alaska's public lands. We start with an orientation for the trip to the Arctic, including a schedule for the the program in Coldfoot. This is your chance to ask questions before we take off for the far north. Class on the history of Fairbanks. Fairbanks, along with many other Interior Alaskan towns, started life as a gold rush boom town in the early 1900's. Once the court system was moved here from Eagle on the Canadian border and the university and the northern terminus of the railroad were built, Fairbanks stabilized economically (somewhat) and did not wither and die as most of the other boom towns did. Explore the history of this tenacious town in the heart of the last frontier.
Afternoon: The Fairbanks Winter Carnival is held in downtown Fairbanks, right outside the back door of our hotel. Festivities include the Open North American Sled Dog Race, fur auctions, food booths and craft tables. The Open North American Championship is a premiere sled dog sprint race, attracting the best sprint mushers from all over the northern world, including North America, Europe and Asia. The race starts in downtown Fairbanks and is run over three days. The first two days mushers and dogs run a 20 mile course. On the third day, the course is 30 miles, for a total of 70 miles run over three days. The winner is the team that has the cumulative fastest time of the weekend. The race was first run in 1946. The 2017 race will be the 71st running, making the Open North American the oldest continuously run sled dog race of any kind in the world. Come join us during our winter carnival to celebrate our state sport and its long heritage in the Far North. NOTE: The race is a three day event that starts on Friday, the 17th and continues on both Saturday the 18th (the first day of our program) and Sunday the 19th. On Sunday we will watch start of the race in downtown Fairbanks and then get on a bus to watch the race as they run full out across the landscape. We always encourage people to come up to Fairbanks a day early to combat jet lag--Fairbanks is far away from most any where and for most people is a pretty long trip. In this program, if you come up a day early you also get to see more of the race and the winter carnival downtown events.
Dinner: In this program, we usually eat at local restaurants. We generally order off the menu. There will be some sack lunches and pizza dinners in the hotel dining area such as when we are returning from the arctic and can't be sure of our arrival time.
Breakfast: Breakfast in hotel dining area
Morning: Board bus for the Morris Thompson Center. Class: Trapping in Alaska. Trapping has always been a part of winter in Alaska. It's a chance to make some money when many of our jobs have closed down for the season. It also gives a person another reason for getting out of the house and into the beautiful winter landscape. For many people it's a long time family tradition, learned from parents or grandparents who had always trapped, so trapping is part of their cultural heritage. Learn about the history of trapping, why people trap and what the furs are used for. Examples of furs will be on hand for people to hold and examine. Class: "Life in Fairbanks", discussion of economy, demographics, wages, costs, schools, health care, police and fire protection, and the logistics of daily living in a place with a temperature range from 99 above to 68 below.
Lunch: Lunch with Denakkanaaga Elders and staff
Afternoon: Field trip to the University of Alaska Museum of the North. The museum is a world renowned circumpolar research center with extensive collections and information gathered from current and past scientific expeditions in Alaska, America's only arctic state. The museum offers exhibits on Native culture, post-contact history, geology, fauna, flora, the gold rush, the pipeline, the Aurora, plus rotating art and photo exhibits, all housed in a beautiful and striking architectural gem.
Dinner: Dinner in restaurant
Evening: Evening field trip to the internationally famous World Ice Art Championship. This competition draws artists from all over the world, come to create exquisite, sometimes larger than life size ice sculptures that can be viewed in natural light during the day and also at night, when colored lights are played upon them. It is a truly fantastic experience to walk through the woods at night, among such beautifully wrought, colorfully displayed, and poignantly ephemeral works of art. Check out their web site at http://www.icealaska.com We will offer field trips to the Ice Art Park most nights
Breakfast: Breakfast in hotel dining room. After breakfast, we will board the bus for Coldfoot, 250 miles north of Fairbanks and 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle. We travel slowly and take a number of breaks to use outhouses and stretch our legs. It takes us approximately 9-10 hours to get from Fairbanks to Coldfoot. IMPORTANT NOTE: ONCE WE ARE ON THE ROAD, THERE ARE ONLY OUTHOUSES, NO FLUSHING TOILETS UNTIL WE REACH COLDFOOT
Lunch: Sack lunch on the road as we drive up to Coldfoot
Afternoon: Continue our drive to Coldfoot
Dinner: Dinner at Coldfoot Truck Stop
Evening: Coldfoot is a premier place for watching the aurora. We will have sign up sheets every evening for people who want to be woken up to see the northern lights if they are present and the night is clear.The Coldfoot schedule is created by the folks in Coldfoot. They always plan the classes and field trips for us. The schedule might change from day to day as people either arrive to or leave Coldfoot. In the Arctic, schedules are always flexible documents. Usually we have lectures in the morning and sometimes in the evening. The afternoon is usually dedicated to field trips and experiences, such as riding on a dog sled
Morning: NOTE: Coldfoot exists because there was a need for a restaurant/hotel in the 500 mile pipeline road stretch between Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay. The lecturers for this portion of the program are all locals who have jobs that must be worked around to create time to talk with us. We therefore have to be prepared to be very flexible with the scheduling in Coldfoot. It is not unusual for the schedule to change daily as some people show up in Coldfoot unexpectedly, and some people, like the Gates of the Arctic National Park ranger for example, may be suddenly called away to do some work in another area. We will try our best to have the content we propose here, but we cannot guarantee it. In Coldfoot, we have always had a variety of lecturers. We like to give everyone who has some expertise a chance to speak with our participants. We actually now have more lecturers than we can fit into one program. So while we may not have exactly what we list here, we will have a very locally oriented program offering diversified information and interests. The vast bulk of our Coldfoot surprises have been pleasant ones. Coldfoot is a premier place for watching the aurora. We will have sign up sheets every evening for people who want to be woken up to see the northern lights if they are present and the night is clear.The Coldfoot schedule is created by the folks in Coldfoot. They always plan the classes and field trips for us. The schedule might change from day to day as people either arrive to or leave Colfoot. In the Arctic, schedules are always flexible documents. Usually we have lectures in the morning and sometimes in the evening. The afternoon is usually dedicated to field trips and experiences, such as riding on a dog sled or snow shoe hiking.
Lunch: Lunch in Coldfoot
Afternoon: During our stay in Coldfoot, we will split into three groups that will rotate their afternoon activities of dog sled ride, Coldfoot historic walk, and a short snowshoe hike. We walk to the Coldfoot kennel where you are invited to hop into the "basket" and take a ride on a dog sled with an experienced musher guiding the team from the back of the sled. We take a snow shoe hike through the nearby woods. If after the first few minutes you find out snowshoeing is not for you, you may easily step out of the woods and onto the parking lot to return to your room or to the restaurant. The third activity is a short van tour of the various transformations of Coldfoot. We drive to the original early 1900's site of Gold Rush Coldfoot. There are no remains, since the cabins were "cannibalized" and moved to Wiseman and Nolan when the gold rush boom boomed away, in search of richer gold deposits. But various activity areas of early Coldfoot will be pointed out and discussed. We move on to the mid 1970's site of the Alaska Pipeline Coldfoot construction camp. The only thing left of the camp is the airfield which is still in use and which has a small air carrier office and airplanes on site. The "barracks" for the pipeline workers were moved to the present day Coldfoot truck stop. They have been modified and spruced up some and these are the facilities in which we live while we are up there.
Dinner: Dinner in Coldfoot.
Evening: NOTE: Coldfoot exists because there was a need for a restaurant/hotel in the 500 mile pipeline road stretch between Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay. The lecturers for this portion of the program are all locals who have jobs that must be worked around to create time to talk with us. We therefore have to be prepared to be very flexible with the scheduling in Coldfoot. It is not unusual for the schedule to change daily as some people show up in Coldfoot unexpectedly, and some people, like the Gates of the Arctic National Park Ranger for example, may be suddenly called away to do some work in another area. We will try our best to have the content we propose here, but we cannot guarantee it. In Coldfoot, we have always had a variety of lecturers. We like to give everyone who has some expertise a chance to speak with our participants. We actually now have more lecturers than we can fit into one program. So while we may not have exactly what we list here, we will have a very locally oriented program offering diversified information and interests. The vast bulk of our Coldfoot surprises have been pleasant ones. Coldfoot is a premier place for watching the aurora. We will have sign up sheets every evening for people who want to be woken up to see the northern lights if they are present and the night is clear.
Morning: Most mornings we will have presentations with various locals regarding their lives in the Arctic. We always have classes on the history of Coldfoot and on the role of dogs and sleds in Alaska, from historical times to today. We will also have presentations from various people who work in the Arctic winter and summer. It all depends upon who is in Coldfoot when we are and who has time to spend with us.
Lunch: Lunch at Coldfoot
Afternoon: Field trip rotations
Breakfast: Breakfast at Coldfoot.
Morning: All day Arctic Safari with experienced guides into the heart of the Brooks Range, the northernmost mountain range in the United States. Summit Atigun Pass, the only pass through the range that allows access to the North Slope for the Dalton Highway and the Alaska oil pipeline. This is a rare opportunity to drive through and enjoy the majesty of the Arctic mountain terrain when it's wearing its beautiful, awe-inspiring, brilliantly white winter "clothing".
Lunch: Picnic lunch on the road
Afternoon: Continue Arctic Safari, return to Coldfoot.
Dinner: Dinner at Coldfoot.
Breakfast: Breakfast in Coldfoot.
Morning: Presentation by a Gates of the Arctic National Park Ranger on the ecology of the Brooks Range
Lunch: Lunch in Coldfoot.
Afternoon: Field trip to the historic town of Wiseman, 15 miles away from Coldfoot. Wiseman started life as a gold rush town when thousands of people stampeded into the Koyukuk River drainage searching for gold. Today Wiseman has a population of about 15 people. Visit with some of the people of Wiseman and learn about their subsistence life style, hunting, trapping and building their own log homes.
Dinner: Our final dinner at the Coldfoot Truck Stop
Breakfast: Breakfast at Coldfoot.
Morning: Depart for all day drive back to Fairbanks
Lunch: Sack lunch on the road
Afternoon: Continue drive to Fairbanks
Dinner: Pizza dinner in the hotel breakfast area shortly after we arrive and get settled into our rooms.
Breakfast: Breakfast at Springhill Suites
Morning: Board bus for a field trip to the University of Alaska Large Animal Research Station. We will have a presentation on the musk oxen, caribou and reindeer that live at the station. These two species often share the same environment but have developed radically different responses to survive the deep winter temperatures of Alaska.
Afternoon: Famous for the Iditarod, dog mushing is Alaska’s state sport. Learn about the joy of traveling by dog sled at Mary Shields' house and kennel. Mary was the first woman to finish the Iditarod. And she hasn’t stopped running since. Mary also raced in the Yukon Quest, Alaska's other, but much less well known thousand mile sled dog race that runs between Fairbanks and Whitehorse in the Yukon—during the coldest time of the year. Mary also took part in a good will Siberian/Alaskan friendship race in Siberia. She will also talk about the joy of just being out in the Alaska wilderness, winter camping with her dogs. We’ll hear inside stories highlighting techniques behind the sport and about preparation, strategies while racing, and odd behaviors that some mushers display. Gain a unique perspective about the ecology of the Arctic and Alaskan Interior as seen from the back of a dog sled.
Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant
Morning: Field trip to the Morris Thompson Cultural Center to visit with Native Elders and hear their personal life histories on growing up in the villages of Alaska and the changes that World War 2 and statehood brought to them.
Afternoon: Field trip to the Ice Art Park
Dinner: Graduation dinner
Evening: Field trip to the Ice Art Park
Morning: Program ends after breakfast