7/22/2014 – 176 mi – Moto Ak Fairbanks
On the way into Fairbanks, we caught our first oil pipeline sighting, and tried to estimate in dollars how much oil was in the pipeline at any given time. We figure it must be on the order of half a billion dollars.
The view from a little further up the road:
This is as touristy as Kevin was willing to get in North Pole AK (he was willing to stop for a pic in front of the visitor center and so I could use the restroom, and then we booked it out of there).
In Fairbanks, we headed over to the Large Animal Research Station. The guided tour provides an education on musk ox, caribou, and reindeer, and the location has a few animals in fenced pasture for viewing and photos. The tour is provided by a grad student at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. We decided it was pretty interesting, and a neat opportunity to get close to live animals.
Musk Oxen are pretty incredible. The tour showed these amazing thermal images taken at 40 below, and only a bit of the animals faces and legs showed any heat at all (surface temperatures of the warm parts were still 20 below). Musk Oxen have the recognizable long outer coat, but the real insulation is their amazing undercoat, a fiber called qiviut. Qiviut is very soft, warmer than wool, and I’ve decided I want a knit cap and base layers made of the stuff, except that the fiber is far, far too expensive. Some work is being done to breed domestic Musk Oxen, but for now, the qiviut must be combed out or collected in the spring as it is shed, and can’t be sheared like sheep. Musk Oxen can only live in very northern climates, and they aren’t especially domesticated or easy to keep. The combination of limited habitat, lack of domestication and labor intensive harvesting of the fiber means the supply of qiviut is very low. Thus, the price for Qiviut is something like $30/oz. A qiviut sweater costs thousands. The gift shop had yarn for sale cut with cashmere to make it cheaper. Oh well. Maybe someday I can have qiviut base layers like my Smartwool stuff, but not any time soon. It’s so damn cold up here, I would wear qiviut clothing all the time.
I also learned (or probably re-learned) that reindeer are essentially domesticated caribou. I had just never thought about it before, but reindeer really are a sub-species of caribou, a bit like dogs vs. wolves, but still very closely related.
Headed north late in the afternoon to camp at the Chena Hot Springs resort for a couple of nights. Saw this moose from the side of the road on the way in.
While eating dinner at our campsite in Chena Hot Springs, a female moose wandered through the campground, but wasn’t interested in letting me get too close for pictures.