Sunday we headed out of town about 60 miles to the Chena Hot Springs Resort. Many people have repeated that this was a must see if you come to Alaska. Not only do they have the hot springs that you can dip into (if you dare), but they also have an ice museum. This sounded like a pretty cool outing and it did not disappoint.
On the way there we saw a lot more of the beautiful Alaskan country. We even stopped along the way at a park site (closed for the season) and snapped some photos. There was a river there and you could actually see some of the running water. It looked absolutely beautiful next to the ice and snow. The trip was a lot longer than you might expect. You see the highways here aren’t really normal highways in the winter. They’re more like snow-ways. Unless the portion of highway you are traveling on sees a lot of traffic then chances are you won’t be able to see the road. For the most part the highway had a worn spot down the center where you could kind of make out the center line. To either side though the snow got deeper and deeper. So as you can imagine you have to slow down quite a bit when cars are coming the opposite direction. Of course I think a lot of the natives here are used to this and so they don’t slow down or even move over that much. Thanks!
When we got to Chena Hot Springs we checked out the pool facilities first. We could have paid a little and gotten to swim in either a) the indoor pool (fed by the springs), b) the indoor hot tubs or c) the outdoor hot springs pools. What!? Yes. There were actually people that got into their swimming gear and walked outside to get into the springs. Crazy. Needless to say neither one of us wanted to brave that. It actually hurt to be outside WITH my clothes on so I couldn’t imagine doing that. We headed instead outside to take a few photos and then on to the restaurant. It was nice and rustic looking and the food was ok. Not really spectacular for the price, but there weren’t exactly any other options around.
Finally we made it over to the activities building and booked our tickets for the tour of the Aurora Ice Museum. This is actually the world’s only year-round ice museum. Pretty cool (ha ha). We had to wait outside for the tourguide to get there. Nice. When we got inside though I was pretty impressed. You can read a lot about the specifics on their website, but I can tell you personally that it is really amazing what they have done with ice. The most impressive to me was the sculpture of the two mounted knights jousting. There were of course four rooms that you could actually book a stay in at… cough… $500 US per night. No thanks. They of course had an ice sculpted bar complete with stools topped by caribou fur. And if you paid for it (we did) you get to the end the tour by sipping an apple martini at the bar that’s served in a hand carved ice glass. Unfortunately the cold (and coffee from lunch) got to me and I had to take care of some bodily business. So instead of sipping my martini I pretty much threw it back like a sailor and cold-tailed it out of there.
Of course when I got outside it was even colder than inside and so my trot became a gallop as I made my way to the first available facilities… an outhouse. What’s the deal with outhouses in Alaska? Anyway, this is the second time I’ve gotten to use one here, but this time it was much colder outside. How much colder? It was around -30°F that day. Yep. Cold… really cold. After that we got into the car and headed back to Fairbanks. We’d had enough for the day.