Experience Alaskan Comfort at this B&B

What then is frontier? That forgotten country where men and women live with and by and for the land, in self-reliant communities of mutual aid, in a spirit of independence, magnanimity, and trust. — Edward Abbey

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We have written before about the tight knit, quirky, and welcoming community that is Fairbanks, but the above quote exemplifies not only Alaska as a whole, but fits Fairbanks perfectly. If you’re looking to experience beautiful, independent, and shear wonder that the Fairbanks community is in the summer time, you’ll need a prime place to stay.

Fairbanks isn’t short on hotels and bed & breakfasts, but you will be hard pressed to find a more comfortable and stunning place than the Alaska Viewpoint Lodge. Tucked away on Chena Ridge, overlooking the sprawling expanse of the Tanana Basin, you couldn’t ask for a better place to relax with a cup of tea and just simply take in the grandness of Alaska.

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Five rooms are available, all but one with its own private bathroom. The king-bed suite even has a luxurious jacuzzi tub! Breakfasts are served daily and they will happily accommodate any dietary restrictions you may have.

If you book a room with Alaska Viewpoint Lodge this summer, make sure to ask about discounts.  They offer military, senior, Alaska resident, and teacher discounts.

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With a perfect rating on Trip Advisor, past guests can’t praise it enough. “It’s like staying at a friend’s house,” one guest from Anchorage, wrote.  “Breakfast is ready when you are. The room is comfortable and private. The house is located close to town with a beautiful view (of) Denali and the surrounding mountains. This arrangement is closer to a bed and breakfast than a lodge. Will happily stay again when traveling in the area.”

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Travel the Dalton Highway

The allure of leaving the rest of the world behind and losing yourself (hopefully not literally) in the middle of nowhere is what draws many people to Alaska.  Not everyone however, is cut out for back country hiking and camping in the untamed wilderness. There is another option to see the Alaskan wilderness and that is by car. Sure you can see a sliver of Alaska from well traveled roads, like the Parks Highway and the Seward Highway.  These roads have more towns that offer services along the way. The Dalton Highway, or sometimes referred to as the ‘Haul Road,’ is more of a rugged challenge.

The Dalton Highway snakes its way through the Brooks Mountain Range.
The Dalton Highway snakes its way through the Brooks Mountain Range.

The Dalton Highway is remote and there are really only three places long the 414 mile road to fill up your gas tank: the Yukon River Camp, Coldfoot, and Deadhorse. I know, the last two are pretty ominous names for a town. None of these places are actually proper towns, though people do live there if only seasonally.  The Yukon River Camp and Coldfoot are operated by Northern Alaska Tour Company, and it is the only place along the road where you can get a bite to eat, fill up your gas tank, rent a room for the evening, and even pick up a souvenir or two.  Accommodations are comprised of the ever versatile atco unit.  It may be rustic, but it sure beats sleeping outside with the mosquitoes!

Just north of Coldfoot is an established community called, Wiseman.  You can find actual log built rooms here if you want more charm than an atco unit, but the town is exactly what you’d expect for the location. This quite, rustic, and remote town didn’t even connect to the main road until 1990’s and in the 2010 census had a total population of 14.  If you want to relax in a piece of real Alaska, this is the place to do it.

The General Store in Wiseman, Alaska.
The General Store in Wiseman, Alaska.

The Dalton Highway is always in some state of construction during the summer time.  Many pieces of the highway are still just gravel with extremely soft shoulders.  It is advisable that you carry at least two spare tires with you if you venture down the road, and a CB radio is a good idea as well.  This road is first and foremost for the truckers.  Carrying supplies up to the North Slope for the oil workers is their job, and some aren’t too thrilled with slow moving tourists getting in their way, especially on some of the more steep and dangerous passes that can only safely allow one vehicle going up or down at a time. Listening to the radio chatter is not only entertaining, it will keep you safe and in one piece.

If your rental car isn’t up to the challenge of the Dalton Highway (and most likely it isn’t since most car rental agencies forbid the use of their cars on any gravel roads), there is one company you can rent a fully outfitted car complete with spares and a radio.  Or you can always let someone else do the driving for you on a Dalton Highway shuttle.  Think of it as a glorified taxi service in the middle of nowhere.  Use your bathroom stops wisely, there aren’t many available!

The final destination of most Dalton Highway travelers is Deadhorse.  This is the temporary oil worker town set up in Prudhoe Bay, which is also made up of atco units, easy to break down and move when the oil runs out. There isn’t much to do here, but the big draw is seeing the Arctic Ocean.  Of course you can’t actually see the Arctic Ocean without a booked tour, given you have to cross the oil fields to get there and security is kind of tight. But dipping your toe into an ocean many people never get to see, is well worth the adventure!

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Life in Alaska: the Yukon Quest

Many regions of the United States have their particular sport they are obsessed with.  Mostly it is football, baseball, or in the more colder states, hockey.  Alaska however, has a love affair with dog mushing.  Of course most people have heard of the Iditarod, the world famous sled dog race from Willow, Alaska to Nome that in part commemorates the 1925 diptheria serum run to Nome from Nenana.  There is one other epic sled dog race that isn’t as widely known outside of mushing circles, but is just as grueling–if not more so–than the Iditarod, and that is the Yukon Quest.

The finish line at the 2012 Yukon Quest in Fairbanks. Look at those happy pups!  Image courtesy of akjlophoto.com
The finish line at the 2012 Yukon Quest in Fairbanks. Look at those happy pups! Image courtesy of akjlophoto.com

The Yukon Quest started in 1984 and runs every year in February between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon Territories, Canada.  Mushing athletes compete across a 1,000 mile trail following the historic Klondike Gold Rush transportation routes.  There are fewer checkpoints in this race than the Iditarod, only 10 compared to the Iditarod’s 22, which makes the Yukon Quest a true test of the survival skills of the musher and the strength and determination of her dog team.

As with most competitions that happen in Alaska, the idea was dreamed up out of a–well, maybe not a drunken discussion but a discussion over beers for sure. The desire to have a race that tested more raw survival skills was strong. This year will mark the 33rd year of the race which will start on February 4, in Whitehorse and finish in Fairbanks.  It takes teams between 10 and 20 days to finish the race, often through difficult conditions like blizzards and temperatures as low as -60F.

The atmosphere in the two participating cities is truly one of celebration.  The fanfare at the start and finish of the race is impressive with people even showing up when temperatures dip to -40F.  Following updates on the radio and newspaper, people crave stories from the trail, and after taking a moment to listen to these stories it is understandable as to why.  Mushing is exciting and the Yukon Quest has to be one of the most exciting sled dog races in existence.

5 Winter Running Events You Should Be Braving

If you know anyone in Alaska, especially Fairbanks, you’ve heard them complain loudly about the frigid temperatures this week.  You know when an Alaskan complains about the cold, it is some serious business!  With temperatures in the interior down to -50F and at some places even colder, it really is something to complain about.  Most people stay inside near their heater or fire when the weather gets this cold, but there is an intrepid bunch of die hard athletes that venture out in every kind of weather just to go for a run.

In fact, there are running events held all year in Alaska, and in places like Fairbanks it is a steadfast tradition that will never die.  There are racing events held every weekend, but we’ve complied a list of some of the most challenging and most fun winter running events.  Are you brave enough to try one of these out?

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Winter sports bring the hazard of freezing everything, including your face. Best to protect it with a beard while running. Image courtesy of Jesse Davis Images.

 

  1. Susitna 100 – This race will really test your grit!  Held in mid February along snow-packed snow machine and sled dog trails, this race is 100 miles through the frozen wilderness of the Susitna River Valley.  You have the option to run, ski, or bike and there is also a 50K race if you aren’t up for 100 miles.  To top it all off, you’re not just propelling yourself forward through the tundra, but all your gear as well.  48 hours to complete means that you will be pulling along a sled filled with the gear you’ll need to survive. You are your own happy little sled dog!
  2. White Mountains 100 – Maybe the Susitna 100 is too far south and you really want to freeze some toes off.  Well, we have you covered with the White Mountains 100, another 100 miler that you can run, ski, or bike. This race traverses the White Mountains north of Fairbanks. Held in late March and in it’s 8th iteration, this race is not for the faint of heart!
  3. George Bloom Memorial Midday Sun Fun Run – Most people rarely use the words fun and run in the same sentence, especially regarding winter running.  This run however is more our style.  Held mid December in Fairbanks, this run is a leisurely 6.5 miles that loops around the University of Alaska Fairbanks through rolling hills that snake through communities of cozy cabins filled with people staying warm, not running and freezing their eyelashes to brittle icicles. This run is free and a favorite among locals, but the warning that the race is run “regardless of temperature” has us a little suspicious and shivering already.

    How about a fun run through the snow?  Image courtesy of Colleen Sackinger.
    How about a fun run through the snow? Image courtesy of Colleen Sackinger.
  4. St. Patrick’s Day Run – Another Fairbanks ‘fun run’ favorite is the St. Patrick’s Day Run.  Obviously this run is held on a weekend closest to St. Patrick’s Day, so the weather is a bit warmer, usually.  It isn’t unheard of to still get snaps of -30F even in March, but lately temperatures in March are bearable. So grab your green tutu and run a cheery 7.1 miles through snowy trails and make sure to reward yourself with a beer afterward!
  5. Training Sessions – You don’t need an official race to go run in the cold!  The Running Club North in Fairbanks has a couple on going training sessions you can torture–I mean reward–yourself with all winter long.  The ‘Fahrenheit Be Darned’ group meets on Wednesdays to train through all sorts of winter conditions. -40F?  Ice fog? Ice?!  No problem, they got this!  If you need more of a carrot to get you moving out into the cold, the Hoodoo Goldstream Beer Runs are held every Thursday through the winter.  1 to 3 miles and the promise of a tasty beer afterwards?  We are in!

3 Weirdly Alaskan Places You Need to Stay

Alaska is nothing if not unique.  Places like the Doctor Seuss house and events like the Talkeetna Moose Dropping Festival really speak to the quirky nature of Alaska and its residents. Though, if you live in a climate that spends nine months out of the year in dark sub-zero conditions then you need to have a sense of humor just to survive. We have put together a list of three places to stay that don’t take themselves too seriously and we love them for that!

 

  1. The Bork Zoo-Retro 60’s Feather and Fur – If you love 60’s architecture, animals, and fun eccentric hosts then this is the airbnb for you!  Mike Bork and his wife rent out their fully finished basement to travelers looking for a more local feel when visiting Fairbanks.  Full of wood paneling and stone work, plus a fully stocked wet bar, this place will transport you to a time of rabbit ear TVs and beehive hairdos.  The Bork Zoo is aptly named, they practically have a full (albeit strange) mushing team with four dogs, four parrots, and an outdoor cat named Bacon. But the hosts are really the reason you should stay here.  Mike not only sings and plays the ukulele, but is also a balloon artist, laugh therapist, and a pretty decent chef. If you want a local flavor of Fairbanks, this is the place to stay!

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  2. Burly Man Bunkhouse – This bunkhouse brings to mind a popular saying in Alaska pertaining to the once heavily skewed ratio of men to women, and while the number of men no longer overtakes the women, the sentiment is still appealing. You want to find a husband in Alaska?  Well, the odds are good, but the goods are odd!  The Burly Man Bunkhouse in Seward embodies this wholeheartedly! This cozy cabin in the woods is decked out in full color portraits of rugged Alaskan men in nothing more than their birthday suits doing manly things like hiking in the snow, playing the guitar in a serene field, fishing, and even horseback riding (yeah that made us cringe too!).  This place will satisfy your desire for a quiet Alaskan getaway and the added bonus of some delightful eye candy.
  3. Skinny Dick’s Halfway Inn – You’ll know you’re at the right place by the cutout of two uncomfortable looking humping bears proudly displayed out front. Yes, Alaskans have a bawdy sense of humor.  What can we say?  It gets us through those frostbitten -40F nights (and days).  Skinny Dick’s was once a saw mill in the 50s.  The story goes that the sawmill was bough in 1969 and remodeled into a bar called the Halfway House due to it’s location halfway between Fairbanks and Nenana.  The bar was sold in the 80s to Richard “Skinny” Hiland who renamed the place Skinny Dick’s Halfway Inn.  If you want that local bar feeling with the added bonus of purchasing a rude t-shirt with humping polar bears, this place is a win!

5 Alaskan Musicians You Should Be Listening To Right Now

Music is ingrained in our daily lives and yet it is staggering how many talented artists we never get the opportunity to hear.  At Alaska Cache Box we love discovering new music and sharing it with others.  Alaska is a hot bed of creative talent and the music scene is as vast and varied as the state itself.  Below you’ll find a short list, in no particular order, of some Alaskan musicians we think you’ll enjoy.

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  1. Blackwater Railroad Company – If you want the feel of Alaskan life in music form, Blackwater Railroad Company does the trick.  This band from Seward encompasses that Folk/Rock sound that Alaskans can’t get enough of.  But this band doesn’t stop at sharing their musical talent, they also created a ‘music lending library’ that allows children in their community to play instruments they wouldn’t otherwise have the ability to play. We love bands that give back to the community!
  2. Marian Call – This singer/song writer from Juneau is truly one of a kind.  She pairs her smooth vocals with unique accompaniment and subject matter.  It isn’t uncommon for her to bust out a beat on an old fashioned typewriter or sing about geek culture with tributes to Firefly and Battlestar Galactica. Her songs are deep rooted in the human experience but with a fun side too!
  3. Pamyua – Pamyua (pronounced bum-yo-ah) is a Yup’ik Inuit word meaning ‘encore’ or ‘do it again’, and you will be screaming ‘encore’ after every Pamyua performance.  This group is best described as Inuit soul music, mixing traditional Alaskan Native rhythms and song with R&B style vocals.  You’ve never heard anything like this, it is a treat for your ears!
  4. Emma Hill – Nicknamed the ‘Sleetmute Sweetheart’, we first heard Emma Hill perform at a small coffeehouse in Fairbanks.  She blew us away with her range and heartfelt personal lyrics.  Best described as Folk/Americana, Hill captures that Alaskan feel perfectly.
  5. Hannah Yoter Band – This new band just released their first album in November, 2016 and they are truly a group to keep your eye on!  Originally from the rural town of Hope, Hannah Yoter’s vocals are soothing and easy to get lost in. The band’s sound sits somewhere between Americana and Classic Country.We hope you enjoy our favorite musicians.  Tell us in the comments who your favorite Alaskan artists/bands are!

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Find Alaskan Gifts All Year!

We encourage people to keep Alaskan gifts in mind all year, not just on the holidays.  Alaska Cache Box brings you unique Alaskan products every three months, but you can discover fun Alaskan made items elsewhere too.  We have started a list of some of the products and websites we love and have featured in Alaska Cache Box.  Take a moment and visit these wonderful artists and businesses.

So many fun items in an Alaska Cache Box!
So many fun items in an Alaska Cache Box!

Artists

Brianna Regan

Ellen Million

Kristen Hendricks

Sean Kurdziolek Photography

Trickster Company

Ugly Mugs

William Corey

Authors

Kaylene Johnson

Breweries & Distilleries

Anchorage Distillery 

Clothing & Accessories

907 Clothing Company

Meet me In Alaska

Crafts

Backwoods Leather Stitchings

True North Project

Whimsy Paper and Books

Food

Copper River Seafoods

Indian Valley Meats

Moosetard

Sipping Streams Tea Co.

Skin Care

Alaska Soaps & Scents

ArXotica

Boreal Winds

Ever After Me

Salmonberry Origins

Music

Marian Call

Pet Supplies

Ruby Snacks

Publications

Last Frontier Magazine 

Life in Alaska: Winter Solstice

The changing of the seasons is very important in Alaska. Weather can be extreme in the state, to say the least. Temperatures in the interior can get as cold as sixty degrees below zero Fahrenheit (without wind chill) in the winter and as hot as ninety degrees above zero Fahrenheit in summer. In a lot of the state, snow is on the ground more months than it’s not. This makes the changing of the seasons very important to Alaskans.

On a clear night, winter solstice is a great time to watch for the Aurora.
On a clear night, winter solstice is a great time to watch for the Aurora.

Winter solstice marks the point in the year where the day is at its shortest and the night is at its longest. It typically occurs around December 21st in North America. Winter solstice is important to Alaskans because it marks the return of summer, the return of long days and the promise of warmer weather. Utqiaġvik (formally known as Barrow), Alaska survives in 67 days of darkness during the winter months. Following winter solstice, Utqiaġvik gains almost 9 minutes of daylight. Fairbanks gains about 7 minutes and Anchorage gains around 6 minutes. That gain in daylight happens until the summer solstice.

Fairbanks, Alaska is called the “Land of the Midnight Sun.” Because Fairbanks is below the arctic circle it has almost but not quite 24 hours of sunlight leading up to the summer solstice. Contrary to the winter solstice, the summer solstice is the point in the year where the day is the longest and the night is the shortest. Communities above the arctic circle, like Utqiaġvik, experience almost 90 days of continual sunlight. A common saying that goes around the state is that Alaska plays hard during the summer months to make up for the dark and cold during the winter months. Many people will misjudge the time due to the amount of daylight. Much to the consternation of many Alaskans (and tourists), the constant sunlight during the months of summer also means that the sky is not dark enough to see the aurora borealis.

There are many festivals and activities that mark the coming of winter and summer solstice. In Fairbanks is the Midnight Sun Run, where runners dress up in costumes and run a 10 kilometer race under the midnight sun. Winter is celebrated with bonfires and a parade of lights all during the month of December in Talkeetna, Alaska. The coming of spring is celebrated in Alaska as well as Anchorage hosts its annual Fur Rondy. And Dillingham hosts the Beaver Roundup. No matter which time of year is preferred, there is always plenty to celebrate in the long summer or short winter days in Alaska.

If you can’t enjoy the solstice festivals in Alaska, let us bring Alaska to you!  Order an Alaska Cache Box and get unique Alaskan gifts sent to you every three months.

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Business Spotlight: Meet me In Alaska

One thing we love at Alaska Cache Box is working with brand new small businesses.  It is our goal to help expand the reach of the small Alaskan businesses we work with and in turn help you discover new and exciting products. Today we’d like to introduce you to Meet me In Alaska, a clothing company in Juneau, Alaska. We are featuring them in our December boxes and they offer a variety of clothing and accessory products.  Read on to learn more about Meet me In Alaska.

 

Visit Alaska? Just go.
Visit Alaska? Just go.

 

Describe your business; how long have you been operating?

Meet me In Alaska is a relatively young business, having started with the idea in January 2016 and going live in April 2016. We are located in Juneau, Alaska.

Kelsey, the owner and operator, was born and raised in Alaska and her love for Alaska runs deep. Her parents met in Alaska, and she also met her husband in Alaska, so “Meet me In Alaska” has been years in the making.  Kelsey created Meet me In Alaska to highlight the adventurous, fun, romantic, and wild side of our wonderful state!

What is unique about your product or artwork?

The advantages of being an artist is that each day there is a new opportunity for fresh ideas to bloom. Kelsey often doesn’t follow a strict business plan on her inventory. She creates new products almost weekly and does artwork for her business daily. Follow them on Facebook to see what new and original inventory they will come up with next!

What product would you recommend as the best gift for the holidays?

Everything in Meet me In Alaska’s inventory is designed to be the perfect gift for any person that truly loves Alaska. The most personal item would be a commissioned work of art (canvas, tote, mug, etc). The best products available for shipping today are the Alaska-themed coloring books and baby onesies! Their clothing is always changing and often times only a limited amount is available. Snatch them up when you have a chance because they may be gone tomorrow 😉

If a first time visitor to Alaska could only visit one place in the state, where would you recommend they visit?

Beautiful Sitka by the Sea!

What do you love most about Alaska?

There are WAY too many things to list about Alaska that we love. Here are a few to get the ball rolling…Alaska is mysterious, exciting, breathtaking, wild, liberal, easy-going, multi-cultural, romantic, and downright amazing!!! We are thrilled to call this wonderful state our home.

Anything more you’d like to add?

Please check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/MeetmeInAlaska. We are currently working on designing and opening a website. Stay tuned!!!

You can also contact us at- meetmein907@gmail.com or by calling 907-738-1414.

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