Alaska

Chena Hot Springs

Hot springs shore

Ash and Patti offered to bring me and my stuff up to Fairbanks because they’d been considering a trip up to Chena Hot Springs anyway. I found the idea quite pleasing — not only is Patti’s car much younger and in much better shape than Dad’s car (he’d offered to drive me up, as well), spending the night at Chena with Ash and Patti sounded like great fun.

And it was. The road trip up was considerably less exciting than the one we took to Juneau, of course. Not only have all three of us previously traveled this road on numerous occasions, none of us are particularly fond of Fairbanks and Ash turned out not to be in the mood for a road trip anyway.

The Hot Lake and Pumps

This is the first time any of us have been to Chena when grass was visible. Usually we go in winter, when the place is blanketed in snow and the only green is on the pine trees. When we decided to take our first break from the hot springs, we explored the grounds.

A fence: please no swimming. You can see from the steam this water is too hot.
A fence: please no swimming. You can see from the steam this water is too hot.

The pools they allow guests to bathe in are all constructed. The water is pumped in from a few dozen feet away. The pool pictured above is the hottest one — hot enough that they fence it off and tell you to stay away.

A log and other crap on top of the water
A log and other crap on top of the water.
Hoses pulling water to the buildings
Hoses pulling water to the buildings.

This doesn’t bother me, though. With the strange… stuff… floating in the natural pools, I’m kinda glad they pump it in. I assume the stuff isn’t toxic — after all, it would probably make the water toxic if it were — but it’s creepy. The idea of touching the stuff is unappealing, though the random log floating in one pool was interesting.

Pumps for hot and cold water coming together
Pumps for hot and cold water coming together.

When we wandered outside some of the normal touristy areas, we got to see some of the workings of the place. There were pipes and tubing scattered about, some half buried or wrapped in insulation. The tubes pictured above are running to their ice museum, a year-round attraction they keep up but to which I’ve never gone. The building is made of ice, and they use hot water from the springs to keep it cool. They have an explanation about how it works in one of the main buildings, but I’ve forgotten the details. It’s pretty cool, though.

Would you like to see their pump in action?

Growing Veggies

They also grow vegetables in a fenced-off area near the source pools. (This picture was taken with my camera held over the fence.) They sell some of their vegetables in one of the main buildings. I’ve heard since the school year started that their vegetables are quite delicious, but I did not buy any.

Rusty Stuff

There are also a number of rusty things laying about and gradually being overcome by plants. Some have obviously been set into place for display, but others seem to be kind of lying where they were left.

On to School

We availed ourselves of the hot springs again after wandering around, then went to bed. As soon as they opened back up in the morning, we went straight back in; we were the first ones there, with no one else showing up until we were about ready to leave.

For breakfast, we hit up Sourdough Sam’s Cafe. Then we drove to campus. Since I arrived on the same day as all the freshmen, there were volunteers standing around to help carry stuff inside, so my stuff got brought in in record time. One fellow, who speaks English as his second language, accidentally sent a few of my boxes to the right room number in the wrong building, but aside from that hitch, it was the fastest I’ve ever settled into the dorms. I had everything unpacked and put away that same day, since I wasn’t fatigued from carrying everything in.

Of course, I moved to a different room less than a week later to secure myself a good roommate. I’ve met quite a few nice people in the elevators.

More pictures of the Chena Hot Springs Resort can be found in their own set on Flickr, and my main photostream has some pictures I’ve taken of UAF since I got here, too.

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