Angel Rocks To Chena Hot Springs

It’s been good landing in Fairbanks for a spell and visiting my friend Sven, helping out around his hostel in town and dog mushing business north of town. Cutting trees, working on a new hostel sign, fixing old bicycles, and generally goofing off have occupied most of my time here. Riding the bike around the outskirts of town and out on the wonderful dirt trails of the University of Alaska campus has also been a source of fond memories and joy. Sven’s crew this year consists of mostly Swiss folks over to visit Alaska for the summer and it has been good to converse with all of them regarding exploration and adventure, art and creativity, travel and culture. Working hard is also a daily routine with running the hostel and caring for 30 tour dogs and the various construction projects that always seems so present.

After a long (and hot week, Sven suggests we all go for a nice semi strenuous hike about an hour drive from Fairbanks. So, the following day we pile into a couple of vehicles and head out the Chena Hot Springs road toward the Angel Rocks trailhead after dropping one of the cars at Chena Hot Springs. The idea is to hike to Angel Rocks, up the nearby tundra covered hills, along a high ridge, then down into the forest to Chena; a hike of about nine miles and consisting of a multi varied terrain and ecosystem, ranging from flat trail to steep rocky hill climbing to vast open tundra.

We take off and travel the Chena River corridor for a mile before the trail climbs sharply to the granite masses of Angel Rocks it self. After climbing to the top of a rocky summit or two, we descend to the trail and climb to the top of a beautiful and open tundra covered ridge overlooking the Eastern Alaska dome country, exposed ridges, and granite tors. The foothills of the Alaska Range coming in as the clouds part just slightly, and the alpine hills to the north showing themselves.

The next section consisting of an outstanding and pleasant stomp across the high tundra and taiga of the ridge top leads further down to the forest where a state shelter cabin sits; we proceed to build a fire, roast sausages, and drink wine for a pleasant and fun afternoon rest. Suddenly, the clouds burst open and thunder cracks over head; we stamp out the fire and hit the trail again. Soon we are descending once again into the depths of the Birch and White Spruce where swampy conditions reveal and Chena Hot Springs comes into view. After guzzling much needed water, we hit the road back to Fairbanks for supper and sleep…

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Left to Right: Arie, Taylor, Leo, Petra, Sven, Michael, and Vera

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Sven’s Base Camp

I bailed out of Delta Junction, a little bewildered and unsure of what next lay ahead. The pedaling is mostly flat, but follows the Tanana River Valley pretty much all the way to Fairbanks. The following morning, I got a fantastic view of the Centarl Alaska Range, but then, it was gone and it was flat forest pedaling for the remainder of the ride into Fairbanks, where I have been a resident now for a few days, getting rested, fed, and organized. After looking online for a Hostel to pitch my tent at, I came across the one I was sure was right for me. I was right! Sven’s Base Camp is a neat little place right in town, so it’s kinda noisy, but it has wall tents, cabins, a teepee, showers, a kitchen hut, and a tenting area. It is surrounded by woods and is shady and somewhat private. It is a relaxing place and is close to amenities one may need. Sven is really nice guy in his mid thirties who moved here from Switzerland 15 years ago. He spends his summers here running the day to day at the Base Camp, but in the winter, he lives in Bettles, AK, a bush village up off of the Haul Road, where he has a Dog Mushing tour business.  He say’s he has around 30 dog’s, but only one accompanies him to Fairbanks in the summer. She’s a real sweetheart girl-dog named Blaze. Sven has made everyone here feel right at home. We have talked a little in regards to me doing a little work around the Base Camp in exchange for a place to stay, and to possibly make a little money as well.

There is another guy staying here, Jim, who is to begin a job on the north coast as an electrician. He and I are  talking of perhaps taking a quick overnighter down the Chena River in a canoe and do a little fishing. Not totally sure on this though as my plan is to leave tomorrow morning for the Haul Road and the Arctic. Sven’s friend, Tommy, who is a Haul Road trucker, picked up my food box containing six days worth of supplies for me this morning, and will drop off at Coldfoot. Thanks Man!

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