Friday, June 7th
Chena River

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Sunburned feet in Alaska.

It’s a new morning in the bush.  There is no doubt that the sky will be blue when I open the zipper of the tent.
Having breakfast at first light is impossible here, but nevertheless it’s delightful to have a cup of tea at the border of Chena River.

The canoes are filled up again and launched.  The cold water has brought us to creative ideas.  How ?  We manage to launch the canoe without wetting our feet.

Birch trees bending over the river from the snowClouds are coming up but the weather is still nice.  A chilly wind  comes up when the sun disappears behind a cloud, otherwise a T-shirt is enough.

Some beavers clap with their tail in the water as we paddle by to let us know that we aren’t welcome.  We already knew that.

Our paddle technique has become an art.  An upstream-ferry is no problem at all.  We turn swiftly into the bends.

We notice that we aren’t that far from the ‘civilized’ world : there is garbage from the consumer society to which we belong ourselves, unfortunately.  Lou can’t stand it anymore and collects all the garbage.
 “Every time I feel like a garbage man, always collecting the dirt of someone else.  How can people do that ?”
I ask myself the same question en I only can conclude that wherever people pass through, there also is pollution.   A sad conclusion …

Wild roses bloom along the waterfront.
Some fighter jets, cargo-aircrafts and army helicopters are flying by.  I suppose they come from  the airforce base near Fairbanks.  The peace and quiet is clearly disturbed, birds fly away agitated to a safer place.

The wind is getting up.  It becomes difficult to keep a reasonable speed.  Especially when we come into an eddy by mistake, then we have both the wind and the stream against us.

Suddenly, a moose comes looking out of the bushes. Even with pricked-up ears her head looks silly.  A couple of seconds later, shyly is she is, she already has cleared off.

Still life along the Chena River15h20
A break like this one is excellent to observe nature.  A weasel is sniffing about on the opposite bank of the river.  He seemes not to be bothered by our presence.
A flock of cranesare is slowly flying by upstream, 7 of them in V-formation.  A gull squawks and flees in a panic.  A goshawk is threatening her nest.

An annoying sound swells up and breaks the silence.  A motorboat is coming upstream.  Civilization always shows its less enjoyable aspects first.  I don’t think he will get much further in this shallow water.  At times, even our canoe runs ashore on the riverbed due to the unusual low water level.
 “You’re lucky”, Lou says, “at weekends there are much more of them.”
This one already is too much for us.

Lou wants to show us another moose with her calf.  But we are observing a goshawk that skims the water surface.

We arrive at the flood-control dam, at about 15 miles from Fairbanks.  This dam protects Fairbanks from being washed over by the Chena River, as it  happened repeatedly in the past.  Now, in times of heavy rainfall, the water is lead to a basin nearby. 
At the moment, there isn’t much water at all, so the lock is open and we can go through it.

Ron is waiting for us at the meeting point just after the dam.
 “Welcome to Fairbanks”, he says very pleased, delighted to see his wife back.
During our 3 days in seclusion in the bush a lot of things happened in civilization.  The most important news are the big fires in the area Wasilla en Tok, one of the biggest in the history of Alaska.  It has been an extremely dry winter this year in Alaska.  It almost didn’t rain during the month of May.  We already noticed the low water level in the Chena River en the driftwood that was as dry as dust.
Let’s hope that the situation in Tok doesn’t pose to many problems tomorrow…

Ron also found a cassette with Alaska’s hymn.  He is very proud to let us hear it.

After a refreshing shower in our hotel, we are invited at Ron and Lou’s home.
There is salmon on the menu, with green asparagus and  an Australian Chardonnay. Luscious ! 
Strange, isn’t it, how a distant contact via internet can effect such a warm hospitality.  We talk about the miscellaneous subjects : Belgian fries, American tourists invading Alaska, eating ice-cream in the depths of winter, a moose visit in the garden, what Europeans think about Alaska, etc …
The evening is passed in a pleasant chat and as it never gets dark outside we even lost track of time.

In parting, Ron and Lou promise that they will pass by at our place when they ever visit Belgium on their journey through Europe.  We are looking forward to it !  We can’t show any bush but real Belgian fries and a good Belgian beer are not to be sneezed at !

We are back in our hotel room.  I look at my sunburned feet … in Alaska ! Where the hell did I got those from?

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