Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ice Museum and outdoor Rock Lake

Chena Hot Springs Resort #6

Wow! What a day this has been! This is the day that MADE our visit here SPECTACULAR.

First off, we had blueberry pancakes for breakfast. Then we went over to the Activity Center to sign up for the 3 p.m. Ice Museum tour. Carl wanted to go feed the pet goats again, and the gal who was working, Kristi from Ohio, suggested we go a little further to see the horses. So we took a walk down along the private airstrip, maybe half a mile. Yeah, it was cold—about 35 below, and my glasses frosted over so I couldn’t see, but Carl loves animals. The horses came over to let him pet them.

So after we warmed up in the Activity Center on the way back, I suggested we go see the sled dogs—which was way at the other end of the resort, probably a farther distance that we had walked down to see the horses. After talking to some of the staff outside the kennels, we went indoors to see maps on the wall of the Iditarod and the sleds, both cargo and racing sleds.

Then we walked back and had a bowl of Chena’s famous tomato basil soup. When we had our greenhouse tour yesterday, Ashley from Utah by way of Hawaii was picking some Thai basil to take into the restaurant and told us about the soup. It was great homemade soup, made from the whole tomato—seeds and all. Across the restaurant were Bernie and Bonnie Carl having lunch with a guy who was here to see Bernie’s entrepreneurial enterprise. We were pleased to be able to eyeball the man whose vision has made the resort prosper.

After lunch we went down to the Activity Center early to wait for our Ice Museum tour. Bernie’s guest was sitting there, and Carl began visiting with him. Then Bernie came in, and Carl complemented him on his staff and how nice they have been to us. They got to visiting, and Bernie invited us to go with him and his guest. He was going to show him the geothermal plant and then take him to the Ice Museum, so we went along.

Well, we got twice the tour of the geothermal plant than we had yesterday! He unlocked the door and took us inside (before we had to stand and look through a window at the converters). I even got to touch to outside of the two chambers—one was hot as the water came in and one was cold as the energy had been converted!

Bernie showed us how he grows fodder for the horses. He has a closed hydroponic system inside a special chamber. The barley seeds are germinated at one end and the moisture, heat, and light result in 6-inch tall barley shoots which they feed to the horses twice a day.

He is so passionate about so many enterprises. By this time next year he will be raising shrimp in the other end of the power plant. He is manufacturing LED lights that produce more light than traditional light bulbs. He has plans to produce an individual generator that only costs one dollar. He’s going to bring Boy Scouts in to cut a 6 foot right of way to the Air Force base in Fairbanks BY HAND over a distance of 44 miles so that he can sell electricity to the base.

In the greenhouse he explained their gardens, composting, and hydroponic system—boy, what a treat to hear the owner detail his plans. He wants to start growing HUGE competition vegetables and get kids excited about the possibilities. He really is a rogue, and he admits that what he does pushes the government’s buttons. He may not follow all of the rules and regulations, but he is convincing in that what he does is MORALLY right. He’s a religious man, one of 16 children raised on a farm in Peoria, IL, the son of a man who worked for Caterpillar.

Then he took us into the Ice Museum. It is AMAZING. Inside it is 20 degrees, but it felt warm compared to the below zero temperature outside. There is a chapel for weddings, 3 bedrooms (although it can no longer be used as a hotel), a music room with an ice xylophone, all sorts of ice sculptures, and an ice bar. Bernie Carl himself poured us apple-tinis, served in ice martini glasses. After the tour we went back to the restaurant for coffee and hot tea. Then Bernie and his friend began talking business.

Since it was now dark, Carl and I then headed to the outdoor Rock Lake. We wore flip flops and our swimsuits out into the cold. I even kept on my winter hat as I’d seen someone do earlier in the day. The water was really warm, probably 104 degrees at the end where we were. As we walked on the sand bottom toward the other end of the hot springs pool called Rock Lake, the water got hotter. So we went back to the other end. We found 2 white plastic resin chairs under the water and “sat” there with snow on the boulders behind us. When we came back inside, Carl said I had frost on my hat!

I got a scrape in my foot and a piece of sand embedded in it, but I was able to pull the sharp piece of sand out after we sat in the indoor hot tub to warm up. Then we went to the restaurant for Alaskan scallops for sspper. It’s been a pretty eventful day. Now we’re waiting for about 10:30 p.m. to see if the Aurora Borealis makes an appearance. Some of the staff did see it last night, so we’re not relying on the resort to notify us. If we don’t see it here on our last night, hopefully we’ll see it in Barrow where we go tomorrow.

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