Espen and I were invited to come to Manley Hot Springs and to stay with Demaris and Art on our way up north in Alaska. So we did, and we had some amazing days meeting interesting people and see a bit of the Alaskan way of life. Manley Hot Springs, like many other places in Alaska, came into life supporting mining and the people involved in it. Today the community consists of about 60 people living there year round. Art and Demaris have cabins, http://www.alaskawilderness.net/index.html further out in the Alaskan wilderness were guests can come to stay for fishing, canoeing, hiking, and to do whatever they dream of doing in the Alaskan Wilderness. Guests come to stay for a few nights, a few weeks, or even for a year. There are no roads to the cabins, so Art, who is a pilot, will fly the guests out to the different cabins. When we got to Manley Hot Springs Art was flying up supplies to the cabins, and their first guests would arrive in July.
Manley Hot Springs got is name after Manley who built a hotel at the Hot Springs in 1906. The hotel burnt down in 1911 and today the hot springs is privately owned and there is a greenhouse on the site heated by the hot springs. Public is allowed into the greenhouse and the hot springs for a fee of $ 5 per person, but then you also have the greenhouse all to yourself. We had heard about the hot springs, but the surroundings took us by surprise. Who expect to be surrounded by tropical flowers and ripe grapes at 65 degrees north?
One day we visited Joe and Pam Redington at their Iditarod Kennel http://www.joeredington.com/ I have never seen so many dogs in one place my whole life, and we were told that that this was less than half of the amount of dogs they had at one point.
I cannot even imagine how much work it is to look after and train so many dogs. From a cooks perspective it was a huge pot of food that had to be boiled with fish, chicken and rice to make a “lovely” stew to feed the dogs.
Espen got a ride with one dog team when they were out in the morning for a run.
Espen meet his name brother Espen who lived in Manley, and Espen also happened to come from Norway… And it must be for that reason that Manley Hot Springs is the first place in America where everybody manages to pronounce and remember Espen’s name on the first try. He invited us for a boat ride down the Tanana River, and for us that has seen Alaska 98% of the time from the road, it was great to get out and see the nature from the river. Along the river we also saw two moose cows, but still no grizzly bear - where are they hiding?
On our last day in Manley Art took us out on a flight over to the Yukon River. I had never been in a smaller plane than a Twin Otter before, and for both Espen and me it was the first flight ever with floats. It was an amazing flight and beautiful views from the plane. It was incredible to fly over the Yukon River and to see how big this river is, and it has definitely changed since we last saw it in Whitehorse in Canada. Art was bringing mail and a few other things to friends that stayed along the river in their fish camps.
They had been in their camps for a little while preparing and waiting for the King Salmon to come up the river, and from reports further down the river they were expecting them one of the next days. Nets or fish wheels are what they use to fish the salmon. When the fish is caught then the work start to conserve it, and the fish camps that we visited all made smoked salmon strips that they would later sell.
Salmons with lower quality meat were dried and used for dog food. The beginning of August is the end of the season and the fish campers move back to their homes.
Thanks to Demaris and Art and all the people we meet in and around Manley that made it to an incredible experience for us.