News from Vermont # 319 "North to Alaska"

August 7th, 2014

Hello again Maple People,

I've been fascinated with Alaska ever since I was a kid listening to the song, "North to Alaska". For you young folks, the song's lyrics point to "majestic mountains", "bonanza gold", and "northern lights a-runnin' wild", things that make the listener want to head on up. Recently I took them up on their "offer" and went North to Alaska. I would never have done it without a connection but my cousin Rebecca lives in Fairbanks and had sent me multiple invitations. When I reviewed my accumulation of charge card air miles, I decided the trip was doable.

After ten grueling hours of flight and three different spells of airport limbo, the Alaskan Air 737 that I boarded in Seattle finally landed at Fairbanks International Airport. Rebecca and her partner Georjean were there waiting to whisk me off into the place I had only dreamed about...grisly bears, midnight sun, land that goes on forever...and also, I might add, hospitality Alaska style! On our way to their country home, we passed Aspens, White Birches, and towering Spruces reminiscent to me of my trips into the Russian countryside. I made the comparison to my hosts but worried that I had offended them...Alaskans live in an American state complete with all the American amenities, the biggest state of all in fact! Except for physical size, I started seeing similarities between Alaska and Vermont.

Immediately after I told the girls that I wanted the complete experience including cold weather, country clutter, and mosquitoes, we started passing pickup trucks fitted with white plastic tanks. I chuckled, saying "looks just like Vermont in sugar season". My hosts explained that artesian wells up there have to be drilled extra deep and through a thick layer of perma-frost. Many folks simply can not afford a well, hence, "sap" tanks on pickup trucks. That, coupled with temperatures down in the fifties, started making me feel right at home.

Rebecca took me to all the Fairbanks sites, a great antique car museum, two other wonderful museums, a riverboat cruise, but, best of all, a parade which marks a special Alaskan holiday called Golden Days. Since gold made Alaska, folks up there have created a weekend long holiday to honor gold. In the parade, we saw great floats, brass bands, honky-tonk groups, and yes, politicians. In fact being a "frugal" Vermonter, my favorite part of Golden Days was courtesy of the politicians...starting atnoon on the holiday's Sunday, there is always "The Governor's Picnic" which is free for everyone, even Yankee interlopers like me. Needless to say, I graciously accepted and as Rebecca and I ate, Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell stopped at our table to say "hi"..."wow, only in Alaska andVermont!", I thought. I left the picnic full, satisfied, and ready to shout out to the lower forty-eight "free food up in Alaska....the rush is on!".

Toward the end of my stay, we traveled to Denali National Park and signed up for a twelve-hour bus tour right to the end of the road at the gold town of Kantishna. Although a long ride at "tractor speed", the twelve-hour Denali tour is an Alaskan "must do". We saw wildlife galore, including huge moose (I thought Vermont moose were big until I went to Alaska!), caribou, grisly bear, and even a lynx! In fact the only thing that might "upstage" the wildlife was the scenery. Although Mount McKinley was socked in, there were plenty of other stunning snow capped peaks including the Polychrome Mountains. Traversing the narrow, alpine-hugging, ribbons of roads in the Polychromes left me "mouth agape", out of breath, and scared to death!

The end of the road at Kantishna brought a park ranger's narration about Fannie Quigley, an original and intrepid gold pioneer. It also brought mosquitoes, trillions of mosquitoes...I had declined the complementary mosquito net because I wanted the real Alaskan mosquito experience...once again, Denali did not disappoint!

Of course I hit many of Alaska's gift shops along my way including Rebecca's and Georjean's "If Only...a fine store" in downtown Fairbanks. I found "If Only" to be not only the finest of stores but another Alaskan "must see". In many of the lesser stores, Alaskan merchants are offering a product, again reminiscent of my Vermont...syrup, pure birch syrup! Birch and Maple syrups are similar in one minute way, they both come from trees, but there ends the comparison for this seven generationVermont maple sugarmaker.

I only had five days up there and when my wonderful hosts dropped me off at the airport, my heart was full of "high" from my peak Alaskan experience. When I flew off toward Vermont my luggage contained a few special treats for my loved ones, save one...there was no birch syrup going back with this tourist!

Have a golden day!


PS: Here it is late summer and one more time, you'll hear it from me...where does the time go??!! Soon we'll be enjoying the crispness of fall mornings and, best of all, brilliant fall colors everywhere. We're canning syrup every day now getting ready for our influx of foliage season customers. Canning syrup brings a major benefit of this job...I get to taste every batch. So take it from me...syrup is extra good this year. You can get some quick and easy at We also have some wicked yummy maple cookies at How about ordering some of both?

Thanks so much