Monday, August 16, 2010

Camping at Chena Hot Springs - Part II

This morning (Saturday), I headed up to the Aurorium, which is a simple building made from three-sided logs up on one of the hills away from the resort. It's used primarily in the winter to view the aurora so it has floor to ceiling windows looking towards the north and, since there is little darkness, definitely not enough to see the aurora, it was getting little use. The squirrels seem to have taken over the area and they seemed pretty agressive. They must rely heavily on goodies from the tourists coming up to the building. This is an example of the improvements to the property that the current owners have made in recent years.

After a long soak in the rock lake, I took a short hike up the Chena River to the eastern boundary of the property then back near the power generation facility. The rock lake is an 18+ part of the facility making it a generally quiet and relaxing place. In case you get too warm, the sprinkler in the middle of the lake will cool you off pretty quickly. You can wander around and find somewhere where the temperature suits you. This water, unlike the pool and the hot tubs is left in its natural state so there is algae growing on the rocks around the edge of the pond. This is another improvement that was put in by the current owners. I think they took over the property around 1998.

There are three of these generators, two of them homebuilt using scavenged parts and one commercial now being manufactured by their partner United Technologies. The hot water from the ground boils the R134. The vapor spins a turbine which turns a generator making 280 KW per unit. During their peak season (winter), they need about 400 KW. The newly acquired third unit should make them not have to use their diesel genset except in a real emergency. The hot water is then re-injected to maintain the water table. I think the cooling water also comes from a well and is also re-injected. I wonder what the effect is from warming the water table....

The greenhouse is heated using hot water and the geothermal generated electricity powers the grow lights. The delicious tomatoes and lettuce are being grown hydroponically and are served in restaurant year around. A variety of other vegetable gardens scattered around the property produce almost all of the vegetables used within the facility.

It is starting to get really crowded around here probably due to tomorrows energy fair. There are numerous white tents set up for the presentations and vendors. There is a large tent for their keynote speakers which include a bunch of politicians all saying how wonderful the efforts of Chena Power are for the state. I may not hang around for the keynote speeches I spent the afternoon relaxing, hiking some of the trails, wandering around in the sunshine, laying around the hot springs, and waiting around in the activity center for my phone to recharge. I guess I should have picked up one of those solar chargers I saw in Portland.

So far, all I've forgotten is a towel, mosquito repellant, and a can opener. And maybe a mallet for the tent stakes but I'm thinking of simply getting better stakes such as the SS spikes I saw advertised at REI.

Dinner was at the restaurant (since I couldn't open the can) was duck confit salad with a sesame wasabi dressing. Much better than the tuna, canned vegetables and ramen that I had brought with me. The salad was not just much better but fabulous. I don't remember ever having anything mediocre at the restaurant here at the resort and, after our recent trip through Canada, the prices seem pretty reasonable. By the time we arrived in the Yukon Territory, we were pretty used to higher prices for everything. The only thing missing is free wireless Internet. It is available but $10 per day for shared satellite Internet seems a bit excessive. Especially since it was free the last time we were here. I not addicted to the Internet that much. So even though I wrote this and the last post over the weekend, They won't get posted until I get back home.

Monday morning - The trip home was interesting. It was really windy with strong gusts coming from behind me at about 45°. The bike handling was interesting to say the least. I've ridden in many times in similar conditions many times before never really noticed much difference in the way the bike feels. It could be due to the additional weight on the rear of the bike or the additional cross section from the gear. I did figure a better way to pack, I put my sleeping bag, sleeping pad and clothes in the H2W dry-duffle and didn't use the top loading dry bag at all. The tent, chair and duffle were tied on the back and the hard bags were almost empty. The rearrangement was necessary as I noticed that the rear mounting screw for the hard bags was missing. A zip tie held things together enough for the trip home. I should use some blue Loktite on the mounting hardware. All I had in the bags for the trip home was the stove, fuel and a bit of leftover food in one and spare gloves, running shoes and liners in the other. Maybe contributing to the handling change was the somewhat higher center of gravity with much of the heavier stuff moved to the duffle. Anyway the handling was different enough that I stopped after a few miles to check my tire pressures and to see if the load had shifted. After riding into my campsite with the bike fully loaded, I chose to ride the empty bike to the parking lot and just carry my stuff the 100 yards and load it there. The road through the campground circled way around and was still soft, muddy with lots of ruts, loose gravel and potholes. After going through the mud and the loose dirt, the Metzeler Lasetecs almost looked and handled like they were bald as all of the groves were packed with dirt.


  1. Interesting account. Out of curiosity, does the rock lake have "hard" water?

  2. No, we must have some soft rocks here. Actually, the water is pretty "soft".

    Thank you for visiting.