National Geographic : 1949 Oct
Up He Goes in an Eskimo Blanket Toss at Fairbanks's Winter Grilling's, Fairbanks Carnival Spectators crowd the Chena River bridge to watch this favorite northland sport. Performers, striving to outdo one another in altitude, are shot aloft from a stretched blanket or walrus hide held by a dozen persons. Experts always land feet first. Other events of the annual celebration are dog races, parades, a grand ball, and the crowning of a carnival queen. Today he has a wife, a comfortable log cabin, and a prospering potato farm. Near the Stimple farm is the hilltop campus of the University of Alaska, the Territory's only institution of higher learning. Alaskan farm problems are studied at the Agricultural Experiment Station. Mining and engineering are emphasized, and during the winter it is not uncommon to find bearded, 60-year-old prospectors por ing over homework in geology and mineralogy. From the university I could see tiny snow crested mountain ranges jutting from the southwestern horizon. A student pointed out the twin peaks of Mount McKinley, where the North American continent reaches its highest elevation at 20,257 feet above sea level. McKinley's north peak, more than 19,000 feet high, was first reached in 1910 by two Fairbanks sourdoughs carrying an American flag, a 14-foot spruce flagpole, and a sack of doughnuts. Three years later a party of four became the first to climb the higher south peak.* These conquests of McKinley, I reflected as I drove back to Fairbanks, were nothing more than extensions of the grit that created Fairbanks and flows strong in its lifeblood today. Bush planes still use tree-fringed clearings and twisting glacial streams as routine land ing strips; hardly a winter passes without dog teams driving across the tundra on rescue missions; and Second Avenue commerce would wilt if it lost the pack-size purchases of men who live alone in log cabins. Fairbanks, heart of a young frontier and a focal point in patterns of global airways, has good reason to believe in a future as golden as its past. * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "Over the Roof of Our Continent," by Bradford Washburn, July, 1938.