Chasing the Aurora Borealis

In Jan of 2012, an email chain began between my husband & his friends regarding a trip to Alaska. We decided to go & that was the start of our first adventure together. The main idea behind the trip was to see the northern lights a.k.a Aurora Borealis. We hardly knew anything about Aurora. My brother got excited & told me to start practicing landscape photography with my Nikon D3100 camera (a wedding gift from him). I started checking out digital photography tips on the same. In the meantime, my husband began his preparations for getting us ready for the trip. This involved buying new Columbia Omni heat technology gear (coats, shoes, gloves etc.). We booked our tickets, hotels and made a rough plan.

We left the comfort of our home on a Friday evening & were prepared for 4 days of tiring freezing journey. The total travel time was around 12 hours. Our first stop on the flight to Alaska was Portland. A surprising thing at the airport was that the second language was Japanese. We reached Anchorage at midnight & our next flight was at 6 am in the morning. We found a row of empty seats, dumped our luggage & went to sleep. Our first time sleeping at an airport 😉 (also in Alaska). Our friends landed in Anchorage in the middle of the night & we all caught the same flight to Fairbanks. All I could see from the flight & after landing was SNOW. I was happy to have the winter season back (if only for a few days). We rented a car & were greeted by a rainbow on the way :-).

The “A Taste of Alaska” Lodge was quite eccentric. Felt like we were in one of the “Storage Wars” episode. Our plan that day was to visit “Chena Hot Springs” resort & watch the Aurora.

At the resort, we saw the Ice Museum & went into the hot springs. Hot spring was basically an outside pool with hot water at 50F in between the snowy mountains at -5F. A wonderfully contrast surrounding that you can only experience in Alaska (See the pic below). We were drained off energy by the hot springs and did not see the northern lights that day. Even in our dreams we were disappointed.

There was a lot of regret the next morning when we came to know that other tourists had seen a bright Aurora the previous night. We were afraid we might not get to see it at all. But we kept our hopes high. Breakfast was delicious at the Lodge. Again we had the same plan. Go to Chena hot springs & then go watch the Aurora.

Our first snow mobile ride was quite fun. We trespassed a curvy road in between mountains & snow all around. It was like a scene in an action movie. Oh we did get stuck in snow, fingers went numb, drove down a slope & saw our guide perform a few Bond movie tricks. Overall, it was an awesome ride. Our next stop was the dog sledge ride. Again this was the first time I saw beautiful huskies working for their livelihood.

Finally, at night we reached Skiland, a cottage at the top of a mountain to see the northern lights. They were predicted to be seen at 12.58am. We went outside along with others & saw shades of green appear in the sky above us. At first, I did not find it awe inspiring. But later there were more shades & they were becoming brighter. I was trying to capture a good photo with my numb fingers (the gloves were useless). We were moving inside out to avoid freezing. It was our third time going in & coming out when we saw a reddish shade appear in the sky. Now that was beautiful and I had to say “WOW” ;-). Soon the shades started dancing. It was felt like we had escaped from earth. Someone was playing a piano in the sky with the green & red lights. I did not want it to end but soon the dancing stopped & it was dark again.

Visiting Fairbanks & watching the northern lights was like a once in a lifetime journey. I hope to see them again though :-). Here is a photo of the northern light for you. Do not miss a chance to see them if you get one :-).


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