Hunting the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, Alaska

Fairbanks, Alaska

Home-away-from-home

Our home-away-from-home was A Taste of Alaska, situated on 280 natural wooded acres just outside of Fairbanks. There was plenty of open space, and then this wonderful cozy vibe throughout the entire lodge.

moose

A common scene in the morning—I’d find myself sipping coffee and watching moose make their way across the field directly in front of the lodge.

art

A Taste of Alaska was also home to some rather eclectic art, such as this little piece.

showshoe

The forested areas nearby had everyone out and about snowshoeing nearly every day.

snow tracks

moose in Alaska

You’ve got to be on the lookout for moose in Alaska, because they are all over the place (and are probably the most dangerous animal you can encounter in the wild).

snowshoeing trails

One of our snowshoeing trails

Aurora Ice Museum

The Chena Hot Springs and Aurora Ice Museum are Fairbanks attractions open year-round, with a bar inside and some insanely beautiful ice sculptures.

ice bar

Here’s a view of the interior. The bar is off to the left—I can recommend the ice cold appletinis.

champion ice carver

Or possibly you were interested in playing a xylophone carved out of ice? Or seeing a rose frozen in ice? You name it and it’s probably been created by 15-time world champion ice carver Steve Brice and his wife Heather, a six-time world champion, whose work is featured in the museum.

greenhouse

One of the most impressive aspects of the Chena Hot Springs is their greenhouse. Alaska imports close to 98% of their food, which is no easy task when you think about its geographic location. This is the alternative. Although it was -10 out, the lettuce was nice and toasty as the temp was in the mid-70s in the greenhouse.

hot springs

The hot springs themselves are a good place to unwind after a long day. It’s a bizarre feeling climbing into a giant jacuzzi surrounded by snow and ice-covered boulders, but boy is it soothing.

moon halo

Night after night, Jared and I would take turns heading outside to check for the aurora. Night after night, it never showed up. We waited and waited, and the best thing we saw was this moon halo. Pretty…but no Northern Lights.

hiking with reindeer

The activities continued with different excursions, such as this day where we got to go hiking with reindeer.

reindeer antlers

What’s the difference between horns and antlers? Any idea? Antlers fall off.

Mt. McKinley

On a few of the mornings, Mt. McKinley was visible on the horizon…a gorgeous way to start off the day.

Paws for Adventure

Another highlight of the trip was getting the chance to go dogsledding. We spent the morning at Paws for Adventure, taking part in a true mushing experience.

The dogs didn't seem to mind the cold, but I was struggling.

The dogs didn’t seem to mind the cold, but I was struggling.

These dogs were beautiful creatures, and a few of them had the most exquisite eye color I’ve ever seen.

These dogs were beautiful creatures, and a few of them had the most exquisite eye color I’ve ever seen.

Alaska's finest steak

Jared jumping into Alaska’s finest steak.

crab legs

Gotta have some king crab while in Alaska. This is a before-and-after scene—there’s no clean way to eat crab legs.

Alaskan pipeline

Shinji, who was visiting from Japan, took quite an interest in the Alaskan pipeline.

Mecca Bar

Downtown Fairbanks, where you can always hydrate at the Mecca Bar.

Fairbanks Curling Club

We even made a stop at the Fairbanks Curling Club…

hung with locals

…where we hung out with the locals…

curling

…and found out once and for all how you actually play curling. It’s a rather relaxed game that requires a high amount of finesse along with a delicate touch. I may have to look into joining a club now that I’m back home.

aurora, Fairbanks

As our last day was winding down, I had come to grips with the fact that, once again, Lady Aurora had evaded me. My third attempt with nothing to show for it. I was beginning to think I was bad luck…but that’s when my luck changed. An unexpected solar storm started to show on the satellite readings, and the KP index began to rise. As the evening approached and I continued to watch every single solar chart I could find, I saw a report that the aurora was visible in Fairbanks.

aurora borealis

I rushed out of our hotel, and this is what I saw—the aurora borealis dancing around the sky.

greater Fairbanks

I couldn’t believe it—I changed my flight to stay for another day, and we spent the entire night driving around greater Fairbanks photographing one of the most incredible shows I’ve ever seen Mother Nature put on.

aurora

aurora

Northern Ligths

The Northern Lights can’t be described in words—watching it dance and unveil itself like bright ribbons in the sky must leave even the most seasoned veteran speechless.

Northern Lights

Northern Lights

At times there were moments of pink and magenta that could be seen on top of the green.

Cleary Summit

The evening scene at the Cleary Summit parking lot…one to remember.

Northern Lights

Northern Lights

This guy, although he was probably pretty cold, was definitely enjoying the show.

aurora

No matter where in the sky you looked, the aurora was coming down in sheets.

Northern Lights

One last shot, from a night where you couldn’t have slapped the smile off my face…a long wait but one that was definitely worth it.

Scott’s trip was hosted by Gondwana Ecotours. All photos by author.