Alaska and the Northern Lights

After some discussion with my travel agent, I booked a flight to Fairbanks, Alaska from February 18th thru the 23rd in hopes of seeing the Aurora Borealis or commonly known as the Northern Lights.  My sister-in-law from Michigan, Sarah, joined me on this adventure.  Due to the time of year, we figured temperatures would be well below zero but it turned out to be a week of 20’s degree temperatures with snow falling.  Our lodging was at the Hampton Inn & Suites; for future reference, it would of been better if we were booked downtown where there was more happening.  Both of us were tired after a long day of travel so we called Pizza Hut for delivery that evening; that was a bad mistake because it took close to 2 hours before the pizza got delivered.   On Monday afternoon, we were picked up from our lodging for a tour of Fairbanks.   First stop was Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitor Center where the history and culture of Fairbanks was on display; next stop was the Museum of the North where fascinating stories about Alaska’s people, places, and wildlife was exhibited in their galleries; we viewed a portion of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline which is one of the world’s largest pipeline systems; next stop was the Great Alaskan Bowl Company where many, many bowls and utensils were on display for purchase but were quite pricey; last stop was processing store selling salmon, elk, and other Alaskan meats.  All in all, a very good tour.

Cutie helping pack

Earlier life on display

Sarah got to see a moose

Sarah and I at the pipeline

That evening we called C&J Drive In for delivery of hamburgers; the response was quick and the hamburgers were delicious!  On Tuesday, we ventured downtown for some shopping; both of us bought items to take back to friends and family.  We had lunch at Bahn Thai Express which was located across the street from our hotel; very good food.  Because we were going on tour which started at 4:45 PM and ended at 3:30 AM, we spent the afternoon in our room resting and relaxing.  Our tour that evening was Northern Lights and Chena Hot Springs so our guide took us 55 miles north of Fairbanks to the Chena Springs Resort; because of the road conditions, it took us around 2 hours to arrive.   Upon the arrival, we toured the Aurora Ice Museum which had many eye-popping sculptures; next we had dinner at Chena Hot Springs Restaurant which was good; Sarah and I then went in the resort’s legendary hot springs which was comfortable but not as good as my hot tub back home.  There were nine of us on the tour; everyone was back at the van around 11:40 and our guide was spotting the Aurora but there was too much lighting at the resort so he drove about 10 miles down the road where we parked in a campground.  The Northern Lights were appearing!!  Everyone had the feeling of excitement since the previous three nights were not good for viewing.  After spending time at the campground, the guide drove us closer to Fairbanks but on a back road where we were able to pull off to the side of the road and see the Aurora was again; this time the Big Dipper appeared as part of the lights.

We are off on our adventure

Sarah and I at the hot springs

Bar area in the Ice Museum

An ice bed

Knights battling

Looking over the museum

Work area of the museum

Sarah and I in the hot springs

The Northern Lights; notice the Big Dipper

Wednesday was spent “lazing around” the hotel; it was snowing outside and both of us were tired from the previous evening activity.  We did have another tour scheduled for the evening so we called for Mexican delivery for our evening meal which we ate in the lobby of the hotel.   Our guide picked us up in the lobby at 10 PM; there was only one other person on the tour.  Since it had been snowing all day and still was, we did not have much hope for seeing the lights.  This tour took us to a yurt which was about 25 miles out of Fairbanks; easier and quicker to get to than the evening before.  We settled inside for hopes of the seeing the lights; there was a campfire outside and we did some time in front of it.  The yurt was occupied by another group comprised of Chinese; they were very loud and we were quite happy when they left before midnight.  By 1:30, we decided to give up and return to Fairbanks where we arrived at our hotel around 2:00 AM.

The Yurt

Future sled dog

Outside fire

Thursday was our last day in Fairbanks so we went back downtown and did more shopping.  Upon the recommendation of one of the clerks in a store, we had lunch at Soapy Smiths which turned out to be fun; owner of the place gave us an update as to the history of the place and our waiter really enjoyed his work as displayed by his sense of humor.

Sarah and I at Soapy Smiths

We returned to the hotel mid-afternoon; Sarah took a nap while I read.   Packing and early check out was completed by evening; since we had such a late lunch, neither of us were very hungry so we ate some snacks Sarah had brought with her from home.  Due to needing to rise at 3:50 the next morning for a 6:03 flight, we were in bed early.  All went well with our hotel and airport departures; it was a long day for me with getting up at 3:50 Fairbanks time and arriving home at 11:30 our time but the girls greeted me at the door so my tiredness was forgotten.  Sarah made a great traveling companion and both of us were pleased…and excited…that we did get to see the Northern Lights.