Alaska

12717951_952498881535415_7636223826090579413_nWe were off to explore the Final Frontier where the polar bears play and Blockbuster is still flourishing. We had one goal on this trip, and one goal only, hunt down those feisty Northern Lights.

Destination: Fairbanks, Alaska.

Spoiler Alert: Our trek through Alaska remains one of our favorite trips to date!

Where We Stayed.

We booked a room at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel and Conference Center. Contrary to our previous trips, we opted for one of the nicer hotels in town. Fairbanks is quaint and lodging options are very limited. Let’s just say it was exactly what we expected for a vacation in the middle of no where Alaska, but it got the job done.

What We Did

Chasing the Aurora Borealis

Alright let’s cut to the chase. The Aurora Borealis is a fickle, fickle phenomenon.We were expecting to roll up and see the lights dancing across the sky the moment the sun went down.

Right? Wrong. 12924373_952140038237966_6316776996817809470_n

The Northern Lights are incredibly temperamental and you should consider yourself lucky if they decide to grace you with their presence. In fact it’s recommended that you allot at least seven nights to the process to increase your chances of seeing them. September-April is the best time of year to view this mysterious phenomenon.   12936493_952456701539633_2883333764093442850_n

Here are our best tips to those wanting to hunt down the Aurora Borealis:

  1. Rent a car. The lights cannot be viewed in the city. You’ll need to drive out to a remote area and wait for them to appear. Having your own car allows you to choose where and when you hunt for the lights.
  2. Prepare for sleepless nights. Viewing the Northern Lights is a true waiting game. We never slept in Alaska, we napped. They appear out of nowhere and can disappear as quickly as they came. The lights didn’t reveal themselves to us until 3:30 a.m… on our very last night in town.
  3. Get a camera with a shutter. If you want to document your experience then you’re going to need a a camera that can have its shutter speed set between 15 and 30 seconds.

There we were sitting in our car in darkness at 3:30 a.m. We were exhausted, cranky, and 0 for life on witnessing the Northern Lights. Just when we thought our trip was an epic fail the lights shot out of nowhere above us in green and pink hues. We were jumping and screaming around in the middle of nowhere Alaska like the sleep deprived weirdos we were as we victoriously checked this monumental accomplishment off of our bucket list. Totally worth it. 12718387_951394491645854_8496053679408890354_n12901201_952140034904633_7101887373101453785_o12524378_952456704872966_1292847220946221908_n

Our sole reason for traveling to Alaska was to view the Northern Lights, but we quickly learned that The Last Frontier had so much more to offer.

Arctic Circle Tour12932864_952499058202064_7618843954197593904_n

12439292_946054385513198_6027890711924357541_n     We booked a tour to the Arctic Circle through Alaska Wild Life Guide LLC (http://www.alaska-wildlife-guide.com/

It’s a guided tour up to the Arctic Circle which supposedly presents some of the best spots to view the Northern Lights. Key word supposedly.  Fourteen hours and $225 later we returned to Fairbanks not having seen a single glimmer of green in the sky. Their company policy is if you don’t see the lights on the tour then consider yourself SOL.

All bitterness aside, the tour was awesome and a great way to seethe  Alaskan country side through the eyes of a local with meals and transportation included.

Aside from the Arctic Circle, here are a few other iconic spots the tour covered:

Drive along the famous Dalton Highway12919643_952498938202076_1421694356203498764_n

Stroll along the Yukon River12919913_952499031535400_8744105637363006534_n12524246_952499051535398_7337310020400877550_n993565_946308458821124_2868378699298065343_n

Photo Op in front of the Alaskan Pipeline (took that one a little too literally)12400979_945941725524464_6532269877420461131_n

12670534_952500384868598_4780047634766684488_nWitness the beauty of the uninhabited parts of The Last Frontier

12494790_952500134868623_9089796901053783005_n12494705_952499294868707_3135882718215418228_n

Snow Mobile Tour15541282_1163450267106941_7628791834160220918_n

If you have a need for speed like us, then this is a great way to explore the wooded areas of the state that are not accessible via car.  We booked our tour through Chandalar Ranch (www.chandalarranchalaska.com). There’s just something about being surrounded by fresh Alaskan air that does good to the soul. Worth every penny. 12472446_952500211535282_108633945333790375_n

The ranch also offers hospitality to those looking for a prime viewing spot of the Northern Lights. You can hang out on the lodge’s grounds for $30 a night.

Dog Sledding
13307209_991373164314653_2358090216054533431_nIf you go Alaska and don’t go mushing does your trip even count? Aside from the Northern Lights, this was hands down the best part of our trip. We booked a tour through Black Spruce Dog Sledding (blacksprucedogsledding.com)

The business is run out of the home of a young couple twenty miles north of Fairbanks. The tour starts with a meet and greet with all 35 of their sled dogs followed by a quick break down on how to properly harness them to the sled. Once you’ve assisted with the assembly line, they take you on a three mile run. Safe to say we our lives are now complete.15621599_1163450523773582_182473495000159722_n15589631_1163450437106924_179036647854258881_n

Denali National Park12376864_947250158726954_7984926090914641004_n     We wanted to continue the whole one with nature theme we had going and did so by making the trek to Alaska’s national park. It was about an hours drive from Fairbanks, again showing the importance of renting a car to get around during your trip, and you lose cell reception for about 90% of the drive. (map the directions out beforehand.) You’re welcome.15665841_1163450323773602_8224469513408678562_n.jpg

There are numerous trails varying from easy to difficult, and all of them offer stunning scenic views. Make sure to research what trails are accessible during your trip as certain parts of the park are closed to the public during the winter and early spring seasons.The sights Denali offered are unlike any other National Park we’ve visited. Definitely a must hit location during your Alaskan stay.   12400990_952499328202037_8730085458625357167_n

. Chena Hot Springs12321444_952499978201972_6528003859491844243_n

After eight days of serious mountaineering and sleep deprivation, we were in desperate need of some R&R. Keeping in the Alaskan Spirit we treated ourselves to a “spa day” at Chena Hot Springs (http://www.chenahotsprings.com). With it costing only $10 for admission Chena Hot Springs gives Glen Ivy a serious run for their money.15253477_1163450397106928_5396496812832969881_n  15672798_1163562523762382_294079744127289100_n

Lunch in North Pole, Alaska marked the magical end of a truly magical trip. The town is decked out in Christmas decor year round, and if you’re lucky you might even catch a glimpse of the jolly fat man himself. Until next time we bid farewell to our favorite state.12928228_952500301535273_8252856823327523181_n12512230_947032085415428_2837756307123405016_n


2 thoughts on “Alaska

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