A Travellerspoint blog

In Search of the Northern Lights


overcast 6 °F

We arrived in Fairbanks with the temps in the single digits. Our hotel for 2 nights is the Pikes Waterfront Lodge sitting on the banks of the Chena River. We have an Aurora View room, but it is cloudy and snowing lightly, so we won't see the lights. As the Chena is frozen over, it becomes both a bridge and a snow machine highway.

Our excursion for the day was to the Museum of the North on the campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The museum's mission is to acquire, conserve, investigate, and interpret specimens and collections relating to the natural, artistic, and cultural heritage of Alaska and the Circumpolar North. Through education, research, and public exhibits, the museum serves the state, national, and international science programs. The museum develops and uses botanical, geological, zoological, and cultural collections; these collections form the basis for understanding past and present issues unique to the North and meeting the challenges of the future.

It is well worth the several hours it takes to visit.


Posted by rpickett 02:25 Archived in USA Tagged fairbanks Comments (0)

In Search of the Northern Lights

Alaska Railroad

sunny 0 °F

Today we got up early and boarded the Alaska Railroad at 8:10am for the 353 mile, 11.5 hour ride to Fairbanks. This trip has been on my list for some time - to see Alaska interior by train in the winter. I have done the summer trip several times. The weather was spectacular and we watched Mt. Denali in all it's greatness for several hours with not a cloud in sight.

Denali, also known as Mount McKinley, its former official name) is the highest mountain peak in North America, with a summit elevation of 20,310 feet (6,190 m) above sea level. With a topographic prominence of 20,194 feet (6,155 m) and a topographic isolation of 4,621.1 miles (7,436.9 km), Denali is the third most prominent and third most isolated peak on Earth, after Mount Everest and Aconcagua. Located in the Alaska Range in the interior of the U.S. state of Alaska, Denali is the centerpiece of Denali National Park and Preserve.

The Koyukon people who inhabit the area around the mountain have referred to the peak as "Denali" for centuries. In 1896, a gold prospector named it "Mount McKinley" in support of then-presidential candidate William McKinley; that name was the official name recognized by the federal government of the United States from 1917 until 2015. In August 2015, 40 years after Alaska had done so, the United States Department of the Interior announced the change of the official name of the mountain to Denali.


Posted by rpickett 20:06 Archived in USA Tagged alaska railroad Comments (2)

In Search of the Northern Lights

Back to Anchorage.

sunny 18 °F

Once the sun came up we checked out and headed to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to visit the rescued animals. The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to conservation, research, education, and animal care. The center is located on about 200 acres (81 ha) at the head of Turnagain Arm and the entrance to Portage Valley. It is a Wildlife sanctuary for orphaned or injured wildlife, as well as home or temporary home to captive born and translocated wildlife such as wood bison. It is a wildlife sanctuary that provides comfortable, permanent homes for orphaned and injured animals.
We then headed back to Anchorage and checked into the Hilton for the night in preparation for boarding the Alaska Railroad for our 12 hours train journey to Fairbanks! We had a wonderful view of the setting sun and the rising full moon.


Posted by rpickett 01:24 Archived in USA Tagged anchorage Comments (0)

In Search of the Northern Lights

Alyeska Ski Resort

sunny 25 °F

We arrived just at sunset at about 4pm and checked into our room. The hotel is not full by any measure and there was only one of their four restaurants open - an Italian themed restaurant. I has the halibut which seemed the logical choice given where we are.

Today, we headed to the top of the mountain - about 2500 feet above sea level. The resort sits at 250 feet. Although it is the lowest ski resort in the US, it gets the most snow of any resort at more than 600 inches, compared to about 400 inches in Colorado or Park City. It is open 7 days a week until April and then on weekends until the snow is gone. Alyeska is part of the Chugach Mountains. The Chugach Mountains of southern Alaska are the northernmost of the several mountain ranges that make up the Pacific Coast Ranges of the western edge of North America. The range is about 250 miles long and 60 miles wide, and extends from the Knik and Turnagain Arms of the Cook Inlet on the west to Bering Glacier, Tana Glacier, and the Tana River on the east. It is bounded on the north by the Matanuska, Copper, and Chitina rivers. The highest point of the Chugach Mountains is Mount Marcus Baker, at 13,094 feet , but with an average elevation of 4,006 feet, most of its summits are not especially high.
Even so, its position along the Gulf of Alaska ensures more snowfall in the Chugach than anywhere else in the world, an annual average of over 1500 cm (800 in).


Posted by rpickett 01:47 Archived in USA Tagged alyeska Comments (1)

In Search of the Northern Lights


semi-overcast 30 °F

As a bucket list item, I have always wanted to go to Alaska in the winter. I have been in the summer a number of times, but in the winter we are hoping to see the Northern Lights. It will not be my first time as I have seen them both in upstate New York as a kid and in Norway.

We flew into Anchorage and settled in to the Embassy Suites waiting for the sun to rise at about 10:00am.
Our first stop was the Anchorage Aviation Museum out by the airport. It is a very interesting museum that documents the Japanese fighting in Alaska during World War II (the battle of Attu) as well as other aviation milestones in Alaska.


Following lunch at a very popular local watering hole and pizza parlor, we headed south along the Turnagain Arm to our next stop the Alyeska Ski Resort where we will stay for two nights.


Posted by rpickett 02:06 Archived in USA Tagged anchorage Comments (1)

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