The last frontier, Alaska.
Alaska is truly the last frontier, it is vast land of massive mountains and endless tundra covered in ice and snow. We arrived in early spring, not that you would know it the day time temperatures were -10c and at night it would go as low as -28c.
Alaska you ask why would you go there, and not in summer. Well we where going to Canada to spend some time with our son who was working there at that time and our daughter decided she was going to join us, it was her idea as she had been reading about the Northern lights (Aurora Borealis) and was keen go and see them, as it turned out the time of year we would be in Canada was the ideal time to view the Auroras. After much research and considering places like Yellowknife Canada it was apparent the easiest location to get to close to the Arctic circle was Fairbanks Alaska. The decision was made Fairbanks Alaska it would be and we would join her on this adventure.
After spending many hours on the internet we found Mt Aurora Creek Lodge, about 30km out of Fairbanks that is adjacent to a ski field that specialised in aurora viewing, the lodge it self was built originally as accommodation for gold miners some miles away, it was moved to its current location during the nineteen sixties. The building was clad in rusting corrugated iron and lined with rough sawn timbers, a very rustic feel, with lots of old world furniture and artefacts, the beds were nice and soft with thick feather dooners to keep you warm at night. The perfect place to stay in the Alaskan wilderness, with very hospitable hosts who cook us very hearty meals, and advised us about all the things to see and do in the area. Brenda and her son Troy were a great source of information when it came to all things Auroras, and advised on when where and how to photograph the Aurora Borealis, as well as providing warming cups of hot chocolate, and boy did you need them when it was -28c outside.
The nights we were at Mt Aurora Creek Lodge were clear and the Aurora Borealis was very active dancing overhead in bands and curtains of light from one horizon to the other. One of the most amazing things I have ever seen.
Whilst staying in Fairbanks, it seemed to be festival season with the North American Dog Sled championships being held in the downtown area, the trappers fur and pelt auctions, international ice carving competition in the nearby park, and the Fairbanks Ice Dogs ice hockey team were playing in town, so there was no shortage of things to see and do, and all very local experiences.
Fairbanks is 320 km inland from the capital Anchorage and on every Sunday the train makes the weekly trip down to the coast, and of course we were on board. The trip to Anchorage takes 10 hours to complete and takes you over frozen rivers, across large expanses of tundra, through large military bases, past nuclear power plants, across deep canyons, through the Denali National park, past the majestic Mt McKinley (the highest mountain in North America) and through Inuit settlements, while all the way there is an abundance of wildlife (except bears to early). A great day spent sitting back enjoying the passing vistas and enjoying the ride.
On arrival at Anchorage we were met by a car to transfer us to the Alyeska Ski resort at Girwood, about 40 km down the Turnagain Arm in the Chugach National Park. The sun was setting as we drove down the coast, towering mountains on either side of the arm, the arm it self was partially frozen, made for some great photos.
Alyeska is a ski resort renowned for its steep runs a deep powder unfortunately it had not snowed for a few days, and been the week after spring break it had been tracked out, but the skiing was still great and very challenging. The resort is a 5 star resort with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, and direct access to the ski area via a cable car with out having to go outside. Once up the mountain the views of Turnagian Arm and the seven glaciers that feed it are spectacular.
Alaska is very different from other places we have visited in North America, and it attracts some very different people from all over America all looking something different and new starts.
I have posted some of my of photographs I have captured in this trip to the Alaska gallery, just follow the Alaska Gallery link.
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