FAIRBANKS, ALASKA

Fairbanks & North Pole             

 November 2015


 

 People frequently ask me, why Alaska? What is there to do? For one thing, seeing the Northern Lights has been on my bucket list for quite sometime now…years, really. I have the weekend, extra cash buried under my bed and a friend to go with, so I closed my eyes and booked the trip away.

In a small town called Fairbanks, according to my research, you can actually have good visibility of the Northern lights.  Although there’s not much going on in this cozy place at winter time, besides dog mushing, sledding and fishing, it felt pretty special to me because of the unexpected experiences and during the brief time I was there, I was able to reflect on life.

 Fairbanks International Airport. This, I would say, is one of the smallest airports that I have ever been to. I can literally walk from one end to the other in about 5 minutes.


Bar I

We arrived in our hotel, the Marriott Springhill Suites, late in the evening. We settled in, then started researching on where we can go to finish off what’s left of that Friday night.  The front desk recommended this local bar called Big I.  It was just across the bridge from the hotel and took us about 5-10 minutes to get there.

Photo Credit: Percy Castellanos

Big I was surprisingly hopping for a Friday night in a small town. It is more of  a sports bar, having a pool table, darts, a few televisions, a large sitting area and a vast selection of alcohol.  I tried 3 different local beers and they were all equally great.

UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA, MUSEUM OF THE NORTH


Photo Credit: Percy Castellanos

 University of Alaska, Museum of the North was the first stop (click here) .  Inside, you will learn a lot about Alaskan history, view video clips of the Aurora Borealis and see exhibited animals (not living) and native artifacts.

 Unfortunately, we were not able to watch a show which featured different topics like the Arctic Circle, Dinosaurs, and of course the Northern Lights.

Outside the Museum, is  beautiful snow-covered ground with the added bonus of the awesome panoramic view of the southern mountain range.

Pics above were taken just outside of the Museum.

CHENA HOT SPRINGS RESORT


Later that afternoon, we were picked up by our tour van to head to Chena Hot Springs Resort (click here). Here, we visited an Ice Museum, took a dip in the Hot Springs, and viewed the Northern Lights.

This is the biggest Ice Museum I have been to. It was initially called the Ice Hotel but they were not approved as such because they couldn’t install a fire sprinkler system and so they ended up turning it into a museum. Here, I also enjoyed the Apple Martini at the famous Aurora Ice Bar.

Photo Credit: Percy Castellanos

We had dinner at the only restaurant in the resort.  We ordered smoked salmon pasta, clam chowder and some local beers.  Everything tasted great and the servings were huge enough to share.  After dinner, we were off to the outdoor hot springs.

The hot spring is above 100 deg. F while outside temperature is at least 25 deg. below zero.

Having a waterproof phone (Samsung S5) was a good thing. I was able to take some pictures while bathing (and shivering).  Quality is obviously poor due to lighting and the steam coming from the water.  If you want better pictures, I would suggest doing this while there is still sunlight.. just be mindful of what time sunset is. And yes, because of the temperature, your hair, eyelashes, eyebrows and even your nose hair will freeze.

Video Courtesy: YouTube (Miles McQueeney)

 Now, it’s time to wait for the Northern Lights.  I did bring a different camera to take pictures with, but to my great disappointment, it malfunctioned and I was not able to use it.  After almost an hour, and no sign of the Aurora,  we decided to leave the resort and find another spot where we can possibly have a view.

Photo Credit: Percy Castellanos

Finally, we were graced by the presence of the Aurora Borealis.  Since I’ve only packed my useless camera, my friend took some pictures using his (point and shoot) camera.  I know the images are not that good, but this is what we’ve got.  All that matters is that we were able to witness the Northern Lights, and how it seemed to spread out, move and wave like a living thing. It was surreal.  I remember a picture that went viral on facebook, about a crowd where all the people had their cameras out and were taking videos and pictures..except for this one older woman who was just enjoying the moment.  So, while I was looking up at the northern lights, I took that time to appreciate and be amazed by the breathtaking beauty of nature.  The video below is an example of what you can possibly see on your Northern Lights hunting.

Video Curtesy: YouTube (Taro Nakai)

NORTH POLE


 Since North Pole was only about 20 minutes south of Fairbanks, might as well visit Santa Claus and his house.  Who knows, we might even see Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.  If you are planning to take a taxi from Fairbanks, then riding with friends is the way to go because the one-way fare was $50.  Too bad neither of us were comfortable driving in the snow.

 I just wanted to say that there were more adults than kids that had their pictures taken with Santa Claus..so, of course, I did not let that chance pass.  And in this picture, even though Santa had a beatific smile on his face, he was actually wheezing, “I can’t feel my leg” .. We did have a sighting of a reindeer but I was not sure if it was Rudolph (Bambi,maybe?).


Since we had an early flight, we got up at 3 A.M to get ready, and from our hotel window we had a glimpse of a faint Aurora Borealis.

The poor quality of the pictures was because of the light pollution and also, it was taken by a camera phone.

When we arrived at the airport, the TSA personnel were not even ready for travelers, so to kill time, a silly walking-on-water pose was in order.

Although every great trip must come to an end, I must say, the time I spent, the adventures I had and the memories I made in Alaska will stay with me for as long as I live. What is there to do in this wild, cold, amazing place? Feast my eyes, my heart and my soul. I will definitely go back.

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