We’ve turned the nook from summer time to fall. There’s snow on the hills. Winter’s coming.
For some, the “termination mud” is the sign they should e book tickets to someplace south of right here. However for many people who name Alaska dwelling, it’s time to mud off our winter gear. Possibly this week you may pour your self a double shot of journey — and see what’s on the market to see and do.
“This has been an awesome week for northern lights,” mentioned Annie Hopper, who runs the Lodge at Black Rapids.
The lodge is about two hours north of Glennallen on the Richardson Freeway. It’s nearer to Fairbanks, located close to a few glaciers and the Denali Freeway.
“We’ve nice northern skies to see the lights,” Hopper mentioned.
For the reason that lodge is correct on the highway, they accommodate the drop-in visitor who wants a spot to remain for the evening. However Hopper has a number of packages that cater to the winter adventurer.
“We’ve a number of three- to five-day packages,” Hopper mentioned. Whether or not you’re chasing the northern lights or exploring ice caves in close by Black Rapids Glacier, the lodge can take aid you get a slice of a winter wonderland.
She and her husband, Mike, constructed the lodge on a hill overlooking the freeway and the Delta River. “Friends can go snowmachining, dogsledding or snowboarding,” she mentioned. New enhancements embrace a sauna and sizzling tub.
In case you actually love snowmachines, get in contact with Derek Ruckel at Alaska Wild Guides. Through the summer time, his guides take Jet-Skis from Whittier’s harbor out to see glaciers. However within the winter, Ruckel and his crew get again to snowmachine excursions.
“I began guiding in 2000,” Ruckel mentioned. “So I’ve obtained about 2,500 miles of trails on my GPS.”
Along with day journeys from their headquarters in Girdwood, Alaska Wild Guides runs lodge-to-lodge adventures from two to 14 days.
“First, I query the riders and ask them what to they wish to see. Then I construct a customized itinerary,” he mentioned.
Ruckel actually likes the four-day itinerary he calls “Alaska Explorer II.”
“This tour gives probably the most bang in your buck,” he mentioned.
The journey begins from Lake Louise. On the primary day, he trailers the sleds from Girdwood, arriving in time for everybody to get settled in and have dinner.
“Then we stand up the following day and journey 78 miles,” he mentioned.
Riders find yourself on the MacLaren River Lodge on the Denali Freeway.
“The Denali Freeway is closed within the winter, so the one method in or out is on snowmachines,” Ruckel mentioned.
The remainder of the itinerary consists of exploring close by glaciers, mountains and river valleys.
“We’re shopping for brand-new machines each season,” Ruckel mentioned. Whereas on tour, riders get lots of time on the machine, 50-100 miles per day. “You received’t see anybody else on the paths,” Ruckel mentioned. “The meals is top-notch. The beds within the lodges are comfortable, so everyone seems to be sleeping nicely and consuming nicely.”
Excursions run between Jan. 20 and March 30. The four-day, three-night Alaska Explorer II tour prices $3,650 per individual.
It’s not unusual to see the northern lights proper right here in Anchorage. However to get a extremely good look, take into account going with a professional.
I woke Steve Busby up on a latest afternoon. He’d been out late with some of us, trying to find the aurora borealis.
“The perfect time to see the northern lights is across the equinox,” mentioned Busby, who runs Greatland Adventures. “So it is a nice time to see the aurora borealis.”
Greatland Adventures focuses on day journeys — or slightly, evening journeys — to see the northern lights outdoors of Anchorage.
“We embrace all of the winter gear that’s obligatory,” he mentioned.
“Boots, snow pants, hooded parkas, mittens and heat hats are included,” he mentioned. “Plus, hand heaters and boot heaters, too.”
Relying on the climate and the northern lights forecast, excursions depart every night between 8 and 11 p.m. The associated fee is $275 per individual. “The size of the tour depends upon the place we go,” mentioned Busby. “It’s often one hour to get away from town lights.”
Mandy Garcia is likely one of the house owners of Salmonberry Excursions, which operates excursions year-round in Alaska. Whereas she calls Anchorage dwelling, she recommends heading north to see the northern lights.
“I like our Northern Lights Getaway package,” she mentioned. “We’ve fine-tuned the package deal over 10 years. We’ve it down.”
Friends go away Anchorage on the primary day in one in all Salmonberry’s vans. Vacation spot: Talkeetna. “In Talkeetna, you get to mush your individual canine workforce,” mentioned Garcia. The canines are a part of the Dallas Seavey Racing workforce, and there’s a 5-mile course by means of the forest. Afterwards, Salmonberry Excursions units up a tasting on the Denali Brewing Co., adopted by dinner.
From Talkeetna, friends journey north to Fairbanks on the Alaska Railroad. After arrival in Fairbanks, there’s time to examine into the resort and prepare to go see the northern lights.
The subsequent day features a go to to Chena Scorching Springs to go to the Ice Museum and the recent springs. It’s a good way to get warmed up upfront of aurora looking that night.
The next day is on-your-own to discover Fairbanks or take one of many optionally available excursions, corresponding to a flight north from the airport to cross the Arctic Circle. Get again in time for extra aurora looking till 2 to three a.m.
The package deal prices $1,958 per individual, double occupancy.
In case you arrive in Fairbanks by yourself and wish to chase the northern lights, examine in with Aaron Lojewski. He owns Fairbanks Aurora Tours.
Lojewski doesn’t have a selected spot that he frequents. Slightly, he rigorously research the climate and the aurora forecast to find out the most effective location to see the lights.
It could be a thriller the place you’re occurring the one-day tour. However odds are you’ll take dwelling some nice pictures out of your journey. That’s as a result of Lojewski is an distinctive photographer — and he can coach you on the right way to get probably the most out of your digital camera.
Lojewski concedes there are some locations farther north, like Coldfoot, which might be even higher than Fairbanks for viewing the northern lights. “However I like Fairbanks higher,” he mentioned. “That’s as a result of we now have 4 roads in all instructions. It’s simpler to drive to the lights from Fairbanks.”
Excursions with Fairbanks Aurora Excursions are $195 per individual. Cameras and tripods can be found for lease.
Scott McCrea of Discover Fairbanks confirms what many Alaskans suspect: “The shining lights of winter are the northern lights. It’s the principle motive of us come to go to,” he mentioned. “However even when Mom Nature isn’t cooperating, there’s no scarcity of winter actions.”
The truth is, there’s an extended checklist of sights to deliver guests to Fairbanks: mushing, museums, festivals and brewpubs. Discover Fairbanks publishes a wintertime visitors guide with a calendar of occasions and professional ideas for planning.
These concepts are simply to get you began planning for winter. By the point the snow covers the deck chairs that you simply haven’t but put away, you’ll be prepared for some winter enjoyable.