After a short ride to the train station this a.m., the train departed around 08:40. Spectacular scenery almost all the way--especially through regions known as Hurricane Gulch and Denali National Park. Mt. McKinley (aka Denali) was clear from top to bottom--a rare occurrence. Usually there are clouds obscuring the top. But this year--as with last year--we got a perfect view. The train conductor did something he rarely does: stopped the train for us to get off for even better photos.
We pulled into Fairbanks around 20:15 p.m.; the bus had already brought the luggage from Anchorage and delivered it to the hotel rooms, so we were out of the train and on the bus within minutes. On the short ride to the Sophie Station, we drove past the 2010 World Ice Art Championships to get a quick glimpse of the sculptures with lights on them (http://www.icealaska.com/). We'll be getting back there soon, but in the daytime. If you've never seen these, it's worth the trip to Fairbanks just for that.
After arriving at the hotel we checked the aurora data and it appeared that things were quiet, so we used that as an excuse for a good night's sleep. Most were tired from the long train ride anyway. A couple of friends from San Diego were visiting to shoot the auroras, and they teamed up with a mutual friend from Fairbanks (http://leroyzimmerman.com) to head out tonight anyway since the sky is clear. I caught up with them but decided to pass, with the request that if anything should turn up in the sky they should call me. I don't expect the phone to ring! The lights are as quiet as I've ever seen them. We're, of course, hoping that they pick up in the next few days, though there's no evidence that they will. Time will tell.
Tomorrow (Sunday) will be another long, but interesting, day. 08:45 the bus arrives to take us the the UA Fairbanks Geophysical Institute where we'll hear about the aurora and seismology research they're doing there, and receive a tour of their research labs. Then, after lunch, it's on to learn about raising sled dogs and the Ice Art Festival. Evening will see us at Creamer's Field (http://www.wc.adfg.state.ak.us/index.cfm?adfg=refuge.creamers) where the local amateur astronomy group will set up telescopes for our folks and, if we're lucky, we'll get to see some lights as well.
Tonight, however, it's an early night for me!