Saturday, March 19, 2011

Alaska Aurora Adventure: Day 1

Long day!  Left the desert last night and drove to San Diego where I spent the night… never much sleep the night before a trip.  Too much excitement it seems!   After a few hours of dozing I got to the airport in plenty of time to sit down and relax. I’ve always been one to arrive at airports very early; drives people crazy.  My reasoning is this: I’ve got to wait anyway, so I might as well wait at the airport where all the stress of driving, traffic, parking, etc. is behind me.  And this morning it gave me a chance to write an article for my Scholastic, Inc. web column that’s due on Monday.  Now that’s out of the way too.

On the flight to Anchorage I read nearly every word of a 444-page manual for a new camera; I might not be able to ace a test on it, but I’m ready to set it up for shooting.  All I need now are some colored lights in the sky.  

Once in Anchorage we gathered everyone and hopped our bus to the hotel.  Our driver, Paul Smith, has escorted my groups for the past several years both in Anchorage and Fairbanks, and is one terrific bus driver.  Then, after a ten minute drive to the hotel, we broke for dinner and headed back to rest up for the night.  Everyone’s quite excited about tomorrow’s agenda. 

Wake up call will come at 06:30 and, after breakfast, we’ll leave at 09:00 for our long drive north to Fairbanks--through some of the most spectacular winter scenery in Denali National Park.  Weather here has been great, so we’re expecting a rare, clear look at Denali itself (Mt. McKinley).  Everyone loves to see that—the tallest mountain in North America.  And, of course, everyone is excited about seeing the aurora.

Two weeks ago the sky above Fairbanks was lit every night; now the auroral forecast for this week is pretty dismal.  But I’ve been up here enough over the past decade to know that forecasts can be wrong.  Sometimes dramatically wrong.  I remember February 2003 in Iceland; all the auroral indicators were bleak, yet we saw one of the two best displays I’ve ever seen.  Since that time I take the forecasts with a grain of salt.

So now it’s time for rest, for tomorrow we head off into one of the most beautiful and majestic terrains on all of planet Earth!

No comments: