I can now tick one more item off my bucket list. I came. I saw. I braved the cold. I struggled with the lack of sleep. In the end it was totally all worth it.
I say in the end because it did not start that way. The first night was underwhelming. All we could see of the lights was a glow above the ridge. I later learned that is all most people ever see…if that. I met people who have been chasing the lights around the world in hopes of a glimpse of them in all their glory. It seemed like most multiple time travelers give it 3 tries before giving up. Although I met one couple that was on their 5th attempt to see them. With night #1 I was underwhelmed, but excited to finally see them. (see photo below)
I was severely disappointed the next 2 nights with only a faint glow through the clouds I took photos of the tee-pees and explored the yurts just trying to stay awake since you are at the Aurora Center from 11:30 PM to 4 AM. I was still thankful that I got to see the bit of glow the first night because the weather forecast for the last night was not looking good even though the aurora forecast was looking awesome with a KP6.
The last night made up for all the cold and lack of sleep, but it didn’t start out that way. It was dark like the previous two nights and exhausted and frustrated I told the people I was hanging out with “Screw this! I am going back in the cabin and getting warm. When I write my review of this trip it is going to say Northern Lights…one star…Do not recommend” Then I snatched up my camera on the tripod and turned to go back to the cabin. As I did the sky cleared and a giant green light shot across the sky like a giant bright rainbow and started to dance. Everyone there started to cheer, some prayed, others sang. It was amazing. The sky then cleared up over the next 5 minutes and we had about 90 minutes of amazing lights to the North, South, East, West and directly above us. It was hard to know where to look and put the videos I have seen online to shame. Needless to say I put my camera back down and joined in with the excitement.
I came all this way. I wasn’t going to miss a minute of this glorious show despite the freezing temperatures. Finally as the clouds started to move back in I went back to the cabin to defrost. I had completely lost feeling in my right foot up to the ankle and the toes in my left foot. When I got into the cabin and stripped off my boots and saw the mottled skin I knew I had frostbite. I couldn’t move my toes at all. I had the right gear… What happened? Well, remember how hot I was with all those layers? Well, my feet got sweaty. The sweat froze. My feet then froze. Thankfully we were about to head back into town so I could start the painful process of defrosting. (It is actually my 3rd time getting frostbite on my right foot. Been there, done that)
I got my feet defrosted and with the circulation restored I could wiggle my toes and I didn’t have any blisters or waxy looking parts so I was so thankful. I left for home the next day. My feet were sore when I put my boots back on to go home but it was tolerable. After my 1st flight they were really sore. I finally could not take it and stripped off my boots only to see the blisters starting to form from the frostbite. After the 2nd flight I could barely walk and the blisters were even worse. Then after my 3rd and last flight I took off my shoes and just stayed in my socks as soon as I got to the car.
It was pretty painful for the first 4 days in both feet. The right was worse and took about 10 days for the blisters to go down so I could walk comfortably again. Friends and family asked me if it was really worth it. Yes, it was. Even with the frostbite. The pain only lasted 10 days, but the memories will last me a lifetime.