Northern Lights!

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.

Greetings from Whitehorse, Canada!

The biggest challenge for me has been food, not the cold on this trip. I know it sounds odd, but I am here in the off season so roughly half the places are closed. The places that are open have odd hours. So every time I want something to eat I need to walk 15-30 min each way in the snow in search of somewhere that is open to get food. This has made me not very picky. I don’t really care what it is as long as it is hot… Ok, so maybe the cold is a factor.

Speaking of cold, It is warm inside and cold outside so I find myself stripping off layers like a horny teenager because I am sweating so bad as soon as I get inside and bundling up the Ralphie’s brother in A Christmas Story when I go outside. IT has taken me a bit to get a system down. At home the last thing I put on is my shoes. But my first day here I thought I might get heat stroke before I got my boots tied. Also, I learned that you can’t leave garments out side for any length of time. I took off my gloves to eat a bison sausage that was cooked over a campfire and they froze solid by the time I finished eating and I could not get my hands back in them. I also learned that temperature is all relative to what you are use to. Now I usually acclimate to the climate in a few days. I never acclimated to Whitehorse. I also thing the people who live there may be crazy since it NEVER got above freezing or even close to it while I was there but they were all talking about how they are enjoying the great weather and the early spring. One guy went camping with his girlfriend over the weekend. Camping. In the snow. Now I went camping once on the California coast in November and decided it is too miserable to go camping when it was that cold out. It was still above freezing…even overnight.

One of the things I love about travel is experiencing other places and cultures. This was just Canada so I was not expecting culture shock. But the people living in the Yukon are sure a different breed of human. I fully believe that these rugged, outdoorsy people will absolutely survive the zombie apocalypse should it ever come around.

There was a lot of beauty there with fresh snow covering the ground and I enjoyed seeing the wildlife. I can see how it would be a summer destination for hiking, camping, white water rafting and well, for pretty much any outdoor sports. This place was made for hunting and fishing. In California terms I am pretty outdoorsy, but in Whitehorse terms…I am a city girl. I am ok with that. The difference in perspectives is part of what I love about travel.

Baby, It’s COLD outside…

Greetings from the Arctic circle!

Seriously, I really am there…and I am cold. Now I thought I knew cold before. I was wrong. I am NOT built for a week of sub zero temperatures. I am probably not built for a day of them. But I finally checked another item off my bucket list… The Northern Lights!

Like many people, the Northern lights have sat on my bucket list for decades waiting to be seen. I booked this trip when I returned from Scotland in Sept 2019 and booked my next adventure for February 2021. Then the pandemic hit. I wasn’t worried though. Surely it would be over before February 2021. I was wrong. When November rolled around and the pandemic was still going strong and California was still closed and travel was still very restricted I bumped my trip to the next year. February 2022 was it! Not a big deal. Then as the holiday surge hit and restrictions tightened up even more despite the vaccinations now being available I bumped it another year. So February 2023 it is…but I was not feeling good about it.

I didn’t get excited about my trip until after the holidays when it appeared that the trip was actually going to happen. Then it was a scramble. Where did I put my frozen tundra gear? Does it still fit? Will it be enough? How do I dress to travel from sunny California to Whitehorse, Canada to make the transition form 65 degrees to -13? ( It was actually -18 when I got there, not like 5 degrees makes that much of a difference. I didn’t even want to know what temps I was looking at with the wind chill factored in. I didn’t want to know.)

In the last few months before my trip my flights were changed 3 times leading me to add on an extra night in Whitehorse then a night in Vancouver at the beginning of my trip. I watched the weather closely and read up on the Northern lights. I learned all about space weather, solar flares, KP factors and other things I never had any reason to know. I learned all about dog sled racing and the Yukon Quest dog sled race that was happening while I was there. I started to have nightmares that I was going to get frostbite on my nose and it was going to fall off. I often wondered what I was thinking to myself.

When you are in search of achieving your dreams it is not a good idea to listen to others who have not been there, done that before. They have no idea. (Actually, that is good advice no matter what it is.) Do not listen to advice about travel from someone who has never left their hometown. I can’t even begin to tell you just how many people have tried to give me travel advice who have never traveled. Seriously? How are you an expert? I have since learned to just ignore them, their opinions and their advice. This trip brought on more that almost any other trip I have taken. For some reason whenever I travel solo EVERYONE seems to have an opinion about it. The trick is to ignore them and follow your dreams. In the end you will have accomplished and seen more than those who rarely stray away from the comfort of their couch.

Follow your dreams!