Alaska! My job rules. I had a job in Anchorage, and of course I padded it with a few extra days. First, Julie and I took a ride up north, through Denali park. Above is the typical scenery on that drive.
Mount McKinley as seen from the town of Talkeetna, which supposedly inspired the town in Northern Exposure. We ate reindeer sausages there. I'm posting these a bit out of order as we stopped here on the way back from up north, because McKinley is a major feature of Denali National Park. Here it is from inside the park.
Alaska is really really big. Julie had read about some hot springs up by Fairbanks, and so that was our destination for the night. Fairbanks is about an 8 hour drive from Anchorage (no stopping in Wasilla!) and Chena Hot Springs was about an hour further than that. I think that time stretches along with the land in Alaska, because I've done 9 hour drives before but holy crap, that was a never-ending drive. It was all beautiful though.
Chena Hot Springs Lodge. Looks kinda dumpy, smells like sulfur... awesome place though. We spent the night. It's way out in the middle of nowhere and has natural hot springs, obviously, that are full of minerals and 150 degree spring water. A good long soak was the perfect ending to an Alaskan time warp drive. They have their own little airstrip there, where at night you can hang out and watch the northern lights.
Northern lights! Big Dipper! We were a bit worried about our chances of seeing them because they say you should give it at least three nights when planning a visit in case of cloudy weather and whatnot. We had one night, and it was clear as a bell out. Whew!
My first few shots were kinda crappy, but luckily I'm an obsessive-compulsive picture taker when something kicks my synapses in the tush. The lights got better and I improved my technique as the night went on.
It was ridiculously cold. But we didn't care. We braved the runway and the freezing degree night with great fortitude... and a bottle of Tullamore Dew. Holy shit we got wasted watching the lights. We didn't even know it until later when we went inside for a break to warm up a bit. It was so cold and the view was so amazing that we didn't feel it, and it was so dark we couldn't actually see how much we were drinking... we'd been sipping it like lukewarm gluhwine to stay warm. Once we actually did warm up a bit, it was like we'd fallen into some kind of living painting.
And that's an annoying plane that got in my shot, or some kind of spaceballish spaceship!
And another one, along with some annoying other photographer shining his stupid red light so he could see something stupid on the ground. Asshat. It does sort of all add something to the photo, but I wish I could have seen this particular configuration without all the extra noise. By the time I was able to bulb another shot off, the lights had of course altered, as they do.
Still pretty cool. Speaking of northern light movement, it was pretty spectacular. Mostly, they undulated rather slowly, like clouds, and if you're watching them the movement seems glacial but if you look away for a moment and look back they may be in a very different configuration. Except for this one time: there was a spread of green and red lights high up that sort of looked like a curtain, not moving much, and then suddenly as we were watching, they TOTALLY SHIMMERED, really fast too, like the curtain was moving to open or close. It was wild. We were totally enthralled until a guy from mexico who was visiting decided to inform us that "they were better last night." Hey asshat number two, are you trying to make me anti-immigration or something?
Last one. Different angle, but I like the way it looks like the woods are on green fire. I have so many more and they're all awesome. The next morning we got up, perhaps still a tad drunk, and once again found that a nice soak in a natural hot spring is a wonderful cure-all. Then we made the drive back down south. Took a detour in Denali. That was crazy. Everything in Denali was closed and we needed gas. We made it to the little town of Denali and luckily the gas station was open... barely. There was nothing left on the shelves of the convenience store and a girl came running out with a box full of products, shoved it in the back of a truck and ran back in while another guy came running out with another box. It was like armageddon. They said that it was the last day they were even selling gas... Winter Is Coming! Anyway, we made it and spent the night in Talkeetna, then headed down to Anchorage for work. Here's Anchorage from our hotel.
Then I had to actually go to work. Ho hum. But then, after work, we had a full day before catching our red-eye home, so we drove down the Seward peninsula! Beautiful scenery, amazing vistas, blah blah blah. We stopped at the Exit glacier just outside of seward, and read a helpful info-graphic before hiking up to it.