by Sharon Wee
I’ve been entranced by the northern lights ever since I first saw pictures of the magical colourful swirls in the night sky. Experiencing the northern lights immediately made it on my list of things to do before I die. I just could not imagine what it would be like to look up into a pitch black sky and then suddenly see it light up with red, green and blue streaks. Turns out, it’s not like that at all. That’s not to say I was disappointed, I was still amazed and it is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I’m still unsure of the science behind the whole thing but I’m sure wikipedia will explain it well.
So this whole trip to the US was basically based around the northern lights. After extensive research we finally picked the Northern Tales tour at Whitehorse and as we headed there from Vancouver I really did not know what to expect. I knew it would be freezing and it would be a small town but other than that I had no idea what it would be like.
Whitehorse was not as small as I expected, it did have one or two main streets and it was freezing. On our first night, we traveled about 30 mins out of town to an open field because the lights can only be seen away from the city lights and when we stepped out of the van, the whole night sky was sparkling with stars which was a magical sight. Something that we have never experienced in Sydney.
The whole group of us were all excited (all of us were newbies) and after a brief introduction to the cabin (where we can warm up) and the direction to focus our gaze on we all started walking out in the field and settling in, setting up our cameras and staring out into the north. It was dark, cold and windy and we stood there, stared ahead and waited… and waited. But the lights never came that night.
We did get lucky on the second night and as soon as we were picked up by our guides that night we were told the lights were already out so we needed to hurry! As we drove out of town and along the dark Alaska Highway, the glow from the north started to appear and the lights started getting brighter. It looked like a glowing purple blanket covering the top of the trees, slowing creeping downwards. We all scrambled out of the van and the photographers (or budding, in my case) got their cameras ready, the other people just stood, frozen in the cold but enjoying the glowing sky and waves of white swirls.
On the third day we were lucky to be able to experience the winter activity package – a mixture of dog mushing, horse sleigh ride, snow mobile and tubing. It was so much fun and our hosts were so welcoming and full of tales about The Yukon.
My favourite part of the day was visiting the dog kennels and getting them ready for the ride. They were all so excited, running around, jumping on their kennels, barking and wagging their tales in delight. It was as if they were all calling out ‘pick me, pick me!’.
He’s so excited, look how high he’s jumping!
If I ever go back again, I will definitely do the full day of dog mushing, where you can actually bring the dogs out by yourself. But as an introduction, the activity package gave us a good taste of everything.
Our third night of northern lights viewing was not as lucky. They were out and we could see them glowing, but it was also pretty cloudy so they were all hidden behind the clouds. We were teased with the moving glow behind the clouds but as we stood there waiting for the clouds to move, we slowly got discouraged and went to sit around the camp fire and eventually headed into the cabin. The rest of the night was basically the same and finally our guide decided that it was time to go and started the van. Just minutes after he did that, the lights started to get bright again and began to dance over the clouds.
We all rushed to get our cameras, braved the cold, and staked our place. The lights didn’t last long, and after a couple of photos, they faded again. A sign that it was time to go home…
We were due to leave to New York the next day, so I was a bit sad to leave Whitehorse. The place was so relaxing and welcoming. Plus nothing keeps you more grounded than standing alone in a dark field of snow and staring up at a million stars. It makes me grateful for everything I’ve got and also reminds me of what a small, teeny, tiny part of this universe I am.
In case you are wondering, we were usually picked up at 9.30pm and didn’t return to our hotel until about 2.30am each night. It only really got to minus 10, so while all of us were freezing, our guides were were wearing not much at all… they were used to minus 40.
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