Chasing Lights

Sitting around the kitchen table late at night and into the early morning became our daily routine while in Alaska. My cousin, her husband, and I arrived in Fairbanks and had scheduled ten days total for our trip. We were hoping to see the lights either in Fairbanks or at the North Pole; we were fortunate to see them in both places and for five out of the ten nights we were there. As we sat around the table at Billie’s Backpacker Hostel chatting with others about the best times to see the lights, we were also discussing cameras. Everyone was sharing information about lenses, apertures, how their cameras did in different temperatures and how the atmosphere would affect them. Luckily, I met an amazing person who helped me with my camera and timing. Because of him we were able to come home with some very nice pictures to go with our memories. 

As the PM was slowly turning into AM, we all piled in a van and headed to the spot on a hill where everyone said the best place to see the lights would be.  And…it was. The lights filled the sky with greens, and yellow hues, and were dancing across it with such a vibrant movement. It was amazing to watch them go from thick to thin and wispy. They were strong and powerful, full, and then quickly thinned out and flowed like a river winding through a canyon. We all just stood there in complete awe and wonder. Some of us already had cameras out and were clicking away. My cousins and I were just captivated and standing still with smiles on our faces. I realized I needed a tripod so we waited until the next night to take pictures and just decided to enjoy the moment. Sean Penn said it best in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty about how some moments aren’t meant to be captured, but enjoyed.

We stood for what felt like hours and then piled back into the van. The next time we went out I was able to borrow a tripod from another nice person at the hostel. Billie’s truly is a magical place and I cannot rave about it, or her enough. As we went out, the temperature was dropping fast and I was able to get some amazing shots before my camera froze. I did not know that could happen. I always imagined the photographers with their giant lenses taking photographs of polar bears in the arctic and National Geographic photographers taking pictures swimming in frigid water, therefore thinking everything would be fine. My little Canon Rebel and I learned a different lesson that night. My camera probably knew it would happen and thought, hey lady, put a sweater on me, but I had no idea. Learning. Nonetheless, we went home with wonderful photographed memories. Other people had fancy cameras and I asked my cousins if they wanted pictures like that where the sky looked like the Milky Way. Her husband, my cousin, said, “Nope. I want it to look like how we saw it when we were here. I cannot see that purple sky and all those stars with my own eyes so I like how your pictures look. How we really see it.” In that moment I realized we captured the true moment of enjoyment. It was pretty awesome! Thank you for reading and have a wonderful Wednesday! 

-Karen Hilliard

Here are the Christmas Ornaments for 2023! These have inspired me to write about my trip to Alaska, and I hope you enjoy the journey. The link to all my Chilly Wonderland Collection is HERE!!

Off to Fairbanks!

A few years before meeting Chris, I had the opportunity to travel to Alaska. I was living with my best friend, who is also my cousin, at the time. She researched when the best time to see the Aurora Borealis was and found out March was a great month to try. This also happened to be her birthday month so we were pretty excited. She came to me and said, “Do you want to go to Alaska to see the Northern Lights? Bill Nye the Science guy is taking a team of people there in March so the lights must be beautiful that time of year. I replied sure! We thought, if Bill Nye said so, it should happen, right? Why would he go to try and film a show if there was a chance it may not work out? So, we saved and then booked our trip to Fairbanks, Alaska.

Getting to Fairbanks was quite a journey. We left out of Las Vegas and instead of flying direct to Anchorage, we ended up going to one of the other States first with a long layover. We slept in the airport for quite a long time, or tried to, it was freezing! Her husband, who was her boyfriend at the time, ended up walking around to stay warm. This was a much better idea than trying to sleep on uncomfortable seats. After the long wait, it was off to Anchorage, Alaska for our next layover.We had so many stops because we took the cheapest flights possible and ended up taking a day from our trip. We didn’t mind at all because we needed our funds for when we were there. I never had planned anything for my trips before and this trip changed all of that. My cousin loves making itineraries and budgeting for things we want to do. It was very nice and relaxing with a lot of wiggle room for new adventures. She taught me how to have fun by making tentative plans.

My favorite part of the trip was the dog mushing through Denali National Forest Area. I will save that for another blog. Alaska deserves a few, if not several blogs!! It truly was one of the best times of my life. For now, I will write about arriving in Fairbanks, and Billie’s Backpacker Hostel. If you ever go to Fairbanks…Please stay at Billie’s. You will not be disappointed. She, and her staff, make everyone feel like family. There are rooms upstairs and a communal kitchen downstairs. Everyone ends up in the kitchen really late at night discussing when to catch the lights. We felt like storm chasers at times. This hostel is so warm and welcoming that anyone who arrives becomes a friend. I still talk to the people I met there and we were only there less than a week. Highly Recommend! We had our rooms reserved and when we got there some other people showed up. Billie only had the heated garage available for them but her maintenance man and friend slept there with his dog. These people were afraid of dogs so we said we would swap our room for the garage. Billie was very appreciative and everyone ended up happy. The dog was awesome by the way. Wednesday I will tell you about our first time seeing the lights. In it then, have a great Monday, and thank you for reading!

-Karen Hilliard

Here are the Christmas Ornaments for 2023! These have inspired me to write about my trip to Alaska and I hope you enjoy the journey. The link to all my Chilly Wonderland Collection is HERE!!