Saturday morning we packed up our bags and grabbed some breakfast. Then we walked downtown Juneau one more time, hoping to grab some souvenirs before heading to our next destination. What we discovered is that the stores in Juneau only open when there are cruises scheduled to dock. There wasn’t a cruise scheduled to arrive until afternoon, but fortunately a few stores opened up before we had to head back to the hotel.
The hotel set us up with a shuttle so we could arrive at the airport around noon. We bid our bittersweet adieu to Juneau, all the while looking forward to our next destination, Fairbanks.
From Juneau we flew to Anchorage, had a short layover, then boarded a tiny plane to Fairbanks. We landed around 5:00 pm and rented a car. We thought since Fairbanks is much more spread out, and most of our plans did not include a shuttle, it would be best to have our own transportation.
We checked in at the Regency Fairbanks Hotel, now known as the Clarion Hotel & Suites Fairbanks. After a long day of travel we were famished, so we drove around town in search of dinner. We found a little sushi restaurant and enjoyed a delicious meal. Then we headed back to the hotel to rest a bit before our shuttle arrived.
Our big draw to Fairbanks was the northern lights, and we really wanted to experience and photograph them. We went on the “shoulder season”, so we knew there would be no guarantees of seeing them. We still decided to set up a guided photography lesson on Night Scenes and Northern Lights. If we were going to see them, we wanted to know how to take pictures of them.
Our guide picked us up about 8:30 pm and drove us about an hour away to Chandalar Ranch. It was a really popular spot to see and photograph “Aurora Borealis” because it is a secluded spot and they were strict on light pollution. Outside they only allowed red lights, to avoid interference with the cameras.
When signing up for the tour we were asked to bring the manual for our camera. The first thing we did was go inside to review how our camera works, and the general principals of taking night pictures. She also explained the different ways to manipulate and experiment with our camera to get the results we were looking for.
Next we headed outside to a large open field. Aurora did end up showing herself, though it was a cloudy night. We took turns taking pictures while she was active. It was a very chilly night. When the lights slowed down we headed inside for a little bit to warm up. Even with gloves, a hat, and coat, it was a welcomed break.
At the lodge there was a Native American hoop dancer named Ben Boyd presenting traditional song & dance. He was nice enough to include us in his audience. It was fun and unexpected experience. I even got to be a “volunteer” during his presentation.
After the demonstration was over, we headed back outside to try our hand at night photography just a little while longer. Around 2 am we were driven back to the hotel. On the way back our guide told us of other great places around Fairbanks to view the Northern Lights.
As much fun as we were having, it was sure nice to get back to the hotel. We were so exhausted, I think we fell asleep before our heads hit the pillows. We needed to rest up, we still had many plans to explore the Fairbanks area.