“Sail Away” With Me

In the last blog post, “Who’s Afraid of the Denali Highway?”, I shared our experience crossing the Denali Highway for the first time.  It was quite exciting, but before we crossed we arrived in Paxson and drove to the first pull off to get our bearings and grab a quick bite in the RV.  It was the evening of our 6th wedding anniversary and I began to think about 7 years ago when we witnessed the aurora for the first time.  The “highway” was going to be quite secluded from any city lights.  I ran outside to assess whether or not we had a chance to repeat our luck.  The sky was beautiful, but heavily scattered with wispy clouds.  Normally, I would be tickled pink, but I was hoping for clear skies.  We proceeded to fix dinner and got to sleep a bit earlier than normal … setting the alarm for 11:30 pm.

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When the alarm rang, I got dressed for the cold and the wind, which I could hear howling outside.  Is everything ready?  Camera with proper night shooting settings? Tripod set up? Remote shutter connected?  Fresh memory card?  Fresh battery?  Proper wide angle lens attached?  All systems seemed like … GO.  The stars were brightly lit and that’s when I realized that the skies had indeed cleared.  Yippee!

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In & out of the RV I went, trying to get warm from that wicked wind.  On one particular run outside, we saw it … the aurora, also referred to as the northern lights.  It was stretched out on the vast landscape before us.  At this point it was relatively stagnant … just fabulous light which would intensify and then retreat.

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Composition … I searched my surroundings for something that I incorporate into the frame to make the shot more interesting.  OK, secret be told, this is actually a really nice outhouse in the lot that we were parked in.  LOL.  I know, quite romantic, but who cares, it was a structure and served the purpose I was looking for.  Now the light was beginning to include a hint of purple hue as well.

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It was then that the lights began to float across the night’s dark sky.  I distinctly remember hearing the wind, feeling it against my face, and I became quite thrilled.  Yes, my senses went back to that first night on August 30th, 2007 … Chena Hot Springs – Tom & I snuggled up under multiple blankets, freezing, as we laid down on top of a picnic table and watched the northern lights as they danced across the sky.  Of course, I would run over to my tripod on occasion to try to capture the experience.

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As the aurora intensified and other colors appeared, I no longer felt the cold.  All I felt was the sensory overload that I was experiencing and the endorphins or whatever flowing through my body … touching my soul like only the aurora can.

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In some cultures, witnessing the aurora is considered to be one of the most prized events in their lifetime.  Some say that the experience bestows good relationships and fortune on its lucky observers.  We never expected to see it the first time we did, so it was quite the pleasant surprise.  It totally moved us spiritually, as the lights fell like curtains dancing in the wind.

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At this point, I thought it was dwindling and I figured that I would be satisfied with what I had already witnessed.  I retreated into the RV and put my PJs on for the night.  Before I got under the covers, I took one my shot at the night skies.  This is what I saw … and all bets were off … in my bare feet and PJs (I’m talking single layered), I ran out with my tripod in hand and began shooting in awe again.  In actuality, it was even colder than before, but it didn’t matter.

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Point is, I didn’t even feel it.  Tom stayed inside for a bit, then finally joined me, with proper clothing on, of course.  Oh, and he offered me my jacket.  Always the sherpa.  ❤

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On August 30, 2008, we got married in Chena Hot Springs in honor of our 1st aurora experience.  Seemed appropriate that we would once again see them on August 30th, some 6 years later.  Sort of like renewing our vows.  🙂  Each year, on our anniversary, we go out into nature and present each other with a gift from nature.  I don’t think we could have asked for a better one.

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Reminds me of the David Gray song “Sail Away”.

Lyrics:                                                                                                                                           “Crazy skies all wild above me now
Winter howling at my face
And everything I held so dear
Disappeared without a trace”

I’m sure that wasn’t the actual meaning of the lyrics, but it was to us.  I couldn’t say anything better to describe the experience.  You totally get lost in the experience.  I still get all emotional when I hear that song … ask Tom.  LOL

Coming Up:  A Week in Denali National Park.  Stay tuned.  🙂

© 2014 TNWA Photography

 

 

 

 

 

2012 Review: Part 4 – Denali National Park & Other AK Areas

Off to Denali we went for another week or so – actually we loved it so much that we returned to Denali for another 4 day stint when Kelli & Mitchell flew out to join us in Anchorage.  Hoping to see the moose rut, it seems that we were still a bit too early to see the real jostling that goes on, but we did see some early “practice sessions”.  We did see many sightings of grizzly bears this year – many times they were sows and their cubs.  As they frolicked in the amazing autumn-kissed tundra or sometimes even in the snow covered landscape, they thrilled me to no end, as I clicked off images to my heart’s content.  Wolf sightings were achieved, as well as coyotes, caribou, golden eagles, harriers, dall sheep, just to name a few.  Conspicuously absent for us in 2012 was the lynx, though I tried really hard… new found friends of ours were successful in seeing one, so I lived vicariously through their sighting.

When we first arrived, we were treated to a vast array of autumn’s best colors.

Autumn color changes were everywhere, as even the caribou has to stop to enjoy the view

Autumn color changes were everywhere, as even the caribou has to stop to enjoy the view

Young grizzly cubs frolicking at play

Young grizzly cubs frolicking at play

Lone wolf cruising the tundra in search of a meal

Lone wolf cruising the tundra in search of a meal

Cow moose feeding

Cow moose feeding

Then the weather began to change, as the fog and rain rolled in
Where's the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow?

Where’s the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow?

Then it happened ….. SNOW  (remember, we’re quite excited – being from FL and all)
The snowfall started in the afternoon and continued on through the evening

The snowfall started in the afternoon and continued on through the evening

The next day, it was beautiful!  The snow had stopped, the skies were clear, the weather was cold, but plenty of sunshine to help warm us up.  Even the wildlife seemed to enjoy it.
Grizzly bear stop in the snow flurry blanketed landscape

Grizzly bear stop in the snow flurry blanketed landscape

What a fabulous day!

What a fabulous day!

Taking in the view from Wonder Lake

Taking in the view from Wonder Lake

The freshly fallen snow contrasts so beautifully on the mountains and against the sky

The freshly fallen snow contrasts so beautifully on the mountains and against the sky

Not a cloud in the sky - viewpoint of Mt. McKinley (aka Denali) from Stony Hill Overlook

Not a cloud in the sky – viewpoint of Mt. McKinley (aka Denali) from Stony Hill Overlook

Having some fun along the way!

Having some fun along the way!

A mother-daughter moment of happiness  :-)

A mother-daughter moment of happiness 🙂

We also traveled to other areas of Alaska, of course, as we always do.  There’s never a shortage of experiences or sights/animals to see and photograph.  I encourage everyone out there that has never visited AK to do so … you won’t be disappointed.

Hatcher Pass vista

Hatcher Pass vista

The newlyweds along the Turnagain Arm @ Beluga Point - yes, we did see the belugas!

The newlyweds along the Turnagain Arm @ Beluga Point – yes, we did see the belugas!

And our most favorite of all sights, though very different viewing in 2012, is the spectacular aurora borealis.  First experienced by us in 2007 in Chena Hot Springs, outside of Fairbanks, it continues to be sought after by us when we visit AK in the later summer.  This year, the aurora didn’t “dance” across the sky like a blowing curtain, but rather made it’s presence know with an almost glow in the sky.  Not much movement at all, though still very beautiful.

Northern lights over Chena Hot Springs

Northern lights over Chena Hot Springs

What a wonderful place … ever-changing, awe-inspiring …. warms the heart and soul  🙂

Stay tuned for 2012 Review:  Part 5