Over twenty years had passed since we’d lived in Alaska, so long that the place had become like a dream to us.
So it’s fitting that, after finishing the Alcan and returning to Alaska, we saw the Northern Lights. It’s an otherworldly experience, seeing the Aurora Borealis for the first time.
The skies were clear that night, and, according to the Aurora Forecast, the Northern Lights would appear at a moderate intensity. The lights don’t get active until well past our bedtime, so we forced ourselves to stay awake–10:30 passed to 11:00, then 11:30…. Sometime shortly before 12:00, we started to see a strange glow in the sky. It was starting!
It was like a huge swath of dark sky had been lit up by this amorphous, shape-shifting, green light that sometimes wavered, sometimes undulated, sometimes shimmered… I wish I could describe what we saw, but poets and mystics have been trying to explain the Aurora Borealis for years. Robert Service, the gold prospector turned Yukon poet may have described it as closely as one can:
“…And the skies of night were alive with light, with a throbbing, thrilling flame; amber and rose and violet, opal and gold it came. It swept the sky like a giant scythe, it quivered back to a wedge; urgently bright, it cleft the night with a wavy golden edge.” (from “The Ballad of the Northern Lights”)
For us, it’s enough to say that we were very, very happy to be back in Alaska.
Dale took the above picture on our second night in Alaska (we were lucky to see the Northern Lights two nights in a row, once in Tok, and once in Fairbanks). He used an app called NorthernLights to aid him in digitally capturing what is normally so elusive.