"We are going to Alaska... this winter" I exclaimed to my wife as we sat on the couch chatting. It was already January which means there wasn't much left of winter as far as planning a trip but I wanted to make it happen. Next, I texted my brother that we wanted to come up and that it would be very soon. He quickly responded with a yes!
See here is the thing. While we have been to Alaska before it's been a long time and we had not yet been in winter. It was on my must-do/see adventure list (which mind you is too long as it is) but this one gets a bump up to the top because we have family there which is a double win. Through a couple of calls and a flurry of texts we worked out the dates. It would be mostly a family trip, less photography focused, and we would time it with Fur Rendevous. This is the winter festival in Anchorage that includes the start of the iconic Iditarod dogsled race and many other fun-filled activities that would be a stark contrast from the activities we have in our area. Running with the reindeer!? Umm, not exactly in Portland, maybe running with the dogs while carrying a microbrew or kombucha.
When we started the trip the Coronvirous pandemic was not having a significant impact in most of the US and in fact was not yet declared a pandemic. There were no cases in Alaska before we left for the trip and none until right when I came home. However, by the time I boarded the plane 10 days later to head home the world had changed. Once I arrived home I hardly left our neighborhood for the next month which is where things stand now as I write this. Hopefully, we continue to flatten the curve to reduce the strain on the medical works and allow places to slowly start to open up again.
We did a lot on this trip to get a true flavor of Alaska in winter. In or near Anchorage this included walks in the snow over the front marsh area, fat tire biking, ice skating on a frozen lagoon, many Fur Rondy events including watching the start of the Iditarod. Not far from Anchorage is the amazing Alyeska Resort where we headed for some time on the slopes. Spring break on the mountain and almost no lift lines. It was amazing. It would be packed back home during our local spring break.
Walking the frozen marsh landscape in Anchorage.
Sandstone or snow? An abstract look at the layers.
Ice crystals in full close-up detail.
Sightseeing out along Turnagain Arm.
The hotel room view during the blue hour. A gondola heading into the dense fog.
The sled dogs and their musher starting off on the long journey.
Then we headed from Anchorage to Fairbanks and into a rental car for a drive to the end of the road for an amazing hot springs experience. Literally, it was at the end of a long single-lane highway. It was cold in Anchorage but a whole other level of cold in Fairbanks. It started just above 0 degree's Fahrenheit yet once it dropped below zero it stayed that way all day and night until we got back to Anchorage. It was as cold as about -20 at night. Cold it was yet I loved it. I was hoping to see the northern lights at Chena Hotsprings. Unfortunately, they didn't come out while I was there. That said it was amazing regardless with the nearly full moon lighting up the snow-covered landscape. In reality, we were lucky to make it up there at all. I was searching in January and found the very last available reservation during the whole 10 day Alaska trip. Boom! We jumped on it. We did the middle of the night aurora tour, swam in the 105-degree hot spring, had a drink in the ice museum. Before leaving Fairbanks visited the Ice Sculpture World Championships. Artists from around the world come every year and these sculptures are nothing short of amazing art pieces.
Quiet peaceful bluebird morning at Chena.
The view from inside the hot spring as the steam billows off of the 105-degree water in sharp contrast from the -15 degree air.
Sunrise in Chena shows a splash of "warmth" on the top of the trees.
The Ice Museum and all the colorful ice details lit up inside.
Middle of the night on Charlie's Dome with a nearly full moon lighting up the landscape.
The most impressive ice sculptures you are likely to ever see are at this ice championship in Fairbanks. While visiting the Last Frontier in winter the spectacular scenery doesn't end on the ground, the scenery from the sky is just as breathtaking. I had a few different opportunities to see the sites from the sky while flying Alaska Airlines of course. The photo with the city is downtown Anchorage as we came in for a landing from the Fairbanks excursion.