The Northern Lights, that is. Aurora Borealis. Ionized solar wind and magnetospheric plasma. Back on the Canada/US border we saw a few wispy strands of light. Last night we saw the real thing.
As yesterday was a rainy down day we moped around Turnagain Arm before deciding to rent split boards and head to sunny Hatcher Pass. We didn’t get to the parking lot until pretty late and shortly after we arrived we noticed the glow in the sky. Most of the time the lights were fairly subtle, but a few times the whole sky had a curtain effect and we could see the lights rippling, strengthening and fading in bands across the sky.
I grabbed my camera and started playing around with some long exposure times. Apparently it is pretty easy to take cool aurora photos because I got some good ones on my first try. Make sure your screen brightness is turned up well to see these. They are all 30-second exposures somewhere between 18mm and 35mm.
Seeing the Northern Lights was part of our original bucket list for this trip, though we had low expectations. Now we are so excited to have seen them and we are hoping for more. The aurora forecast for tonight is also strong so we are back on the pass hoping to see them again.
Today we got out on our rented splitboards for some more touring. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, someone figured out you could literally cut a snowboard in half and use the two halves like skis for touring. The boards use a special binding that converts between sitting sideways on the board for riding down, or turning on the “skis” for touring. It works remarkably well.
Hatcher Pass is just outside Palmer, AK a short drive from Anchorage. It sits on the south side of the Talkeetna Mountains. As with all the AK mountains, the peaks, bowls, gullies, and chutes are endless. You could spend all season here and ride a different amazing line every day. As this was our first real trip on splitboards we were just taking it easy. Also, it has been really warm the last couple days and the danger of wet slide avalanches is fairly high. We didn’t get a very early start on the hike up and by the time we got to the top we weren’t too happy to have spent so long on the south facing slope. Fortunately, our goal was to ride a west facing slope and it was still plenty firm despite the warm day and bright sun.
We came back down to the van for a quick lunch and then decided to go back for another short run on some lower angle slopes where we knew we could safely play in the slush. We also had to get the boards back to Anchorage so we couldn’t take the time to hike back too high.
It was a really fun day, but of course now we each need another whole snowboard setup!
So tonight with the likelihood of more good Northern Lights we are back at Hatcher Pass. We are in a slightly higher parking lot where I hoped the view would be even better, but unfortunately there is an old abandoned mine, now a tourist site in the summer, with a light on in the middle of our viewing spot. It won’t matter for us watching, but I’m not sure what will happen with pictures. We shall see.