Alaska had been on our wish list for awhile and although it is a destination that deserves a longer stay in itself, our main objective for this 12 day visit at the end of our travel adventure was to see the Northern Lights. It has to be cold and clear for this to work and we were lucky to get both for some of these days. We started our trip with a visit to Santa Clause's home town of "North Pole" . (For real, this is where his international mail goes and where his main chair and reindeer stay in summer).
We had some rain and grey weather (which is very common at this time of year) at the start and the end of of our 12 days in Alaska. They had a big snow storm a week before we arrived in Fairbanks and power had only just been restored to most of the town. So adjusting from 30 plus degrees C and tropical beaches in Cuba to minus 4 and snow in Fairbanks was a bit of an adjustment. Nevertheless the weather soon cleared and we moved into our "public use cabin" for some wonderful clear and crisp winter weather. Maaike started building a snow wall (as defence for the snow ball fight) and soon Deborah and I chipped in to extend this to a full size igloo.
Deborah's wishes were heard with four cold clear nights with the northern lights dancing right above us. Although it is pretty hard to get out of bed and into the cold in the middle of the night, it is well worth it to see this mesmerising light show. The light clouds are moving across the sky in ever changing patterns of green with the odd flare of red.
With some short walks, gathering firewood, playing in the snow and visits to the local Chena hit pools, we really enjoyed our 4 days of "Alaska frontier" life style.. We also used the public use cabin in Denali. I recommend using the public use cabins; it really does give you a great taste of the Alaskan outdoors. Before you book check the accessibility though because many can only be accessed by hiking or 4x4 in summer or snow mobiles in winter.
Driving south from Fairbanks to Anchorage and Seward we passed through the Denali and Kenai national parks. This is a great drive that provides a great taste of the vast mountain ranges and fjords that cover most of Alaska.
There are only very few major roads through Alaska with the rest of the country only accessible via 4 wheel drive or snow mobile tracks, ice roads and (mostly) small airplanes. There are many small airfields dotted around as and many little planes use the lakes and rivers as runways. Flying is big business here and there where more than a hundred of these sea planes parked around the lake behind our motel in Anchorage. (We noticed it is much cheaper to park your plane in down town anchorage than it is to park your car in downtown Auckland - the first three days is free!)
We finished our trip with a visit to Anchorage zoo to see some of the wild life we didn't see in the wild. Seeing the fully grown version of the grizzly (brown) bear and the black bear I am kinda glad we didn't bump into these fellas in the wild .