Skip to main content

Alaska Bucket List 2021 ✔️


Aurora Borealis
The number one item on my Alaska bucket list was to see the dancing northern lights. The best place for viewing is in and around Fairbanks which is in the Aurora oval (away from bright city lights). Though I had seen the Aurora Borealis in Iceland in 2015, I had only seen the curtain rays and small swirling lights. I was hoping that this time around, I would have the chance to see a full Aurora display. It’s never guaranteed that you’ll see the northern lights when you’re in Fairbanks during the Aurora Borealis season. But I was hopeful. I did check the KP Index before leaving and saw there was moderate activity forecasted on the days I would be in Fairbanks. But it was not to be. However, the moment I boarded my flight home, there was a strong Aurora display at around 1 a.m. What luck or lack of it!

On our flight back to Fairbanks from the Arctic Circle, the pilot called our attention to a horizontal ray across the sky with a short vertical flowing down midway from the center. I took a couple of pictures and didn’t think much of it. To my surprise I found two faint Aurora images when I transferred my trip’s photos to my IPad. So I adjusted the exposure level upward and here are the surprising results. (There is a special setting to capture the lights from your DLSR camera. Cell phone cameras will not do the job unless you have the latest IPhone or Samsung according to our host in Wiseman.) 

Arctic Circle
I’ve thought about crossing into the Arctic Circle but balked at the long drive from Fairbanks on the Dalton Highway. It was easier to get there by plane and see the remote areas that a road trip can’t match. At 66⁰33'N, the sun doesn't set once a year on the summer solstice and the sun does not rise on the winter solstice. We were lucky the temperature was warm at 56⁰F in Coldfoot where our small Piper aircraft landed and in Wiseman, a small community about 12 miles north of Coldfoot which we visited.

Trans-Alaska Pipeline System(TAPS)
On our way to Wiseman from Coldfoot where our Piper 8-seater plane landed, I saw this stretch of the Alaska oil pipeline. The pipeline stretches for 800 miles (1288 km) from Prudhoe Bay in the north all to the way to the Valdez Terminal in the south. We had a good view of the pipeline and some of the pumping stations from the plane as it weaves in and out of the ground on its long journey south. TAPS was built between 1975-1977 and has delivered more than 18 billion barrels of crude oil since it was opened in 1977. The pipe measures 48 inches in diameter and 420 miles of the pipeline is elevated.

Savage River, Denali National Park and Preserve
Denali National Park has free shuttle buses to the Park from the Visitors Center across from the Denali train depot or the Denali Bus Depot. You need to pay the park entrance fee before catching the green bus which stops at various places inside the Park such as the Savage River area or the Monte Vista viewpoint below.

Denali National Park
What’s beautiful about Denali during this time of the year is that it’s bathe in fall colors. Red and gold dot the landscape framed by the tallest snow peaked mountains of the Alaskan Range.

Mt. Denali (McKinley)
Mt. Denali (rising in the background) has an elevation of 20,310 ft above sea level, making it the highest mountain peak in North America. The name “Denali” comes from Koyukon, a native Alaskan language. It means “the tall one”. During the presidential candidacy of William McKinley, Denali was called Mt. McKinley and the name was officially recognized in 1917. It wasn’t until 2015 when the mountain was officially renamed Denali under the Obama administration.

Where to stay:
There are campgrounds within the Park. However, during our visit in early September, there was a landslide near Polychrome Overlook so the road beyond Mile 43 is closed. Check the Denali National Park website for information about available campgrounds.

McKinley Chalet Resort, Denali
This resort has a beautiful setting with mountain and river vistas. The room rate was $350+ per night. Breakfast is not included. The rooms are scattered throughout the property and a shuttle takes you to your building. Our room was on the 3rd floor of an open corridor building and there was no elevator. There were no drinking water bottles in the room nor were there bathrobes and slippers which are standard for hotels at this price. There was no refrigerator either. There is, however, a hotel shuttle to the train depot and Visitor Center. 

Wiseman, Alaska
There’s an Airbnb accommodation in Wiseman. Contact Jack Reakoff through his Facebook page. Jack was our guide in Wiseman and is one of 10 residents in this small community established in 1908.

Coldfoot, Alaska


Images by TravelswithCharie

Popular posts from this blog

8 Heritage Houses of Iloilo

Lizares Mansion The province of Iloilo on the island of Panay has a rich trove of heritage houses, left over from the sugar industry boom in the 19th century. Iloilo also had the largest port in the Philippines at that time which facilitated the export of sugar to foreign shores and deposited money in the hands of the sugar barons. The barons dropped their earnings into the acquisition of properties in Negros and the construction of beautiful homes in Iloilo, many of which are located in the vicinity of the Jaro Cathedral. The Lizares Mansion was built in 1937 by Don Emiliano Lizares for his wife, Concepcion Gamboa and five children. The family fled to safety when World War II broke out and the house was occupied by the Japanese military. The family returned to the house after the war but left once again after the demise of Don Emiliano. It was sold to the Dominican order in the 1960s and was converted in 1978 to a private school, Angelicum School. The mansion now houses the

The Art of Carlos Botong Francisco - Progress of Medicine in the Philippines

Pre-colonial period Pag-unlad ng Panggagamot sa Pilipinas (The Progress of Medicine in the Philippines) is a group of four large-scale paintings depicting healing practices in the Philippines from pre-colonial times to the modern period. Carlos Botong Francisco was commissioned in 1953 by  Dr. Agerico Sison who was then the director of Philippine General Hospital (PGH) together with   Dr. Eduardo Quisumbing of the National Museum, Dr. Florentino Herrera, Jr. and Dr. Constantino Manahan. These oil on canvas paintings measure 2.92 meters in height and 2.76 meters in width (9.71 ft x 8.92 ft) and were displayed at the main entrance hall of PGH for over five decades. Owing to its location, the artworks were in a state of "severe deterioration" at the beginning of the 21st century from exposure to heat, humidity, dirt, dust, smoke, insect stains, grime, termites and an oxidized synthetic resin used in an earlier restoration. These canvases were restored three times, the last was

Filipino Struggles in History - Carlos Botong Francisco

In 1968, Antonio Villegas (then Mayor of Manila), commissioned Carlos "Botong" Francisco to paint the history of Manila for Manila City Hall. The series of large scale paintings was called  Kasaysayan ng Maynila  (History of Manila).  The paintings deteriorated over time and no attempt was made to preserve these historical canvases until 2013 when Mayor Amado Lim sent them to the National Museum for extensive restoration. Four years later, in 2017, Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada and the Manila City Council signed an agreement with the National Museum to leave the paintings at the museum so they may reach a larger audience in exchange for museum grade reproductions to replace the originals. Kasaysayan ng Maynila was later renamed Filipino Struggles in History and is now on display at the Senate Hall of the National Museum . Carlos "Botong" Francisco died in March 1969, a few months after completing the paintings. He is one of the first Filipino modernists and