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yukon

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above the clouds and over the mountains

i love how the world looks when i’m in an airplane. from my seat over the wings, i always take pictures of what the landscape looks like below me. i must have been a cartographer in a past life.

here’s what it looked like on my way to whitehorse last week.


it was my first time flying over the snow-capped coast mountain range


looks like a meringue pie. or coconut cream pie.


white powder heaven

nature is stunning.

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postcards from up north

my weekend getaway turned out better than i imagined. i got to see the northern lights at least for one of the nights i was there. (others weren’t so lucky) i got to spend time with doggies. the locals there were so friendly and helpful. everyone made you feel welcome to their city of 26,000.

and it wasn’t nearly as cold as i thought it would be.
i would definitely recommend anyone if they were interested in going to whitehorse to view the aurora borealis. it’s a great weekend getaway.
to view pictures of my trip, press play on the slideshow or click here for my flickr.
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hanging with the dogs

considering that we didn’t arrive back to the hotel until after 2am last night, waking up this morning was pretty brutal. but i didn’t want to miss out on the city tour, so i made sure my ass was down at the lobby by 1030am.

on the city tour, we saw the railway station which was built during the gold rush, the old log church with the story about the minister eating his leather boot to stave off starvation one harsh winter, a cafe slash 4 story apt built entirely out of wooden logs, the decommissioned klondike paddlewheeler and the yukon tourism office, where we watched a film on the city.

our tour guide, gabe, told us about the midnight sun in the summer. he told us about being able to play tennis at 11 o’clock at night, because it was sunny and bright. and that in the winter, although there’s never 24 hours of night, there’s normally about 5 hours of sunlight per day. the sun rises around 10am and sets at 3pm!

when i talked to another tour guide, she told me that even after 8 years of living in whitehorse, she still hasn’t gotten used to midnight sun. she has to black out her windows, in hopes of mimicing night.  i, for one, couldn’t get used to it. i love sleeping and i need it to be dark to go to sleep. when it’s summer in vancouver, i inwardly cringe, going to bed when i could see the dawn breaking.

after the tour, we were dropped off at the hotel to either enjoy the day on our own or join other arranged tours.

on a whim, i called muktuk adventures and asked if they allowed guests to just visit the kennel and not have to sign up for the dog sledding trips. one of the staff, manuela, said yes and went so far as to arrange for another staff to come back into town and pick me up. so nice of her because a cab ride out to where they are (again, in the woods) would’ve cost me $50 one way!

me and blaize
these cuties kept closing their eyes whenever i tried to take a picture

so i got to spend the afternoon with 128 beautiful, healthy and friendly sled dogs. i was even invited to eat lunch with the staff and got to meet and hold newborn pups and hang out with their retired sled dogs. really, their hospitality went above and beyond.

trying not to feel lenny-ish with a days old pup

muktuk has around 20 retired dogs (10 years+ in age) on the property. almost all dogs like to stay outside and be with each other. they all have their own crates to sleep in and keep warm. muktuk also buys trapper dogs when they unable to do their jobs anymore (for whatever reason). instead of trappers putting trapper dogs down, muktuk adopts them instead.

the most beautiful blue eyes
 
the happiest dog in the pack. seriously.
 
how happy was this dog? he was super playful and couldn’t get enough of me.  he wanted to be constantly petted and played with. adorbs.

i did think carefully about spending time at a dogsledding operation, what with the horrors doled out on sled dogs in whistler. but i was happy to see that these dogs are treated so well and the dogs are obviously all so happy.

got back to the hotel by dinnertime. i was surprised that downtown, on a saturday night no less, things start to close at 6pm. save for a subway, a japanese restaurant and pubs located inside hotels, everything else was closed, including shoppers drug mart and the starbucks! what do northern folks do on a saturday night?

met the buses at 10pm for a second night out to the woods, but i knew from getting up this morning, that we weren’t going to see anything tonite. it had been overcast all day and the chances of the clouds disappearing were zero to none.

it wasn’t all a wash though. as we didn’t have the northern lights to see, the group got to mingling and socializing with each other. yesterday, everyone was out for themselves, wanting to watch or photograph the auroras. tonight, we were chatting about where we’re from, what tours we’ve been on, how long we’re staying etc.

i feel incredibly lucky that i did get to see the northern lights yesterday because tonight was a total no-go. and it’s forecasted to be cloudy again tomorrow. fortunately, i came up here for friday and saturday viewing, rather than saturday and sunday. a tourist couple i met who flew in today and staying until monday will most likely not see the northern lights. sometimes, it’s a crap shoot, which is why there are up to 5 night packages to increase your odds.

although it was a bummer about tonight’s viewing, i got to spend the whole afternoon hanging out with over 100+ four-legged friends. and that is a “win” in my book.

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the green, green sky

as a birthday present to myself, i flew up north to whitehorse, in hopes of seeing the northern lights. i booked the trip during a crescent moon, so that the sky would be as dark as possible. the only thing i was crossing my fingers on was that there was clear visibility. cuz you can go at the most opportune time and season, but if there’s any cloud cover, you are up the creek.
and i had booked for 2 nights, so that doesn’t give me a lot of chances.
it turns out there was nothing to worry about. when i landed in whitehorse, it was sunny and clear, with blue skies as far as the eye could see.
our tour guide from northern tales adventures took myself and a dozen other tourists to the best western gold rush inn, located downtown. we checked in and were given the afternoon to ourselves to unwind, so i got some lunch, walked around downtown and took in the sights of the rustic mining town (the main drag where the hotel is situated is only 4 blocks long).

we were instructed to meet down at the lobby at 10pm to board the buses that would take us out into the woods for night viewing. i was surprised to see that there were about 60 of us, some having already been here for a couple of days already.

our cabin in the woods

 

it was a half an hour drive to the woods, away from any light pollution. we all got off the buses and were divided into 5 groups, as there were 5 cabins, although we were free to walk anywhere we liked. the cabins had insulated walls and were heated by the wood stove. to make sure we were all warm, there were plenty of hot drinks and snacks. there were additional teepees set up outside, lounge chairs for viewing, as well as, roaring firepits to help spread us out.

aurora borealis uplights

 

within 10 minutes of us arriving, the aurora borealis started. slowly, at first and barely visible. it was streaking the top of the treelines in the distance. its direction from right to left. then slowly streaking upwards. lots of oohs and ahhs. and over the next 3 hours, the auroras streaking overhead to form bands aross the sky. it was a pretty magical sight to behold.

a band of aurora borealis streaking overhead

 

in real life, the northern lights are not as in your face as pictures and videos have you believe. that’s because those images are manufactured with ISO speeds, long exposure and hours of filming. when you see it with your own eyes, it’s a lot more subtle. more mystical. more supernatural. it’s no wonder my friend mat used to lie down on the ground in norway to watch auroras form.
at first, i thought it was a letdown, when compared to the pictures and videos i saw. but pretty soon, i realized i like this more. it was like nature’s uplights shining across the sky and diffusing like cotton candy. we didn’t get any dancing ribbons across the sky, but we got a couple of bands. it was very tranquil and beautiful.

but even more so, was the wall of stars behind us. it was the most incredible display i’ve ever seen. thousands and thousands of stars twinkling. in my opinion, it could even rival the northern lights!

stars galore
 
it didn’t even feel cold, even though the temperature was -14C. it’s a dry cold up north and as long as you were dressed properly, you could be out for hours and it would be fine. (the hot drinks helped too) i had 5 layers on top, consisting of light, breathable tops, a sweater, a cardigan and snowboarding jacket. down below, i had on tights, thermals and snowboarding pants. and to top it off, a scarf, 2 pairs of ski socks, gloves and a toque. yes, i felt like the michelin man, but at least i was warm.
our viewing came to an end around 2am. we boarded the buses, just a the northern lights began dissipating. it was a quite the successful viewing, despite my fears of the aurora activity level being forecasted as low to moderate.

one of our tourguide told me that the aurora forecast is not always accurate and that it just gives an indication of what might possibly happen. but you don’t know until you’re out in the woods. it had been forecasted as low activity for days, when in actuality it had been consistently good viewing the past week. well, except for thursday night (the night before my arrival) when the aurora made its appearance at 130am, right when the tourists were getting back onto the buses. and even then, it was barely a visible streak. and that is why people normally book 3-5 night packages, to increase the odds of seeing the northern lights.

 

we had lucked out tonight. the aurora borealis greeted us right off the buses and stuck around for the entire time we were there. thank you nature.**aurora borealis photos courtesy of peter and lillian

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let there be northern lights

in less than a week, i’ll be on my way to see the northern lights. the aurora borealis has been particularly active this year and with the moon being in a waxing crescent phase (the darkest time of the month), i’m really hoping that i’ll be able to see them. i’m only in whitehorse for 2 nights, so i’m crossing my fingers and toes.

here are some pictures from the daily mail of recent auroras in yellowknife, northwest territories, which is the province right beside where i’m going.

here’s a time-lapsed video of the aurora borealis in action in the yukon:

my friend mat who lived in norway and saw nightly aurora borealis, said that nothing can prepare you for seeing one in person. he said that however you might marvel at pictures or videos, it pales in comparison to the real thing.

oh here’s hoping next week will prove to be active and visible.

About the girl, Travel the world

light my way

ever since i was a child, i always had a thing for twinkly or glowy lights. they’re just so magical.


i decorated my bedroom ceiling with glow in the dark stick on stars


i loved going to the planeterium, sitting in the dark and watching the galaxy unfold above me


i hung white twinkle lights around a wood ceiling beam, above my wrought iron bed and behind a drape of chiffon fabric. made for some sweet dreams


i had a home planetarium set but the projections weren’t very far-reaching. this one called homestar by sega toys however, could be fun. if only it was not so expensive.


i floated in a pool at midnight, in the desert, to view the stars in all its brilliant glory

on day, i would love to….


…lie in a field, watching fireflies dance above me


…marvel at all the glowworms (and hope that none of them fall on my head) in the waitomo caves in NZ


…launch a chinese lantern into the sky for poland’s midsummer night festival


…dip my toes in the watery aurora of gippsland lake in australia

speaking of auroras….

i’ll be flying up to whitehorse at the end of march to view the aurora borealis! a birthday present to myself!

for as long as i remember, i’ve always wanted to witness the northern lights. and it seems like it’s a good time to go. according to NASA, solar activity started to increase in 2011, after an 11 year cycle. scientists are calling 2012 a period of solar maximum and that solar activity will peak in 2013.

so i thought, why not go this year? to give myself the best chance of viewing the aurora borealis, i avoided booking my travel during the full moon, instead opting for the darkest nights of the month – the new moon phase.

i want to see nature’s lights show.