AURORA VIEWING TOUR#26: TO ALASKA
ANOTHER SMALL GROUP TOUR FROM RING OF FIRE EXPEDITIONS
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MARCH 10-14, 2024
$3095. PER PERSON DOUBLE OCCUPANCY (STANDARD ROOM).
$3395. PER PERSON DOUBLE OCCUPANCY (SUITE)-can accommodate 3 people
INCLUDES ALL MEALS, ACCOMMODATIONS, TRANSFERS and the following tours: 1) Private Winter Fairbanks City Tour, 2) Trip to the Ice Alaska competition, 3) Chena Hot Springs tour, and 4) Walk with the Reindeer tour
OPTIONAL COST LOCAL ACTIVITY: You can choose to walk do to a nearby dog mushing outfit where, for a fee, you can learn to drive your own dog team. Paws for Adventure is a great place to get familiar with sled dogs up close and get a real thrill out of being in control of a team of amazing canines. Reservations should be made ahead of time but sometimes it is possible to book the same day. You can also take a short ride, one hour tour or the mushing school option (all extra cost activities). Last year’s ride costs were between $85 (30 minutes) and $150 (1 hour). THIS IS AN ACTIVITY THAT EACH PERSON NEEDS TO ARRANGE ON THEIR OWN BY CONTACTING PAWSFORADVENTURE.COM. IT CAN BE DONE ANY DAY PROVIDED THERE IS AN OPENING.
last updated 3/16/23
If you are lucky, you may be able to see sights like this! From our March 2022 trip. Paul D. Maley photo.
Join Paul D. Maley of the NASA Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society for his next aurora viewing tour to one of our favorite spots near Fairbanks, Alaska where we will spend four nights at the aurora viewing lodge with all meals included.
This trip is a continuation of public outreach expeditions on land, sea, and air to watch the Northern Lights. So far, every time we have ventured to Alaska we have seen aurora on at least one of the four nights! This adventure will be another small group tour limited to a maximum of 12 to 16 participants. We have attempted to make the basic tour as affordable as possible by inserting optional cost tours that you might wish to book separately. Everyone has thoroughly enjoyed staying at the lodge in the past and we trust you will find this a great spot for sky viewing. March 10 is New Moon so the sky should be plenty dark late at night. March is also the month with statistically more auroras than any other; in addition, during weeks around equinoxes, the interplanetary magnetic field connects to the Earth’s magnetic field prying open cracks where the solar wind can penetrate and thus create auroras. The First Quarter Moon should offer minimal impact to viewing.
How amazing is it? From this recent description, here is why we stay at a fixed location.
LEARN HOW TO TAKE AURORA PHOTOS! We will work with you to help you plan and capture good Northern Lights images. Contact me for assistance prior to the trip and also consult our AURORA INFORMATION page which has extensive information that I have accumulated over the last years.
Why Alaska? Weather systems generally blow in and out fairly quickly. Even though temperatures are cold and generally with remarkably low winds, the area offers a great deal of visual beauty. Properly dressed in winter garb you will find yourself well protected and able to walk about, photograph or just sit and view. A yurt is now on the property and serves as a refuge from the cold with chairs that can be used outside as well and access to a/c power. We have always had great response from people on our winter Alaska trips indicating that they enjoy it very much!
THINGS YOU MIGHT SEE ON THE TRIP
Mt. Denali located 153 miles from the lodge but visible from the dining room. Anne Jones photo.
A rocket launch from Poker Flats Research Range will sometimes occur while we are at the lodge. Paul Maley photo on March 5, 2022
Skijoring (dog race) championships in nearby North Pole, Alaska. Not always available depending on the dates of our tour. Paul Maley photo.
An example of aurora seen on our October 2017 Alaska land expedition. It is a huge Northern Lights band stretching 180 degrees across the sky from east to west. Constellations such as Orion, Gemini, Cassiopeia and Taurus are captured here. A brilliant Iridium satellite flare is also seen as the linear streak. Paul D. Maley photo.
Seeing the Northern Lights up close and personal is a bucket list objective of many people who are interested in the world’s most mind-blowing experiences. Over the past few years we have ventured northward to attempt to capture these phenomena from air, sea and land as they light up the night sky. It has been relatively easy to capture aurora if you are patient, are willing to brave cold temperatures and have the proper equipment. As an alternative, the easiest way to enjoy the experience is to simply sit and watch! Unlike a solar eclipse which only lasts on average a minute or two, auroras come and go and can last for hours depending on the level of solar activity and influx of high energy particles into the Earth’s magnetic field.
Aurora activity prediction model snapshot enables us to get a good idea of the likelihood and timing of aurora on a particular night and region. Credit: NOAA
One can also watch the aurora cam shown online from your room on your smart phone operated by the University of Alaska Geophysical Institute that gives you a near real-time view of what is happening in the sky. The minute you start to see the green glow on the north horizon as seen from Poker Flats, Alaska you can likely expect to see aurora at our lodge.
Aurora from a planned airborne viewing trip as seen out the window of a Boeing 787 from Shanghai to Chicago after a trip to North Korea in 2015. The constellation of Ophiuchus is visible in this image. Paul D. Maley photo.
Aurora viewing at sea from the deck of a ship off the coast of Norway in 2015. During the middle of the night with a full Moon, nobody else was on deck I was able to see a great deal of action all the way up until sunrise. The constellations of Cassiopeia and Perseus are recognizable. Paul D. Maley photo.
ITINERARY AS OF MARCH 16, 2023
Times of meals will be arranged as necessary and optional tour dates may be moved around as required. Photographers are advised to read the aurora information web page provided in advance of the trip.
-SMOKING: NEVER PERMITTED INSIDE THE LODGE, INSIDE TOUR BUSES OR AT THE AURORA VIEWING AREA OUTSIDE THE LODGE. SMOKE CARRIES IN THE WIND AND WE CANNOT ALLOW THIS TO IMPACT OTHER GUESTS.
-ALL TOURS ARE OPTIONAL COST UNLESS STATED BELOW AND MUST BE ARRANGED BY EACH PERSON PREFERABLY 3-4 MONTHS AHEAD OF TRAVEL DUE TO LIMITED AVAILABILITY. IN WINTER WE RECOMMEND HIRING A TAXI WHERE REQUIRED (ROADS ARE TREACHEROUS FOR RENT CARS) AND IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT PARTICIPANTS CONSIDER SHARING TRANSPORTATION COSTS TO/FROM ANY VENUE.
-DO NOT PURCHASE AIR TICKETS UNTIL YOU ARE ADVISED!
MARCH 10 (Sunday): DAY 1 – Arrive Fairbanks
A private transfer will be provided from the airport to our group lodge (one transfer for the group), about a 40 minute drive from the Fairbanks airport. The van transfer departs generally in the late afternoon from the baggage claim area but the time will be announced within a few months of the trip. You will need to coordinate your flight to arrive prior to the group transfer unless you wish to take your own independent taxi (optional cost) to the lodge from the airport. Once at the lodge, dinner will be at the provided. The lodge has excellent reviews; there is a guest refrigerator and freezer in the main area and linens are changed daily except on Sunday. Sometimes you can sight a moose from the dining room windows wandering the grounds. From each of the 6 ground floor rooms you can step out and check the sky for aurora. Rooms feature floor heating, adequate lighting, a/c outlets, carpet, phone, adequate drawer space and bathroom amenities. There is no safe in the room. Some cold weather gear can be rented there. The two suites are located on the main floor and you can walk out the front door and then down to the aurora viewing area.
AURORA BRIEFING 1: After arrival we will have an initial briefing by Paul Maley prior to the initial night’s Northern Lights viewing.
After dinner this will be your first opportunity (weather permitting) to look for aurora from the lodge grounds. It will be cold at night during most winter trips and you should be prepared for temperatures ranging from +15 to -10 deg F (but higher and much lower temperatures can occur!) with little wind. In winter snow up to 2 feet is likely so prepare clothing accordingly. Bring a tripod, camera and shutter release or just sit in one of the lodge chairs and watch with the unaided eye. If you have night vision binoculars, you will be amazed at what they can reveal.
Meals are really good here! They are taken in a common dining area. NOTE THE BLINDS. THESE ARE ROLLED DOWN EACH NIGHT TO PREVENT LIGHT FROM SPILLING OUT AND RUINING AURORA PHOTOS.
Shrimp scampi is just one of the dinner choices. Lynn Palmer photo.
Overnight Fairbanks: (D)
Brilliant aurora curtains seen during our March 2017 Alaska trip. The Big Dipper is visible behind the aurora as is the North Star upper left. Jeff Pohlman photo.
A moose calf seen at the lodge in February 2020. Moose may sometimes be seen there. Peggy Bechtell photo.
MARCH 11 (Monday): DAY 2– Fairbanks
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be included for you at the lodge today.
1000am Private Winter Fairbanks City Tour
A private tour of Fairbanks has been arranged during your visit. Your city tour may include a visit to Golden Heart Park at the center of the city. The park is the site of the 18-foot bronze monument titled “Unknown First Family.” The park and the statue were dedicated in July 1986 as a tribute to the history and heritage of Fairbanks. your tour may include a stop to view the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, a feat of civil engineering that still carries crude oil from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. Another popular destination is the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, a place for gathering, discovery, education, and celebration. The Center features world-class exhibits, and offers insight into Alaskan cultures and life in Interior and Arctic Alaska. Your driver/guide will discuss your interests and help plan your Fairbanks city tour, keeping in mind any other attractions or activities you may have scheduled for the day
Lynn Palmer mushing her own dog team. Paul D. Maley photo.
Dog mushing lessons can be obtained from a location within easy walking distance of the lodge in winter at extra cost. We suggest you do this activity on March 24 or 25.
Standard Room interior view
One of the quirky lodge rooms with door access to the outside for night viewing. There are 6 standard rooms and 2 suites. All standard rooms have walk-out access. If you are in a suite you need to walk out the main front door and down the side of the main building. NOTE THE DRAPES. ALL GUESTS MUST CLOSE BOTH THE DRAPES AND SHADES WHEN IT GETS DARK IN ORDER NOT TO RUIN AURORA PHOTOS! Lynn Palmer photo.
One of two “suites”. The suites are really one very large room, one with 2 queen beds, the other with three.
300pm Ice Alaska – General Admission
Enjoy the day admiring amazing works of ice art at the World Ice Art Championships. The event has grown from a one-week, 8-team competition in 1990, to a month-long attraction involving over 70 teams from all over the world. The competitions, and the accompanying outdoor winter activities, attract more than 100 ice artists and approximately 45,000 visitors from Alaska and all over the world. Gatherings like this one date back to the thirties, when residents emerged from the long winter in search for some fun. Enjoy the sculptures during the daylight, after dark or both to gain multiple perspective of the art.
One of many ice sculptures we photographed: a giant insect, carved during one of our past trips. Paul D. Maley photo.
A dragon’s head sculpture in progress. Lynn Palmer photo.
Tonight after dinner will be our second attempt to view aurora. Note that viewing typically takes place beginning after 1030pm and it pays to stay up most of the night or to set your alarm for a specific time that would work for you. If you want to sleep and be called if aurora are spotted, we can do that also. However, we normally assign times throughout the night for each person to wake up, check the sky, and then alert the group if aurora are sighted to make it easier. The key to capturing an aurora if you don’t know when it is going to appear is to remain outside all night and/or programming your camera to automatically take exposures with an intervalometer over a long period of time.
Overnight Fairbanks: (B, L, D)
Group stop near the Arctic Circle for awesome aurora viewing during our November 2013 Alaska aurora trip. The optional cost Arctic Circle tour can often give the darkest sky views of the Northern Lights since they drive far from a big city. Paul D. Maley photo.
AURORA VIEWING LOCATIONS AT THE LODGE
In 2019 a new system was initiated to minimize having to stay out in the cold all night. Wireless devices were installed with a trigger in the yurt that allows anyone to send a signal to all the lodge rooms. The photo below shows the plugged in alarm that will go off when someone outside sees Northern Lights activity.
The aurora alarm in each lodge room. Paul D. Maley photo.
WINTER: The aurora viewing area behind the lodge also looks into the valley toward both Fairbanks and the town of North Pole. You need snow boots to navigate down and around this area. Paul D. Maley photos.
FALL: Though this and the photo that follows were taken in the fall, all the standard rooms at the lodge allow you to walk out your door onto the driveway. If you have mobility issues you can watch from here with easy access to your room even when there is snow on the ground. There it is possible to see aurora, though the area with less blockage (from trees and the main building) requires you to walk down the slope in the following image.
FALL: This is a view of the slope leading to the aurora viewing area with chairs and a yurt about 50 yards down from the main building.
WINTER: After you walk down the slope, the yurt (now replaced by a heated cabin) is on the right (chairs left) and you can see the main building on the right side. There is a relatively unobstructed 360 degree view of the sky from this area. Note the snow in winter.
MARCH 12 (Tuesday): DAY 3 – Fairbanks
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be included for you at the lodge today.
10:00am Walk with the Reindeer
Embark on an immersive reindeer walk today. With a handful of your new best friends explore the magical birch forest. Life long Alaskan, Jane, will join you during your one hour walk. Learn about the adaptations that make reindeer ideal for arctic living. You may even catch some reindeer games! After your walk head inside to learn more about these interesting creatures while
enjoying homemade cookies and drinks. There you will learn about the natural history of the forest as well as the reindeer themselves. Enjoy the frolicking and leaping reindeer as they run free through the woods. Each walk is a unique experience depending on season, trail conditions and the mood of the reindeer. After the walk, depending upon the season, you can tour their organically grown perennial and vegetable gardens and enjoy light refreshments and carry on the conversation. This nature walk has uneven terrain so good walking shoes and weather appropriate clothing are required. The reindeer are tame but not trained so sometimes they decide to take a route not planned for. Bring your cameras and expect the unexpected!
Tour Duration: 2.5 Hours
Guided Reindeer Walk
Knowledge guide to accompany you
Fresh baked cookies and drinks
The Alaska pipeline up close as seen on the city tour. Gordon Lamb photo.
130pm Chena Hot Springs Day/Night Trip Admission
Chena Hot Springs became famous in the early 1900’s for curing crippled prospectors of their aches and pains. The resort offers a variety of activities including hot springs, an ice museum, and geothermal tours. Each pass includes access to the adults only rock-lined outdoor hot springs, indoor heated pool, indoor and outdoor hot tubs, and use of the locker area and shower facilities. As the sun sets, you may choose to head up to the Aurorium for potential northern lights viewing. At the conclusion of your services at Chena Hot Springs, return by private vehicle to Fairbanks.
Tonight after dinner will be our third aurora viewing attempt although if you stay at Chena for aurora viewing be advised that you will miss dinner.
Overnight Fairbanks: (B, L, D)
Aurora during our February 2014 Alaska tour. Paul Lobert photo.
Aurora seen in February 2020. Peggy Bechtell photo.
One of the hiking trails on the lodge property as seen in winter. Paul D. Maley photo.
MARCH 13 (Wednesday) DAY 4– Fairbanks
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be included for you at the lodge today. You will have the day free to participate in optional tours such as going to Paws for Adventure for dog sledding (not included).
BRIEFING: Paul Maley will describe his plans for future expeditions he will lead for solar eclipses, Northern Lights and other astronomical phenomena.
Reindeer at the Running Reindeer Ranch. Lourdes Hernandez photo.
Aurora during our November 2014 Alaska tour. Lynn Palmer photo.
This evening will be our fourth and final opportunity for aurora viewing and photography. Overnight Fairbanks: (B, L, D)
MARCH 14 (Thursday) DAY 5–Fairbanks Departure
Breakfast will be served early at the lodge. In late morning our van will then transport you and your luggage to the airport where you can catch your return flight home (one group transfer only). Van transfer occurs after 10am and all guests must be out of their rooms no later than 11am. If your flight departs earlier than this, you will need to make your own transfer arrangements at extra cost.
Aurora viewing during our January 2015 Alaska tour can allow times for portraits. Paul D. Maley photo.
Aurora on our February 2017 expedition. Jeff Pohlman photo.
COST OF THE TOUR
TO JOIN THE TOUR, SUBMIT 1) REGISTRATION FORM AND 2) DEPOSIT AT THE SAME TIME for each person.
STANDARD ROOMS (6)
$3095. PER PERSON DOUBLE OCCUPANCY (STANDARD ROOM).
$3895. (for single occupancy if available).
$3395. PER PERSON FOR A SUITE (2 PERSONS MINIMUM). 2 ROOMS MAX. No singles permitted.
• 4 Nights’ Accommodations as listed or similar
• Private roundtrip transportation from Fairbanks airport to our lodge as specified above with an English-speaking driver. All participants must travel together. If you arrive/depart before or after the majority of the group arrives you will need an independent transfer at extra cost.
• Meals: Daily breakfast, 3 lunches, 4 dinners
• Round trip viewing excursion from the lodge to Fairbanks for the city tour
• Round trip excursion to Chena Lodge
• Round trip excursion to Reindeer Ranch
• Round trip excursion to the Ice Alaska exhibition
• All applicable taxes and fees
• Driver gratuities
Package does not include:
• Meals, unless specified above
• Drinks (alcoholic, non-alcoholic such as soda); however, meals do include table water; breakfast also includes tea, coffee, juice
• Excursions and admissions unless specified
• Airfare of any kind
• Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
• Anything else of a personal nature not mentioned in the “Package includes” section
• Optional tours listed above
• Transfer between airport and lodge or lodge and airport ONLY if you are unable to make the single group transfer
ALASKA AURORA VIEWING tour ONLINE REGISTRATION and PAYMENT
To sign up for the trip, follow these steps.
1. Read and understand the deposit schedule and significant cancellation penalties.
2. Click on the Terms & Conditions tab. Review prior to starting your registration.
3. CLICK HERE to open and then complete the registration form AND make payment. If you have trouble seeing the form, refresh your page or use a different internet browser. Some versions may not support this form!
IF YOU LIVE OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES you may pay by one of these methods: 1) credit cards, or 2) wire transfer. A USD$50 fee is charged if a wire transfer is used. No checks or money orders can be accepted! Please contact email@example.com to make arrangements.
- BEFORE November 15, 2023…………………………..USD$525. DEPOSIT per person double
- November 15, 2023…………………………………………..Balance due
CANCELLATION FEES (per person)
- BEFORE November 15, 2023…………………………..USD$250. + any service fees (if applicable) up to that point
- November 15, 2023………………………………………100% OF THE TOTAL TOUR COST
OTHER KEY DATES
The last day to make a name change to avoid change fees is 46-days prior to arrival.
The last day to sign up for optional tours is 61-days.
The last day to join this tour is typically 61-days before departure but may be cut off earlier.
Clients should be aware that we cannot guarantee the weather for this astronomical event or any other.