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Published: April 15th 2013
That is where the sun rose and then set couple of hours after
This was an unexpected trip. The planning happened after a long period of planning for the perfect winter vacation, one after other fallen plans and surrender to staying at home during winter break. Planning started after overhearing a conversation at lunch table about the Lynwood winter train. I started looking at the train, thinking that it will be something to do in the 10 day vacation. While searching for the train, I discovered somewinter train tours by The Alaska Railroad
. At $1000 a piece, they looked quite doable. I always wanted to go in search of Northen lights. From there the plans formed and we finally settled on this trip to Fairbanks and from there to Coldfoot with Northern Alaska Tour Company
Fairbanks is just a 4 hr flight away from Seattle. Alaska Airlines has convenient direct flights, and also flights through Anchorage. We flew on 26th December evening. The choice of date was perfect. Seattle was hit by one of the worst snow storms before that and all flights were cancelled on 24th, airport had become a big refugee camp of people stuck trying to get out on Christmas eve. By 26th, all this backlog had cleared, and flights were almost back
We arrived at Fairbanks without any event. Fairbanks airport is a quite small with 5 - 6 gates and a baggage claim. At the airport, I could not wait to get out and see what below zero F feels like. So while waiting for the bags, we took turns to go out of the airport. It hurt to breath!!
Our hotel, Westmark
, had a convenient shuttle to pick us up from the airport. Upon reaching the hotel, we found out that we have been upgraded to better rooms of North Tower. I love travel in off season!. I figure since the hotel was almost empty, they had closed the South Tower. Whatever be the reason, I liked out room. It was nice and clean and convenient.
Day 1 - Fairbanks
Today was our free day at Fairbanks. We got up lazily as it was still pitch dark outside at 9:30am. I wanted to go to the museum at University of Alaska. The hotel told us that their shuttle can drop us there, awesome! Distances are small in Fairbanks, taxis real expensive, and driving maybe not so convenient. Our shuttle was at
10:50. So we got ready and came down to hotel lobby for first winter experience. Out the main doors, we were greeted by beautiful colours of rising sun behind layers and layers of snow. I snapped my first few pictures of striking shades of orange in the sky, there will be about 200 more. We also took the ceremonial photos near the thermometer showing -25F.
The shuttle took us to Museum. We saw couple of ice sculptures on the way, could not believe that they were carved out of ice. From the museum, we got great view of snow covered city of Fairbanks. The beauty of this landscape was so much that I could not take my eyes off it. It did not fade, no matter how many times you look at it. The sun was still bright orange at the far South-East corner. I had no idea that this will appear nothing in front of the unbelievable picture perfect landscape we will see in next couple of days.
The museum was good. Lot of information about native Alaskans, their lifestyle, clothes etc. There was also information about Russian and Japanese connection to Alaska. The Japanese connection was
new to me, and that somewhat explained the large number of Japanese tourist in the area. At the museum we experienced getting out and walking in -30F cold, it was really exciting. The museum is situated at a elevation, so we had a great view of Fairbanks. It was also a great place to see how sun "rises" in South and "sets" in South!! We also saw a movie about life in winter Alaska, and about Aurora. Very good informative movies.
From museum the hotel shuttle came to pick us up. Awesome hotel!. It dropped us in downtown which was few blocks from the hotel. The driver also showed us few good places to visit, and a nice Italian restaurant. We walked around in downtown. Looking at different stores selling Alaskan handicraft. We came upon a nice big clothing store (forgot the name). It had very reasonably priced socks, gloves etc. We we bought whatever else we needed to survive rest of the days. It was also about 4:00, but already pitch dark. We settled on eating at the Italian restaurant. And it was a great choice. The food was really good, not over priced. Enjoyed the eating experience.
After eating, we decided to walk back to the hotel. It was about 20 min walk, and temp was -31F. Not bad. No wind. The walk was easy. I was surprisingly comfortable. Just little worried about my contacts freezing over in my eyes! In all a pleasant walk. We were back at hotel quite early. And then just sat around, watched TV, relaxed.
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