The Most Disappointing Thing About Alaska

I’ve been meaning to rant over the most disappointing thing about Alaska for a couple of weeks now. Today I’ll let loose, because I want to get these photos out of my phone so I don’t have to look at them anymore.

I confess: not everything has been great about our winter in Alaska.

Life is not Instagram, as you already know. The days don’t turn technicolor with rainbows and unicorns just because you are living a bucket list experience. The universe doesn’t care what’s on your list, and it still flings poo at you when you least expect it. Usually there’s not a darn thing you can do about it, but remember that the Situation is the Boss.

Case in point: when the Northern Lights played a joke on Alaska

When we decided to make this trek, one of the epic Alaska experiences we really wanted to witness was the Northern Lights. And we did get to see them a few times. We even sat on a frozen lake at 5:30 am in -20 degree temperatures just to see them.

The lights tend to happen on the clearest, coldest nights of winter. To enjoy them usually requires a fair amount of discomfort and frozen fingers.

Northern Lights on Willow Lake, March 3, 2024
Northern Lights on Willow Lake, March 3, 2024

Seeing the Northern Lights in Alaska was a magical experience. But not once did we see those psychedelic hues you usually associate with their appearance. The lights were subtle and quiet all winter long. Nothing like the solar storms scientists predicted would happen this year.

So when we heard about the G5 solar storm on May 10, we got giddy! We fully expected to see some of the brightest lights on the continent. And then reality hit.

This is what our Aurora Lights app showed us in the early morning hours on May 10.

Aurora screenshot of May 10 2024 in Alaska
On the left, the red band shows where the lights were strongest.
On the right is cloud cover over Alaska.

As you can see, Alaska was covered in thick clouds. The best places to see the Northern Lights during the G5 storm was anywhere but here!

Aurora screenshot of May 10 2024 in Alaska
On the left, the red dots show the best places to see the lights in Alaska.
On the right, the skies were clear everywhere but here.

Sure, the lights were technically just as wild and bright up here in our sky as they were down south. But the problem was those damn clouds! They obliterated any chance of seeing the lights that it seems everyone else on the planet got to enjoy!

Instead, this is what we saw outside our window on May 10 and also on the 11th.

No northern lights were the most disappointing thing bout Alaska.
No lights for us on May 10 or 11.

We were heartbroken. Everyone on the planet was seeing the lights without having to endure the subzero temps or viciously cold mornings that we did this winter!

And the next day when all those happy show-offs splashed their Northern Lights shots across social media, Jim and I suffered the biggest case of FOMO that we had ever endured. I didn’t really get over it until we attended a local event the following weekend, and commiserated with other Willowbillies who also missed out on the fun.

There was a lot of comfort knowing we weren’t alone in our experience of the most disappointing thing about Alaska this winter.

The Most Disappointing Thing About Alaska?

Our odds of seeing the Northern Lights one more time are about one in zero. I’m happy we saw them about three times since we got here. But wow it would have been nice to have seen the rare G5 storm up here! But I’ve accepted that it won’t happen. That’s because we are up to 18 hours and 1 minute of daylight, and it’s not even dark at 2:00 am anymore.

Meanwhile, the Midnight Sun is not serving us well, disrupting our sleep and making us cranky in the morning. To me, it feels worse than learning to live with winter’s darkest days.

Midnight Sun at 9:30 pm on May 7.
This was 9:30 pm on May 7.

But all this light is a whole other kvetch that I’ll get to at some other point during summer. Once we are back living in the Project M, coping with this seasonal challenge will be yet one more way we test our limits of discomfort on this crazy, ongoing adventure.

2 thoughts on “The Most Disappointing Thing About Alaska”

  1. I won’t show you my picturesūü§£
    We are on our way…via MT to see brother John and family. Hope we cross paths!


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