Aurora Borealis-Northern Lights


One of the things I had hoped to experience in Alaska was the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights.  Once the days started getting longer and the evenings darker I began checking the App Aurora Forecast.  I knew from my trip research that Fairbanks was a great place to view the Northern Lights, but consistently overcast skies and rain were hindering our chances.  That’s why when we left the Chena River Recreation site we were in search of sunshine and clear skies. We had given up thoughts of returning to Denali for a 2nd visit Sept 10th-16th and we passed our Denali Lottery entrance onto a sweet young couple from Austria.  The weather forecasts for that time in Denali were consistent in that they were getting worse-with ice expected on our drive through day.  We both knew that weather is unpredictable , but we knew we wanted out of the rain. So we pointed south with the intention of winding up in Whitehorse around the time of some of the strongest forecast Aurora activity.  As we approached Delta Junction the skies cleared and there it was, the elusive sun.

The Alaska Range in the background and Ruby camped alongside the Gerstle River.

We started to keep our eyes open for a good boon docking spot. Driving along the highway, I caught site of a gravel turnoff along a braided river.  We didn’t know what river it was, all we knew was we were somewhere outside of Delta Junction on our way to Whitehorse, Chicken,AK and the Top of the World Highway.  We discovered it was the Gerstle River we were intent on  boon docking alongside the river.

River bed dust, NOT rain !
Dark clouds would threaten but the winds down off of the mountains blew them out of the area.



This turned out to be one of our absolute favorite wild camping spots and we stayed 5 days.  It is such a beautiful area.  While you can’t tell from the above photo we actually sat above the river bed.  I had read that the river constantly changes course and you don’t want to get caught in that change.


Sometimes we would sit for hours just staring at the Alaskan Range mountains, colors changing constantly and winds blowing clouds down off the mountains.


We hiked the river bed and found more than enough firewood for the time we were there.  And it was nice to have a fire far away from the forest and not have to worry about starting a forest fire !



The river bed was full of so many beautiful rocks, don’t tell Jim, but I stashed a few smaller ones inside the glove compartment for a little project.  I told him we struck it rich because all the rocks were coated with silver, lol.  Really just the silica from the river bed but it sure was pretty.


What a beautiful site, a wide braided river with an incredible view of the Alaskan Range.  We had sunshine and clear skies the entire time we were here.  A couple of dust storms through the river bed as the wind blew down off the mountains, but all in all an incredible boon docking site-I highly recommend it.

The Black Veterans Memorial Bridge over the Gerstle River



We watched these two running like crazy through the river and even with binoculars we couldn’t figure out what was chasing them.  We did see grizzly tracks around our campsite so I guess it could have been a bear, but we never spotted one.



I can’t even remember when we had the last campfire on this trip.  But while boon docking here we had one every night.


Sunrises and sunsets were spectacular here. It was a sky that went on forever and the sun treated us to a different painted sky every evening and every morning.





Our first night camping here I wondered out loud to Jim if we would see the Northern Lights.  I set my camera up with my tripod just in case.  I knew according to the Aurora Forecast App that activity was high so when I went to bed at 10pm I set the alarm for midnight.  When the alarm went off and I opened my eyes looking out the window, I gasped and quickly woke Jim up.  The sky was filled with Northern Lights.  We jumped out of Ruby and stood there for over an hour ohhing and ahhing and omging.  We could not believe the magic of the night and the skies.  I didn’t bring out my camera, I wanted to enjoy the moment and the beauty without worrying about exposure, shutter speed , aperture etc.  Plus, I was counting on the App to be correct and that the weather would cooperate and they would appear the next night.


I can’t begin to explain how exciting and overwhelming the majesty and beauty of the Northern Lights can be.  We were like two little kids at Christmas time. Jumping around, whispering (because it felt like we were in a cathedral) wow, look here, no look here. Sometimes it looked like someone was slowly pouring the color into different directions in the sky.  Other times it looked like the color was falling like thin drapes lighting up the night.  As they slowly started to fade we headed inside.  About an hour later, as I was watching the sky, they showed up again.  It was like watching my own private magical movie.  All I could do was whisper, thank you God, thank you Universe….


The next night the alarm went off at midnight and I looked outside-no lights.  Oh well I thought, I was so blessed to experience them the previous night I couldn’t complain. So I drifted off to sleep and woke up about 45 minutes later-anxiously looking out the window I saw a faint streak of green.  At first I thought it was wishful thinking, but the faint streak got brighter and brighter.  I grabbed my tripod and camera and for the next 90 minutes snapped away, Jim joined me, acting as my director, over here Babes, look at this one Babes, and we both were back in the WOW mode.















This was my first attempt at shooting the Aurora Borealis and I think I did okay.  I do have to practice my shots and focusing and stopping the action of the quickly moving lights so everything doesn’t look blurry.  So if I caused you any squinting, I’m sorry !

Happy Trails, safe travels and wishing you magical nights filled with beautiful skies.


6 thoughts on “Aurora Borealis-Northern Lights

  1. Nancy Crawford

    Once again your beautiful photos blow me away. Seeing the Northern Lights has always been on my Bucket List. I doubt now that I will ever accomplish that, but I did enjoy reading your story of how you managed to see them. I am so enjoying your wonderful trip to Alaska. We Are kindred spirits.


  2. Your photos are beautiful. We witnessed the Northern Lights on Thursday night from Denali.. They were beautiful but very short lived. It is definitely a bucket list item and I feel so fortunate to have had the experience. Journey on my friend and thank you for sharing your photos and thoughts.


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