Checking One Off The Bucket List: Adventures at 40 Below!
Seeing the Northern Lights has long been at the top of my bucket list. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I caught glimpses of the Aurora Borealis but it was nothing more than a faint green hue on the horizon. I longed to see the real deal. When a week opened up in my husband's work schedule this past January, we decided to head up north in search of the Aurora. We chose The Yukon specifically because of both proximity (2 very easy 2-hour plane rides away from SFO) and ease of arrangements. In addition to Northern Lights viewing, we knew we wanted to do a wide range of winter activities. After consulting with my Brownell colleagues, I decided to leverage the expertise of one of our Canadian partners who offered a five-day program that included everything we were interested in doing plus four nights of Aurora viewing.
We spent two nights in Vancouver, at the lovely Rosewood Georgia Hotel, on our way up north. In addition to it's beautiful and spacious rooms, the hotel boasts a top-rated spa and a spectacular indoor pool. The city views from The Rosewood Suite are hard to beat. We spent our one full day in the city loafing around The Granville Market, enjoying high tea at TWG and taking in a Canucks game at Rogers Arena. My only regret is that we didn't do our trip in reverse and end with two nights at the Rosewood. After the extreme cold of The Yukon, a pampering treatment at the Rosewood spa and a long soak in the tub would have been a welcome treat.
Our time in the Yukon was everything it promised to be: spectacular, thrilling and very, very cold! We were greeted with -25F weather that would continue to drop throughout the duration of our trip, bottoming out at -40 (fun fact: Celsius and Fahrenheit merge at -40!). However, we were well-prepared having decided to rent winter clothes up there rather than rely on our own gear which would have been woefully insufficient. The cold temperatures also brought crystal clear skies which made for favorable Aurora viewing conditions.
Like many worthwhile ventures in life, viewing The Northern Lights takes both perseverance and patience. They can appear for seconds, minutes or hours at a time. Or, of course, not at all. But when they do appear, they are spectacular and well worth the wait! Each night at around 10p, we drove about 35 minutes outside of town and away from any light pollution to wait for the lights to appear. We spent most of our time inside a warm yurt, sipping cocoa and talking to the guides, only braving the extreme temperatures outside when the Aurora actually emerged. We were fortunate to see them each night we were out.
We spent our days doing various winter activities including touring a wildlife refuge, watched icicles form on our hair and eyelashes while soaking in a local hot spring and snowmobiling across a pristine frozen lake while searching for moose tracks and beaver dens. However, the true highlight was dogsledding. My husband and I took turns guiding a team of 5 dogs across the frozen Takhini River (the non-guide sat in the sled under a mountain of blankets).
The funny thing about bucket lists is that just because you check something off doesn't necessarily mean you move on. Having experienced the Northern Lights firsthand just makes me want to see them again! As I learned from the guides on my trip, they can be seen from late August through the end of March and are rumored to be at their most spectacular around the equinoxes. I am already planning a return trip up north for September and trips to Norway and Iceland have shot up to the top of my list.
If the Northern Lights are on your bucket list, I'd love nothing more than to help you plan the trip-of-a-lifetime!