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Our Alaskan Experience #HACintothewild

Alaska is a vast land that is absolutely stunning and filled with roaming wildlife. As much as it has to offer us, it also demands to be respected -especially more so during the harsh bitter winter months. During our 4-day stay, the temperature never went above -3° Fahrenheit and the average was -12° F. BRRRRRRR!!!!! The three of us (Huy, Christianne & I) thought we were prepared to take on the bitter cold, but quickly learned that even if your core is warm, freezing extremities can negate any motive to be outdoors. It was a mission just to get dressed to step outside for whatever reason! With the day only containing 6 hours of light, we had to keep a steady move on to make the most of it.

Of course we hung out around town, visited a brewery where we had a brew or two outdoors (you know, to keep our beers as chilled as possible), ate some good local grubs, and even went to Santa Claus's House in the city of North Pole. The real adventure was going outdoors, being active, and taking in the sights of the snow-capped everything!

Winter Wonderland @ Chena Hot Springs

Just a little over an hour drive from our cabin, Chena Hot Springs was our first destination on our first full day in Alaska. Starting with the Aurora Ice Museum tour, we were quickly ushered into the entrance as to not allow any sort of melting on the ice sculptures (a process called sublimation). During the 15-minute guided tour, we were educated on the workspace of Steve Brice, a 16-time World Champion Ice Sculptor, along with his wife Heather, the types of ice blocks used in carving, and the stories behind the sculptures displayed around the museum and its' rooms. After the guided tour, we were set free to walk around and snap pictures as we pleased and enjoyed an appletini from a stemmed glass sculpted from....well, ice! Just don't try to lick the ice glass as you're trying to savor every last drop or else you'll have to tear a little skin from it. 

The light in some parts of the museum made for poor quality images. You'll just have to go and witness it yourselves!!

After the tour, we dined at the Chena Hot Springs Resort. The food here is delicious! Did you know they grow their own produce in a greenhouse powered by geothermal renewable energy? Greens are scarce in the Alaskan winter months, so eat your valuable garnishes! After failing to NOT overstuff myself, we headed to the hot springs for a quick soak. I haven't seen the springs during the day, but can only imagine how beautiful the snow-covered trees lining the silky smooth water looks like. 

With the light, a beautiful setting, and no one else in the water, how could we not be corny?!?

After soaking in the springs, we headed back to the cabin, settled back in and experienced the most spectacular Aurora Borealis showing we have ever seen!  Well, even if it was only the second time we've experienced it, it was indescribable! More on the Aurora Borealis in the third blog.

Denali National Park

Getting up as soon as daylight breaks through the cabin windows (around 9 a.m.) is pretty tough, when we stayed up into the wee hours to watch the Northern Lights. Alas, daylight waits for no one and we rushed our bums out of the warmth of the cabin and drove two and a half hours to Denali National Park. Nothing much to write about since most of our time was spent in the car. Fortunately the drive was beautiful and we finally got to see mountains! Once at the park, we made the most of our short time there snowshoeing and becoming one with a wolf pack! HOOOOOWLLLLL!!!

Snowmobiling tour with Rodney.

On our last full day, we got to be the first guests to do a snowmobile tour with our cabin host, Rodney. He did a fantastic job (as he does with everything) in preparing and gearing us up for the snowmobile ride. Only thing he forgot to mention was how to use the brake....

Christianne was the only one of us three to have ridden a snowmobile before, but it didn't take more than a few minutes and about a mile for Huy and I to get the hang of it. I was tempted to jump it over a few mounds. Maybe next time....

After some time blasting through the trails and carefully navigating narrow ones, I hopped off my snowmobile and onto Rodney's to grab some shots while Christianne took her turn at the ...wheel? I was pleasantly surprised that the Canon 5Diii did extremely well in -15°F weather. My only issue was that I wasn't able to compose my shots. Wearing a helmet, puffy gloves and jacket restricted my reach and functionality. Basically, I was shooting blindly but had fun doing it.

Eventually I got jealous and kindly kicked Christianne off her snowmobile so I could ride again. Not to fret though, as karma bit me in the butt and I got high-centered in a ditch. But before all of that, Huy and I had lost Rodney and Christianne where they had turned onto the river. I knew we had lost them since the low-hanging branches in front of us were still unmolested with snow. We stayed put for a quick minute before Rodney found us. After we regrouped, I got to lead on a trail less-traveled and eventually found ourselves back on the frozen river. There, we got going with a full throttle and plowed through a foot of soft, soft powder. There's something about riding as fast as you can on narrow trails, leaning off the edge of your seat while maintaining balance to dodge low hanging branches that gives me morning wood (but in the late afternoon). 

Although we were gone for about two hours, the white-blanketed scenery along with the soft pinkish orange sky dancing above the tree lines, made the ride seem way too short. Back at the cabin, we thanked and celebrated with Rodney and Terri for the tour by consuming a bottle of blackberry brandy. You can get more information here about Rodney's Alaskan Tours.

The Aurora Borealis was a huge reason for our trip to Alaska but the experience and sights of this vast land is reason enough to go! Aurora Borealis from the Backyard will be up next!