Winter Wonderland

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At the beginning of November, to be exact on November 5th, I left Victoria and headed North. Far North actually, because I was on my way to Alaska. About a year ago, I was dreaming of visiting Alaska despite the fact that I will be there in November. People who asked me about my travel plans would in 90% of all case react with “Alaska?! In November?! You sure??” And I was! I was reading the travelling guide I received from my lovely colleagues back in May and also talked with people who have already been there. For sure, the major tourist attractions were closed or not accessible, but that didn’t matter to me. I was super excited, also because I was couch-surfing for the upcoming five days.

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Anyways, I left on Thursday afternoon and after finishing the last assignments for my courses. At YYJ I indulged myself with a soy latte and did some more work for University before it was boarding time for my flight to Seattle. After about 6 hours in transit (I had quite some time in Seattle) I finally arrived in Anchorage, Alaska’s biggest city. Todd picked me up and then we headed home where I just fell asleep instantly!

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The next day started quite foggy. But that did not keep us from exploring the area. Todd and I drove to Turnagain Arm, a bit south of Anchorage along the Seward Highway (Alaska Highway 1). The name “Turnagain Arm” comes from the time when James Cook was sailing in these waters in order to find the Northwest Passage. But the crew got stuck in this arm and had to turn again – therefore “Turnagain Arm”. It was beautiful there!! I was also told that the line where the snow ends is called “Silverdust Line” up here.

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The weather did not get better the entire day, unfortunately. But we decided to go for a short hike at Flattop mountain. Normally one would have quite a view from up there, but all we saw was fog and eventually a stunning sunset in the fog.

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The next day started in the dark (sunrise in Anchorage was around 8:40am) but when the sun started to rise I was blown away. I think I have never seen such an amazing sunrise!! It was red and orange and yellow and pinkish. And there were mountains and snow and oh my, it was sheer too beautiful!!

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Today Todd and I headed North out of Anchorage. We were in the mood for adventure and decided to go cross-country skiing and try snow shoeing at Hatcher’s Pass. There you can find an old left mine. It was so much fun to ski around this area. Unfortunately it was that cold that my eye lashes froze together! In the afternoon we made a stop in Eagle River (halfway to Anchorage again) at a beautiful lake in a valley between the mountains. It was just around sunset and we got to enjoy the alpenglow.

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On Sunday morning I got to meet a friend of Todd. She was meeting us for a hike with her cute little dog. It was such a nice day again!!

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In the evening it was then time for me to head further North to Fairbanks. Unfortunately this night the weather forecast predicted a couple of inches snow and it proved to be right! That meant for me: delay because of lack of sight, and two times getting de-iced. Finally in the air I looked forward to napping but then the captain said that we should all look outside because of the Northern Lights. And there it was – the dancing, beautiful Aurora Borealis. In Fairbanks some family friends of my host family in Chicago picked me up and since it was already late, I again just fell asleep right away.

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The next morning I planned on waking up at 7:30am but since it was still pitch dark outside I decided to just sleep in. At 9:30am it was finally light outside and so I got ready and headed to Enterprise to pick up my rental car. Road conditions were horrible, but I guess I just got the full Alaska experience! I indulged myself with some coffee and a muffin at a local coffee shop near the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. Then I headed over to Creamer’s Ville – formerly a dairy farm but now a nature reserve. It is a path over a frozen lake with lots of birch trees surrounding the area. And full of snow – I have to admit that at this point I could not resist but listen to my Christmas playlist. I loved it. I felt like a young child at Christmas again. It was gorgeous – all of it!!

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Later in the afternoon I headed out of town to a nearby village called North Pole. In the 1940s the community there thought that it might be a good idea to design an entire village like Santa Clause’s hometown – street lights look like candy canes, all business are called “Santa Shoe Repair” or “Santa Clause Dry Cleaning”, there is the North Pole post office, Christmas decoration everywhere, etc. They thought that they could commercialize this idea but no company ever caught on to that.

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Heading back in the evening I had Alaska experience Nr. 2 – I got stuck in the snow with my car… Just a couple of meters away from the place I stayed at, but still. Later I was told, that would not even had a chance to actually make it all the way to the house because of the fact that my rental car was not an “Alaska”-car. Yes, true that!

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Next morning Dave and me headed out for a hike in the White Mountains. This is about a one-hour drive Northeast of Fairbanks along the Elliott Highway that leads all the way up to Prudhoe Bay where much oil industry is going on. On the way we saw a female moose with her little one. Nature up here is so fascinating. We arrived at the small parking lot at 9am just before sunrise. It was freezing: -25 degree Celsius. But it was so worth it. This was stunning: Knee-deep snow, absolute silence, the Alaska range in the background and everything was touched in golden colours.

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After we came back from a 2.5h hike we saw a dog musher getting ready for a practice race. It was so nice to talk to him and see how excited the dogs were! Before heading back to Fairbanks, we had a look at the Trans-Alaska pipeline and stopped at a truck stop for lunch.

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In the afternoon I made a stop at the UAF before I had to return my car again. In the evening before heading back to Canada, I had dinner together with the family and here came another Alaska experience: Dave served moose heart which he caught by himself!

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My time in Alaska was absolutely amazing. There is no way that any of my pictures could have caught the beauty of this state! You just have to come here and see for yourself. I am more than thankful for this unique experience!

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