So I get up in the morning, and looking through my hotel room’s window I behold mountains on the horizon, white tops basking in the glory of the rising sun. A more promising morning could not exist. After breakfast and gathering my belongings, I descended to the lobby to officially start my Arctic Adventure. I had booked a truck, and now I was going to pick it up.
As I waited for my cab to arrive, the receptionist was such a nice person and she was more than happy to share her stories with me. You see, everyone here has a story, and most of the time they’re pretty darn interesting to listen to. This girl, Ruby, embarked on a 60-day mountaineering trip, carrying a 60-lbs backpack, when she was 14.
Quickly however, I hopped on my cab and nervously awaited to meet my truck. Renting it has been part of my plan to immerse myself in the adventure. I was more than concerned about the road conditions and the fact that I hadn’t driven a vehicle as large before. My tension wasn’t soothed when the cab driver told me she slides on the road all the time and that I needed to deal with it. Surely enough, she slid as she took a left turn.
A short while later, I finally met my companion for the next few days. Wasn’t she large! I felt regret sheathed in bewilderment grappling with my mind as I wondered how on Earth I shall drive this thing.
It didn’t take long, however, for us to fall in love. You see, as I was combating my rising panic, I noticed a teen right next to me, getting into a truck quite similar to mine. He couldn’t have been older than twenty. I saw him hop on, with a disinterested expression and take-off like it was no big deal. For some reason, that worked wonders on me. I sparked my engine to life and took the first baby steps towards my destination, a little town called North Pole (lol!). That’s right, where Santa lives.
No half an hour later, I arrived at the bear den. On my way to the neighborhood, I was greeted with what I assumed was the dog of one of the residents in the area. The thing took no heed of how monstrous my ride was, and barked and circled it as if he was dragooning me away from his territory.
At the bear den, I met Sandra, my host. If by now you’re wondering why is it called that, you need but look at the following photos. It is one of the nicest places I’ve stayed in (and it smells great, like raspberries). Turns out, Sandra likes bears (go figure!) and if you’re concerned about that bear skin on the wall, it’s real, but it wasn’t a trophy kill. She hunts (technically, she used to, now she doesn’t) for food. Now whether that makes it better or not, is up to you.
After settling in and gathering my strength, I devised to get lunch/dinner. My thoughts were towards something ‘different’. And different it was. For someone who went to Mexico not too long ago, it was interesting to get acquainted with tamales here rather than there. I went to a place called “Outlaw Tamales” owned by a most lovely lady. She told me later her story (remember what I said about everyone having a story).
Her only son had asked her to prepare his favorite tamales for him and when she did, he queried why she doesn’t sell them to people. “No one wants my tamales”, she said. He then simply, and intelligently, asked to put for her an ad on craigslist. “No more than 30 minutes later”, she tells me, “and the phone was ringing”. And her business was born. She started selling from her Wagon, and “apparently,”, she says, “I was breaking a dozen or so state health laws by selling food from my personal vehicle”, that’s how the name “Outlaw Tamales” was earned 😀
At this point, I was getting closer to recovering my strength and called my friend from the night before, Norton, to inquire about the trip to see the Northern Lights. You see, they are not visible, from within city limits, unless the solar activity was high. Otherwise, one has to find a proper, elevated spot far from light pollution. We agreed to meet, and within a few hours, I was in his SUV and ready to be taken to Cleary Summit to hunt for the Aurora.
As evident from the photo, the sky was murky. Not the best viewing conditions, especially for a week characterized by little solar activity.
It wasn’t long after we stopped that we saw the first hints of the lights. Though, even in its full splendor, it was still a timid display that night. To make matters worse, my iPhone camera proved to be completely inadequate to capture the introverted glow of the unripe ribbons extending overhead. It was a show, no less, and a better way to cap the night couldn’t be asked for.