Did we see the northern lights? Nope, not in the summer, it's just too darn light out all the time.
Did we see the midnight sun? YES, yes we did. In fact, we saw it before we even arrived in Alaska, during our night time flight from Seattle to Anchorage. Boarding the plane in Seattle around ten p.m., the sky outside was dark.
As we got airborne, and flew northwest, mostly following the coast of British Columbia, up ahead (over the wing of the plane), I could see a band of light on the horizon. Light that just kept getting brighter the further we flew even though the hour got later and later into the night.
It was after 1:30 a.m. when we arrived in Anchorage. Even so, by the time we collected our checked bags and went outside the terminal to await the shuttle bus to the hotel we'd had the foresight to book a room at (so we could get some much needed sleep upon our arrival in Alaska), the sky outside looked like it could be any cloudy dawn instead of the middle of the night.
Flying home was like the reverse; we took off after midnight in a dusky sky that still allowed you to see far, far below, and we landed in Seattle to early morning darkness.
leaving Alaska in the middle of the night
Even though I really didn't intend to stay up and see it very often, we saw the midnight sun a lot. Sleeping in the RV was rough (tight space, and the whole thing wiggled every time anyone rolled over, it seemed; plus a certain someone who snores loudly), and there was a roof vent above the master bed, so every time I woke up in the night, it was still some degree of light outside that could be seen through the translucent covering on the roof vent. The sun does go down, roughly around 11:30 p.m. in the parts we visited, but the sky was never completely dark in the 12 days we spent in the RV. I could go to bed at 10:30 (cuz I'm not much of a night owl), and it would be light out. I could wake up at midnight and it would be light out. 3:00 a.m., light out. 4:30 a.m., now the sun is on it's way back up it's even more light out. 6:00 a.m., might as well forget trying to sleep, it's full daylight.
The long hours of daylight made sightseeing nice, as you still had hours upon hours after dinner each day that you could go and do things. I have pictures taken at ten p.m. that you'd think I had taken in the middle of the afternoon. And the moose seem to be very prevalent along the roadways at ten p.m. and later. They were as abundant as white tail deer are at home in the dusky hours. Unfortunately, most of the time we saw moose in the evening (night?), I had no battery left on my phone with which to take pictures. So you'll just have to imagine driving down the road and seeing moose all over the place, some with twin calves, some with single calves, a young bull moose with just the beginnings of antlers, and even a moose wearing a radio collar. I believe DD1 got pictures of most of them, but I haven't had a chance to see her vacation photos yet.
Sometimes that midnight sun did not play into (most of) our favor. Some nights we didn't have a designated stopping and camping point, and DH would just be driving and driving, since it wasn't dark yet. (I might not be a night owl, but he is.) Most of the rest of us were ready for sleep, but of course no one could get in bed while the RV was in motion. There were more than a few times we had to remind DH that it was eleven, or midnight, and could he please pull over at the next available camping place?
sunset close to midnight
A neat thing about Alaska is that you can pull over and park your RV for the night just about anywhere. Unless it's actually posted "No Camping", you can just stop in a roadside pull out, or along a river, or in the Walmart or other grocery store parking lot, and go to bed. The picture above is one of the places we pulled off and camped at; basically a large gravel area that ran along a river. We spent three nights at DH's aunt and uncle's house, and camped in actual campgrounds three other nights, but the rest of the time we just parked and slept wherever looked good (and had room for our 32 ft beast) at the time. This free camping allowed us to save some cash, and since we had brought our own water supply and toilet, there wasn't anything else we really needed in a camping spot. And, truthfully, those nights we stayed at a real campground--fire ring, picnic table and pit toilet--it was rainy so we never got to eat outside at the picnic table or have a campfire, and nobody was going to make a middle of the night potty run out to the pit toilet.
Rainy. That is the overwhelming impression that Alaska left on me. Maybe it was just that most of our time was spent in the coastal/fjord area, where the climate is stereotypical Pacific Northwest (gray, drizzle, rain). We did have a few sunny days (less than a handful), but overall the weather did not make me want to plan another trip to Alaska in the next decade. I'm not fond of overcast skies (so depressing), and I get chilled easily, so upper 50's Fahrenheit with hours upon hours of drizzle and rain made me pile on all the warm clothes I'd brought. You can only be so happy about wearing the same two flannel shirts (over a variety of t-shirts) day after day after day after. . .
The weather also kept me from doing much of the one big reason I'd wanted to come to Alaska: hiking. Hiking trails abound, but in drizzly weather and temps mostly under 60 degrees, I wasn't going on any long hikes. Drying clothes in the RV was next to impossible; it took 3 days to air dry a few items that weren't even dripping wet, but merely very damp.
DH, on the other hand, would love to go back, and if we could swing it next year (we can't, surely can't, what with DD1 & Honorary Son's wedding being next Spring) he'd go right back to the Kenai Peninsula even if the skies were grayer there than when we went further inland. He is the kind of person who wears shorts if it's not snowing out, so the drizzle and cool temperatures didn't deter him from doing much of his wish list.
In the next few posts, I'll show and tell things that we did do, and scenery that we saw there.