Results 1 to 15 of 15

Thread: My Alaska Expedition (Need help and suggestions)

  1. #1
    New member
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Posts
    2

    Default My Alaska Expedition (Need help and suggestions)

    Please move this post to a more appropriate forum, I picked this one due to my main objective: photography of AK.

    Hi all. Let me first start by explaining myself a little. Its always been a dream of mine to explore the Alaskan wilderness on foot, armed primarily with a camera and my own sense of adventure. My main objective would be to capture my very own images of the aurora. However, I need some help and suggestions as to what I can expect. I have never been to AK, and I need a bit of a reality check as my usual methods of plunging headfirst could land me in danger. I'll try to be specific..

    Weather:
    My current plan has me entering Alaska in late March, but i'm unsure of what to expect as far as weather conditions. What kind of tent and sleeping system would I need if I were out in the middle of nowhere around this time? Is there heavy snowfall in March? Is a 4-Season tent required? I have a military sleeping system that I will be bringing, I believe its rated to at least -10F. What kind of conditions should I be prepared for?

    Navigation and Survival:
    My plan is to aquire some level of Garmin handheld GPS for navigational and emergency purposes. What features should I require? I've also got access to a military first aid kit, but I dont know what supplies I should make sure to have on hand in case of an emergency. Also, some kind of emergency comm device would be good to have I imagine, but im not quite sure where to start with that. What kind of wild life dangers should I be prepared for, if any?

    Transportation:
    My only idea for transportation so far has been a rental car (some kind of 4WD obviously), is there a better method, or anything I should be aware of regarding getting from the airport to my various destinations?

    Location:
    My current plan is to fly to Fairbanks and make my way to Denali National park. However, im not sure if i'm allowed to just wander around a national park during that season, or if this is even a good spot to catch an aurora. Any suggestions as to location?

    Reality Check:
    How realistic is it for a solo 23-year old male to wander out into the alaskan wilderness, take photos of an aurora, sleep outside in mid-late March and return to tell the tale?

    I'm currently US military serving in Iraq, this trip is planned around my R&R leave, which I engineered to fall in March (I had read this was a statisticly high time for aurora). While i'm physically fit and I do have expirience living and doing outdoors, I am by no means an expert, and I have pretty much zero expirience with the cold climate of AK. Please let me know if i'm totally nuts.




    I realize this is a lot, and quite a bit to ask for someone just jumping onto the forum, but I hope you'll all understand its just sort of my way to dive right in full tilt. This has been a long-standing dream of mine and I'm licking my lips thinking that it might come to fruition, even in the middle of a deployment. Thank you in advance, so very much, for any insights. I also promise that if my trip is a success I will post a detailed account and my photos right here on this forum. Thank you!


    -SC

  2. #2

    Default brrrr

    One word for your March expedition to Denali...Brrrrrrrr. March is an awesome time to explore Alaska. The weather is typically dryer and the daylight is around 12 hours. Expect cold nights.

    My tip to you is to look into some of the forest service cabins to rent. If you want to camp in your tent than most people have a good sleeping bag and at least 2 sleeping pads for insulation.

    I will let the other members fill you in on the rest of the details because I have limited experiences with Denali in March

    AK

  3. #3
    Member EricL's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Alaska to Stay
    Posts
    670

    Default

    Hey JM, sounds like you know what you want. Without going into a lot of detail right away, let me ask you a quick question. If your main goal is the aurora, would it be easier if you just focused on that? If you lived here and all your gear was here, I'd say go for the camping trip with photography as a bonus. You can get cheaper hotels or B&B for a reasonable price especially that time of the year. I have just found that trying to do too much on a single trip just leads to stress (all the gearing up, etc) and fewer pics to be proud of. When I do hunting trips, I just take my P&S. Only the photography trips do I take all my photo gear. Also, you won't be able to get too far in DNP in March unless you are going to snowshoe or dogsled in. Don't believe there are any other ways to access the park that early. Statistically, Fairbanks is the place to be for the lights. I have also read somewhere that '09 will be the 12 year cycle for the lights to be at their best. I'm sure hopin' that is true.
    EricL

  4. #4
    Member Majik Imaje's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Living @ the Top of the World in Barrow Alaska
    Posts
    628

    Default

    Go to City-Data.com ALASKA section, they have a thread all about the Aurora and all the info you need.. better expect a lot colder than - 10

    - 50 be prepared - for wind !!

  5. #5
    New member
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Posts
    2

    Default

    Thanks for the input everyone;

    Eric: My main objective is the aurora. Is there a better spot that I can get to easier to get shots of it? Denali was just sort of the only place I could come up with that had a name and a website I could easily research. My plan is to use as much of my military gear as possible to beat the cold weather, but I understand March is very very cold. Ive got my military sleeping system (I'll have to get positive on exactly how cold its rated to), what kind of temperatures should I expect? I also have decent cold weather boots, and rubber overshoes to go with them, but again i'm not sure if what I have is enough. Also, a friend of mine has been telling me that i'm not going to be able to spend much time outdoors at all during that time of year due to the extreme weather. In any case, if I can arrive in Fairbanks, secure transportation to a good spot, camp and take pictures of the aurora and make it back to the City after a few days, that is what I want to do, cold weather be ****ed.

  6. #6
    Member EricL's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Alaska to Stay
    Posts
    670

    Default

    Juice, a couple of sites I checked real quick show the temp ranges for the interior in March being 25/-5F and for April 42/20F. These are just averages so I'm sure you could subtract 10 to 15 degrees off of these temps pretty easy. As I think about your plans most of my thoughts are with my home area, Southcentral. Most of the actual areas to camp are inaccessible due to snow, gates being closed, etc. In fact, 2 years ago, I was going to do exactly what you are trying to do. I headed across the Denali Hwy planning on camping. I couldn't even get the truck off the road due to major amounts of snow. THIS WAS IN MAY!! I either needed snow shoes or my snow machine to access anything. They had just got the road opened but I had to make some plan changes for sure. They do plow some of the pull-offs from the hwy's but they also usually have signs about "no camping".
    You don't need to be in the deepest areas of Alaska to get great shots of the lights. Anywhere away from the city lights will work. I spend most of the time up at Glenn Alps trailhead. This is just above some of the last neighborhoods in Anchorage. If the forecast shows real strong lights due to solar storms or other geomagnetic storms, I'll head north to the Hatcher Pass area. The first time I captured the lights were from my driveway right here in the middle of Anchorage with a large streetlight right across the street.

    I would sure hate to see you bring all your gear up here and not be able to put it to use!!
    EricL

  7. #7
    Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Anchorage
    Posts
    1,449

    Default

    From Fairbanks, drive to Circle Hot Springs. You can sit in a hot pool, and click the shutter at your leisure. Then enjoy a nice room to sleep in at the resort. There are a couple other places like this just north of Fairbanks. At least one of them caters to the aurora crowd. Seems the Japanese can't get enough of it.

    Just another option to consider.

  8. #8
    New member
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    240

    Default

    If this is what you really want to do, then do it. Keep asking questions, and don't bite off more than you can chew, as long as you don't do anything stupid you'll be fine. Don't plan a 30 mile hike with full gear to camp for a week. Plan for extreme cold weather even though you may not see it. Start small, have a back up plan and be willing to admit when it is time to head back to the truck to turn on the heater. Chene Hot springs resort, just out of Fairbanks is the place that caters to aurora watchers but their packages are likely spendy. Another thing to consider that time of year for photography is the world ice art championships in Fairbanks, look for info online.

  9. #9
    Member ak_powder_monkey's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Eagle River/ Juneau
    Posts
    5,154

    Default

    Bring a tripod and a cable release...
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

  10. #10
    Member BlueMoose's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Rifle River MI
    Posts
    1,835

    Default Contact Greg at Frontier Ops Fairbanks

    Greg Shaffer rents snow machines and vehilces and has a ton of informaiton about trails and public use cabins. You might want to consider the White Mountians for your adventure or any of the cabins off the Chena Trails.

    http://frontieropportunities.com/

    With a mode of transportion and a cabin you can have comfort and get your pics.

  11. #11
    Member arcticfirefighter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    North Pole
    Posts
    69

    Default Aurora Photography

    There are many places around Fairbanks that offer outstanding opportunities for Aurora Photos. I agree with Jim that Circle Hot Springs is a good place to go. Circle Hot Springs is up the Steese Highway about 130 miles NE of Fairbanks. Probably going to want a 4x4 to get up over Eagle Summit, although I have never been up there past Davidson Ditch that time of year. Here is a website that gives you the Aurora forecast a month out and a map of where it will be visible.

    www.gedds.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast/

    Denali National Park is gorgeous anytime of the year but snow covered is my favorite. Snowshoes are a must, unless you have access to a dog team. You can take a snow machine into Denali STATE Park but not Denali NATIONAL Park. There are markers that show the boundaries but they are very few and far between. The Rangers and Troopers do take not knowing where you are as an excuse. Not real sure on lodging down that way, I do know that most of the lodging providers shut down Mid September thru the beginning of May. I second the "bring a tripod and cable release".

    Hope it helps! Good luck!

  12. #12
    Member danattherock's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    NC
    Posts
    5,608

    Default

    If I were you, I would just rent a yurt ($60/night) at Chena Hot Springs. Located 60 miles east of Fairbanks, it is a world famous spot for northern lights viewing. Took the wife there a few years back. Rent a snowmachine, take a dog sled ride, soak in the hot springs, get wake up calls when the lights are out, see the ice hotel, etc.. It has lots to offer. Staying there 4-5 nights should give you a great chance to photograph the lights. Instead of flying in from Anchorage to Fairbanks, ride the train through Denali if it is running. We were there in Nov and it was running then. Beautiful scenery on the train ride. And Chena will have a free shuttle pick you up and drop you off in Fairbanks. No small task for a free service as they are 60 miles out in the sticks. This could make a great 5-6 day trip. Make your first camping trip to Alaska sometime in June-Sept. I think March would be a poor time to do it.

    http://www.chenahotsprings.com/index.php

    http://www.akrr.com/default.html

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/8177037...7600877970215/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/canuck0...7600010465236/


    For photography info, check out the forum www.photo.net Go to the nature forum and post a question about photographing the northern lights. Also, search old post with the "search" feature at the top of the screen. Tons of info to be had on that forum. You will definitely need a tripod and a slow shutter speed. A cable release, or using the self timer would be used as well. A wide angle lens. I am learning on the subject myself, but these appear to be a very common approach. Below is just one old article from Photo.net

    http://photo.net/canon-eos-digital-camera-forum/00Kmqz
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

  13. #13

    Default

    circle hot springs has been closed for at least 3 years.



    oka

  14. #14
    Member COtoAK's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    North Pole, Alaska
    Posts
    1,896

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by oka in ak View Post
    circle hot springs has been closed for at least 3 years.



    oka
    Are you sure? I thought that as long as you had permission from the land owners, you can go to the springs?

    Maybe you are stating that it's not open to the public anymore?

    I'd be nice to get some clarification on it instead of all hear-say.


    Who knows. Maybe they meant that you can drive up to Circle, AK... but not necessarily up to Circle Hot Springs. ?!?!
    Lurker.

  15. #15

    Default

    circle hot springs is closed. sometimes has water in it, sometimes does not. they definitly don't want people using it especially out of towners.
    you can drive to the town/village of cirlcle no problem but that is completely different and about 40 mi. from the hot springs. 4wd is not necessary to get over eagle but I personally always drive in a 4wd.

    oka

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •