ALASKA IN WINTER
"When it's cold, most of the things go faster. I mean coincidences. I like when it's cold"
- The Lovers of the Arctic Circle-
I had to begin this post with a quote of one of my favorite movies. A love story that takes place at the Arctic circle where I was this past Thanksgiving. Alaska has been one of the most amazing places I've ever visited. The scenery, the glaciers, the snow, the cabins, even the cold weather... Alaska in the winter is tough, but it's also beautiful. We were hesitant to go because winter is not the best season to visit. Some activities can't be done due to the ice, or because some animals are hibernating. However, I wouldn't change the winter experience for anything!
The fist day, we arrived at Fairbanks and rented a car. It was challenging since none of us had driven in snow before. And just so you see, this was the situation on the roads:
We stayed at a really cute Airbnb cabin that you can rent here. The hosts were supposed to give us the keys and leave, but they ended up drinking wine and chatting with us until midnight! The cabin was super cozy and warm and the views from the balcony were astonishing.
Watching the sunrise from the balcony was really beautiful. And no, we didn't have to wake up early to see the sunrise. At this time of the year they have about 5 hours of light so the sun actually rises at about 9.30AM.
When I say "from the balcony," I mean we went outside for 5 seconds and then went back inside to watch it where we weren't at -30 Celsius /-22 Fahrenheit.
The surroundings of the house were amazing. All covered in white, of course. We tried to walk around as much as we could but with that temperature, it was a bit challenging!
A lot of people kept asking me for the coats I wore during the trip and especially for my hat. I got all my coats at Asos and the hat at a vintage store during my trip to Yucca Valley. There's a saying in Spanish "Antes muerta que sencilla" which means something like "I'd rather be dead than simple". So yes, even in negative temperatures I pulled off winter outfits.
The next morning we decided to get in the car and visit Chena Hot Springs. The tours to go there were already fully booked so our only option was driving there ourselves. Everyone was surprised and told us we were really brave to drive on snow but it wasn't that big of a deal. And the tour was a rip off so it was a lot cheaper doing it on our own. Plus, the advantage of driving is that you can stop anytime, which in that scenery, is totally worth it. We even saw a moose!
Chena hot springs is a resort where you can stay for days but you can also just visit the hot springs and leave. Being in hot water while it's snowing and freezing cold outside it's just an experience you don't want to miss. The hard part will be the seconds you have to be out in the open in a bikini at -30C. But once you get in the water it will be fine.
Something you need to know is that when you get in the water, your hair and your eyelashes will freeze! For real, a second after we went in the springs our hair was covered in white! You can see it on the video at the end of this post. After our bath, we had dinner at their restaurant and, of course, we ordered pasta with salmon and it was really good. So, I totally recommend you have dinner there. After that, we went to a viewing room and crossed our fingers so that the northern lights would come out to play that night. After several hours waiting, they decided to make an appearance at 12.30AM! Bingo! At this time of the year is not that easy to see them. March is apparently the best moment but we were lucky!
Around 2AM we started driving back to the airport since our flight to Anchorage was at 5AM. Driving at night was a bit more difficult and challenging although there were plows all around getting the snow off the road. As soon as we got to our hotel in Anchorage, I had to run to make it to that day's activity which I'd been really looking forward to! A dog sled tour with Iditarod winners at the Dallas Seavvey kennel.
Now, what I am going to say is really important. On my way there I told the guys that run this place that first I needed to see the dogs conditions and that I needed to check if they were being forced and abused to do this. I rescued an abused dog who was beaten for 4 years so believe me when I say I can recognize a dog that's not happy. I am totally against horse carriages, elephant rides, swimming with dolphins, going to the zoos, aquariums... and you'll never see me doing any of that. So this was something I wasn't sure I was going to do if once I got there I didn't feel comfortable.
The first thing I noticed the moment I set foot in the kennel was the relationship between the mushers and the dogs. They have a huge bond! These dogs compete at the Iditarod race and so they train a lot with their musher. During a race, dog and musher depend on each other and they know it. I can guarantee those dogs love their mushers!
What happened next was what made me believe these dogs live for this!!! When they saw the mushers were taking the sleds out, they all went mad!!!! They started barking, jumping of excitement and moving their tails. All of them were trying to call the attention so that they were the ones chosen to go on the sled. Not even kidding.
Once I got in the sled, it took us like 3 minutes to start running and they couldn't wait. For real, they kept jumping and looking back the same way your dog does when he wants you to take him/her for a walk. Every time we stopped the sled to take pics, they kept doing the same thing.
The run was amazing. It's fun, there's snow, there's dogs, there's a sled... what else can you ask for?
The dogs in the front are the leaders and the rest just follow them. It was interesting knowing how at some point when they get old, a younger dog will challenge them to become the new leader and go in the front. Then, the old dog becomes more of a trainer for the young ones.
After seeing these dogs, I can guarantee they love racing in sleds. Something I'd like to point out though, is that these dogs are Iditarod winners. Each year they compete in the race. They are really taken care of. They need to be in perfect shape mentally and physically to compete. I don't know what's the situation of other dogs that do tourist sled tours and are not Iditarod runners. They might not be as well treated as these ones. So please, if you ever want to do a sled dog tour, please consider doing it with a kennel that races. That will guarantee you that the dogs are treated as athletes.
The day after the dog sled we went into another excursion that blew our minds. We headed towards the Matanuska glacier to go hiking in ice! This is a pic we took on our way there.
To hike in the glacier you'll need to contact an authorized guide so that you don't step where the ice is not thick enough and you end up in freezing waters. Also, the temperature there is even colder so you need to be prepared with snow boots and snow gloves so that you don't get frostbite. You'll also need a good jacket. I got mine at Asos.
At the glacier you'll be able to hike for about 2 hours in never-ending white scenery.
During the hike you'll see caves, tunnels.. Depending on the time of the year the hike and the amount of caves you can see varies.
After our 2 hour hike, we then headed back to the car and drove to the nearest restaurant to have lunch. The food was ok, but the views were amazing.
On our last night in Anchorage, we decided to go to a local oyster place that I would totally recommend you to try. I'd always eaten cold oysters but at the Bubbly Mermaid they have a huge variety of hot oysters with cheese, spices, truffle, etc... And a really good champagne menu!
I want to end this post by thanking my friend Diana for another amazing trip together. Actually, for an amazing year of trips together. I am really spontaneous when it comes to trips so as my friend you can get a call one day saying "Hey, let's go to Alaska next week". And my friend Diana, is that one crazy friend that would always be up for it. Her first name is Diana and her last name is "YES". She and her family went through a rough moment right after we came back from the trip so I want to dedicate this post and this trip to you Diana and to a new star in the sky, your dad.
Don't forget to check out the video of our trip in Alaska so that you have a better idea of what you'll see if you go there!