SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (AP) — Spring has sprung in much of California, but winter is hanging on in parts of the Sierra Nevada, where snow fell Sunday and forecasters warned of hazardous travel conditions.
The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory through 11 p.m., predicting up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of snow in mountains above 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) near Lake Tahoe.
“Snow has started over the Sierra!” the weather service’s Sacramento office tweeted around midday. “If you have mountain travel plans be prepared for winter driving conditions, gusty winds, and low visibility at times.”
Chains were recommended for vehicles on Northern California mountain routes, including Interstate 80 and State Route 50.
Light rain fell across the San Francisco Bay Area, where overnight temperatures could drop into the low 40s (about 5 Celsius).
Despite the spring snow, California remains locked in drought after historically dry winter months. The Sierra snowpack, a key part of the state’s water supply, was just 38% of average on April 1, when it is normally at its peak.
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Firefighters transfer a rescued person in Shari, in the northern island of Hokkaido on Sunday.
Firefighters transfer a rescued person in Shari, in the northern island of Hokkaido on Sunday.
TOKYO — The Japanese Coast Guard said Sunday that rescue helicopters found four of the 26 people from a tour boat missing in the frigid waters of northern Japan since the day before, but their conditions are unknown.
The four people were found near the tip of Shiretoko Peninsula, but the coast guard said it could not confirm whether they were rescued alive. NHK public television said they were unconscious.
Footage on NHK showed one of the rescued people arriving on a helicopter and being transferred to an ambulance on a stretcher, while rescuers held up blue plastic shields for privacy.
The boat carrying 24 passengers and two crew members had gone missing after sending a distress call Saturday, saying it took on water and was beginning to sink.
Sunday’s rescue came after nearly 19 hours of intense search involving six patrol boats, several aircraft and divers. The coast guard said the search continued through the night.
The 19-ton Kazu 1 made an emergency call in the early afternoon, saying the ship’s bow had flooded and it was beginning to sink and tilt while traveling off the western coast of Shiretoko Peninsula near the northern island of Hokkaido, the coast guard said.
The tour boat has since lost contact, according to the coast guard. It said the boat was carrying 24 passengers, including two children, and two crew.
Average April sea temperatures in Shiretoko National Park are just above freezing.
An official for the vessel’s operator, Shiretoko Pleasure Cruise, said he could not comment because he had to respond to calls from worried families of the passengers.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who was attending a two-day summit in Kumamoto in southern Japan, canceled his program for the second day and returned to Tokyo. He told reporters in the early hours of Sunday that he instructed officials “to do everything they can for the rescue.”
The cause of the accident is still under investigation, but experts suspect the boat ran aground and was damaged.
High waves and strong winds were observed in the area around noon, according to a local fisheries cooperative. Japanese media reports said fishing boats had returned to port before noon because of the bad weather.
NHK said there was a warning for high waves of up to 9 feet.
A tour boat crew belonging to another operator told NHK that he warned of rough seas when he spotted the Kazu 1 crew and told them not to go. He also said the same boat went aground last year and suffered a crack on its bow.
A tour boat that went missing on Saturday left this fishing port in the Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Kyodo News via AP
Kyodo News via AP
A tour boat that went missing on Saturday left this fishing port in the Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Kyodo News via AP
Yoshihiko Yamada, a Tokai University marine science professor, said the boat was likely to have run aground after it was tossed around in high waves and damaged, flooded and probably sank. A tour boat of that size usually does not carry a life boat, and passengers possibly could not escape a rapidly sinking vessel with its windows likely closed to shield them from strong winds.
In an interview with TBS elevision, Yamada said there was also a slight possibility the boat could have been hit by a whale.
The cold temperature and strong wind could cause hypothermia and put the passengers in severe conditions for survival, according to Jun Abe, vice chairman of the Society of Water Rescue and Survival Research. “It’s a very severe condition especially when they are wet,” Abe told TBS.
According to the operator’s website, the tour takes around three hours and offers scenic views of the western coast of the peninsula and includes potential sightings of animals such as whales, dolphins and brown bears. The national park is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and is famous as the southernmost region to see drifting sea ice.
Our week-long Arizona Itinerary includes exceptional sunsets, fascinating wildlife, beautiful red rocks, and shooting stars. Travel Tip: check the sunrise and sunset times for your destination and plan accordingly!
We woke up excited to hit the road for another big adventure. Due to an accident, there was about 20 minutes of traffic and we were already cutting it close considering we had luggage to check. Normally, we pack light and only carry-on, but because we planned on camping for 4 nights, we had a suitcase packed full of all our gear. Our luggage was tagged “Late Check-In” and we were forewarned that it might not make it. Sure enough, our suitcase with our camping gear was missing upon arrival in Phoenix. Thankfully, we were told that it would show up in a few hours on a later flight. Lesson learned: give yourself plenty of time if you plan on checking luggage, ESPECIALLY if that luggage has your house for the night in it…
We went on to get our rental car, eat some dinner, and then come back for our luggage. We rented a Jeep Cherokee from Alamo, booking through a site called AutoSlash – which actually saved us some money. The price for the Jeep was about $300 for the week, BUT because we are still under 25, we got hit with a hefty Young Renter Fee of $25 daily, which is the highest we had ever seen.
Anyway, we drove to downtown Scottsdale and ate an outdoor dinner at a nice place called Cafe Forte. We ordered Brie Cheese with apple slices, Pot Stickers, and Polenta Cakes topped with sautéed sweet sausage. Afterwards, we still had some time to kill before retrieving our luggage. Jenna wasn’t feeling great and had just come home from England the day before. She looked to see if there was an LA Fitness nearby so she could go take a hot shower. Sure enough, we were just minutes from one. While she did that, I went to a local grocery store to stock up on food and water. I try and always keep at least a gallon of water in the car along with a days worth of snacks.
We made it back to the airport, picked up our suitcase, and headed onward to set up camp at the Lost Dutchman State Park – about 40 minutes east of Phoenix. It was after 9 when we arrived and remember we went 3 hours back in time, so we were ready for bed!
We woke up around 5 am on Easter Sunday in the Lost Dutchman State Park. Excited to see the place, especially since we showed up in the dark, we got up, hopped in the car, and drove a few minutes to the trailhead.
We hiked the Treasure Loop trail. The moon slowly disappeared as the sun took over. The Saguaro Cacti and desert wildflowers were very nice to look at as we approached the large rock faces. The temperature was in the 60’s and the sky was totally clear. Unfortunately, we did not stumble upon any of the gold that is said to be buried somewhere in these mysterious Superstition Mountains.
On our way out of the park, we walked through the Goldfield Ghost Town and saw an old mill and felt some strong Wild West vibes! We continued along the Apache Trail – a scenic drive through the Superstition Mountains towards an old tiny town, Tortilla Flat. We had a nice brunch here and admired the loads of people at the nearby Canyon Lake who were out on boats, swimming, jet skiing, etc.
We then headed back towards Phoenix and Googled “Nicest homes in Phoenix” just for fun. We somehow managed to get into a gated community after telling the guard we were here for the Open House, which we knew from the sign we saw just 10 seconds earlier. He let us in and oh my were we blown away by these places. One of the houses under construction was 21,000 sq. ft. with 8 bedrooms and 16 bathrooms! What?!
We continued on to Prescott and made a spontaneous stop at the Donut Hole Shop on the outskirts of town. I got a delicious apple fritter and Jenna got a vanilla frosted with sprinkles. Thanks to our Hilton credit cards, we stayed in the Hampton Inn Prescott with hot tub, pool, and complimentary breakfast, FOR FREE!
We checked in and actually took a short power nap since we didn’t sleep great the night before. It was about an hour before sunset, so we drove over to Watson Lake and did a sweet sunset hike along the beautiful, round rocks over-looking the lake and the surrounding mountains.
We were on our way to Prescott, AZ. We ate at a delicious Tapas restaurant called the El Gato Azul. We were able to explore a really small town called Jerome. We walked around their downtown and had dessert. We wanted to do a hike so we chose Sycamore Falls Hike. We were in the mood for more dessert and got blizzards form Dairy Queen before we headed to camp somewhere.
We drove down a dirt road called “Loy Butte” for over an hour so we could really get the true experience of camping. We wanted to camp where there we no people, no disturbances, and no lights. We didn’t want any lights because we wanted to see the night sky in all its true glory.
Boy did we see the night sky and much more. Jeremy and I altogether saw 4 shooting stars! (my first time). Having the opportunity to lie under the night sky stargazing with my husband was a very special moment. It was just us and the stars. We slept pretty well that tonight. I woke up to Jeremy watching the sunrise from our tent the next day.
We rode out and took some sweet footage of where we stayed down the dirt road and used our drone. I drove and he used his drone to fly overhead. As we got closer to town, Jeremy decided he wanted to hit the bike trails so he rented a bike from “Over the Edge Bike Shop” and I went to “Sedona Massage and Yoga.” We both ended up doing what we wanted!
We sure love our donuts and found a really cool donut shop called “Sedonuts.”. We asked one of the guys who worked at the bike shop where to eat. He recommended the “Hudson.” At dinner we kept it simple and ordered a couple appetizers. We heard that the couple behind us was celebrating their 25 year wedding anniversary. We decided to surprise them by paying for their dessert that night! A couple did this for us in Switzerland for our honeymoon so we wanted to pass on the random act of kindness. We asked our server where to watch the sunset and she said Airport Mesa. We knew this was a very popular place and kind of wanted less crowds so we read about another place recommended by a local photographer that gets less traffic and it was spectacular. We hiked Baby Bell which was only about a 20 minute easy hike. The views were worth it. We stayed at the Pine Flat Campground West Site that night.
We hiked one of the most popular hikes in Sedona. It’s the Devils bridge Hike (4.2 miles round trip). This is where Jeremy decided to do a headstand out on the narrow bridge. Yikes! Afterwards we ate some Italian subs from Safeway. We drove to Flagstaff-Sycamore Canyon Falls Hike. We saw photos of this place from Instagram and couldn’t wait to see the waterfall….but it wasn’t there because there wasn’t any snow melt left! Bummer! That night we slept at Days Inn & Suites by Wyndham East Flagstaff with hot tub, pool, and complimentary breakfast.
We woke up excited to explore Flagstaff. We had several options to choose from there was a Meteor Site or the Ancient Ruins or Sunset Crater National Monument. We ended up hiking through Lava River Cave and let me tell you… it was really unique, cold, and dark. Jeremy loved it, I on the other hand was nervous and pretty scared the whole time. (claustrophobia).
We ate at lunch at Karma Sushi in Downtown Flagstaff. It was then time to drive back to Sedona. This night we stayed at Verde Valley Campground which was basically a resort. They had pools, jacuzzis, pool table, foosball, tennis, basketball, game rooms, etc. (not your typical campground). This is actually where we saw our first scorpion!
Jeremy woke up for the sunrise and I slept in. (typical) We decided to eat at Indian Falls Cafe for brunch/lunch in Sedona. It has coffee, pastries, sandwiches, and much more. Jeremy did some bouldering/rock climbing and I walked around downtown Sedona. We went into Black Cow Cafe in downtown Sedona for their famous “Prickly Pear” ice cream. (not a fan lol). We were really happy we decided to check out Cathedral Rock (very spiritual and beautiful). It is free but very crowded and super hot! Afterwards, we shared a really yummy pizza at “Pizza and Pasta Company.”
We loved Crescent Moon State Park. I was able to set up a hammock and literally just child in bwteen trees and above the water watching my husband play in the water! We saw people having picnics, playing with their dogs, skipping rocks, etc. Today was the day we had to drive back to Phoenix and stayed the night at Residence Inn by Marriott Phoenix. (complimentary breakfast). We tried watching one more sunset and boy did we get lucky! We went to Piestewa Peak Summit Trail 300. We went to Pei Wei for dinner.
This was a very sad day as it was the day we had to head home! We had to fly out 7:25 in the morning! Thankful for a fun and exciting spring break trip. Leave a comment if you have one!
If you are in New York City until the end of March, then you can see the fascinating Northern Lights atop a skyscraper in the city. The building, all of 1131 ft high in Hudson Yards offers this novel experience for residents and visitors in the city.
The observation deck atop this building is called Edge, and the Northern Lights experience is called Skylight. It is basically a laser that simulates the Northern Lights. This special experience is open to the public until the end of March, and Edge is the only place in New York City to see it. Imagine seeing the incredible Northern Lights with Manhattan in the backdrop. Surreal, isn’t it?
At the Hudson Yards, you will find yourself in an elevator ascending to the 100th floor in less than a minute, and becoming a part of this surreal experience.
The show is held on allotted days at 7 pm, and lasts for 20 minutes. According to the organisers, it is a revolutionary lighting technology to create dramatic illustrations over the NYC skyline. Each show will be followed by a 45 minute break, until the next show. It is an amazing opportunity to see the skyline of this iconic city in a whole new light, literally.
The Edge is also known for its outdoor observation deck, so you could spend some time there. Moreover, there is a glass floor on the deck that can give you goosebumps if you look down 1000 ft into nothingness.
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Mathematicians love it, artists swoon over it and, often without realising it, we find it gently pleasing. Now the nicely nerdy team at homedit.com have ranked their Top 10 of Europe’s landmarks that most closely conform to the Golden Ratio – i.e. the best balance of height to width (it’s 1.606 if you want to try it at home). Europe’s most statistically beautiful landmark is the Kyiv Perchersk Lavra. Sadly, while the world is in upheaval, we won’t be visiting the Ukrainian monastery for a while. But in at number two is Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, with Prague Castle hot on the Gaudi extravaganza’s deliciously abstract heels. Get to Prague for a divinely proportioned mini break aimed at solo travellers, with Cassidy Travel, departing March 23rd, with two nights at the 4-star centrally located Praga 1, just a tram ride away from the castle itself. €299 for one. cassidytravel.ie
Throwing shapes in Dublin
Ireland’s capital is no slouch either when it comes to keeping things in proportion. So where better to celebrate St Patrick’s Day than with a visit to St Patrick’s Cathedral? The cathedral comes in at number five on the Homedit list of buildings with the best measurements. Visitor tickets are from €6.50 / €7.50, unless you’re attending a service. Or for a truly glorious evening, book for one of their concerts, such as Music From the Movies on March 26th, with tickets from €29 (stpatrickscathedral.ie).
Stay within bell-dinging distance at the Hyatt Centric on Dean Street, with room only from €140, or save by signing up to their membership club when booking (hyatt.com). Or stroll down to Stephen’s Green to stay at Stauntons, with rooms from €327 on that Greenest of green days (stauntonsonthegreen.ie). Check out all the St Patrick’s Festival happenings at stpatricksfestival.ie
Bent into shape
Feeling like a sad wreck of your former luscious self? Wishing you could touch your toes again – or even reach your socks of a morning? Or maybe you’re one of those ultra-flexible people whose idea of holiday heaven is even more exercise… Either way, the three-day wellness weekend at Mayo’s Ice House Hotel sounds like a tonic. Hosted by Audrey O’Connor, you get two nights accommodation, including dinner and breakfast, and a programme that includes Pilates, yoga, stand-up paddleboarding, meditation and an introduction to the delights of journaling – so you can write down how smugly wonderful you feel at the end of it. Runs from April 8th to 10th, from €515pps. icehousehotel.ie
I love a good starry sky, but I dream of seeing the full-on Northern Lights. Apparently they flit in and out of these parts, but they’re more like a rumour than a reliable neighbour. While Canada’s Yukon can’t promise, they’re a much surer bet. And with excursions to the Gold Rush town of Skagway, a trip on the White Pass Route Railway, and tours of the Kulane National Park and Whitehorse and the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, Canadian Sky’s 11-night trip sounds like one for the scrapbook.
It’s the 125th anniversary of the Klondike gold rush, so the loot is probably all gone by now, but the trip costs from €3,475 including flights, accommodation, transport and excursions. Various departure dates, but book before March 31st for free Dublin Airport lounge access (though we bet that’s not what you’ll remember most). canadiansky.ie
Michael Patrick Shiels | For the Lansing State Journal
Lansing dentist Gary Hutnik admires Ernest Hemingway…and the literary giant known as “Papa,” who enjoyed many adventures in Northern Michigan, would love Hutnik’s outdoor outing on a winter weekend.
Hemingway wrote: “Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman,” he thought. “But that is the thing I was born for.”
Hutnik is a fisherman and also a writer. Last week he and his son Christian, a student at Ferris State University, braved a minus-8-degree temperature for a warmhearted father-and-son ice-fishing experience on Crystal Lake, near Traverse City and Frankfurt.
Hutnik studied zoology and dentistry at the University of Michigan. His practice is Lansing Elite Dental. He said when he proposed the expedition idea to the family his wife, Julia, asked their son Christian if he’d even like ice fishing?
“What? Why would I not?” Christian replied.
Christian’s vibrant younger sister Lauren, who typically accompanies them in casting from the docks on summer Saturdays along Lake Lansing, declined to take to the ice up north due to the bitter cold. Hutnik had shared stories of his similar icy experiences with his father.
“I remember ice fishing with ‘grandpa’ on Lake St. Clair when I was young. We drilled a hole in the ice, sat on buckets and froze,” he admitted. But this time Hutnik had a different idea: Sport Fish Michigan’s Captain Chad Dilts, a Crystal Lake native of North Shore Adventures in Beulah, offered guided five-hour ice-fishing expeditions in Benzie, Grand Traverse and Manistee Counties for $200 per-person.
“We met Captain Chad on the shore at 8:30 and he took us, via Ski-Doo snowmobile, to a fully-insulated, heated ice shanty with pre-drilled holes, top of the line equipment, bait and comfortable chairs. He had tip-ups set up outside the shanty,” Hutnik explained.
Sport Fish Michigan’s experience, suitable for newcomers or seasoned anglers with a fishing license, also uses a fish finder and underwater camera.
“All we had to do was show up and fish. Christian and I fished for perch while Captain Chad monitored the tip-ups he’d set up outside the shanty to catch pike,” said Hutnik. At one point Captain Chad took them by across the lake by snowmobile when he’d noticed one of the tip-up flags went up. “Once we’d retrieved the fish, we went back to the shanty to warm ourselves. We caught some large fish. It was well worth the body heat expended.”
Hutnik said anglers can keep the fish they catch but the guide does not clean or filet them. “We gave our fish to Captain Chad to take home,” he offered, and also advised there are no bathroom facilities on the ice. That didn’t stop Gary and Christian from having their first father-and-son beer together.
“We drank Spotted Cow Beer from Wisconsin. It was so great spending time with Christian.”
That moment was the biggest catch of all in this fish tale: a memory frozen in time.
Hemingway’s character in his novella “The Old Man and the Sea” was talking to an 18-foot massive marlin when he said “Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother.” But Gary and Christian Hutnik might well have shared these words, or at least thought and felt them toward each other during their warm-hearted ice fishing trip.
Contact Michael Patrick Shiels at MShiels@aol.com His radio program may be found at MiBigShow.com or weekday mornings from 9-noon on WJIM AM 1240
Actor Amit Sadhis an avid traveler who has been across the length and breadth of the country, and he prefers to do it by road, on his bike. I love seeing his pictures and videos of his trips and I remember that it was just before the onset of the lockdown, that the actor had travelled to a remote village in Northern India where he spent the first few days of his lockdown as well.
Taking that love for travelling ahead, Amit opened up to me about a trip that he has been planning for a while now, that involves his love for bikes and some beautiful and exotic locales.
“I have planned a bike trip from the northern tip of North America to the southernmost tip of South America, across the two continents, and the plan is still on for that. The day Coronavirus kind of leaves us and things are better, we will do it. I don’t see it happening before 2023-2024 for now, but it will happen for sure.”
The actor also revealed that he had done a lot of prep for the same with his friends and they have been just waiting for the pandemic to subside so that they can get this plan into action.
“I am supposed to do this with three of my friends who are great riders and have done a lot of length and breadth across the country and the world. We had done a lot of prep which includes a tentative reccee that we have done. One of the most important thing to be done for a long, treacherous, cross-continent trip like ours is to do a good reccee and our first one is done. But everything right now is in a limbo because of the circumstances we are in. Probably in a couple of years, you should have the proof that I said it and I did it.”
The travel junkie in me admires Amit’s travelogues a lot and this new plan of his sounds really interesting and intriguing to me. Having seen the adventurous man he becomes on his bike through his social media, I am now excited to see get this plan come to fruition. Meanwhile, on the work front too, Amit has an exciting line up which includes Breathe 3 and three new films that the actor stays mum about for now.
Commerce- Walled Lake Northern hosted crosstown rival Walled Lake Western for the first of two Lakes Valley Conference meetings between the two schools this season. The Knights came into the contest with a 3-3 record (1-1, LVC) facing a Warriors’ squad with an unblemished 4-0 record (2-0, LVC).
With student sections light on both sides due to upcoming final exams in the district this week, those on hand were treated to an exciting basketball game as the Knights outlasted the Warriors to escape with a 50-49 victory.
Western, coached by second-year coach Duane Graves jumped out to 9-2 lead, with sophomore sensation Dylan Smith scoring seven points in that span.
After a Northern timeout, the Knights received a spark off the bench from reserve guard Jack Smukal who would score five points in the quarter, leading a Northern rally to tie the score at 11-11 to end the first frame.
The Warriors would outscore the Knights 11-6 in the second quarter to take a five-point lead at 22-17 into the break. It was Smith again who knocked down a three and added another bucket to score five more of his twelve first-half points to help Western build their biggest lead of the night. Western junior Alex Dulcea also scored four points off the bench in the opening half. Northern senior and leading scorer John Archer would manage to score four points in the quarter after being held scoreless in the opening quarter.
After adjusting at the half, Northern outscored Western 18-8 in the third quarter. After a Smukal steal, the junior guard was fouled while making a layup in traffic. Smukal completed the “and one” and the game was gridlocked for the first time since the tip at 28-28.
The Knights would then take their first lead of the contest courtesy of a triple by junior forward Jude Muldenhauer-Whitman put his squad on top 31-28 with 1:41 left in the third quarter. After Smukal split a pair of free throws, Muldenhauer-Whitman nailed another jumper from behind the arc and the Knights took a 35-30 lead into the final quarter.
Western attempted to come back in the fourth quarter, with Smith scoring twelve more of his game-high 26 points, but the Knights’ clutch shooting at the charity stripe prevented Western from getting any closer than four points. Smith would hit a triple in the final seconds of the game as Northern prevailed with the 50-49 victory.
Down the stretch, junior guard Ryan Wardrop went four-for-five at the line with Smukal and Muldenhauer-Whitman both going two-for-two as the Knights shot 8-for-10 at the free throw line in the final quarter.
Northern coach Ryan Negoshian was pleased with the outcome Tuesday night with his team coming out on top. When asked what he thought were the keys to his team’s success, the second-year coach said, “I thought our defense was able to disrupt the flow of their offense. We were also able to hold the to one shot most of the night. That was big because that are a great offensive rebounding team.”
Negoshian continued, “We had several games step up tonight. I thought Dunlap handled their pressure well, and he got us into our offense and pushed through as he played all thirty-two minutes. And down the stretch, we had guys that were able to step up, handle pressure and hit free throws.”
Smith led the Warriors with 26 points, and junior Wil Ludwig added 7 points in defeat. The loss was the first of the season for Western (4-1, 2-1, LVC). The Warriors will look to rebound on Friday when they travel to Milford to take on the Mavericks.
A relieved Negoshian commented on Smith’s stellar play in the rivalry matchup. “He (Smith) is a great player and he showed that tonight. We knew going in that he would be tough to stop and I don’t think we were able to do that tonight. Good players step up when the team needs them most and that’s what he did tonight.”
Northern was led by Muldenhauer-Whitman with 12 points and Smukal who tallied 11 points (5-for-6 at FT). Archer and fellow senior Nate Dunlap added 9 and 8 points respectively. With the win, Northern improves to 4-3 (2-1, LVC) on the season.
When discussing the everyday grind of the LVC, Negoshian said, “Every win is huge in this league, especially one against a crosstown rival. Being able to beat a well-coached and talented team like Western should help boost our confidence and help us get one step closer to achieve our season’s goals.”
The Knights will travel to South Lyon East on Friday to take on the Cougars (3-4, 1-2 LVC).
Aurora in Kluane National Park, Yukon Image: Chris Carr courtesy Serena PR
I press my face to the airplane window and take in the vague green blob that hovers below the flipped-up tip of the Boeing 737 wing. I’ve flown 1,500 miles to Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory and then in a second jet a few hundred miles more to the Arctic Circle at 1am to see this very fuzzy orb of green: the aurora borealis.
Almost half a million tourists make their way to the Yukon every year, a territory that sits atop British Columbia and backs into Alaska. Whitehorse truly is a city; with more than 25,000 residents it can boast an actual downtown, multiple museums, and more than one vegetarian restaurant. But the main attraction is the enigmatic, all-natural light show that comes out at night, sometimes, mostly in winter. The northern lights.
Not every tourist destination stands as still as the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty; no guarantee could ever make the ephemeral lights show up on schedule. The thrilling uncertainty feels familiar to a Pacific Northwesterner, given how Mount Rainier may pout behind the clouds just when you reach the perfect viewpoint or the orcas go absent during a whale-watching trip.
The specially chartered night flight out of Whitehorse, a tour called Aurora 360, tries to minimize the chance of an aurora goose egg. I moved down a few main-cabin rows to where a photographer had set up a high-powered camera on the light show, its display screen rendering a fishhook of yellow and green, the color seeping upward slowly like a slow- motion hourglass. As I cup my hands around the camera screen I keenly feel the separation, several layers of glass between my naked eyes and the thing I’d come to see.
The night before I stood in bitter cold about 12 miles north of Whitehorse, on one edge of a clearing among several canvas tents with wood ceilings. Well past 11pm, anyone outside danced a bit even in puffy coats that went down past our butts, furry snow boots doing a shuffle on the snow on a one-night tour from Northern Tales.
“We tell people that based on our experience, the lights show every second to third night on average,” says company co-owner Torsten Eder. Inside the fire-warmed huts guides serve hot chocolate and cider, snacks and books and storytelling. Chatter turns to the current cold snap, hitting 22 below (Celsius, though it sounds just as bad in Fahrenheit). Someone relays a story of locals who were stranded in the cold the night before, forced to light their car on fire to stay warm enough until morning. “Cars just stop working below about -20,” a guide shrugs.
Eventually we can make out a vague glow across the open field, and those with advanced camera settings manage to catch photos with a green tint; from the naked eye and my cell phone camera, though, it doesn’t look like much. Spending a night enveloped among the dark trees, feeling that otherworldly cold—it was undeniably cool. But a light show? Not really.
What makes the northern lights, or aurora borealis, so special also renders them frustrating in tourism terms. The phenomenon appears when solar-charged particles barrel toward the earth and excite atoms in the atmosphere, causing them to light up. Think of it as the sound of an ice cream truck wafting through the neighborhood, causing the kindergartners in your backyard to rev into hyper mode—the cause may be blocks away, but you see the affect right here.
“Some people are always thinking it’s like Disneyland—you flip a switch and you get everything, all the colors,” says Anthony Gucciardo, a registered nurse who launched the annual Aurora 360 chartered flight. Those blockbuster photos of the northern lights? They may only reflect what a camera can see. The plane’s ability to chase the lights makes it far more successful than land-based aurora hunting, but after Covid canceled the 2021 flight it’s unclear whether it will return.
Whitehorse has plenty to recommend itself during the day, from dogsled rides to the SS Klondike, a sternwheel boat that once ran the Yukon River. The Yukon Wildlife Preserve gathers a truly spectacular collection of animals, making for easy viewing of lynx, muskox, and arctic fox. Teena Dickson, owner of Who What Where Tours, notes that her extended family has been leading tourists around the region since 1903, just after the gold rush; the wide, cold Yukon landscape itself can predictably provoke awe.
Still, the unpredictability of the aurora is undeniably part of the charm. “That’s why we call it hunting. We’re all hunting and fishing and gathering up here,” says Dickson, who cites her own “seventh sense” more than the aurora forecasts that try to translate space weather and cloud cover into the likelihood of visible lights. As an Indigenous Canadian, she was told as a child to be quiet when aurora dances across the sky, that the lights were ancestors come to visit. When the phenomenon appears to her clients, she’s witness to how humans respond in weird and wonderful ways.
“Some cry, some dance.” Australians tend to pour more Kahlua, she says. People drop to their knees for wedding proposals. “Miss Aurora might come out for a showing,” she says. “She might come out for five minutes and then the curtain will drop…the exciting part is you need to be ready.”