Back to adventures – a drive to Skagway and an aurora night

My healing from the hiking accident is progressing nicely – far better than the doctors led me to believe would be the case. As I write this on Saturday morning, I’m planning to load the motorhome to get away for a few days on Monday. This past Wednesday, though, I took my first “long” drive in almost a month, to Skagway, then had great aurora viewing that night.

On Tuesday evening I did another “test” drive, into Whitehorse. The light was beautiful at Schwatka Lake, and I caught CF-FHZ, a 1950 de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Mk. I Beaver, taxiing. It’s operated by Alpine Aviation.

CF-FHZ is a 1950 de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Mk. I Beaver.
Wednesday began with my usual therapy routine, which includes 20 minutes or so out in the corral, cutting out the willows and pines that I’d allowed to grow over the past 12 years. It’s a good way to get some exercise and sun while connecting with the earth’s healing powers.

Murray cutting out willows

The drive to Whitehorse had gone well so I decided to try Skagway. I had no idea how it might go, so didn’t take the dogs – I expected to have to stop and take a nap or two, and was mentally prepared to even have to make it an overnight trip.

I didn’t get away until after 11:00. The Fall colours were getting good, and I made my first stop at noon for a couple of photos along Windy Arm.

Fall colours on the South Klondike Highway
A few minutes later, I stopped in at Tutshi Sleddog Tours. They were very busy and I couldn’t find Michelle as I’d hoped, but I got a puppy fix, so it was a good stop anyway 🙂

Puppies at Tutshi Sleddog Tours

Puppies at Tutshi Sleddog Tours

This was a very different drive for me – I needed to focus on what I was doing, and only made 3 stops. The third was when I lucked into a WP&YR train returning to Skagway, right at the series of bridges between Miles 7 and 8.

WP&YR train
I have photographs of each of the railway’s 79 passenger cars (and all the other equipment), and with the 400mm lens, got a different angle on a few of the cars here.

WP&YR 'Lake Goat' passenger car
I started my Skagway visit at the viewpoint on the Dyea Road. It was a good spot to get photos of the two megaships in that day, the Norwegian Bliss (seen in the next photo) and Royal Princess. Norwegian Bliss has a capacity of 4,002 passengers (at double occupancy, so can go much higher), with 1,700 crew members. Royal Princess is slightly smaller, with a capacity of 3,560 passengers at double occupancy, and 1,346 crew members.

Norwegian Bliss docked at Skagway
I was amazed by the number of caterpillars crawling around the viewpoint. The Chilkat Valley News from Haines said recently, “While many people call them woolly bears, retired ornithology professor and Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Bob Armstrong said the bumble bee looking caterpillars are called spotted tussock moth caterpillars. Despite their bright, colorful and cuddly appearance, it’s a bad idea to handle them because, like bumble bees, they can sting.”

A spotted tussock moth caterpillar at Skagway
Buying things other than food is rather a novelty for me now. In Skagway I picked up a set of neutral density filters for my camera (for shooting waterfalls primarily), a couple of books to assist on my journey, and a journal that was gifted to me by a friend who made it.

At about 10:00 that night, a member of my Aurora Alert group posted that an aurora display had begun. I looked out but it was weak, and the aurora forecast was just a Level 2, meaning we shouldn’t expect much if anything. But as more reports were posted, I kept an eye on it, and as the display got better, got my camera gear together at about 11:00.

I was too tired to drive to a better location, so just went out into my front yard in my pyjamas and started shooting at 11:15. The neighbour across the street has huge “security” lights that make aurora shooting not very good, but as the aurora spread across the sky, I walked out onto the road (still in my pyjamas 🙂 ), and started shooting the south-eastern sky. The next photo was shot at 11:23.

The aurora borealis at Whitehorse, Yukon
The display rapidly got better and better, and I was shooting constantly. I varied settings a bit as the light intensity changed – the next photo, shot at 11:27, was shot with my Canon EOS 7D and Rokinon 10mm f2.8 lens, at ISO 1000 and 15 seconds.

The aurora borealis at Whitehorse, Yukon
The show peaked at 11:32 (when I shot the next photo), and I had reduced my exposure time to 13 seconds. From there it diminished and faded quite rapidly.

The aurora borealis at Whitehorse, Yukon
The final photo looks to the north again, so shows my neighbour’s lights, but it also shows some great colour in the aurora below the tree line. I would have gotten much better photos if I’d gone for a drive to an open view, but I was really happy to get a show like that to end the day.

The aurora borealis at Whitehorse, Yukon


Back to adventures – a drive to Skagway and an aurora night — 4 Comments

  1. Its good to hear you are getting out and about so you must be feeling much better. Your Aurora photos are wonderful.hopefully you will be back to 100 % very soon. All the best Bruce

  2. How wonderful that you are healing so well, Murray! The Aurora photos are spectacular, especially considering you were in the street near light pollution.