Chasing the Northern Lights, Part I

I’ll admit it: I’ve become obsessive when it comes to spotting the aurora borealis. Even though the display in Iceland last year was spectacular, it was more the beginning of an addiction than a satisfied conclusion. While there is never any guarantee of seeing the lights, it seems fair to let your hopes soar when you’re inside the Arctic Circle. I mean, come on. What better place to see them?

In Iceland, I used this website to track auroral activity, but as the site doesn’t include Finland, I opted for this  site instead. Both nights we were in Kakslauttanen, the forecast was strong, between 4 and 5 both nights. There is something about seeing that thick green band blanketing your location that releases a ton of endorphins. It’s galvanizing. All we needed to see a show was a clear sky.

And to stay up past midnight. (Prime viewing hours are between midnight and 2am.)

This might seem easy, but after a long day in the snow – and a roaring fire in your toasty cabin – sleep seems almost more tempting than the northern lights. To ensure that we stayed awake, I postponed our dinner reservations from 6 to 8 and spent the time between sweating in my 80 degree Celsius sauna. We dined on elk, which was more tender than I’d imagined it would be, and I got to try cloudberries for dessert. (Note: They are not blue, as I’d thought, but yellow with a musky kind of taste.)

We tossed back two pints of Koff and left the dining lodge at 10 with a bottle of Merlot. Determined to stay awake, we played every category of HeadsUp on my phone. (If we’re talking about must-have apps for world travellers, this should be at the top of your list.) At midnight, we brought the game outside, craning our necks between rounds and – nothing.

The skies had been overcast both nights and the cloud cover was not breaking any time soon. A nebulous green haze blurred the horizon far away but that was all. Convinced the lights would show, I set my alarm for 3 and stumbled out into the cold. Nothing. I knew they were up there somewhere, bright and disarming beyond the clouds, and I felt defeated. Of course, it didn’t help that we were leaving the next day. At 3:30, I gave up and went inside.

They say that spotting the lights just takes clear skies and a bit of luck. It also takes patience. It helps if you have an amazing woodsy cabin to retreat to with good company, a bottle of wine, and a few more rounds of Heads Up.

Aurora hunting requires two pairs of jeans.

Aurora hunting requires two pairs of jeans.

Jamie, boasting the necessities for staying up all night: Pringles and a fire.

Jamie, boasting the necessities for staying up all night: Pringles and a fire.

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