I get it. Alaska is far away. It’s a long flight. It’s not cheap. It’s big, and it takes some effort to explore. You can come up with dozens of reasons to put off a trip north. That’s what I did for years. For me, our 49th state was my 49th state, and I didn’t get there until more than 25 years after entering state number 48. But when I finally got there, I discovered so many amazing things, that I went back a second time, a year later. They’re all excellent reasons to move forward with your plans to finally make the trip to Alaska.
Trip to Alaska Reasons: #1 – Watch the sun set (and rise) in the North.
Sunsets are simply out-of-this-world in Alaska. Or at least, sunsets on days when it’s not grey and rainy. Because the sun approaches the horizon at a steep angle (rather than dropping straight down) during late spring and early summer, the beautiful “golden hour” for photography can last for much longer.
But there’s a trick to it. On a normal vacation, I’d find a spot to watch the sunset with a nice view to the west. But on a trip to Alaska, in late spring and early summer, you need a northern view. Once again, because the sun sets at a steep angle, it heads towards the northern horizon at the end of the day.
This phenomenon astonished me during my first attempt to try to shoot an Alaska sunset, at Kenai Beach. A few hours before sunset, I scouted out a location on the beach, and figured that the sun would be setting behind a mountain range to the west. It would be perfect, I thought. Then, I spent some time exploring the area, and returned to the beach around 10:30 p.m. (the sun was due to set after 11). I was amazed to see that the sun was nowhere near where I expected it to be!
Trip to Alaska Reasons: #2 – Nights that don’t get dark.
It seems like such a simple concept: Alaska is pretty far north, so the days are pretty long. And yet, once you’re there, it’s so hard to wrap your brain around the idea. Not only does the sun set and rise in the north during late spring and early summer, it also doesn’t dip very far below the horizon at night. And that means it’s never completely dark at night.
I figured this out within the first couple of hours of arriving in Alaska, on my first trip. I had reserved a room through Airbnb, which meant I was staying in someone’s basement apartment. My flight arrived well after midnight, and I was concerned about finding my way to their home in the dark. But it turns out, it wasn’t dark. At 1 or 2 a.m., it was still light enough that I probably could have driven there without my headlights. I had no trouble finding their house, but in the days that followed, I had a heck of a time trying to sleep at night. My body couldn’t adjust to the seemingly simple concept of 20 hours of daylight and 4 hours of twilight.