My official saga of Alaska has concluded, but I wanted to do one more post on something that surprised me.. even though it shouldn’t have: the endless daylight during summertime in Alaska.
When talking about the upcoming trip, I was told that I had better get some amazing shots of the aurora. I had to remind them that I was going at the height of summer, and it was unlikely to even get dark enough to see any stars, let alone aurora.
So clearly I knew what I was getting into.
Despite this, I kindly waved away offers to bring eye masks for sleeping. After all, I have no trouble taking naps on a bright afternoon, and I was certain after a long day of backpacking, I’d be sufficiently tired to fall asleep.
I found this was exactly true.
However, I didn’t think about the other end of it.
Sure, I had no trouble getting to sleep, but my body is aptly conditioned to wake up with the daylight. I get up at a consistent 5am every day (yes, even on the weekends). Even in the summertime, this is barely before sunrise proper, so if my eyes detect light in the wee hours, it immediately signals my brain that it’s time to wake up.
This poses quite a problem if the sun never fully sets.
It started with the plane ride to Anchorage. We took off just after sunset (with our latitude, there’s still light in the sky after 9pm), but the glow on the horizon just never went away. For the entire duration, it lingered, taunting us with the hint of sweet darkness. Even when we landed after midnight, the sky bespoke of something closer to 8pm.
This extended into our stay just outside of Denali National Park. The first night, I woke at 2am, certain it was well past 6am. I couldn’t get a solid hour asleep after that.
One night, I honestly tried to stay up for the sunset. That sounds crazy, even just saying it. Granted, with my 5am wake-up, I’m also zonked out by 9pm. And seeing as how the sun was still up past midnight, that’s actually quite a stretch for me.
I gave up. This was the sky when I finally crashed sometime around 11:30pm.
We got back into Anchorage pretty late the day before we set off for the backpacking portion. We fortunately found a restaurant still open, but we didn’t realize we were inadvertently keeping them there past their usual closing time of 10pm.
And it even threw off our backpacking trek. It wasn’t until I questioned my exhaustion the first day that I realized we were still hiking well past 9pm. And the day we crossed the Red River, we waited until 9pm for the tide to recede enough to cross. We didn’t set up camp until around midnight, and we didn’t need any headlamps.
For one used to a more regular day/night cycle that varies only slightly from season to season, this threw me. I think if I lived there, I’d get used to it. And with all that extra daylight, I’d probably get more done, energized by the sun.
But the flip side of that would just kill me. I need daylight… and a minimum of 8 hours at least. Going months on end with barely an hour of dusk would eat away at me.
But I’d be sure to get that aurora. And I don’t doubt I’d get plenty of sleep!
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