August Aurora Activity on The Kenai

Oh what a month it has been! The Aurora Borealis (otherwise known as the Northern Lights) have been out in full swing and dancing the nights away in the Alaska’s Playground sky.

Photo from Mark Pierson Photography‎ looking towards Kenai, AK across the Kenai River

Photo from Mark Pierson Photography‎ looking towards Kenai, AK across the Kenai River.

Because it’s been such a bright and magical month on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground, we decided to grab a collection of some of our favorite photos for all of our friends to experience along with us.

Campers in Seward, AK were treated to an amazing Northern Lights show. Photo from Kirk Alkire.

Campers in Seward, AK were treated to an amazing show. Photo from Kirk Alkire.

These photos have been taken by amateur photographers and experienced photographers alike. We have gathered most of this incredible photo content from our Facebook page as well as some other great pages including our friends at Alaska Magazine, Aurora Lovers, The Milepost, and many more. And we are also excited to share some really cool facts about Northern Lights from Live Science.

Cooper Landing in the early morning hours. Photo from Timothy Sturm‎.

Cooper Landing in the early morning hours. Photo from Timothy Sturm‎.

Aurora displays are created when protons and electrons stream out from the solar surface and slam into the Earth’s magnetic field. Since the particles are charged they move in spirals along the magnetic field lines, the protons in one direction and the electrons in the other. Those particles in turn hit the atmosphere. Since they follow the magnetic field lines, most of them enter the atmospheric gases in a ring around the magnetic poles, where the magnetic field lines come together.

Photo from Matt Skinner‎ at 20 Mile River.

Photo from Matt Skinner‎, Lights Out Photography. Taken at 20 Mile River.

The air is made up largely of nitrogen and oxygen atoms, with oxygen becoming a bigger component at the altitudes auroras happen – starting about 60 miles up and going all the way up to 600 miles. When the charged particles hit them, they gain energy. Eventually they relax, giving up the energy and releasing photons of specific wavelengths. Oxygen atoms emit green and sometimes red light, while nitrogen is more orange or red.

Photo from Nancy Dean‎ taken in Sterling, Alaska.

Photo from Nancy Dean‎ taken in Sterling, Alaska.

Satellites can take pictures of the aurora from Earth’s orbit — and the images they get are pretty striking. In fact, auroras are bright enough that they show up strongly on the nightside of the Earth even if one were looking at them from another planet.

 Photo from Emily Tracy taken over the Kenai River.

Photo from Emily Tracy taken over the Kenai River.

Occasionally the auroras are visible farther from the poles than usual. In times of high solar activity, the southern limit for seeing auroras can go as far south as Oklahoma and Atlanta — as it did in October 2011. A record was probably set at the Battle of Fredericksburg in Virginia in 1862, during the Civil War, when the northern lights appeared. Many soldiers noted it in their diaries.

Photo from Christopher Morse‎ of an Army Veteran taking a few photos in his childhood town.

Photo from Christopher Morse‎ of an Army Veteran taking a few photos in his childhood town.

The northern lights look like fire, but they wouldn’t feel like one. Even though the temperature of the upper atmosphere can reach thousands of degrees Fahrenheit, the heat is based on the average speed of the molecules. After all, that’s what temperature is. But feeling heat is another matter – the density of the air is so low at 60 miles (96 kilometers) up that a thermometer would register temperatures far below zero where aurora displays occur.

Taken on the Seward Hwy. Photo from Matt Skinner with Lights Out Photography.

Taken on the Seward Hwy. Photo from Matt Skinner with Lights Out Photography.

Auroras are relatively dim, and the redder light is often at the limit of what human retinas can pick up. Cameras, though, are often more sensitive, and with a long-exposure setting and a clear dark sky you can pick up some spectacular shots.

Seward Hwy. Photo from Matt Skinner with Lights Out Photography.

Taken on the Seward Hwy. Photo from Matt Skinner with Lights Out Photography.

One very important thing for our visitors to remember; you can’t ever predict a show! One of the most difficult problems in solar physics is knowing the shape of a magnetic field in a coronal mass ejection (CME), which is basically a huge blob of charged particles ejected from the sun. Such CMEs have their own magnetic fields. The problem is, it is nigh impossible to tell in what direction the CME field is pointing until it hits. A hit creates either a spectacular magnetic storm and dazzling aurora with it, or a fizzle. Currently there’s no way to know ahead of time.

Kenai River at the Warren Ames Bridge. Photo from Mike Haggerty.

Kenai River at the Warren Ames Bridge. Photo from Mike Haggerty.

NOAA has an online map that can tell you what auroral activity looks likeon any given day, showing the extent of the “auroral oval” and where one is more likely to catch the lights.

Photo from Daryll Vispo Photography‎ at the Turnagain Arm/Seward Highway.

Photo from Daryll Vispo Photography‎ at the Turnagain Arm/Seward Hwy.

It truly is so special to see these magical lights appearing in the middle of town, in the middle of the night, near some of our favorite local shops. Like this photo below at Veronica’s Cafe in the town of Kenai.

Photo courtesy of Mike Haggerty.

Photo courtesy of Mike Haggerty.

Here is another great shot from Mike Haggerrty at the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church in Old Town Kenai.

Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church.

Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church. Photo from Mike Haggerty. 

And an amazing shot down East Mackey Lake Road in our little town of Soldotna!

East Mackey Lake Road, Soldotna AK. Photo from Mike Haggerty.

East Mackey Lake Road, Soldotna AK. Photo from Mike Haggerty.

And another one down Mackey Lake Road, a little more “up close and personal.”

East Mackey Lake Road, Soldotna AK. Photo from Mike Haggerty.

East Mackey Lake Road, Soldotna AK. Photo from Mike Haggerty.

 

Have you ever seen the Northern Lights? If not, be on the lookout! And if you capture your memories, be sure to share them with us HERE! Happy Friday, friends!

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13 Reasons to Visit Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula

Photo from Princess Alaska Lodges Facebook Page

Photo from Princess Alaska Lodges Facebook Page

Today we are featuring a “Flashback Friday” Guest Post from Princess Lodges titled “13 Reasons to Visit Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula in 2013.” Because all of these great reasons apply to anyone wanting to visit the Kenai Peninsula any time of the year, year after year, we felt as though this was the perfect blog to share with our amazing readers and fellow lovers of all things “Alaska’s Playground!

Photo from Nancy Naigle

Photo from Nancy Naigle

1 – The Kenai Peninsula may be best known as the home of the famed Russian River, where people from around the globe flock for what has been called some of the best salmon fishing in the world.  From sockeye to coho salmon as well as Dolly Varden and trout, the rivers flowing along the Kenai Peninsula are a fisherman’s paradise. From the Kenai Princess you can quickly get to the Russian River or even take a full- or half-day guided sportfishing trip along the less crowded Kenai River.

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2 –You don’t have to pick one kind of fishing, though, when you are vacationing in Alaska. You can fish for everything from salmon to halibut with a saltwater/freshwater combo fishing trip out of Seward, which is located just an hour’s drive from the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge.

Photo from Saltwater Safari in Seward, AK

Photo from Saltwater Safari in Seward, AK

3– Just outside of Seward is where you will find one of the crown jewels of Alaska, Kenai Fjords National Park. Home of the Harding Icefield, from which flow nearly 40 glaciers, the park offers sight-seeing and adventure activities for travelers of any age.  Whether you opt for our Kenai Fjords National Park cruise or a long hike along the park’s well-maintained trails, Kenai Fjords is a must see for any visitor to the area.

Photo from Kenai Fjords Tours in Seward, AK

Photo from Kenai Fjords Tours in Seward, AK

4 – With all the species of wildlife that call the Kenai Peninsula home, this could serve as all 13 reasons to visit the area; but we will try to keep our enthusiasm for Alaska’s majestic creatures at bay, at least for the purpose of this blog. From brown bears doing their own version of fishing along the Russian River to Bald Eagles flying overhead in Seward, the Kenai Peninsula offers a perfect chance to see a wide variety of wildlife in their natural habitat. For a more intimate wildlife experience, check out our full day Lake Clark Bear Camp excursion.

Photo from Lake Clark National Park & Preserve

Photo from Lake Clark National Park & Preserve

5 – Not all of Alaska’s beloved animals are in the wild, though, which is why Princess offers a chance to meet a local dog musher and spend quality time with her cute pack of canine athletes.  Dog mushing is, after all, the official state sport of Alaska.

Photo from Lorraine Temple

Photo from Lorraine Temple

6 – For the 21-and-up crowd, the Kenai Peninsula offers the opportunity to visit and sample the goods at a number of local breweries. From Kassik’s Brewery in the town of Kenai to St. Elias Brewing Company and Kenai River Brewing Company just up the road in Soldotna, there is enough variety to tickle any beer lover’s fancy. Update: For a complete full list of local breweries (updated in 2015), check out our full blog on local breweries HERE! 

Photo from Kenai River Brewing Company's Facebook Page

Photo from Kenai River Brewing Company’s Facebook Page

7 – Alaska’s history is deeply rooted in the Gold Rush. You can get a taste of history and try to hit it rich with a gold panning experience, which is fun for the entire family.

Photo from Prospector John's Facebook Page

Photo from Prospector John’s Facebook Page

8 – Looking for a little more adventure? Try river rafting through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge with a professional guide to help you navigate the Class II+ rapids while you take in the spectacular scenery along the way.

Theresa Kaiser McCabe

Photo from Theresa Kaiser McCabe

9 – Even if you don’t embark on your own floatplane adventure while in Alaska, you are sure to see plenty of them soaring overhead during your time in the 49th state, which boasts the highest number of licensed pilots per capita in the country. But, if you do feel like taking to the skies, Princess can help you become a pilot for a day, during which time you can get a bird’s eye view of the area’s natural beauty.

Photo from Lake Clark National Park & Preserve

Photo from Lake Clark National Park & Preserve

10 – On foot, by boat, in a plane – there are many different ways to see Alaska. But don’t forget the possibility of taking a ride on horseback along the trails near Cooper Landing. Just minutes from the Kenai Princess, this is the perfect way for animal lovers to experience the area’s stunning scenery.

Photo courtesy of Alaska Horsemen Guest Ranch

Photo courtesy of Alaska Horsemen Guest Ranch

11 – The Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center offers a look into the past and present of Kenai, Alaska, with a 10,000-square-foot facility featuring historical artifacts, wildlife exhibits, a museum store and many educational programs for those with a thirst for learning. Perhaps best of all is the Center’s Saturday Market, held in the parking lot every Saturday during the summer season. From fresh produce to baked goods to handcrafted items, the Kenai Saturday Market is the place to be for local fare this summer.

Photo from Kenai Visitors & Cultural Center

Photo from Kenai Visitors & Cultural Center

12 – You may not find too many people actually fishing at Salmonstock (now known as Salmonfest), but this spectacular music festival in Ninilchik, just a couple of hours away from the Kenai Princess, does celebrate and support Alaska salmon. Offering music, art, children’s activities, crafts and Alaska food and beer, Salmonstock 2013 will be held Aug. 2 – 4.

Photo from Salmonfest Facebook Page

Photo from Salmonfest Facebook page

13 – Last but certainly not least on our list is the accessibility of the area. Less than two hours from Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge is easily accessible to travelers flying into the state’s largest airport. And the flight down to Kenai is only 30 minutes from Anchorage. The views when you land in Kenai are pretty incredible, too!

Photo from Curtiss Wright

Photo from Curtiss Wright

Don’t forget, you can always take the Alaska Railroad down to the Kenai Peninsula as well! We bet you are just dying to come here now, huh? 😉 Well it’s going to be a great weekend. Warm sunshine and great times. Come see us soon! Happy travels, friends!

Photo from Dragonfly Running

Photo from Dragonfly Running

50 Days of Fun & Sun on The Kenai

Photo from Srini Sundarrajan in Kenai Fjords National Park - Seward, AK.

Photo from Srini Sundarrajan in Kenai Fjords National Park – Seward, AK.

How will you enjoy the final 50 days of summer!? That’s right… only 50 days remaining. It’s crazy how fast it’s already flown by. Sigh, (insert tear shedding here.) Okay, moving on… chin up buttercup! Time is a wasting and there are many, many things to smile about!

Photo from Brian Moore overlooking the Kenai Flats to Cook Inlet.

Photo from Brian Moore overlooking the Kenai Flats to Cook Inlet.

The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground truly does offer an endless amount of incredible outdoor activities. And although us residents find a plethora of activities to keep us happily entertained all year long, the summer months are highly cherished an always have a way of leaving us wanting more. Summertime opens up so many opportunities for locals and visitors alike to get outside and enjoy the natural splendor of Alaska. Tons of fun, lots of smiles and lifelong memories with friends and family. From mountains, to glaciers, to wildlife, to our amazing fisheries… the Kenai Peninsula has it all.

Photo from Carl Johnson in Portage Valley Alaska, Chugach National Forest.

Photo from Carl Johnson in Portage Valley Alaska, Chugach National Forest.

Maybe it’s the land of the midnight sun during the summer months that has its way of kicking us into gear and often time keeps us going for 18 to 20 hours a day. As us locals say, “we can sleep during the winter time!” Whatever it is, we love it. And we are sure that you do to! But just incase you need some ideas to help you seize every lasting moment of summer on The Kenai, read on for some great ideas…

Photo from Jeff Nelson on The Kenai, Alaska's Playground.

Photo from Jeff Nelson on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground.

Go horseback riding! Enjoying the fresh air and incredible sights is always better when you have great friends and a beautiful horse to bond with.

Bardy's Trail Rides in Seward, Alaska.

Bardy’s Trail Rides in Seward, Alaska.

Take a float, just don’t tip the boat (brrr)! 😉 Floating down the Kenai River near Cooper Landing is always a glorious way to spend a beautiful day on Alaska’s Playground.

Photo from Eugen Marculescu on the Kenai River.

Photo from Eugen Marculescu on the Kenai River.

Go zip-lining with Stoney Creek Canopy Adventures in Seward, AK. This exhilarating adventure is fun for all ages!

Photo from Stoney Creek Canopy Adventures in Seward, AK.

Photo from Stoney Creek Canopy Adventures in Seward, AK.

Climb a mountain! The view from the top is always worth the trek. “Climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world.”

Beautiful photo in Lake Clark National Park & Preserve.

Beautiful photo in Lake Clark National Park & Preserve.

Get in touch with your adventurous side and go Kiteboarding! Homer, AK is an excellent spot to enjoy this spontaneous activity.

Beautiful photo at Mariner Park in Homer, AK from Kite Surf Atlas.

Beautiful photo at Mariner Park in Homer, AK from Kite Surf Atlas.

Cool off like the bears! Beat the heat by taking a dip in one of the Kenai Peninsula’s many rivers, lakes or streams.

Photo from Heidi Ho Hanson.

Photo from Heidi Ho Hanson.

SUP! That’s “Stand Up Paddleboarding” to you. Have you tried it?  If not, you absolutely should. Need more convincing? Just LOOK at the image below. Utterly breathtaking.

Photo from Liquid Adventures at Bear Glacier in Seward, AK.

Photo from Liquid Adventures at Bear Glacier in Seward, AK.

Find a waterfall and enjoy an impromptu photo-op. Or read a good book with the sound of the waterfall crashing down in the background. Because, why not?

Tanalian Falls in Lake Clark National Park & Preserve. Photo from Tom Tessier.

Tanalian Falls in Lake Clark National Park & Preserve. Photo from Tom Tessier.

Go surfing! Catch a wave and cool off in style while enjoying the beautiful mountain views on Alaska’s Playground.

Amazing adventure shot from Scott Dickerson Photography.

Amazing adventure shot from Scott Dickerson Photography.

Dog days of summer! Load up your furry companions and enjoy a fishing adventure together. We have a feeling your four legged best friend will sleep GREAT for about a week… 😉

Great photo from Marissa Tomaganuk shared from The Alaska Life Facebook page.

Great photo from Marissa Tomaganuk shared from The Alaska Life Facebook page.

Catch a reflection! Do you see it below? Look again. Pretty amazing, huh?

Great photo Katie Russ, "People's Choice" winner of Lake Clark National Park & Preserve's 2015 photo contest.

Great photo Katie Russ, “People’s Choice” winner of Lake Clark National Park & Preserve’s 2015 photo contest.

Load up the kiddos and get up close & personal with some incredible marine animals.

Photo from Megan at the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward, AK.

Photo from Megan at the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward, AK.

Stay up late enough to catch a sunset! Trust us, it is worth it every time. Every. Single. Time.

Beautiful fireweed in front of Lake Parsons, Nikiski, Alaska. Photo from RMEVET Photography.

Beautiful fireweed in front of Lake Parsons, Nikiski, Alaska. Photo from RMEVET Photography.

Remember… wherever you go, go with all of your heart. ❤

Photo of the Kenai River from Mark Pierson Photography.

Photo of the Kenai River from Mark Pierson Photography.