There are strange things done in the midnight sun

By the men who moil for gold;

The Arctic trails have their secret tales

That would make your blood run cold;

The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,

But the queerest they ever did see

Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge

I cremated Sam McGee.

The Cremation of Sam McGee, Robert W. Service


That poem, of which this is only the opening stanza, is inextricably linked in my brain with the Northern Lights, so it felt fitting to include it with this post.

When I heard about the extremely favorable aurora forecast last Friday, I started thinking about where I wanted to go to try to capture them. I knew I wanted to find a place that had as little light pollution as possible, so I pulled up my resource for that: ClearDarkSky. I also wanted something with elevation, to get me above nearby trees, with a view to the north. Taking all that into account, I picked the Ross Lake Overlook on Washington Highway 20, in the North Cascades National Park. It was a two hour drive (three with traffic and stopping for food), but I figured this was… well, perhaps not a once in a lifetime chance, but maybe close to it. So I packed up the camera, lens, and tripod, and headed out.

I got to the overlook about 7:30 PM, or maybe 8, and picked a spot between two trees to set up. There were already a few other cars there, folks who’d had the same idea as I, and it didn’t take long before the pulloff was full.

At 9:45 the fun started, and it was everywhere. We’d all lined up against the guardrail facing north, but it actually started directly above, and then spread to fill the entire sky. I was shooting pretty much constantly, up until 1 AM, when I finally called it quits and started the long drive home.

It was an amazing experience. Well worth the round trip time, and staying up that late. One or two of these will be going up on the store soon!

Gear: Nikon Z7 II, Nikon 24mm f1.4