Obviously, I wanted to participate. Who wouldn’t? But Whitehorse is fairly far from Connecticut so for seven years I convinced myself not to go because with layovers it was about 15 hours of travel and in the dead of winter snow was likely to get in the way.
Then this year, I said, “no excuses.” We made plans and booked a trip to Whitehorse breaking up the travel with three days in Vancouver on the way out.
Crazy Frozen Hair
For hair to freeze you need -20C or lower (that’s -5F). At Takhini Hot Springs where this event is held annually you dunk your head in the hot spring and then leave your head above water while trying to freeze your hair without getting frostbite on your ears.
According to staff at Takhini at -20 it should take 45-minutes, at -40 (where Celsius and Fahrenheit meet on the scale) 20-minutes. From Vancouver I watched the forecast. While we were in Vancouver it was -35 or colder in Whitehorse but when we arrived they were going to have a warm spell that lasted our three days in town. I’m kept telling myself the weather could change, but sadness began to set in upon the realization that I may not get to compete in the crazy frozen hair contest.
We landed in Whitehorse which greats tourists with spectacular beauty. Mountains and evergreens in a blanket of snow made the land seem quiet, but the snow was so frozen in crunched loudly underfoot.
I was the only one in Canada hoping the temperature would plummet. Everyone we met in Whitehorse told us we should have been here a couple days earlier. Thank you. I know. If only we’d reversed the trip. But life doesn’t work that way. And you can’t know the weather in advance. But I couldn’t come to Whitehorse and not try. And I couldn’t be deterred until I saw for myself. I’m no math wiz but I reasoned if -40 needed 20 minutes and -20 needed 45 minutes than -10, which it was, needed 90-ish minutes. If I could just be patient my hair would freeze. I was wrong. Only my tips got frosty and I looked more like I was aging rapidly than getting crazy frozen hair.
To make matters worse, I’d put earmuffs on the edge of the hot spring. At first it didn’t feel that cold, so I left them off, but 30-minutes into the process, my ears began to burn. When I went to get my earmuffs, they had frozen–a twist of the knife in my already wounded heart.
Everyone in Whitehorse commented about how spring-like the weather was. At it’s warmest it was -1C (about 30F). The forecast just wasn’t in our favor. The forecast to see the northern lights also wasn’t looking good. When we asked what we should do in Whitehorse, nearly everyone replied, “come back in summer.” When we mentioned the Northern lights much like their response to the cold, we heard, “if you were only here a few days ago. It was spectacular.” How frustrating. We’d flown to Whitehorse and we weren’t going to get to see the Northern Lights or freeze our hair. I was disappointed and had to shake off a bad attitude one afternoon. I had reason to be cranky, but I was surrounded by beauty and hiking in the snow. A little perspective was warranted, but I needed that reminder.
The Best Show in Town
To boost our spirits we went to see some local community theater. When we came back outside around 10pm, the sky was clear. Maybe we’d get lucky. We looked at the local forecast and suddenly they were predicting a 7 out of 10 activity level for the Northern Lights around midnight. When we got to our B&B Matt pointed time the horizon, “those are the northern lights.”
“It’s just a cloud,” I insisted.
He was right. What started as a mild glow along the horizon built to a crescendo of dancing light. The lights shot up from the horizon to the crown of the earth like a beacon. Having made their presence known they danced with a mystical grace that sent magic into the wide eyes of onlookers mesmerized by the hypnotic sky. Two hours after the show above us began, the sky exploded with light like the grand finale of a fireworks display. The community play was funny, but it wasn’t the best show in town that night. Mother Nature deserved that award.
I’ve heard the northern lights are disappointing because they don’t look like the pictures. Not true. They don’t look like the pictures but they are not disappointing. Long exposures capture more color so when you see a vibrant, neon green in an image, that is not what you see in the sky. To me they were a silvery green with hints of pink and purple. But there movement willed me to want more. Instead of checking them off my list, I only want to see them again. They awed me.
I’ve often read not to travel somewhere to see the Northern Lights because when you don’t get to see them you’ll be disappointed. I didn’t go to Whitehorse for the northern lights. I went to freeze my hair. I’ll have to get back there to complete the task. And if I get really lucky I’ll see the Northern Lights again. I don’t think they will ever grow old.
For an amusing travel story, read about when Maggie went to the public bath house in Alabama and Matt opted for a massage.
Read about the benefits of stepping out of your comfort zone, like when Maggie went to Comic-Con.
Check out the official strut zone in Maggie’s back yard!
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