Pioneer Mint

Fast moving auroras swoop in toward Pioneer Peak in the Knik River Valley of Southcentral Alaska.

The “Pioneer Mint” Experience

Mint green auroras swoop in toward Pioneer Ridge in the Knik River Valley outside of Palmer, Alaska at 8:45 pm on November 4, 2018. What a refreshingly early treat!

It was Night #14 of the aurora hunt. I had driven a thousand miles as I looped northward through Denali to Fairbanks then down to Delta Junction and Glennallen. It had been an exhilarating two weeks and I had seen plenty of auroras. Now I was on the home stretch to step back into my Anchorage lifestyle and kiss my wife hello.

On the night I promised to be home, an encouraging aurora alert was announced on A coronal hole on the sun was pointing toward earth and hosing us down with a vast, aurora-generating dose of charged particles. Fortunately, my wife was very understanding and said, “You better stay out there!”

When I spotted the first green band at 8 pm I knew something very cool was being newly minted….45 minutes later breath-taking auroras burst onto the scene as I kneeled on the edge of the clear ice and composed their reflection amidst delicate ice crystals that resembled popcorn. The hoarfrost-encrusted trees contributed another tasty element while the ridgeline of Pioneer Peak provided an iconic landmark.

I do believe the auroras had saved the best for last on this trip and I am so thankful I was already clocked on and in position when the early bird special light was turned on!

Todd Salat


Photo Info

Knik River Valley, Alaska
Nikon D850 with 14mm
4 seconds, ƒ/2, ISO 2000

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