Chasing the lights

My mom loves looking up at the night sky.

When we were kids, she’d wake my sister and me up and make us watch a full moon or a lightning storm from the deck of our rural Idaho house. She’s always marveled in the sanctity and allure of a clear night sky. For her, I think peering outside into the serenity of night reminds her of what actually matters in life.

My mom has always had an affinity for all things beautiful in the natural world — from working on national forests in the Lower 48, to being a raft guide and curating brilliant gardens at every house we moved to. She’s the type that doesn’t experience fear in the vastness of the wilderness, but rather a childlike sense of wonder at what lies beyond.

She became particularly fascinated by the aurora borealis after watching the popular 1990s comedy drama “Northern Exposure” when she was in her 20s. The show chronicles Dr. Joel Fleischman and his move to small town Alaska after graduating from medical school, according to the Internet Movie Database.

He ends up in Cicely, Alaska — a fictional community that was inspired by towns like Skagway, Seward and Talkeetna, a 1992 article from the South Florida Sun Sentinel stated.

My mom, like a lot of nonlocal folks interested in Alaska, has been burning to see the northern lights in person for decades, especially since that show aired. So when I moved over a year and a half ago, we started planning a trip to make that dream a reality.

Last week she, along with two of my aunts, finally made it up here to try to chase the lights.

The trip started out a little rocky — with an eight-hour flight delay and a lost bag — but we arrived safely in Talkeetna close to 1 a.m. last Friday morning. The weather up north was clear during the day, clear enough to see Denali’s peak even, and the night sky showed us brilliant stars.

We didn’t see aurora, even after driving for hours hoping for a flash of green across the sky. But we did see a lot, which was special because we got to see it together.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at

Melissa Botello, Alex Botello and Kim Davis take a photo outside of Nagley's Store in Talkeetna on Friday Feb. 25, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)