When I first realized I was moving to North Dakota there were few things that sounded appealing to me. I was told that the winters are freezing, the snow is ridiculous, everything is a giant mud puddle in the spring and mosquitoes are out of control in the summer. “Why would anyone ever live in a place like that?” I thought. Obviously my opinion has changed since the big move and I’ve found plenty to love. However, before I realized the jewel that is North Dakota, there was only one consolation that seemed worth while about my move: seeing the Northern Lights.
Ever since I learned about the Aurora Borealis in elementary school, it had been a dream of mine to see in person. When I was informed that if the conditions are just right its possible to see them in North Dakota, I was overjoyed. The problem: its really difficult to figure out when the conditions are just right. The other problem: its really difficult to see them in Fargo. Luckily for me, my boyfriend Blake shared the same dream with me. He too has wanted to see the Northern Lights since he was little. This meant that he whole heartily supported my crazy claims when I thought certain nights during the past year and a half that we’ve lived here were optimal Aurora spotting nights. I would search websites trying to figure out the scientific calculation, lining up the latitude and longitude lines… or whatever you’re suppose to do… and then suddenly scream up the stairs at odd hours: “Ok! It’s Aurora time! Let’s go!” We would drive a few miles out of Fargo only to realize that if you can’t see stars, you probably can’t see the Lights.
With less free time on my hands now that I’m fully immersed in grad school, my random hobby of “predicting” when it was optimal viewing time had been set aside. The other night however, as I was crawling into bed, I decided to take one more stalk through Facebook to see what other people are up to at 12:30 a.m. on a Saturday night. That’s when I noticed that Valley News Live had posted an alert: AURORA SIGHTINGS!! So what if they were near Grand Forks? I hopped out of bed, screamed up the stairs, and no sooner had we pulled on a pair of slippers and grabbed the car keys that we were headed out the door… pajama pants and all.
One thing we knew was that we should drive north (duh) and we should get away from Fargo. How far? I didn’t know. I kept refreshing my Facebook alert on my phone and saw statements from witnesses that seemed to mock our efforts a little more with each minute that passed Aurora-less: “I saw them! They’re amazing!” or “The best I’ve ever seen!” or “This is truly breath taking!” I couldn’t take it anymore. Somewhere about 20 miles north of Fargo I told Blake to take the next exit and hit the back roads where there are no street lights that would interfere. It was now or never. After all, I had no idea how long they would last.
As we crept down a pitch-black gravel road, it was remarkable we didn’t drive straight into a ditch. Both of us were glued to the windows and starring north into the night sky. We finally stopped the car and got out. “There it is!” exclaimed Blake. I squinted my eyes and asked, “What? You mean that really light, barely visible, greenish/blueish streak?” Yep. That was it. We had seen the Northern Lights. Unfortunately, we were a little too far south to get the full effect that everyone had been reporting about on Facebook so enthusiastically.
After a few failed attempts to take a picture (straight blackness isn’t much of a photo-op), we gave up and headed back towards Fargo. It was now about 1:30 a.m. and I was ready to crash… for real this time. While we were admittedly a little disappointed, I was comforted by the fact that the reports were true. It was possible to see the Northern Lights in North Dakota… I’d just have to wait a little longer. So even though the winters are freezing, the snow is ridiculous, everything is a giant mud puddle in the spring, and mosquitoes are out of control in the summer– we’ve got the Northern Lights.