Chasing the Idaho Aurora Borealis

My friend, Noreen, and I are chasers.

We chased after a box of foiled wrapped Ding Dongs, Twinkies, and Fruit Pies when Hostess Brands closed last fall 2013 – Hostess Mania.  We chased a natural, non-chemical solution for an enormous sugar ant mound that appeared in my yard.  Extensive research on the topic of sugar ant removal recommended spreading coffee grounds as a deterrent. Noreen chased down a large bag of grounds from a local coffee-house that we laced through the dirt with pretty good results.

We chase vibrant, brilliant, dramatic, colorful sunsets, and phenomena such as gigantic harvest super moons, meteor showers, and eclipses.  sunset 3If something incredible is scheduled to occur in the sky, we plot to stay awake and experience the cosmic show.  When reports of a rare massive solar flare caught my attention mid-week, I checked out Aurora Borealis sites – U.S sky gazers could get a rare glimpse of northern lights

I texted Noreen, and we made our usual noncommittal plans to chase the Aurora.  We both work long days, and energy is a slippery character for 50 something folks.  Enthusiastic intention wears off quickly as the day progresses.

As of Thursday evening the probability of an Aurora chase remained low.  Friday I checked the reports again. One remained steadfast in predicting a sweep through Idaho while another indicated the Aurora moved farther north.   I went home, chomped on a bowl of veggies, and flipped on the television.   About that moment, a text arrived from Noreen.

Strong Aurora sighting potential. She and her son, Noah, were going – did I want to join them?  Chase on!  I grabbed warm clothes and a sleeping bag in case I needed to crash at her home that night.

We decided to try Freezeout lookout at the top of Emmett, and found other Aurora chasers gathered.  The view was terrific, but too much light pollution for our tastes.  Noreen remembered that highway 52 connected Emmett to Horseshoe bend, and we headed that direction.  A dark and winding road, Noreen navigated it with expertise.  We stopped at a gas station in Horseshoe Bend and stocked up on coffee, Chex mix, almonds, dark chocolate, and then travelled up the hill to find a high spot.

The first turnout was not high enough, and we proceeded to the top lookout spot.  Packed with cars, we thought we had stumbled onto a high school party and make out sessions. But we quickly realized it was Aurora Borealis enthusiasts. Flashlights traversed the hills as devoted sky watchers sought perfect viewing spots.   Cameras and video equipment dotted the landscape, and in the dark we felt a wonderful kinship with the crowd.  People of all ages gathered away from their computers, television sets, video games and went to the high hills.

Even though the latest report indicated the Aurora had headed to the far north, we lingered a bit and then headed home.  I learned the next morning that many people remained until 2 am hoping for a glimpse before calling it a no-show.  Stood up by the solar flare storm, the thrill of joining the throng of fellow Aurora chasers blotted out any lingering disappointment of missing the shimmering display.   I think it is time to make plans to chase the Aurora in Alaska, Norway, or Ireland!

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