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Celebrate the New Year off the beaten path

Posted: December 30, 2013 - 1:01am
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A paper lantern is sent skyward during a winter solstice bonfire.  Michael Penn
Michael Penn
A paper lantern is sent skyward during a winter solstice bonfire.

New Year’s Eve is synonymous with parties and Champagne, but that can get a little stale year after year. Here’s a few ideas on how you can ring in the new year in Juneau — still surrounded by family and friends, but sans barhopping and the subsequent recovery. Happy 2014!

Camping

• Most of the U.S. Forest Service cabins in Southeast are already booked up — people reserve the quiet getaways months in advance for their own private New Year’s celebration. But camping outdoors is still an option, if you’re up for braving the elements.

One possibility is going up to Eaglecrest Ski Area and camping out at Cropley Lake. You can ski on the mountain all day, bring your overnight gear and tent on the Ptarmigan chair lift and ski down to the lake for the night. The best part could be skiing down to the lodge in the morning for a hot breakfast.

Camping up on the ridge at Eaglecrest is another good idea. Of course, any one of Juneau’s trails would work. One of my favorites is Herbert Glacier.

 Chinese lanterns

• You can take a cue from the University of Alaska Southeast students and release homemade Chinese lanterns into the night sky. On Thanksgiving, school employees facilitated “lighting up the night” by releasing the lanterns at the UAS Housing Lodge, as a way to give thanks and reflect on the year. “It was a magical sight to watch the lanterns float away,” the school newspaper, the Whalesong, wrote in its latest issue.

The lanterns, historically used in Asia during festivals, have been growing in popularity across the globe. People in Thailand consider it good luck to release them, and “… believe they are symbolic of problems and worries floating away,” according to Wikipedia.

You can also take a cuefrom the Taiwanese, who host an annual Lantern Festival, and write your wishes (or resolutions) on the lantern itself.

Making the biodegradable sky lanterns is easy — it’s essentially just a paper shell with a candle in it (or LED lighting, to reduce the fire hazard). Tutorials are available online.

 Midnight aurora kiss

• The aurora forecast for New Year’s Eve is low (2 out of 9), but it should be visible in Juneau, weather permitting. Sounds like the perfect opportunity to go to the glacier at midnight and kiss someone under the Northern Lights.

For more information about the aurora forecast, visit bit.ly/1cNpN71.

Bonfire

• Now that the holidays are over, put your Christmas tree to good use by recycling it — use it as kindling in a bonfire. Some of the best spots around are Sandy Beach, Sunshine Cove and False Outer Point.

Learn something new

• Seize the moment to learn something new this year, like learning how to country line dance.  The annual New Year’s Eve Barn Dance (at St. Ann’s Parish Hall in the downtown area) teaches beginners with no experience how to contra and square dance. No partner required, either. Cost is minimal, especially considering there’s live music. For more information, call 463-3214.

Ice Globes

• If you feel like staying indoors for the evening, reporter Jill Burke of the Alaska Dispatch has the perfect Alaskan DIY project for you. She recently penned an article about her obsession with “ice globes,” which are balls of ice hallowed out so that a candle can fit inside. The result is “a charming way to add a festive glow to Alaska’s cold, dark winter days, and they brighten the ambiance of any setting,” Burke wrote. “There’s just something magical about the ability to capture fire in ice.”

Making the ice globes is easy enough — all you need is to fill balloons with water, freeze them and carve out a hole for the candle with a cordless drill. For more detailed instructions, read Burke’s article here: bit.ly/1fKbqyZl.

Whether you eschew the bar scene this New Year’s Eve, or go out and enjoy the liveliness in the streets downtown, be healthy and safe.

Also, don’t forget that if you need a ride home from the bars, the Safe Ride Home Program will be offering free taxi rides from 9 p.m. on Dec. 31 until 3 a.m. Jan. 1. For more information about the program, see this Empire article: bit.ly/1fTCOtS.

• A special thank you to Betsy Fischer, Phillip Moser and Kristin Mabry for helping with ideas for this article. Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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