Kory Eberhardt, Fairbanks Homesteader

A Taste of Alaska with Kory Eberhardt

Starting at 7, when most boys are playing hide-and-seek, Kory Eberhardt was spending summer days picking blueberries and digging for antique bottles in early 20th-century gold camps outside Fairbanks, Alaska, and helping his parents run the lodge on his grandfather’s 160-acre homestead. Today, three decades later, he is the owner and operator of A Taste of Alaska Lodge, one of Interior Alaska’s most popular northern lights viewing accommodations. Since the farm still has 80 acres of hay meadows, he’s a Last Frontier farmer, as well. And he’s the custodian of a remarkable family collection of Alaskana, the unique items that decorate the lodge and tell this pioneer Alaska family’s story.

Why the old bottles?

We have dozens, mostly whiskey bottles. My Dad started collecting them; now they’re in almost every room in the lodge. We even have several bottle trees outside. Like all our decor, they tell the Alaska story. Luckily, it’s also the story of my family in Alaska.

What’s your favorite item?

Probably a 50,000-year-old steppe bison skull on our mantel. That came from a private dig near Dome Creek—20 miles north of Fairbanks. [Kory’s father unearthed the skull while working as a full-time gold miner.] Oh, and the hand-operated potato planter my grandpa used on our homestead 70 years ago. He came up from Idaho, so he knew about growing potatoes. 

When’s the best time to come up for Northern Lights?

People think you have to come up in the middle of winter, but viewing starts end of August and runs into April. Come in September, and you can combine aurora viewing with other activities, like river floats, viewing migratory birds and visiting Denali.

Isn’t midwinter the very best?

Early spring has the advantages of warmer weather and we’re back to 12 hours of daylight, but it’s still full-on winter. You can go dogsledding, snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, and see the aurora. 

So how cold is it?

In early March, usually no more than 20 below. Later in the month it often warms to near freezing in the daytime. But we have lots of guests who want to come up in January and be able to say they were here for 40 below. It has a special cachet for adventurous travelers. The thing is, if it’s dark and the skies are clear, you might see the northern lights anytime during the aurora season.

–Written by Eric Lucas
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