Monday, July 24, 2017

Visiting Yellowknife and Inuvik

I'm not done with the North West Territories yet. This is going to be a long one so pour another coffee or cuppa and let's get going.

The first stop will be Yellowknife, a city of approximately 20,000 which is the capital of the North West Territories and lies on the shores of Great Slave Lake.  Yellowknife got its unusual name from the Dene band who once lived on the islands of the East Arm of Great Slave Lake and carried knives with copper blades.

I have been to Yellowknife twice - the first time in May of 2006 and the second time in September of 2009.  I will use pictures from both my trips for this post but focus on the last trip.

After visiting Hay River in 2009 I got a bus..well actually a van, up to Yellowknife.  I thought if I was that close why not revisit as I do like Yellowknife.



The NWT license plate 





Typical views along the highway to Yellowknife..and bison!  It was a great trip that took about four hours. 
I got a taxi to my accommodation at the Bayside Bed and Breakfast which I have stayed on both visits and I would stay again.  It is right on the bay like the name says and in the heart of the interesting Old Town yet walkable to the centre of the city.


Early morning sunrise over Yellowknife Bay.


Morning view from the deck.  I loved this place!!!  I especially loved hearing and seeing the float planes take off and land in the bay in front of the bed and breakfast.

Enough of sitting here daydreaming and watching the planes with our morning coffee...time to get at it and explore!



I loved these beautiful rock paintings along the main road in Old Town


Yes that's the name...it started as a joke back in 1970 amongst some friends but is now its real name.

And then there's...


This was known as Penny Lane at one end and Lois Lane at the other until the city picked the name Lois Lane in honour of Superman's girlfriend in the movie, Yellowknife born Margot Kidder.


Here is the token dog picture and I loved the dog house.  And no I didn't trespass, this was just part of the walk I did.


This is the view from Pilots Monument looking towards my guest house which is the huge pink building in the centre.  Pilots Monument sits on The Rock and is dedicated to the Bush Pilots and Engineers whose lives were lost during the 1920's and 1930's while transporting people and supplies to remote areas in the North West Territories.


Chippy's Cabin - built in the 1930's by woodcutter Chippy Loutitt.  This kind of building can be found all over Old Town which is another reason I love it.


One of the fabulous views you get from Old Town.




Walked through Einor Broten's Woodyard to get this view.  This area is home to people who prefer a simpler lifestyle and live in ramshackle homes.  How they make it through the brutal winter in some of those shacks is beyond me.  All I can say is better them than me.

Time to head downtown now...not too shabby either if you skip the shopping area and head over to 


The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre (worth a visit) on Frame Lake


Time to take a break beside this beautiful artwork and admire Frame Lake.


Such a beautiful walking trail - even if I jumped everytime I saw a black dog..thinking it was a bear. of course...




With all that walking you work up an appetite so what better way to end the day then arctic char at Bullocks Bistro.  It's good old down home cooking and when I was there there were no menus.  They told you the specials so ask the price unless you want to be really surprised.  Not cheap (nothing in the north is cheap) but well worth it.   Don't let the word bistro fool you - wear your jeans and laugh at the crazy stickers on the walls.  Definitely recommended!!!  Sadly, both times I've been to Yellowknife I've been out of season for the infamous Wildcat Cafe but maybe next time I will get to try it.

Next morning it's time to fly further north...but first let's go out to the deck and take this in...


Early morning sunrise over Yellowknife Bay. Totally unfiltered.

Time to head to the airport on our next adventure.


Canadian North is the best!  They serve hot meals and even delicious alcohol fueled coffee.  And who doesn't love flying in a plane with a polar bear on it..a short stopover in Norman Wells and we're in Inuvik!




Traditional Inuksuk

So here we are...north of the Arctic Circle and I've got the certificate to prove it.  I can't believe I am seeing this world famous church in person.  This was originally built in 1960 and rebuilt in 2005. (not sure why but things don't last too long in these cold elements)  Its official name is "Our Lady of Victory" (Roman Catholic) but of course it's better known as the Igloo church.

Inuvik has a population of approximately 3500.



Plumbing and heating pipes are above ground here due to permafrost in the earth.


Okay guys, we've come down a bit in the world but it's all I could afford.  Inuvik is expensive! Actually it looks better inside thank goodness....a three bedroom apartment that I had to myself.  It was basic but comfortable and warm.  One embarrassing moment when I was saving up my meagre mugs and the odd plate (I ate out except for the breakfast that they provided in the fridge) to wash and on my last day (I was there two full days) I came back and everything was clean and tidy.


Hey, let's go for a walk on the TransCanada trail....


Ummmm...maybe not...let's just turn around and go back okay?  Remember that thing about how I don't like to walk where there are things that might eat me?  Bet it was one hungry bear that did that. Or some idiotic humans...but I'm not taking any chances!!!



Here's me hanging out by the mighty MacKenzie river.  I'm surprised there was anyone about to take my photo but there was.



I loved the beautiful Inuit artwork around town.


Houseboat on the MacKenzie river.


This is the the view from the living room of the B and B.  The buildings aren't the most attractive but built for life (meaning extreme cold) in the far north.

I had dearly wanted to visit the Inuit community of Tuktoyaktuk which lies north of Inuvik on the Arctic Ocean.  The timing did not work out as I was there in the awkward time (late September) between no boat tours available  and too early for the ice highway.  Yes when, the MacKenzie river is frozen it turns into a highway.  As of this year there is now a proper highway so while the ice highway will continue it won't be maintained as a proper highway as it was previously.  Never mind, I was able to go on a boat up the MacKenzie river to the Reindeer station (where herders who cared for the reindeers lived with their families  - thousands of reindeer were brought to the area in the 1930's to help stave off starvation) and back with a guide.  There was one other person on the tour.  It was interesting and it still stands as the most remote place I have ever been to.



Oh yes, did I mention it started to snow while we were on board?




Here I am rocking the Peruvian hat again.  Luckily I had bundled up so I looked like the Michelin man.   Our guide said there were grizzly bears up in the hills behind us so I was hoping they weren't excitedly running down the hills yelling to their buddies  "yay, three pieces of fresh meat"!  It was good there were only three of us and easy to keep track of as I wouldn't want to be left behind here!  I kept an eye on our tour guide - yes, I get nervous when I am out of civilization.  Luckily we got back on the boat in one piece.  It was an interesting afternoon.



And here is the "Igloo church" in the snow.  So pretty!!


Token dog picture from Inuvik - saw this dog wandering around the downtown.


Here is downtown Inuvik.  I must say I expected more of an Inuit influence in Inuvik having been to Iqaluit in Nunavit the year before.  I couldn't even find a proper northern meal such as Caribou or Arctic char in any of the restaurants  I just ate normal restaurant meals and they weren't even very good.   Maybe it's there and I just didn't find the right place..I will never know now.  I didn't even see many Inuit - I could count them on one hand.  It seemed to be a white man's working town so that was disappointing for me.  Then again I guess I probably wasn't in the right places.

I'd definitely return to Yellowknife someday...Inuvik?  Only if I knew I could get to Tuktoyaktuk.

All too soon it was time to fly back to Yellowknife and then home.  Bur before I left Inuvik airport guess what I ran into?


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Hay River, North West Territories - 1973 and 2009

The North West Territories is so special to me that it gets two posts!  I have a little personal history with this area so I thought would be fun to share.  Here we go..with a bit of a blast from the 70's to throw in as well.

In 1973 just a couple of months after my 21st birthday I listened to the adventure that we all know now lurked deep in my soul and headed north.  Well, what I considered north - when I talked about being "up north" the locals laughed at me as Hay River is in the southern part of the NWT.  Now that I've been "really north" I get it.  

Hay River then...

Hay River is a community of approximately 3600 people just over the border from Alberta in the very southern North West Territories. It lies on the shores of Great Slave Lake which is the deepest lake in North America at 2014 feet as well as being the tenth largest lake in the world.  In 1973, while I was working as a long distance telephone operator at the telephone company here in Regina I chatted with a co-worker who had worked up there for a few months for CN Telecommunications and I was intrigued by her stories. She told me they were always looking for telephone operators.  I decided that was what I was going to do.  I thought it might be something different to do and the loads of money I would make would pay for an extended trip to Europe. The original plan?  To work at least six months, make my fortune and wander around Europe for six months.  Well...that didn't quite work out as planned but we'll get to that later.  So less than a month after my 21st birthday CN Telecommunications flew me up to Hay River to begin my new job. As soon as I got there we were out on strike - I think I worked one shift and out we went.  As I recall, I had no clue this was going to happen - now I would be googling Hay River and the company like crazy.   We were off work only a week but it certainly put me behind financially.  I had to borrow money from my parents to pay the next months rent.  The so call subsidized rent... that you had to pay the full amount and get a refund later that took forever.   For the first ten days or so I lived in a three bedroom trailer by myself - the first time I had ever been on my own (I still lived with my parents at this point but don't spread that around okay?) and I was terrified.  It didn't help that the back door of the trailer didn't lock properly. On the bright side, the work wasn't bad but as our accommodation was in the New Town and the Toll Exchange in the Old Town it involved a taxi ride both ways  A subsidized taxi but never the less a taxi.  You would try to go with others as some of those taxi drivers were a bit on the creepy side and of course it was cheaper that way as well. Some of the girls moved into accommodation in the Old Town but it was not anywhere I would have wanted to live. And that Northern allowance?  Oh yeah...you didn't get that until you had been there six months. Hmmnm...maybe I am not going to make my fortune here after all.  The work was okay and rather fun at times.   The job involved both long distance calls (the area I was experienced in) and information so that part was kind of fun along with putting calls through to the Dew Line in the Arctic.  Even though I was in the "southern north" I got to talk to people all across the North West Territories. which I loved.   

We were all young and so drinking and partying was the name of the game. I've never been a partier but it was hard not to get involved in it. And they certainly didn't have to twist my arm very hard to get me to take part. My new roommate in the trailer flew into Hay River with pot tucked into her shoe and the partying really began in earnest.  There were lots of guys to date and hang out with as well.

About a month after I got there I was moved into a furnished bachelor apartment in an apartment building that had no sound proofing.

My sparsely decorated apartment showed off my two passions - football and Paul McCartney.  I lost my passion for football after the 1976 Grey Cup (we lost thanks to Tony Gabriel intercepting a pass and running for a touchdown...yes, I never got over that) but as anyone can tell you my passion for Paul McCartney still burns brightly.   I guess that's one formula for having a tidy apartment - have next to nothing! 
My new building was party central. I remember skipping down the stairs after midnight to do my laundry and hopping over passed out bodies along the way. ...oh those days when I could skip down stairs. I remember a drinking game we used to do..oh never mind....it never ended well for me.  I can't face Rye whiskey to this day.  Getting off work at 2 a.m was no barrier- the parties in my building were just going into full swing. How those guys got up and did a full day of construction work is beyond me but we were all young and silly and hey it was the 70's.  Let's just say it was an educational experience in so many ways and leave at that.

As I did not have a car up there I had to depend on other people to drive me around to see the sights. A short lived boyfriend took me to see the falls and another friend drove a few of us to the lake one afternoon when she was able to borrow someone's car.  My parents drove up to visit so we did a bit of local sightseeing.  I would sometimes get four day weekends off but I never went anywhere like Yellowknife or Inuvik even though I thought about it and wanted to see those places   - I was just too scared to go anywhere on my own.  18 months later when I finally went on that trip to Europe on my own I thought "why the heck didn't you jump on a plane to Yellowknife or Inuvik" but I was too scared to go on my own.  Yes, that noise you just heard was me giving my 21 year old self a slap on the side of the head.  Luckily in my next post you will see that I finally got to these places but it took long enough!

I am shocked at how few photos I took - none of the interiors of the trailer (not that it was up to much), no photos of the outside of my apartment building and barely any photos of friends.  Mainly drinking ones which I won't share here!  And I will spare you my Instamatic photos of the falls.  The next year I got my first "serious" camera.

Looking at the pictures above it really wasn't bad - they provided a sofa bed with chair, a dresser and a table and chairs.  Not bad Laurie..(slap!)...why didn't you stay and work and get that trip to Europe? But I was a young lady out of my depth - I grew up in a city - a small city but a city nonetheless with all the conveniences of restaurants, public transportation,  movie theatres....  At this point in my life I had no idea what I was all about, but who does at 21?  I had barely visited a small town let alone lived in one - I must say I hated living in a small town and especially one that had none of the amenities I was used to.  Management at my place of employment was horrendous and I wasn't making as much money as I thought I would - even once the partying slowed down (mainly because all the guys left town as winter was setting in and construction, etc. was done)  and I actually started reading books from the library and giving my poor liver a rest.  There seemed to be 2 things you could do there: drink/party or nerd out and read as they had a decent public library.  No decent restaurants to visit, no coffee shops (don't make me laugh!) the one bar we young out of towners used to go to was in Old Town and nicknamed The Zoo.  It was called that for a reason and women only went accompanied by a man. Not the place you wanted to be taken on a date.  Not that there were too many places to be taken on a date... I went there once with one fellow accompanying about three of us girls.  So we bought booze and partied in our homes or once in a while had a bonfire and partied there.


The local high school known as the Purple Pen.  I thought it was horrible. 

Showing off my Rider Pride in the countryside  and just plain showing off by Great Slave Lake


Two friends and I asked management if we could share a three bedroom trailer that the one friend was currently living in on her own. (with actual carpet on the floors - the height of luxury compared to the trailer I had lived in) We figured if the three of us could bunk in together we might just make it through the winter.  The constant noise in my building was starting to get me down.   However, they said no so they lost three employees.  Everyone was scuttling out of there like rats deserting a sinking ship - either heading home or finding employment elsewhere. After three months (so that I wouldn't have to pay for my airfare up) I flew home.  There was nothing left for me there - the two good friends I had made up there were giving up, disappointed like I was and flying home as well.  In fact, one was on the flight with me.

It was only after being home for a couple of months (and back with my parents...)  I got the overtime they owed me (which I had to fight for) which enabled me not to fly to Europe but to put a down payment on my brand new red (with navy blue racing stripes) Gremlin X.  Don't mock or judge me..oh how I loved that car.  Did I regret going to Hay River?  Not at all. Did I regret leaving Hay River so soon?  Nope...but do regret not backpacking around Europe. (I guess it's never too late, right?)

Hay River 2009


Years later I talked about going back to see how it had changed but wasn't motivated as I knew no one there.  In 2009 that changed.   At the time I was Director of Prairies/North of our national walking club and a club had been started in Hay River.  Nancy, the president invited me up there to meet her club and do some walks so how could I resist.  I flew to Edmonton to visit my sister and then my friend Eilleen and I took the Greyhound bus (sadly that route no longer exists) from there up to Hay River.  Now that was a journey and I appreciated the long drive my parents had done 36 years earlier. We left at midnight and arrived in Hay River that afternoon.  There were a few stops along the way and the driver kindly stopped at the North West Territories border so we could take photos.  Why did I take the bus?  Well I wanted to see the scenery and hopefully get a photo of that NWT sign (my parents had had their photos taken with it on their way up to see me in 1973).  The main reason, however, was financial - I couldn't use air miles for Hay River and I just could not afford to fly.  So far in 2009, I had been to London, Egypt, Jordan, New York City, Las Vegas, North Carolina, North Bay Ontario,Ottawa, Ontario and a walking weekend in Medicine Hat/Cypress Hills in Alberta just the weekend before this trip.  Yes, 2009 was a big travel year for me.  By this time I was an old pro on the bus and the stories I could tell...and will!





 We stayed with Nancy and she and her husband Tom were the perfect hosts driving us all over the place and treating us like queens. It was wonderful!!!  And now the good photos start...



Back at Great Slave Lake....36 years later and probably 36 pounds heavier....maybe more!


I was so happy to see Great Slave Lake again...I had seen it in Yellowknife on a trip there in 2006 but it wasn't Hay River.  I still remember the awe of seeing this lake for the very first time.  On the way to the lake we drove by the old telephone exchange that has now been closed for years.

The next afternoon we drove to Enterprise to walk the route from Alexandra Falls to Louise Falls.

Alexandra Falls 

Louise Falls - it had started raining by this point
Even though the falls may not be as spectacular as Niagara Falls I prefer them as there is no tourist tat around.  It's just you and nature.  I love it.  The 4 km route between the falls is so pretty as well.


Token dog picture - beautiful Sheena who was Nancy and Tom's dog.  She was such a sweetheart.



As you can see the walk between the falls was a beauty.

The next day we joined a group walk along the shores of Great Slave Lake.




No, I didn't walk on the logs - as you can tell by the photo below they were WAY ahead of me.  I sauntered along doing a shorter route and taking photos.



Tom made us birch tea at the end of our walk and it was quite tasty.


The next morning while Nancy was at work Eilleen and I did the 10km walk around the outskirts of Hay River and in town.


There was a path through the woods but we were advised to stick to the road because of bears on the trail filling their faces with berries to get nice and fa for their winter hibernation. 




Yep, the purple pen still stands!


And here is my old apartment building - I am shocked it's still standing to be honest.  I can't even remember which apartment I lived in there.

What a great few days it was and I am so glad I got to revist the place that I still have fond memories of.  Even though life in Hay River did not agree with me on a personal level I am so glad I had those three months there and 36 years later got to see it again.