July 30 addendum
Here is Jeannine swimming in Lesser Slave Lake; as proof of how unexpectedly warm the water is, I also went in!
July 31-August 2
We were on the road by 7:00 AM, and after stops in Peace River and High Level Alberta for fuel and sustenance, we crossed into the Northwest Territories in late afternoon.
The drive up the Mackenzie Highway was long, but the road is in very good shape and there was little traffic, although we had several minor delays due to extensive repaving projects. Much of it was bordered by endless fields of canola in full bloom:
We arrived at the Territorial Park at about 6:30, and were pleasantly surprised by the fact that we did not feel as tired as 9 hours of driving should made us!
The campground is impressive, nicely treed with excellent facilities and (surprise!) very few bugs. Apparently August is the time to come here, as most of the bugs are gone by the end of July. After hooking up, we took the short path to the beach:
The weather continues to be sunny and warm (mid-20’s), so after taking a tour around Hay River, a small but vibrant community, we visited their impressive little Museum. The young man running it was very knowledgeable, and gave me some interesting background on the Mackenzie River Bridge, completed a few years ago. It spans the Mackenzie River between Fort Providence and Yellowknife, and replaces the old ferry system. Like any government project, it was considerably over-budget and delayed in its construction. The company that started it went bankrupt after installing several of the support piers, and the job was ultimately finished by two other companies, who worked from either end to the middle (can you sense where this is going?). As the two ends approached each other, everyone had an “Oh sh*t” moment as they realized that they weren’t lined up properly. Consequently, the bridge has a bit of a zig-zag in it. It gets better; the next unforeseen problem was that the local bison population found that the bridge beat the heck out of swimming. Apparently there was no money left in the budget to install proper Texas gates at either end, so someone had the brilliant idea to set up cardboard cutouts of wolves, complete with pots of wolf urine purchased from the Calgary Zoo. They were partly effective, but provided the locals with endless fodder for jokes. Texas gates have now been installed.
In the afternoon, visited a local public beach, where Jeannine checked off another bucket list item; swimming in Great Slave Lake.
Ironically, although it is the deepest lake in Canada, the water here is quite warm and very shallow; note how far out one has to go before being able to tread water! Like Lesser Slave Lake, sandy beaches and warm water were not even close to what we had envisioned.
We spent the afternoon and evening back at the campsite.
Some of the local fauna dropped by:
We had a nice fire, and although it stays light enough outside to read until close to 11:00, we went to bed around 10:30.
We spent this morning doing some laundry and cleaning up the van a bit, then headed back to the public beach we were at yesterday, to indulge in a swim (both of us!) and an afternoon of reading and enjoying the very warm sunshine and a cooling breeze.
With the warm temperatures and sandy beach, it could just as easily have been a beach in Mexico (except for the logs). Hard to believe we are “north of 60”! We will have a last fire here tonight, then head for Fort Smith/Wood Buffalo National Park tomorrow, about a 3 ½ hour drive.