We have finally emerged from behind the dark side of the internet moon, so I am able to post our doings over the last couple of weeks; feel free to take a bathroom break when needed!
We woke up at 9:00 this morning to an eerie sunrise. Smoke from some of the BC wildfires has drifted in and caused a thick haze, resulting in a sun the colour of a blood orange. We haven’t noticed a smoky smell or found any difficulty breathing, but it was still a bit disconcerting. We drove into town to top off the fuel and post yesterday’s blog entry, and were on our way by 11:00, retracing our steps back down the lonely road toward Hay River. We made a quick pit stop about halfway at this quaint pulloff area:
Is it me, or is there a certain irony about the “Keep Clean” advisory?
Many pulloffs have these shelters. This one contained nothing but a long bench along one wall and a rusted-out horizontal drum to light a fire in, minus its chimney. Presumably they are there to act as shelters for stranded motorists during the winter.
Prior to reaching Hay River, we turned left and headed north toward Fort Providence and Yellowknife. Just before turning off the main highway to head into Fort Providence, we crossed the infamous Deh Cho bridge across the Mackenzie River (“Deh Cho” means “Big River” in the Dene language):
We have a nice campsite at the Territorial Park, although we are only here for one night before pushing on to Yellowknife tomorrow.
On the banks of the Mackenzie.
The Deh Cho bridge looking upstream. We are actually quite close to where the river flows out of Great Slave Lake.
Here is some info about the bridge (it may be easier to read if you click on each picture for a larger version).
Fort Providence is officially designated as a hamlet, since there is not much here. We did, however, spend a bit of time investigating Our Lady of Providence Church:
Before returning to the campsite, we stopped to fuel up at the last gas station before Yellowknife; needless to say, the fuel prices reflected that fact! As I pulled up to the pump, I was quite taken by these two ravens, busy picking bug bodies off the bumper of the truck on the other side of the pump island.
Just one more example of the cleverness and ingenuity of these birds.
We’ll leave you with these, taken from our campsite:
Sunset on the Mackenzie
Jeannine took the driving shift today, as we headed north to Yellowknife. Cooler temperatures, but smoky conditions, due to some fires burning on the south side of Yellowknife. While the entire 300 plus kilometres of the highway is paved, the last 100 or so kilometers into Yellowknife is a bit of an adventure, with stretches of construction and lots of potholes and dips, most of which are not marked. It was not without things to see, however:
Came across this guy hitchhiking to Yellowknife. (Un)fortunately, we didn’t have a seat big enough to fit him.
We arrived safely in haze-shrouded Yellowknife around 2:30 and made our first stop at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, which also contains a nice museum. There is a nice walking trail around Frame Lake, which gives access to downtown and the Legislative Buildings among other attractions. We wanted to go to the City Hall, so we took the walkway towards downtown:
This part of the path is bordered by the flags of every community in the Northwest Territories.
The reason for the visit to City Hall was to see if could visit with the Mayor, who is related to a friend of Jeannine’s. Turns out he is on vacation until the end of August, but we will probably send him an email. Took this picture before we left, since it is highly unlikely we’ll ever see either of them in their natural habitat:
Arctic Fox and Polar Bear
Looking from City Hall down to Frame Lake
As we made our way back to the van, we came across this lovely spot:
We found our hotel (basic but clean) a couple of blocks from the main downtown area, and spent the rest of the evening planning the next couple of days, which will include visits to the Old Town area, a tour of the Legislative Buildings and a visit to a local artisan market (Somba K’e) held on Tuesday evenings. The weather for the next few days holds a bit of rain and cooler temperatures, which will be a nice change. Hopefully the smoke situation will improve.
August 15 – A slight hiccup
This morning we realized that the fridge, which has been running on propane, was not functioning properly. I managed to track down a place in town that agreed to look at it at 1:00, so we decided to go to the Legislative Assembly building, a beautifully designed circular structure facing Frame Lake. We were a bit too late for the morning tour, but did look around the reception lobby.
Original Mace of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories
Mace currently in use
With some time to kill, we returned to the Heritage Centre to have a look at the Museum.
Trivia: “Yellowknife” comes from the name given to a long-vanished tribe of Dene who lived on islands in the East Arm of Great Slave Lake, who apparently carried yellow-coloured copper knives (hence “Yellowknives”).
Sculpture of the North
The Legendary Sky Diamond
After covering about half of this beautiful Museum, we had to leave for our 1:00 appointment. We left the van with them and walked about half an hour south towards a Walmart and Tim Hortons, stopping at a Home Hardware and Canadian Tire along the way. We had lunch at Timmy’s, wandered around Walmart, then caught a taxi back to the repair place. The verdict was not as bad as we had feared; they cleaned out the gas lines, put everything back together and tested it out. The fear was that it might have been a faulty gas valve, but so far the fridge seems to be working fine. Fingers crossed.
In the evening, we walked down to the Somba K’e Yellowknife Farmer’s Market, held every Tuesday evening on the waterfront beside the City Hall. It is a delightful world of ethnic food vendors and artisans, accompanied by live music. We spent an absolutely delightful hour and a half eating a dinner of ribs, mac n’ cheese and brown beans, (a combination that worked surprisingly well), and listening to the music.
United in Celebration sculpture
We returned to the motel just in time to avoid the showers, which had been threatening for a while. We will check out tomorrow and pay a return visit to the Museum, take the tour of the Legislative building and drive into Old Town. I’m hoping to be able to post this to the blog at Timmy’s.
Checked out of the hotel and headed for Timmy’s for breakfast. The wifi, however, was pretty much non-functional. We later found out that all of Yellowknife has been affected by a cut cable somewhere, so am not sure when I’ll be able to post this blog entry, but will keep writing nonetheless. After breakfast, we refilled the fresh water tank at a municipal dump station, then headed to the Territorial Legislative Assembly building to take the 10:30 tour. The tour of this really impressive building was wonderful. Here are a few highlights:
Caribou carved from a single neck vertebra of a bowhead whale
An official portrait of Nick Sibbeston, the Senator we met in Fort Smith. Prior to his senatorial appointment, he served as Premier of the Territorial Legislature. His son painted the portrait.
A quilted wall hanging done by 20 Dene women over 8 months. The designs on and between each panel are done in tiny, hand-sewn beads.
We were quite taken by this painting.
Original Speaker’s Chair, which was taken from community to community for sittings of the Assembly, prior to the establishment of the present-day building in Yellowknife
Trivia: Aside from English and French, there are 9 other official languages in the Northwest Territories
Hanging on the wall of the Caucus Room are 9 original paintings by Group of Seven artist A.Y. Jackson
The Legislative Assembly Chamber
The story behind the Polar Bear rug on the Chamber floor; a Dene community was being troubled by a Polar Bear, so the community approached their MLA about it. He did not see it as a problem that affected the Territories as a whole, so did nothing about it. The community decided to solve the problem themselves; they shot the bear, skinned it, and presented the hide to their MLA. He then gifted it to the Assembly and it has been on the floor of the Chamber ever since, serving as a reminder that MLA’s always need to listen to their constituents!
After the tour, we returned to the Prince of Wales Heritage Center to finish our tour of the Museum. There was so much to see, watch and read about that we spent the next 3 hours there, winding up with an absolutely delicious lunch in their cafeteria.
Although we enjoyed everything in this, one of the best museums we have ever encountered, I think the two really special memories will be a display of nature photographs by Adam Hill, originally from the Maritimes, but a convert to the photographic possibilities of the North. Please take a few minutes to check out his work at:
The following picture is of “The Last Mooseskin Boat”, the subject of an NFB documentary of the same name. This large mooseskin boat was made from eight untanned skins, sewn with moose sinew and stretched over a spruce frame.
The original “Last Mooseskin Boat”
You can read watch the documentary (28 min.) here:
We made the ten-minute drive to the Fred Henne Territorial Park, where we will be for the next four nights.
The weather was cool and breezy, but perfect for our foray into Yellowknife, armed with our list of to-sees. We started with Old Town and The Glassworks, a funky little store specializing in taking old wine and liquor bottles and creating all kinds of glassware from them. We bought four blue drinking glasses, etched with local animals. This was followed by visits to some unique arts and crafts stores, stocked with high-quality works from across the North, along with a walk-through of Weaver and Devore Trading Ltd., in operation since 1936. The best description of it is “little bit of this, little bit of that”. One of its primary roles is to fill “bush supplies” lists for people working in the mining and other camps.
We had developed an appetite and thirst, so where else would one go but the NWT Brewing Company, a craft-beer pub; we had a wonderful lunch there. Before leaving Old Town, we visited the Yellowknife Cultural Crossroads project:
And “The Rock”:
Our last stop was The NWT Diamond Centre downtown, which features an interpretive exhibition of the Diavik and Snap Lake mines.
Trivia: Canada rates 3rd in the world in diamond production, after Botswana and Russia.
We are planning to return tomorrow for a diamond polishing demonstration.
In the evening, we attended a cultural activity at the campground, put on by local Dene artists. We spent much of our time with a young lady who was demonstrating the beading technique for creating “Dene Daisies”. Jeannine did the work; I supervised:
We also sat with a woman who in part creates mukluks and moccasins. She was showing another lady from Ottawa some embroidery stitches. She then told us about the tops for the footwear she had on display pictured here. Dene elders, some of whom live in seniors homes stitch these bead creations in their homes and sell them to the lady we were talking to. The tops take a couple of days to finish and they only receive about $35 each. She then does some of the work to create the footwear and other artisans do the finishing. She explained that many people work on one set of moccasins or mukluks because different skills are necessary to complete the pair. Hunters who hunt the moose, people who are skilled at skinning, stretching, tanning and smoking the hide, cutting, shaping and working the pieces are all part of the process Then the bead work, pleating the top of the hide and sewing and finishing are all part of the project. That’s why a pair of moccasins can run between $400-500, and mukluks $600-800. They are beautiful though.
We also spoke to an artist who creates pieces of dyed fish scales. Fish scale art is very popular.
We stayed up until midnight in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights, which apparently had been visible last night. No luck, unfortunately. We will try again at Prelude and Reid Lakes where if the weather clears there won’t be so much light pollution.
Awoke to a cloudy morning and a bit of rain, so spent the morning doing some cleanup of the van. We went back to the Heritage Centre to have a delicious brunch at their cafeteria, then returned to the NWT Diamond Centre to watch a diamond-cutting and polishing demonstration. The operations are carried out on a cast iron wheel, spinning at very high RPM’s and covered in a thin layer of diamond dust. I got to try my hand at it:
Carefully analyzing the diamond
An expert cut and polish job!
Not to worry; the diamond itself was only worth $40.00!
We returned to the campsite around 5:00. The weather had cleared up somewhat, so we spent some time reading, and Jeannine did some sewing at the picnic table.
The weather today was cloudy and rainy, and since we had seen everything we had wanted to see in Yellowknife, we decided to kick back and spend the day relaxing. We are headed north and west to Reid Lake Territorial Park for 2 nights (about an hour from Yellowknife), then backtrack down Highway 4 to Prelude Lake Territorial Park for 2 more nights.
We left the campground at (9:00 AM) and headed into town for 10:00 Mass at St.Patrick’s, which has the Stations of the Cross done in stained glass, something we have not run across before. They were quite striking:
After Mass, celebrated by Fr. Marek, we grabbed some breakfast at the Golden Arches, fuelled up and headed up Highway 4 north and east of Yellowknife, headed for Reid Lake Territorial Park. The hour-long drive is rated as a scenic route by AAA, and it lives up to its billing, as you pass by a necklace of small, very pretty lakes. Set as they are on the edge of the Canadian Shield, they are very reminiscent of Muskoka, save for the much smaller size of both the deciduous and coniferous trees.
We got established at our campsite just before rain set in. We put out the awning and spent some time sitting under it and reading, until we got a bit chilled and moved inside, although not before a visit from one of the locals looking for dinner:
The weather is supposed to start improving over the next few days, so here’s hoping.
The weather continued to be partly cloudy, although a bit warmer. We moved to a vacant campsite with a nice view, where we spent the day relaxing:
After a brief rain shower in the afternoon, we were treated to this:
It was actually a double rainbow, but the second one doesn’t show very well in the pictures.
The skies cleared as night came on, and we went outside at midnight, to be greeted by the Aurora Borealis. We watched for about half an hour as curtains of green constantly shifted, dimmed and brightened against a starry background, and we reflected on how lucky we were to be able to see this beautiful spectacle.
We left Reid Lake in the late morning under cloudy skies for the brief drive to Prelude Lake. The skies cleared during the afternoon and we walked down to the lake. There is a boat launch and small marina, and is adjacent to the entrance of a half-kilometre “panoramic trail”, which we intend to tackle tomorrow. The Aurora made its appearance again, and I took a few pictures. It was not quite as impressive as last night, but this will give you an idea:
Late this morning, we tackled the panoramic trail, which lived up to its name. It turned out to be an easy hike on a well-maintained boardwalk and gravel trail, and offered some lovely views of Prelude Lake:
Prelude Lake Marina
We’re not usually into selfies, but we liked this one.
A couple of examples of the local wildlife:
Find the ptarmigan having his lunch.
Can you see me now?
We were hopeful that we might get another chance to see the Aurora, but a thunderstorm rolled in about 9:30, so we were out of luck.
We went into Yellowknife for breakfast at Tim’s, filled up on fuel and propane and picked up some groceries before heading south to Fort Providence again. On the 3 ½ hour drive, we saw one more bison plodding along the tree line, the last one we are likely to see on this trip. After 2 nights here, we will leave the Northwest Territories behind and head for High Level Alberta and, hopefully, a chance to post this lengthy blog entry. We have contacted Kathryn Rambow and made arrangements to meet her for dinner in Edmonton late in the afternoon of August 30th, before heading for Lloydminster for a couple of hotel nights. This seems to be the spot for sunsets:
It clouded over and we had some rain last night, so again no Aurora. Since we pretty much exhausted the sights of Fort Providence last time we were here, we stayed at the campsite. We had a late breakfast, then I read and Jeannine did some quilting stuff during the afternoon. A workboat made its way downstream pushing a barge, moving quickly with the swift current:
and returned a couple of hours later, moving a lot more slowly.
Again, no Northern Lights tonight, but on this, our last night in the Northwest Territories, we feel very fortunate to have seen all we have seen and to have met all the wonderful people we have met! Tomorrow we turn south and east for the next stage. We will be meeting up with Kathryn Rambow in Edmonton in a few days, so we are looking forward to that.