A week with my sister in Yellowknife

I’ve been busy the for the last week! My sister was here and we had such a great time with her. She lives back home in NS and was so excited to come here and experience our winter. She loves winter anyway and LOVES snow so she was beside herself in the days and weeks leading up to her trip. She arrived late at night and we took her straight to the ice road, and pretty much never stopped from there!

The day she left we were laughing because we can’t even remember everything we did with her; it was a total whirlwind. We took her to the galleries and shops around town. We introduced her to Dave Brosha at his studio, as this was an absolute must for her to do because she’s a huge fan of his. She also met Tara, who made her a print of one of Dave’s photos. We went to Buffalo Airways and managed to get a little tour of their hangar. We drove the ice road to Dettah and back along the highway, and we drove to Whati in the middle of a blizzard. We hiked Cameron Falls and cross country skied at the Ski Club. We squeezed in three sled trips (she was a natural!). She patiently sat through the Blue Jays first spring training game, and then we went to a pub and out dancing. She was here for my interview on CBC. We went dogsledding. And with a stroke of luck and some clear skies, she saw a stellar demonstration of the northern lights. While standing on an ice road. During a -30°C night. Doesn’t get much more northern than that!

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One of Jaime’s shots of the aurora

My two favourite things that we did together were ice fishing and a workshop at Old Town Glassworks, because I had never done either before. My coworker Dan invited us out to his tent on Walsh Lake while Jaime was here to show her what ice fishing was like. I was excited about it too since I had never been, and it was a blast. He and his wife have an amazing setup with a big tent with a woodstove and everything. Jaime took his sled for a little rip, she and his wife went cross country skiing across the lake, had a beer, drilled some holes, and caught a trout!

Trout

 

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Then on Jaime’s last day here we went to Old Town Glassworks for a workshop on how to make your own piece of art! Matthew, the owner, goes through the process with you and shows you how he selects his bottle, cleans it, scores it and breaks it to the height he wants. Then he grinds it down and softens the edges, chooses a stencil, sandblasts it, and it’s done! Then he lets you loose to make your own, from a piece he’s already pre-cut and sanded down. We both chose a short dark blue tumbler and had a time making our glasses. If you’re ever in Yellowknife (or if you live here) I seriously recommend doing this workshop! It was so great, inexpensive, and you walk away with a piece that you made yourself. Very cool!

My Glass

My glass!

So Jaime left yesterday and everything reminds me of her now. It’s not quite the same without her here, but she helped me see Yellowknife through new eyes and I so appreciate her taking the time and effort to make it up here to see us.

So the question remains… Who’s next?! :)

A few photos from her trip:

Yellowknife from Pilot’s Monument

Sledding on the ice road

Snowmobile master!!

Jaime collapsing into the fluffy powder at Cameron Falls

Wall of icicles we found while sledding!

It’s 2013!

Happy New Year from Yellowknife!

Happy New Year!

Christopher took this photo on Frame Lake. We go out each year on our sleds with a big group of friends and sit on the lake to watch the fireworks, then go for a little rip and wind up at someone’s house with food and drinks and it’s always a really great time. This year though, we went on a little longer trip than expected and by the time we got home it was 11:40, and we were so busy rushing to get the food and everything ready that we missed the countdown!! It didn’t help that I had the TV on the wrong channel.. Whoops. We didn’t notice until 12:02! So that was a big fail, but the night itself was really fun and we had a blast. This photo got what I like to call the Dave Brosha bump: Dave loved it, shared it, and Chris saw an exponential boost in Flickr views, along with over 80 shares, 500 likes and 30 comments on Facebook. It sure helps to have friends in high places! :)

Chris and I drove out to Cameron Falls a couple weeks ago. I’ve posted about Cameron Falls before, it’s one of my favourite places here. It’s about 40 minutes outside of Yellowknife and it is a great hike that ends with a beautiful view of the waterfalls. It was about -25°C the day we went, which is a perfect temperature for a hike. But it also means you need to be fully geared up, which means you have to put on your extra layers when you arrive. Ever try putting on snow pants in the drivers seat? Not so easy, I learned. This took me about 5 minutes, which seems like an eternity when you’re struggling and fighting with snow pants.

SnowPants

We had never gone in the middle of winter before, and the day we went, everything was covered in an inch or two of fresh snow from the night before. Because of the snow, it was absolutely silent when we stopped walking. It’s so hard to describe total and complete silence, but that was the first time I had ever heard true silence in my entire life, and it was incredible. A pristine white world so quiet that your ears start ringing to fill the void. No wind, no birds, no cars, no nothing. Just total nothingness.

Cam Falls

As for the hike itself, this was pretty much our view the whole way. There aren’t enough synonyms for beautiful that can adequately describe this environment.

HikeView

So, Christmas has come and gone, and aside from being away from my family, it was really nice. I got some really great and thoughtful gifts from my family, sent across Canada (expedited, in one case) and packaged with love. It’s pretty easy to get settled into your life and routine here, but once in a while something will jar you from that state and remind you what you’re missing back home. In this case, it was a framed photo of my niece that, when opened, made me start crying. But we Skyped with Chris’s family that night, and my family the next day. The kids love seeing us on the computer, especially my niece Gracie, who’s just about a year old and was sticking her tongue out at me when I stuck mine out at her. Then she’d laugh and do it again. And my nephew Andrew who ran to show me a selection of his favourite presents. SO cute. I got a few great gifts, two of them being my new Steger mukluks from Christopher (they’ve earned the reputation of being the best winter boot for the arctic, and have so far lived up to this reputation), and a custom Mizuno ball glove from my best friend Allan, who totally spoiled Chris too by getting him a Mizuno first baseman’s glove. Here’s mine:

Glove

And now that we both have new gloves, combined with Chris’s new bat, Allan’s new bat and a few pairs of batting gloves, we’re ready for softball season.. But softball season is still six months away!!! We were talking about how popular softball is here in Yellowknife just recently, and it really does blow me away how many people play it and how many teams there are in a town of 20,000. If you ever move here and you’re not on a team, chances are by the summertime you’ll be asked to play on at least one team.

And that’s another great thing about Yellowknife. If you open yourself to challenges and new things, you will meet more people and do more things than you ever thought possible. We have never run into any cliques here, and if they exist (which I’m sure they do), they’re not the kind of people you want to be friends with anyway. The people here will invite you out with their friends even if you know none of them. They’ll go out of their way to drive you home (not that anywhere in Yellowknife is really out of the way). They’ll bring you into their homes on Christmas and Thanksgiving because they know that you’re so far from your own family. They’ll laugh with you and cry with you and bond with you in ways you’ve never known. The people here are so great because, nine times out of then, they’ve been there. They’ve been alone on holidays, they’ve experienced the confusion of a new town, and they’ve felt the love and warm welcomes from those here before them. And then they pass it on. I write a lot about Yellowknife as a beautiful place, but Yellowknife is also full of beautiful people who make this town fun, alive, and bearable in the dark and cold winter.

Fall Has Come and Gone

Fall in Yellowknife is a mythical creature.

It comes around the middle of September and lasts mere weeks before the snow falls and is here for good. This is still one of the most noticeable differences between here and Nova Scotia. There, it seems like spring and fall last forever. Here, if you blink, you miss it. In the spring, the temperatures warm slowly, the snow melts, the ice melts, and then all of a sudden it’s 25°C and sunny. In the fall, the leaves start to change then fall off the trees, and just like that it’s -30°C. It’s really bizarre and I’m still getting used to it.

Softball season ended in September, and not long afterward we went into softball withdrawal and spent some afternoons at the ball field just throwing the ball and swinging the bat. Chris got a brand new bat in the mail a few days after the season ended. Talk about a tease! Now it will sit unused for 6 months until ball season comes along again, taunting us, making us miss softball that much more. Chris was so excited to get it in the mail he couldn’t wait to use it.

Take it out of the box first, sweetie.

A friend of mine from our softball team, Lisa, invited Chris and me along for a boat trip to her parents cabin in September. We happily obliged and it was an awesome day. We met up with Lisa and her husband, two boys and her parents at their house in Dettah. The trip was about a half an hour on Great Slave Lake, and their cabin is so well-hidden it’s really only visible from one part of the water. Being in a boat again was awesome enough (I spent my childhood summers in Cape Breton either in the ocean or in a boat on the ocean)! Her dad started a fire, and me, Lisa and the boys started cranberry picking. This was my first time ever going cranberry picking and I was so surprised at how many cranberries there were! I got a whole Ziploc bag full. We were laughing as we were grunting and complaining about our knees being sore, and Lisa told me some elders will go berry picking for hours and hours… I can’t even imagine, because 45 minutes of it nearly did me in! It was great though and felt so good to be outdoors and on the lake.

 

Chris, of course, was wandering around getting photos. He got a lot of the boys fishing, cooking our lunch over the fire, and of course cranberry picking, and this great one of Lisa’s dad. It was such a great time and I really appreciate them taking us along with them to see a side of the north that we’d never seen before. Thanks guys!!

 

I used the cranberries I picked at Lisa’s at Thanksgiving. Chris and I made a feast. We always go all out on Thanksgiving because we both love to cook, so it’s a really fun day for us. This year was even better because Chris has been experimenting with different photography skills and wanted to try a time-lapse video. He set up his camera in the kitchen and, simply as a test, had the camera take one photo every 3 seconds for the whole time we were cooking. I’m talking hours. Eventually the click of the shutter was tuned out and we carried on cooking. After we stuffed ourselves, Chris put the video together and it was hilarious. You can see the video here on Chris’s YouTube channel!

And as quick as it came, it left. Fall has come and gone. Winter is here.

This was actually our first snowfall. I came off a nighshift and went to bed with no snow on the ground, and woke up three hours later to THAT. I was ecstatic! I love winter and I love snow and I LOVE snowmobiling so I was pretty excited to see all that snow.

Speaking of sleds, we finally found used sleds to buy. Mine is a 1994 Arctic Cat 580 EXT, and his is a 1997 Yamaha V-Max. It’s pretty tough to find a good used sled in this town. You have to consider price, age, use, kilometres, and what shape the sled is in. If it’s a good sled at a good price, it gets snatched up right away so it’s nearly impossible. But we lucked out twice and managed to get decent sleds at great prices. We have yet to drive them yet though, so the jury is still out on whether or not my 580 will be better than my old Bravo. Once we take them out for their first run (once Chris gets the right gaskets for my exhaust) I’ll post some photos.

I had a brief trip home to see my Mom at the end of October, because the planets aligned and everything worked out. My friend Jenn offered me flight passes to get home super cheap with WestJet. My coworkers did trades with me and freed up an entire week. And despite flying standby, I made it on all of my flights and arrived as scheduled. My mom had just had surgery and had no idea I was coming, and when I walked into her hospital room she was so happy that all she could do was cry. So then I cried. And then my sisters cried. It was a great moment and I was so happy to be able to be home with her while she recovered. And now she’s doing great! That trip home puts my Annual Nova Scotia Trip Counter up to 4, which is completely unheard of. I feel very lucky to have been able to go home that many times in one year. Now I’m starting an aggressive campaign to get my family to come see ME in Yellowknife!

No bait more effective than our beautiful aurora, as captured by Chris!

 

Long John Jamboree!

First, so sorry for the extreme delay in posting. Major slacking on my part. Time seems to be flying by lately and I am still writing March when I write the date, even though we’re a week into April.

So, as promised: The Long John Jamboree was March 23-25, and was a huge success. It came the year after the Caribou Carnival officially ended, marking the end of a 57-year community event. The Long John Jamboree’s organizers heard hearts break across Yellowknife and worked hard to organize a new festival to take its place. There was a massive turnout at the Jamboree and  there were tons of things to do, which were well planned and organized, considering this was its’ first year. We met up with friends and saw ice carving, skijoring, and the amazing Ugly Truck and Dog contest, among many other things. The ice carving was neat because the ice was harvested from Great Slave Lake, atop which it was later carved. We also took a helicopter ride around Yellowknife, flying over our house, the ice road, and the festival. I took the cockpit seat with the pilot, which was great because I could talk to her over the headset and she pointed things out to me, like Air Tindi’s ice strip, which from the ground seems big enough, but from the air looks barely wide enough for a snowmobile. We were also able to see the dogseld races from the air, which was pretty incredible. Some photos, courtesy of Chris:

Ice carving

Ice carver in action

Watch your eyes!

Air Tindi's Twin Otter on skis

Some perspective: With the ice strip right next to the festival, the twin flies right over us

Shiny new snowmobiles!

Adelle, Tyler and me - what a cute dog!

The best entry for Ugly Truck and Dog, in our opinion

The skijoring race

Another skijoring team

Alanna and Jinx, skijoring team

Great Slave Lake ice roads and Yellowknife from the helicopter

Overall the event was super fun and it was great to see such a great turnout. We saw tons of friends and coworkers there, met new people, and had an awesome time celebrating the end of winter – although we still have a long way to go before we say goodbye to the snow and ice roads!

Ram, Ice Roads, Bison and Behchoko

Would you like the good news or the bad news first?

The bad news.. No more posts about running errands on snowmobiles.

The good news.. We finally got a vehicle! FINALLY!!!

Say hello to our new-to-us 2010 Dodge Ram 1500 SLT 5.7L hemi! “Do you know what hemi even means?” says Chris. “Nope!” I say, as I keep typing. (Apparently it’s something to do with the cylinder heads having a hemispherical shape.. or something.) When Chris first moved to Yellowknife he bought a 1997 Grand Am off someone for $1300, and once we learned it didn’t work in the wintertime, we sold it and have been vehicleless ever since. In the summer it’s fine because we walk and bike everywhere. In the winter it’s kind of a different story. While using a sled as a primary vehicle has its perks, ours weren’t exactly reliable enough to be considered primary vehicles. I don’t know how many photos I have of Chris that look like this:

It saddens me to say that we sold my Bravo. She went to a good home, but I couldn’t help but feel a little pang of sadness as she was put into a truck and driven away. We also sold Chris’s sled, and the very next day, went to get a vehicle. We wanted a Jeep Wrangler for the longest time but after moving across town, we saw how useful and practical a truck would be. Plus, there’s a reason why at least 3/4 the vehicles on the road here are trucks. So, we picked her up on Wednesday and we couldn’t be happier. It’s so nice to be able to go places we want, even if it’s just WalMart. With the sleds we would wait until we had three or four things to get in town before we would go, whereas now, we don’t need to plan our trips so meticulously anymore. We can go where we want when we want, and that’s a great feeling.

We actually just got home from a trip to see the bison. There is a buffalo reserve along the MacKenzie Highway called the MacKenzie Bison Sanctuary, which is closer to Fort Providence, but the bison are pretty well viewable between Yellowknife and Fort Prov. I was so excited but, sigh, we didn’t see any. Unless you count this one.

We drove over 100km outside of town, but all was not lost, because we got to see Behchoko, a community of 2,000 northwest of Yellowknife. We also found another ice road from Behchoko to Whati across Marian Lake. This was NWT as I’ve never seen it before: wide open, barren, cold, windy and snowy. Classic arctic tundra; it was really neat. Chris got some great photos of the truck on the ice road.

The ice on this road was a little freaky. Chris was even nervous to step out of the truck onto it. The ice on the Dettah ice road is dark, almost black. This ice was bluish green and really pretty.. And also pretty scary.

I’m happy we got to see another one of NWT’s 33 communities today. The official list of 33 is on this Wiki page. (Apparently N’dilo counts, even though it’s technically in Yellowknife.) This visit to Behchoko puts my count at 4 (YK, N’dilo, Dettah, Behchoko) and Chris’s at 5 (all the same plus Lutsel’Ke). I’d love to be able to visit all of them, though that’s pretty far-fetched. So, despite not seeing any bison, it was worth the trip. Maybe next time we go, we’ll actually have to heed this warning.

An Expert Guide to Running Errands on a Snowmobile

Step one:

Check and see how cold it is outside.

Step two:

Start the snowmobiles, letting the weather tell you how long to leave them running. The colder it is, the longer it takes, about 10 minutes.

Step three:

Get dressed. In order: long johns, t-shirt, sweater, cotton socks, wool socks, warm pants, ski pants, boots, balaclava, parka, helmet, mitts.


Step four: 

Head to town*.

*Optional:

Get stuck.

If your snowmobile doesn’t have reverse, enlist the help of someone strong, muscular and handsome to get yourself unstuck. Love you…

 Right, so.. Step Four:

Head to town.

Step five:

Park your snowmobile. Nice and straight, now. Wouldn’t want anyone to notice you’re driving a sled and not an actual car. The key is to blend in and not look conspicuous.

Step six:

Go to the post office to pick up parcels. Sweat to death while in line from being insanely overdressed.

Optional:

Realize the package you’re picking up is enormous and requires you to go home to drop it off before continuing.

Optional, continued:

Look ridiculous while driving home, yet garner no extra attention because this is Yellowknife, and sights like this are all too common.

Step seven:

Head to the grocery store. Keep in mind the limited space that two backpacks offer, yet make every effort to fill them both to the brim to make the ride home as miserable as possible.

Step eight:

Forget to take photos for your Expert Guide to Running Errands on a Snowmobile because your back is aching and you’re exhausted. Get home, pass out on the couch, and think “Well, this will have to do.”

Repeat when necessary.

Winter Has Arrived!

It’s officially winter in Yellowknife.

The first real snowfall happened the day before Halloween, if I remember correctly. Then we got quite a bit more a few days later, and then yesterday it snowed and snowed and snowed all day. Of course, once it snows here it doesn’t go away, because the temperature won’t go above 0°C until probably April. So it’s been a beautiful winter wonderland and I love it.

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Thursday Chris and I spent the day running errands, mostly involving insuring and registering the sleds. Of course we have no vehicle so we had to walk, which was fine since YK is so small, and everything we needed happened to be downtown. Plus it was quite lovely walking in the snow; it was that beautiful snow that falls slowly, with no wind whatsoever. I finally went to the DMV and got rid of my NS license, and got a temporary NWT one. The real McCoy is coming in the mail. The woman there laughed at me and said my photo looked like I was about to cry, so I looked at it and yes, I look like a teary-eyed child. It doesn’t help that we’re not allowed to smile.. :(

Speaking of the sleds, we weren’t sure if we’d be able to take them out on Thursday but after all that snow we decided it was too good not to take advantage of it. We gathered a group and headed out toward Kam Lake and onto the sandpits past the airport. Excellent trail navigating by Erick, without whom we’d have no idea where to go since the lakes aren’t frozen enough yet. Word is that you need 6″ of ice for it to be safe for both walking and sledding and at last check, Frame Lake had 4″ at it’s thickest. It’s coming, but not quite there yet. But we had a blast and I took Chris’s new Arctic Cat for a spin, and it feels about twice as wide as my Bravo and a hundred times as fast. But nothing could replace my Bravo! (Except maybe a newer Bravo..)

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Not much else to talk about. I’m posting this from my iPhone, using the WordPress app for the first time. My apologies if there are any weird or embarrassing autocorrects, sometimes this phone has a mind of its own :)

Life Updates

I think this is the longest I’ve gone without a blog post! I’ve been busy lately, between work and my mom visiting, I haven’t had a chance to write lately. I love this blog and I won’t let it slip into the depths of the internet’s forgotten and abandoned blogs. Fear not, loyal followers (all three of you)!

Mom came up on October 1 and she stayed with us for a week. It was wonderful having her here. She was our first visitor so I was a bag of nerves when meeting her at the airport! It was surreal to see her walk through those doors. Our cab driver was really sweet, and she helped me in pointing things out to Mom on the drive home. We managed to do a lot while she was here. We saw Dave Brosha‘s exhibit at the museum, along with the usual museum fare including the aurora TV which we had a blast with. We drove out to Prosperous Lake (thanks to Adelle and Tyler for loaning us their Jeep!), walked the Frame Lake Trail, saw a movie, showed Mom around the unit I work on at the hospital and Chris toured us through Arctic Sunwest, we stopped in to Buffalo and got some stuff at Buffalo AirWear, and we did a bit of shopping at the visitors centre, the galleries in Old Town, the glassworks place, Weaver & Devore, and the malls. We also had an incredible meal at Fuego, where Tyler happened to be playing live. And if you can believe it (I can’t), the whole week she was here we didn’t see a single aurora. It was cloudy most nights, and the one night that it was beautifully clear and with an aurora forecast of 6.5/10, there was nothing. NOTHING! We stayed up until 0130 waiting for something to show up. Then the day she leaves, what comes out that night? Beautiful northern lights. Argh!

Anyway, Mom says that’s a good reason to come back sometime soon. I’m trying to convince her to come in the winter, but I think she’s considering visiting in the summer instead. Either way, I can’t wait until she comes back. And until we get another visitor!

The Yellowknife Sign!

After Mom left, Chris and I made a delicious Thanksgiving dinner. Since turkey is out of the question, we made this tofu “meat”loaf that my sister (also vegetarian) sent us. It was delicious, and the whole meal was amazing. Pumpkin pie and lattes for dessert, mmmm. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving as well!

A vegetarian Thanksgiving

In other news, it’s snowed here three times in the last two weeks. We’ve had temps below freezing but it’s been hovering at or just above freezing, enough to delay freezing the lakes and bringing snow. I’ve heard from many people that there is usually permanent snow on the ground by Halloween. Here’s hoping! I just watched the season premiere of Ice Pilots and it’s made me so excited for winter. Plus, Chris has fixed up my sled so she’s in better condition than ever, and he bought a ’98 Arctic Cat from a friend of mine which he’s dying to drive. Some people may hate winter but we love it. Bring it on!