Sometime known as the land of the midnight sun, as with most destinations north of 60; Yellowknife is an amazing place of opportunity for those that live there and a never ending spectacle for those that visit.
I have now visited twice in the winter months and once during the height of summer. Having a brother that lives there definitely encourages the return visits, but I always have a great deal of fun every time I go.
For this visit I did the mandatory tour of the Snowking’s ice castle and spent some time admiring the results of the annual snow sculpture contest. The 1st place winner was an absolute masterpiece incorporating old man winter taking a bite out of a wooden cabin. It was hard to believe one could sculpt wood grain and forehead wrinkles from snow. Amazing.
Following the Snowking’s castle, my brother and I sampled the local beer at the NWT Brewing Co., hiked up to Pilot’s Monument where I took the panoramic shot for the graphic at the top of this page and visited one of the most authentic territory restaurants YK has to offer – Bullock’s Bistro.
For a town of some 20,000 souls, the dining experience is fairly impressive considering the cost to operate an establishment in this environment. The heating and electrical bills are some of the highest in all of Canada – and considering that for 7 to 8 months of the year you could easily freeze your knickers stiff if you stood still for too long.
Every time I visit, I struggle with the fact that my home is in the south with respect to Yellowknife. A fact that was unthought-of while growing up in Ontario. I always believed that I was in the north, but in reality, Yellowknife is as far north from Ottawa, Ontario (where I currently live) as Jacksonville, Florida is to the south. And when it comes to having a unique northern experience, the ice roads will provide one of those many must have stories when you return home.
The majority of the roadways are carved out of the snow covered lakes. The truckers stick to a precise 24/7 schedule to limit any possibility of the ice fracturing along with a mind numbing, maximum speed of 25km/hour. This speed makes a round trip journey of only a few hundred kilometres a multiday ordeal.
This year, I had an opportunity to spend a couple nights out on Tibbitt Lake ice fishing and watching the trucks drive past. On one hand, it sounds bizarre to spend a night in the middle of the back country where you would expect stark silence so far from the city lights. But at the same time, to see a transport truck rumble past where normally in the summer months there wouldn’t be a single motorized vehicle with the exception of the occasional small boat.
All things considered, the trucks were far enough away that the sound of them was nearly unnoticeable from inside the well-insulated cabin.
Speaking of cabin – it took 12 hours for the cabin to reach a temperature that would be considered comfortable from an initial -37 Celsius. So of course, the first night was a bit chilly seeing as we arrived late in the afternoon. That night, the outside temp dipped below -40.
The following day was spent exploring around the cabin and catching northern pike through the three feet of ice that we had to manually drill through.
The remainder of the trip was spent hanging out with a few friends, exercising my camera’s shutter button while trying to prevent my fingers from freezing and enjoying winter.
On my next trip north I plan on finally getting out with one of the many dog sled companies that operate in the area. I really do love winter and all the activities it brings with it.
I was sad to go, but at least on my return flight I had some time to capture the northern lights at 35,000 feet. What a great way to wrap everything up. Until next time…