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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Yellowknife :: Happy Thanksgiving!

Yellowknife Aurora-1
YZF Cultural Crossroads-6 YellowknifeFishing
Well I did it! I have a perpetually growing list of things to do/see in my lifetime, and I knocked one off my list…
  1. Travel somewhere new on my own Follow my Oceania story here
  2. Live somewhere new on my own (for at least 6 months)
  3. Find a job I love For which I think FSM every day
  4. Climb Mt. Fuji  Check-ish - I reached the last station but the top was closed due to a typhoon
  5. Explore every continent
  6. Complete the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu
  7. Complete a trek over a week long, if not two (El Camino de Santiago, maybe?)
  8. See the Aurora Borealis check!
So…this weekend, I felt like going to Yellowknife! I have to admit that the average reaction from my friends was a less PG version of “What is there to do in Yellowknife?

A few answers:
Take a walk around Niven Lake
Fall in the lovely cold waters of Cassidy Point
Watch the beautiful Aurora Borealis dance along the sky
Enjoy a steamed almond milk while working away at Javaroma
Nosh on a bison burger at The Black Knight – a local fav
Pretend to be a local by stuffing yourself with turkey
Tumble down the Cultural Crossroads monument
Giggle like a child at Ragged Ass Road
Take a walk around Old Town

I'm in a list-y mood today.

Yellowknife Aurora-2I was surprised to unboard right onto the tarmac – passed through YZF and promptly passed out at my host’s place. Luggage was quite quick as there was only one plane to unload at the entire airport :P
Had a fantastic weekend – despite falling into a river – met great people, had delicious delicious coma-inducing turkey, and saw the Northern Lights!

I must say - Yellowknife is a great place, especially if you love the outdoors. Yes, it’s relatively small (18,000 inhabitants 1/4th of which is transient, I’m told!) but the work-life balance is fantastic, career opportunities for young professionals are great, and you can be out of work and canoeing down the river by 5:30pm. How tempting is that?

My cellphone had no coverage in this area (only Bell services Yellowknife; Rogers offers a lovely roaming rate of 0.90c/min (Canada-wide plan, my foot!) so I spent the weekend disconnected. It was nice. I reverted back to my trusty scribbled map on a post it and trip trapped my way to town.
On Friday, I was ecstatic to meet a friend from Guelph – what a nice surprise! I’ve unexpectedly run into friends in Seattle, Denver, San Diego, and Phoenix – but Yellowknife? Hellz ya.

YZF BlackKnightWe had lunch at the Black Knight and chatted about life in the Northwest Territories. I had the bison burger (not always available) which was a pretty good pub burger and my friend enjoyed her chicken burger. Eating out in Yellowknife was quite pricey (it’s remote and the competition is lacking), but no complaints at all about the service.

The sights and experiences that many of the young professionals have there are phenomenal! To see the Baffin islands, fiords, polar bears, and communities of 20 people…my travel bug’s feelers were definitely tickled. I especially liked how the licence plates were shaped like polar bears. Spectacular indeed :-)

Yellowknife-2 YZF Heritage
I smiled when I saw the Yellowknife Heritage sign – for 1994. Oh Canada.

YZF LeFrolicAfter working the day away at Javaroma (free wifi and friendly service!), I met J again after a few drinks we headed to Le Frolic. The fish was fresh and I enjoyed my first evening in Yellowknife with J & M’s good company :-).

The next day, I went for a walk to Old Town – due to some miscommunication, I ended up walking the Niven River Trail instead, which reminded me of my backyard back in Toronto as it’s on a wetland. I checked out a giant diamond at the nearby visitor’s centre – I am embarrassed to admit that I had no idea that we had diamond minds in Canada! I clearly need a lesson about my own nation.

Yellowknife Nivem Yellowknife Nivem-1 Yellowknife-1
Niven Lake & a giant diamond

Later on, we hopped into the car and drove along Ingraham Trail to Cassidy Point, where poor R had to paddle us across and his cute pup across Prosperous Lake since we only had 1 paddle. Good sport didn’t complain that I didn’t have boots and let me climb in from the shore. He wasn’t too impressed when I fell into the cold water…but then again, neither was I.

YellowknifeFishing-1 YellowknifeFishing-2
Big fish nets in hand, people were scooping up little ciscos to use as bait to catch whitefish along the Tartan Rapids. I got a little too excited and slipped in…sigh. Typical. Yellowknife 1, Erin 0.

“There are two must-dos in Yellowknife – see the Northern Lights and have Bruno’s Pizza” – C
IMG_0036 Yellowknife APizza Yellowknife Brunos

And Bruno's Pizza was had. A also decided to make corn and pineapple pizza too – not bad :-) She made it from scratch! The last time I had homemade pizza like that was exactly one year ago. Thanksgiving weekends are not complete without pizza, it seems!

Yellowknife Aurora-3We drove outside of the city along Mackenzie Highway and – this is going to sound so cheesy –  my soul positively smiled when I saw the rush of lights across the sky. We pulled over and I was positively amazed that my new camera (yes folks, I got a new one! Glacier-dropping, whisky-spilling, puppy-slobber be-damned. Amsterdam ended up claiming my trusty old cam).

Apparently they can get even stronger, which I’ll see on my next visit!

I was extremely grateful that R took A and I around to see the lights, as the rest of the weekend was quite cloudy – we didn’t make it out to the river again (maybe for the best, all things considered) but I did enjoy a walk around Old Town. It’s really interesting how the houses are built here, due to the land-related challenges. Permafrost, bedrock, and silt lead to some interesting buildings – such as wooden houses on bedrock or houseboats on the water.

YZF Yellowknife-6 YZF Yellowknife YZF Yellowknife-7

On the way to Old Town, I stopped by a few studios and clambered up some bedrock to get a view of the city. I saw a random teepee structure on top, and my climbing addiction led me up there – work flats and all (my shoes were still wet from falling in the river!). I was distracted when I spotted several painted handprints on the edge of the rock, and promptly tripped, tore my left flat, and squealed as I rolled to avoid planting my face against the bedrock. Sigh.
Yellowknife 2, Erin 0.

YZF Yellowknife-13
YZF Cultural Crossroads-5
YZF Cultural Crossroads-6
It turns out that it was a monument – Yellowknife Cultural Crossroads, carved in dedication to “all peoples of the North”.

I couldn’t help but laugh at myself when I reached Pilots’ Monument, as it offered a city view – probably to stop silly tourists from climbing random bedrock and falling on their face. As a recently immigrated local said, after hearing about my river trip, Way to go Toronto! I swear, I've been outdoors before!

A good wander around Old Town led me to Bayside Cafe (lovely service, not-so-great cappuccino, can’t comment on the food) and I spotted a few interesting things in the area – a log cabin in the works, a rusty propeller, and some interesting houses:
YZF Yellowknife-17 YZF Yellowknife-24 YZF Yellowknife-25

Last, but certainly not least, I made a point to walk down Ragged Ass Road
YZF RaggedAss-11 YZF RaggedAss-5
…complete with a definition of ragged ass and history of the road.

This was my first Thanksgiving away from my family. Instead of the usual sushi-turkey-japchae combination, I suppose it was a little more Canadian with marshmellow candied yams-turkey-homemadepie. J kindly invited me to not one, but two Thanksgiving dinners – I’m stuffed for a week!

YZF RaggedAss-16 YZF Thanksgiving-4 YZF RaggedAss-15
Only true artists can make homemade cranberry sauce in the shape of a can!



George Lessard said...

That's Niven Lake not Nivem Lake...

Erin said...

I should really start double checking my facts before babbling all over the Internet! Thanks :)

George Lessard said...

And by the way... that's not a "a log cabin in the works" that's the rebuilding of an historic building called "The Wildcat Cafe" ".... In 1992, the cabin was declared a heritage site as an important old building in Yellowknife and the city took ownership.[2]
It is one of Yellowknife's most popular tourist attractions. In 2011,
the city of Yellowknife decided to completely renovate the log building,
which had settled far into the ground and was leaning dangerously in
several directions at once. The dis-assembly process, including
cataloguing and numbering the pieces, started on May 11, 2011 and was
completed on June 4.[5]
The Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec, exhibits a replica of the cabin..."

Erin said...

Where were you when I was there? You would've been the perfect tour guide! :-)

Gautam said...

I may be going to Machu Pichu this year if you want to join.

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