It seems like its already been winter for a long time – the temperatures have been below freezing since October, and we’ve had endless days of temperatures below minus 30 already. We are finally getting used to it and things are working smoothly again, more or less, on Houseboat 28. We are warm and cozy in the house and everything is functional. (More or less!)
Thanks to everyone for your emails and comments of encouragement and support! I did manage to discover that the deep cold snap we had, with a low of -38 degrees, is not exactly normal at this time of year. The locals too were finding it cold. Environment Canada is predicting a traditional cold winter, something that hasn’t happened here for the last five years. Our Canada Goose Down Parkas finally arrived, and I have to admit, that was life changing. Finally I could be outside and be warm. Lovely! I haven’t taken my parka off since it arrived! Imagine wearing long and fur trimmed really heavy, full length sleeping bag, and you get the idea. Its actually a feat of engineering – the deep hood is trimmed with coyote fur, which is an amazing wind blocker. Its soft and molds perfectly against flesh, keeping out all drafts. The fur can be folded back or folded out. When its folded out it created a tunnel around the face which keeps out the wind, and improves warmth enormously. I find it fascinating, and not surprising really, that the ways and traditions of the first peoples of the area can’t be easily improved upon. Fur trimmed mittens are big too, for the same reason. Ginger, our senior citizen golden retriever has a new coat too, as she was refusing to go outside. Who knew that all that hair wasn’t enough. We had a good laugh when we realized we had accidentally picked out a coat that matched Martin’s! (She still doesn’t want to go outside, but now its because she hates the coat – can you say teenager?)
The ice around our place is nearly 2 feet thick now, and the government has cleared a wide swath of ice between Yellowknife and Dettah, an Dene community about 7 km across the lake, for the ice road. (this cuts their travel time to town down by some 20 km in the winter). With the coming of the ice road, there is suddenly a lot more traffic on the lake. Kite skiers with their beautiful and colorful kites, lots of snowmobiles, sightseers in cars, Japanese tourists, (here for aurora viewing), and vehicles and trucks and all manner of odd vehicles.
And walkers, dogs at play, cross country skier, and even skijor-ers, folks being pulled by dogs while on cross country skis. Even some dog sled teams going by! I wasn’t looking forward to losing our peace and quiet, but actually, all the action is pretty interesting.
We’ve been skiing out of the lake too. A local fellow track sets trails for classic skiing along the lake and through the woods and they are wonderful. I like skiing out on the lake because of incredible feeling of expansiveness, and the great light. Even at night it is usually quite well lit, with all the reflected moonlight off the snow. When its windy, its nice to head for the trees. I’ve been out skiing too with a local woman who is an avid local woodsman, and has created numerous trails to ski on – miles and miles of country to see. Beautiful little minute lakes covered in cattails, paths snaking narrowly through thick trees, larger lakes to cross, and many small trails linking up to the main lake, for when you decide you want to turn back. Getting to these trails takes about 5 minutes of skiing from our front door, and it feels like being lost in the wilderness. Which it is! I need to be a bit more organized than usual, with adequate survival gear in the pack, just in case. There are also trap lines, so we need to know where they are and how to keep the dog away from them. And just in case, she has recommended I learn how to open up the traps. Yikes. I hope I never have to do that, but it would be horrible not to know how to rescue my sweet ski buddy Kona.
Last week I had a great adventure with Barbara. I met her up here and her visit to our house this summer inspired her camping project, in which she is camping out once a week for a year. So last weekend her and I had Barbara and Tandi’s Excellent Adventure. It was too cold to contemplate camping in a tent without a stove, and as we couldn’t locate an igloo or a cabin that we could get to after a days work, so we decided to head out with the local dog sled company. We went out to their wilderness cabin by dogsled and stayed overnight. Imagine a trip across winter lakes, and down tunnels in the trees, pulled by a team of 11 keen dogs. Really, they are hardly dogs at all, by all common notions – they are just genetic packages of DNA designed to run and pull. It seems to be all they really want to do. It was completely quiet, except for the sound of the sled on the snow, and the odd commands from the driver to the dogs. (They really do use ‘gee’ and ‘haw’). It was darkish, but light enough to appreciate the trail and the open spaces. The dogs as they run throw up a halo of snow behind them, which added satisfactorily to the whole experience. And on top of it all, spectacular northern lights. Barbara and I were in a huge canvas and wooden komatik, or traditional style sled, on a great pile of sleeping bags, so it was much more warm and cozy and comfortable than I’d imagined. When we arrived at the cabin, the northern lights put on a lovely show. We had a pleasing assortment of ‘camping’ or should I say ‘glamping’ (glamorous camping) provisions to finish off a lovely day.