When people find out I live in Yellowknife, they tend to respond in one of two ways. Many are very curious about the north, and interested to hear more about it. (Category 1). The others are entirely uninterested. (Category 2). They can’t imagine why this place might be fascinating, and in fact are so convinced that it wouldn’t be that their minds are closed. Some of my friends in Nelson fall into the second group. (You know who you are!)
Thankfully my dear friend Kim is a category 1 friend. She bravely signed up to come up for a visit, and decided she should come in winter to have the full experience. One friend who shall remain nameless (category 2) took great delight in updating her regularly on the horrific winter temperatures we’ve been experiencing. He even took to calling her visit the “Take One for the Team Tour”.
Kim, undaunted, came up to visit this past weekend, and while it was desperately cold leading up to her arrival, the weather changed just as she got here. (See previous post on my decision to whine about the cold.) We had a wonderful time. The Spaniard and I took her to the high spots in Yellowknife, and while 3 days doesn’t give one time to see them all, we made a good stab at it. I thought you might enjoy hearing about what we did.
We started with a walk across the lake and through the forest. The Burwash loop is usually a trail we cross country ski on, but lately the snow is packed enough that it was great for walking on. Along the way revisited the site of hippie killer stove camping trip.
After the walk Kim and I checked out the wonders of Old Town, starting with the ice castle, and moving onto the glass etching workshop, Air Tindi, the float plane base, Back Bay, and the 360 degree view from Pilot’s Monument. We then went to Just Furs, the local fur store, where we both tried on an incredible vintage mink coat that was amazing, and thankfully, a bit too small for both of us. We also went next door to Weaver and Devore, the fantastic northern outfitting store, for a quick tour. Next we spent a happy hour or two looking at the local arts and crafts of the north at the two Old Town galleries – Down To Earth, and Gallery of the Midnight Sun. The longer I live here, the more I see and understand the local traditions that are a part of the traditional Inuit and Dene arts and crafts, and I get great pleasure in seeing what people create. Birch bark baskets decorated with moose hair tufting patterns, Inuit stone and bone carvings, fur creations, muskoxen wool knits, smoked moose hide mukluks and mittens with beaded designs and fur trim, as well as local paintings and photographs, pottery and jewelry. I thought I’d be safe as I certainly don’t need anything in either the fur or art departments, but I swooned over a pair of sealskin over mitts made by a woman from the high Arctic. The sealskin is incredibly beautiful – iridescent blue in one light, milky coffee brown in another, and silver in another. Absolutely amazing.
Following our town tour, the three of us had dinner at Bullock’s Bistro. Bullock’s is a longstanding institution here in Yellowknife, serving fish and chips. Its unique and decided eccentric. There is a menu but there isn’t much reason to look at it, as usually you have 3 or 4 choices. You pick your variety of fresh local fish – the catch of the day – in this case whitefish, trout, pickerel or Arctic char. Then you pick how you want it cooked – panfried, grilled, or deep fried. It comes with salad and chips, and waitresses who take pride in being, not rude exactly, but brusque. As in performance art. The restaurant is in a crowded and cramped old log building, and the walls are plastered with humor, photos and graffiti. For example: “Marijuana is not good for you. It causes…um, I forget”. I spotted a photo of David Suzuki on the wall, so I guess he’s been to Yellowknife too. (Category 1).
The following day Kim and I and Kona went kicksledding on the ice road. It was great to be out in that wide open sky and space on a sunny day. (I confess, it wasn’t exactly warm in that wind.) It was fantastic, as usual, but all the more so in the bright light.
We came across this sign, exactly in the middle of nowhere – you just have to laugh at the local sense of humor. Who goes to all this trouble to create these things? I love it, and if I wasn’t such a law abiding person, I would have been tempted to take it home for our own sign post.
Following our ice road jaunt, we headed back to Old Town for a visit with some friends. They surprised us with drinks on the back deck. We had a wonderful gin and tonic and sat in the sun and toasted the arrival of the first day of spring. Well, Kim had only tonic, but she learned her lesson as her tonic froze, while the G and Ts stayed liquid!
We ended off the day by visiting neighbours building a new houseboat for their B and B – its going to be an amazing space, and I think even my category 2 friends are going to want to come and stay in it.
Sunday dawned sunny and warm, without much wind. Good thing too, as we’d signed up for the local loppet. A loppet is a cross country ski event, usually a serious race, however this one, put on by the Yellowknife Ski Club, is decidedly not a race. People enter with kids of all ages, including babies (pulled in a toboggan), and even dogs are welcome. There isn’t even a start time – start whenever you want! I was really excited to do this event as I’d heard it was great fun, and I thought Kim would really enjoy the ski through the wilderness landscape.
I’m so glad we did it, it was terrific. The conditions were perfect, thanks to the warm weather, and the great volunteers who had skidooed the trail and laid a set track along the whole course. The people were friendly, the kids were cute, and the dogs in heaven. The aid station at the half way mark had juice (half frozen without the gin), and some 100 dozen homemade cookies. The event ended at a large heated tent on the lake, where we were served yummy home made chili and hot chocolate, and ran into old friends.
Following the race, we went to one of our favorite haunts, the Racquet Club, and had a soothing outdoor hot tub to soak away our cares. Fabulous. In fact, the day was so warm that we hung around outside for a while in our bathing suits, to work on our tans.
This splendid day was topped off by another great fish feast – Martin on his way to the grocery store found a local commercial fisherman selling his catch of the day – in this case a 30 pound lake trout. He was delicious and moist pan fried, and we aren’t done with him yet. Thank you Mr Trout for feeding us so well. The day finished with Kim’s first sighting of northern lights.
Kim had to leave the following day, Monday, and so she had to chose between viewing the culturally enriching and architecturally splendid Northwest Territories legislative assembly building, or doing donuts on the ice. Check out the last post to see which one she chose. (After all, she is married to an Albertan!) We had a brief stop at the ‘ledge’ as its affectionately known around town, but she needs to come back to really see it. It is a spectacular building with amazing art – I’ll need to share it with you too some day!
It was sad to see her go, she is such a dear friend, and as usual we had such fun together. There is always lots of laughing! I am so grateful she came all this way. I’m so blessed to have a friend such as Kim. She is the best! It was really fun too to share the wonders of this unusual part of the world with her.