The Irrepressible Country

Howling wind and dancing snow on May 1st

Howling wind and dancing snow on May 1st

May is a strange month in Yellowknife. Seemingly the rest of the world enjoys warm temperatures and the lushness of bloom filled spring gardens, while here we struggle to reach temperatures above zero.  While the days are splendidly long and usually sunny, the ice is a problem. It is still several feet thick, but starts to get rotten and unpredictable. Our house started to float in the middle of May, but unfortunately there was half a mile of rotten ice between us and shore. We humans can manage to get back and forth with our wonderful ice walker, but our dogs, lacking opposible digits, amongst other things, cannot. This means I need to stay in town with the dogs. It’s incredible to have a friends as hospitable as Jenn and Chris, who put us up in their fabulous home and a treat us like royalty.  Still, I find it difficult to have my life on hold for days and weeks at a time. The situation is constantly changing and I never know when I might get home again. This year I found myself down at the lake edge frequently, checking out the ice and looking longingly towards Houseboat 28.

View of the bay from the boat dock

View of the bay from the boat dock

One day, after about an age,  Martin was able to boat from the marsh across to our house, and we moved home. I say boat, but it was really more of an ice breaker situation, and I think this year we have the distinction of having the first boat in the bay.

Can we get through?

Can we get through?

It was great to be home again. However things remained uncertain for several days longer. The big pans of ice slowly broke up and floated back and forth at the whim of the wind, sometime blocking our path to shore, and sometimes floating out and away. However this didn’t stop the locals.  As soon as there was a mere hint of  open water, people started to launch their boats. (I mean, people besides us).

Sunset with ice bergs

Sunset with ice bergs


The serenity of ice on water means there are no waves at all


And then one day I paddled to town for a couple of hours, and came home to a completely ice free bay. It’s incredible how quickly things can change. In the blink of an eye. The lake remained frozen solid beyond our small bay, but still a few brave souls were immediately out kayaking, canoeing, and sailing.  The float planes came back, and then the motor boats started bombing by, leaving wakes that make the house bounce around.  If you ever come to visit us in the summer, you will notice that none of our pictures hang level.  Because really, what is level anyways when you are bouncing on waves?

On another day I came down to the dock just in time to capture this on film.  This is one of the houseboaters, who was just setting out to paddle home when his phone rang.  He stood up to get it out of his pocket, and stayed standing up in the canoe, paddling with one hand and yakking on the phone with the other.  It was pretty cool.  I think I could do this too, although I haven’t yet tried.  In fact, I think it would be a great Olympic event.

IMG_3469That same evening Jenn and I went out for the first paddle of the year.  We saw all sorts of interesting sights.  While I am still emotionally scarred from the long and harsh winter (the coldest in 35 years, with some 80 days below -30 degrees) and the complete absence of spring (unless you think -30 in March and -20 in April is spring) and the day last week in June when we woke up and it was +1, the true, hearty, irrepressible people of Yellowknife aren’t sitting around with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).  They are outside enjoying themselves.

We saw some people on stand up paddle boards, quite a brave feat considering the lake is like – no, wait – it actually is ice water.


Real men wear drysuits

We paddled by some float planes

The float planes are back!

We also came across 2 hearty souls actually in the water.  Just wading around as if it was a hot summer night and the lake was as warm as bathwater.  Working on their docks.  I guess a few days before the wind had blown big sheets of ice onto the shore, and in short order the ice ripped up the docks on that side of the bay.  One was turned completely upside down, and another was dragged some 20 feet onto land. Several are damaged beyond repair.


What the heck are you doing Lou?

This fellow spent a day or two moving his dock back to the water

Spenser has just finished moving his dock back onto the water. He’s tired.

And just as suddenly as the ice can come and rip up your dock, summer has arrived.  This week it’s beautiful and warm.  The ducks and loons and gulls are everywhere, swimming, bobbing and diving.  The days are incredibly long, as we sneak up on the solstice.  Right now the sun rises before 4 am and sets around 1130 pm.  There has been some wind but it is mainly calm and indescribably beautiful, as only a summer in Yellowknife can be.  All the more sweeter as it is the sweetness at the bottom of the pie of winter.

The Minnow is feeling pretty frisky after some TLC and new paint

The Minnow is feeling pretty frisky too after some TLC and new paint



About Tandi

I love my morning coffee, reading, the wilderness, paddling, poetry, my Spanish husband, and being a doctor. I also love writing my blog, and reading yours.
This entry was posted in North of 60, The Song I Live By and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Irrepressible Country

  1. Rosa Stranart says:

    Enoyed the reality of the bipolarity at the edge of the thaw. Welcome to my world. Switching directions by the minute. Is it spring, or winter?

  2. shoreacres says:

    Love the paddleboard photo, and the suggestion for a new Olympic sport. There’s a fellow I see paddle-boarding along our channel from time to time, with his dog on the board with him. They haven’t been out so much recently because of strong winds and increasing numbers of idiot boaters who don’t know the meaning of a wake, but they still show up from time to time, obviously having fun.

    Love the last photo. I can’t imagine such long days! Although, I did notice that we still had some lingering glow last night at 9 p.m. Not much, but enough to remind that the solstice is near.

    • Tandi says:

      Happy summer solstice Linda! How will you celebrate the day, and the lovely light?

      • shoreacres says:

        I’ll rejoice in being able to work earlier and later, and avoid the well-over-one-hundred heat indices of the afternoon! No ice, here, except in my iced tea!

      • Tandi says:

        I am so excited about summer finally arriving, and our longer days. I no longer have to worry about extreme heat, and no doubt I am losing my tolerance to it, but I love that too. I’m happy to hear that you have cooler mornings and evenings, and iced tea for the times in between. Don’t forget to take some time out for a swim!

  3. Joan says:

    Thanks again Tandi. What lovely pictures. Here the teachers are striking. There your world is filled with the incredible and ageless outdoors ..the bigger picture is always our beautiful planet. Love Joan

    • Tandi says:

      Hi Joan,

      One of the things I love about living here is that life does seem simpler. Not easier, but somehow more simple, in a slightly old fashioned way. I hope your summer is filled with the beauty of the outdoors too.

  4. Jenn says:

    Love the video clip. I refer to that time of year as strawberry daiquiri conditions- as it’s like paddling through a frozen daiquiri.
    I find the sudden switch in seasons plays havock with my sense of time. I think an event happened ages ago because it was still cold and wintry, but when I actually check, it was just last week.
    Yay summer!!!

    • Tandi says:

      Perhaps we are suffering from an excess of the theory of relativity here in Yellowknife. Our perspective on time is excessively altered by weather. Winter is too long and summer is too short, and there seems to be no time between the two! Or maybe it’s just because we live on, or near, the worlds biggest strawberry daiquiri.

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