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.
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.
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).
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.
That 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.
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.
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.