Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Where No One Really Goes...

Hey Everyone!

I survived! I made it! Two days after Romancing the Capital (which was crazy epic and I'll do a post about that next month), I packed up my family (3 kids and 1 husband) and we flew to Calgary to start the first leg of our epic journey toward the 60th parallel and which ended up being even further than that.

So we landed in Calgary 9 a.m. their time, but for us it was lunch time. A funny story, as soon as I land I realize I have to conduct some urgent business. So while we were in Drumheller my husband set up a hot spot. The kids were busy digging for fossils at Fossil World and under the shade of a dinosaur, I did work.

That dino's trying to steal my hot spot password!!!
After that was concluded we spent a couple of days exploring West Edmonton Mall. Yep, it's gigantic.

We all had a blast, but on Friday we had to head north. The north was calling me.

I love the north. My father is from Northwestern Ontario and most of my Dad's family still lives north.

I've been obsessed with the north since I was a little girl and would stare at this plate my uncle Charlie sent from Frobisher Bay (Now Iqaluit).

The furthest north I had ever been before is Edmonton five years ago, which is a lot farther north than some places in Ontario.

I wanted to go north of 60 and with family now up in Fort Smith, NWT I had my chance! *fist pump*

Driving from Edmonton to Fort Smith Northwest Territories is a 17 hr day because you have to go up and around Wood Buffalo National Park. Wood Buffalo is Canada's oldest and largest National Park. It's bigger than Switzerland. The only time you can cut travel time off to visit Fort Smith is when the ice road north of Fort McMurray is open and it wasn't. And we weren't going to make a 17 hr day with 3 kids in tow. So we decided to stop for the night.

Our first stop was High Level, Alberta which is about 120 kms south of the Northwest Territory border. It's the last stop. Seriously. Gas up here. Since we were going in August, the midnight sun was no longer an issue. The sun was setting at a reasonable time again. I was very hopeful to see the Aurora again and I did!

In High Level you still look north for them. I'll explain in a moment. This picture was taken about 1 a.m, and there was light pollution, but still, pretty dang amazing. I hadn't seen them in 25 years. It was my hubby first time too. He actually didn't know what they were and woke me up to ask. Which I'm glad he did. Honestly, the first time I saw them I didn't know what they were either. You hear about them, but...I can't explain seeing them really. They're truly amazing.

Bright and early the next day we drove north and finally hit the 60th parallel. OMG. What an awesome moment. Definitely something off my bucket list. The lady at the visitor centre even signed certificates for my kids stating they had cross the 60th. Not many people do.


The road was suddenly very void of cars, gas stations and fast food. I didn't see fast food until Yellowknife days later and it was a McDonalds. That was all I saw.

Pack food and gas up when you can, because from the 60th it's 543 km to Yellowknife, but we were head to Fort Smith. We fuelled our car in Hay River, which is the south shore of Great Slave Lake. Beautiful sandy beaches, clear water and NO ONE WAS THERE!! They were even having a heat wave so it was blistering hot. NO ONE WAS THERE!!! A beach like this in Ontario on a Great Lake would be packed.

*crickets* We had this amazing beach to ourselves.

At my brother's we got to explore the amazing Wood Buffalo National Park. Just the northern part, because it's huge. Sink holes, waterfalls, salt plains, wild life ...just amazing peace and quiet intermixed with stunning subarctic scenery. Camping is free and it's not just for Canada 150, campsite s that would rival any provincial park in Ontario were free! FREE! And no one was there, except for Pine Lake, which is three sinkholes that merged and formed this glorious sandy, shallow haven for swimming. There were four campers there.

At night, about 11:30 p.m. my brother and his fiancee drove us down this twisty, windy road to the boat launch of the Great Slave River and instead of looking north, I looked up and saw this:

They do hum. They were dancing and moving for us. Just stunning and to stand under the Aurora oval is just magical. Awe inspiring.

After a couple days in Fort Smith, we were about 743 km from Yellowknife, but the main junction that joins the few highways in the Northwest Territories is Enterprise. From Enterprise (a hub of 190 people) it's 4 hrs over the mighty McKenzie River at Fort Providence.

We had to do it. So we did. It's about 8 hrs from Fort Smith to Yellowknife, the last 100 km is driving over permafrost that is like crazy bumpy. If you didn't slow down, you'd get air, plus you have to slow down for what's walking out in front of you!

These guys:

Buffalo! And yes, we saw three bears and a wolf too.

Standing at the north shore of Great Slave Lake was amazing. That lake is huge and Yellowknife used to be land locked part of the time. Before the construction of the impressive Deh Cho bridge which opened in 2012 you either crossed the McKenzie by ferry or ice road in the winter, but when the melt was happening and the ferry couldn't cross because of ice floes and obviously the ice road was closed Yellowknife was land locked.

We saw signs to winter access roads, because Yellowknife is about as far north as the road goes. We watched the float planes loading up groceries and gear to go even further, to places like Norman Wells, Paulatuk, Deline on Great Bear Lake.

The might McKenzie. Fast flowing, wide and headed north to dump in the arctic ocean.

This is Canada's frontier. It was also a very spiritual experience for me being Metis. Because of where that part of me comes from, Northwestern Ontario was a part of Rupert's Land or the Northwest Territories during the fur trade age.

I learned so much about my heritage in the Northwest Territories and in Alberta (that's a whole other post).

If you get the chance to EVER go to the Northwest Territories, please, please, please do. It's not full of tourist traps. It's hiking and connecting with the land and bugs ...I won't lie there's bugs.

It's very laid back up there and it can be scary when you have no cell service and your 300 km from the next gas station and there's just bush around you.

Still, I'm super glad I went. I want to go back. I want to see more tiny communities. I want to spend more time in Wood Buffalo and connect more.

My mind totally cleared and I felt rested. I felt regenerated.

After our trip, I knew that once was never enough. I want to go back to where no one really goes, but where everyone should. 

You can find out more about Amy here.

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