We found ourselves restless. Overwhelmed with cabin-fever, stagnant stale indoor air and bad moods seemingly induced by a lack of sunlight. It felt like it had been dark here forever. We were in serious need of an adventure. If I didn’t get beyond these four walls soon, I was going to explode.
A lot of people would choose to go south and lay on a beach somewhere but we had something different in mind.
North to Yellowknife or Sharpknife as Avery mistakenly continues to call it. The trip served as a sort of a “reboot” for us. Eric suggested it out of the blue the night before we would leave on a 1170 km trip each way, 30 hours of driving. Our weekend of Leg of Lamb and Easter chocolate would have a late start this year.
We threw some clothing, water, a few bags of fruit and baby carrots and some books into the van and off we went.
As we drove out of Northern Alberta we watched the sun turning the fields to a golden goodness that our hearts had craved all winter. Colour – any and every colour we saw outside soothed our nerves. We also saw a cluster of deer grazing along the roadside.
As we continued north we noticed the landscape start to change. There was snow on the fields and ice on the lakes and rivers outside our windows. Tree species dropped off one by one, until all that remained for a long time were Birch and Pine. eventually the Birch dropped off too, and the Pine became spindly and sparse. By the time we reached the Mackenzie river crossing, it was officially mid winter again. It was at least 12 degrees colder, the river was frozen solid and the ground was covered in two feet of snow.
To cross the Mackenzie river on the only road to Yellowknife, they built the Deh Cho bridge in 2012. Before that, to cross you would take a ferry or drive the ice road. During the times when the water was open but the ferry was frozen, you would fly or stay put.
We arrived in Yellowknife at around 8:45pm in full sunlight. We checked into the Explorer hotel, and the kids had some fun pretending to be eaten by a polar bear in the lobby. We cleaned up and headed to the hotel restaurant. It was about to close so even though they were more than willing to stay opened for us, we opted for a Bruno’s pizza instead. It was great.
We got news that there was going to be a northern lights show overhead, so we watched the stars come out outside our window like magic. Then once it was sufficiently dark, we got into our pajamas and hopped into the van for some star gazing. We hit the Ingrahm trail and we were instantly in awe of the magical sky. A level of black we had never seen, dotted with a trillion stars. Unfortunately, the situation wasn’t sustainable because River wanted to go to bed, so we headed back to the hotel and had a great night’s sleep.
The next day we toured the city. We had hit the tail end of a festival and so some of the winter infrastructure was still up, including ice sculptures and a snow castle. The lake was still frozen solid – full of vehicles, cabins and a community of year round houseboat residents who can entertain land vehicular company in the winter. The houseboats were brightly coloured and donned solar panels on their roofs. If I lived in Yellowknife, that is where I would want to live!
We made the obvious tourist stops – The Wildcat cafe, Bullocks Bistro, The Dancing Moose, the Ragged Ass Road. They were all closed however because it was Easter Weekend. Our number one destination in every capital city across Canada has always been the legislature building, and this one did not disappoint. We had a picnic in front of the building, and then the security guard gladly unlocked the door and took us on a guided tour through the building which was very informative. He told us that there had been a bear and a pack of seven wolves hanging around the building, so “keep an eye” outside on the trail.
After the legislature, we decided to head south to the Best Western in High Level, which is our home away from our Grande Prairie home away from home. We had dinner – Avery informed us that our waitress would “really like a kiss”, and so he crouched under a nearby plant waiting for his oppertunity to woo her with his undeniable charms.
And so it goes. We had another taste of the northern highway to satisfy our thirst for adventure until the big one in 59 days.