Tuesday, September 19, 2017

North of Sixty

The spectacular Northwest Territories...as they are billed...deserve another post.

We crossed the border into NWT and followed the 'waterfalls route' north.  We saw so many waterfalls that the names escape me already.  That is one reason why I need to blog our road trips...
when the memory fails, there is still a record!

Waterfalls #1.  Alexander Falls is the third highest falls in NWT and is n the Hay River in Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park.

We followed a two kilometer trail along the river and through the aspen groves...

Waterfalls #2:  Louise Falls

We spent the night in Hay River, known as 'the hub of the north'...

...where the Hay River empties into Great Slave Lake.  The first buildings in the town of Hay River were erected in 1869 by the Hudson's Bay Company.

Waterfalls #3:  McNallie Creek Falls was a short hike from the picnic area of a Territorial Park.

Waterfalls #4:  Lady Evelyn Falls will always be the 'falls of the bug plague' in our memory.  We hiked the trail, saw the falls and retreated in a big hurry!

At Fort Providence, we took a detour off the Mackenzie Highway and headed north to Yellowknife.  We were warned about this very rough stretch of highway, but found it better than expected. The highway passes through the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary...

...home of a free-ranging herd of the large wood bison. 

Welcome to Yellowknife...where an old Ward Air plane is suspended on a pole next to the highway.  The freighter was used to transport supplies to remote trading posts and was the first plane to touch down at the North Pole (in May of 1967).  Max Ward of Yellowknife was was the owner of Ward Air, which was once one of the largest airlines in Canada.  I remember flying on a Ward Air flight to Hawaii in the late seventies...and being served dinner on fine china.  Ward Air later became Canadian Airlines.

One of our first stops was the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, a museum that has it all---from biplanes to mining memorabilia and moose-skin boats.

It was a good way to meet all the northern animals face to face!

We arrived in Yellowknife on a Tuesday and checked out the weekly farmer's market in the town square.  We sampled Indian food and beef BBQ and shared a table with a student from Oxford university who had spent the summer in a remote Dene village of 40 people and was on her way back to England and civilization. We chatted with a couple from northern Alberta and discovered that we knew people in common. Spending a night in the city square on 'market Tuesday' was a great way to connect with both the visitors and the locals.

That evening we drove up the hill to Pilot's Monument, a popular lookout above Old Town with a fabulous view of Great Slave Lake.The monument itself is dedicated to the bush pilots who have lost their lives flying in the wilderness skies of Northwest Territories.

There is a 'houseboat village' out in the bay, and we chatted with another tourist from B.C. who was staying at a houseboat B&B.

The monument is high up on a rock...the great views are only for those who are willing to climb the hundreds of stairs.

Prospector's Trail is an easy two-hour loop trail  next to Long Lake that starts in Fred Henne Territorial Park, our headquarters while in Yellowknife.  Gold was discovered here in 1935, and the interpretive trail is a look into that time.  I can't say I have ever hiked trails before that were entirely over the rock.   Thankfully, the trail was well marked since it was impossible to see where anyone had walked previously!

We took in a free tour of the legislative assembly...a beautiful glass-domed building on Frame Lake.

We learnt a lot...about their government, the history, and even the building itself.  We saw the nine oil-paintings by A.Y. Jackson (featuring scenes from around Great Bear and Great Slave Lake) which have been hanging on the wall for years. They were donated to the territories in the 1940's and '50's and are priceless works of art.

We carried on past Yellowknife along the Ingraham Trail...to the waterfalls 'at the end of the road'.

Waterfalls #5: Cameron Falls was worth the trek out there.

We followed a trail along the Cameron River...

...where some were wading in the pools and others were fishing.

Above the falls, we crossed the river on a suspension bridge.

Prelude Lake is another lovely spot along the Ingraham Trail near Yellowknife.

After spending three delightful days in the Yellowknife area, we headed back towards the Mackenzie Highway.

We camped on the banks of the Mackenzie River and watched the barges moving cargo.

Waterfalls #6: Coral Falls along the Trout River is named for the fossils that are washed down the river each year.

Waterfalls #7: Sambaa Deh Falls is also on the Trout River and lies right beneath the bridge on the main highway...photo taken from the passenger window!

Next stop...Fort Simpson, where the Liard and Mackenzie rivers converge.  With a population of 1200, this is the largest community in the region. 

From beach volleyball on the river, to historic buildings, lovely gardens and ancient cemeteries...we enjoyed our walks about the town.

We observed that every vehicle is a truck.  Most drive a Ford.  No vehicles are clean. There is only one place to gas up.  There is only one place to buy anything...from soup to nuts to the kitchen sink.  It would take some getting used to...living in such a remote location.

The highlight of our time in Fort Simpson was our flight into Nahanni Park...which I will save for another post.

To come and go from Fort Simpson requires a ferry trip across the Liard River.  As you can tell, it wasn't too busy when we crossed.

Once we left Fort Simpson, we began the journey southward and homeward.  It's not something everyone would enjoy...driving hundreds of miles on gravel roads through northern forests.  But we did!

Seeing herds of bison roaming along the road was quite an amazing sight.

This post is plenty long enough, so let me leave you with one last shot...that of the sun setting on the Mackenzie River.

Friday, September 8, 2017

To the Northwest Territories and Back ~ Roads Less Travelled

We were away the last two weeks in August...so instead of the usual month-in-review post, I will give you a peek into our most recent travels.

Since we are celebrating the 150th birthday of our country this year, we thought it fitting to explore a part of Canada that we have not visited before, and 'share the chair' in a few of Canada's national parks.  We decided on a road trip to the Northwest Territories, following a route north through Alberta. I'll share several highlights of our trip as well as a few 'tales from the trail' today.

Our travels through the Rocky Mountain range were a little disappointing, as the mountains were obscured by smoke from the massive forest fires in British Columbia.  We stopped at a viewpoint in Jasper, and chatted with tourists from Shanghai who had no idea why the glorious mountain peaks were hidden from view.   They thought it was smoggy...like in Beijing.

Once we neared the Peace a River area, we could breathe clean air once again. 

In Peace River, we drove to the viewpoint on Judah Hill from where we could see for miles around (when my hair wasn't blowing over my face).

We followed the Deh Cho Trail for the most part...but took many side-trips along the way.  One of those side-trips was through the towns/hamlet of La Crete in the Peace River area.

This is a farming community...predominantly Mennonite where everyone is bi-lingual (speaking English and low-German).  We discovered that businesses serve customers in both languages, often switching between the two.

We also discovered that they serve good old-fashioned Mennonite fare in their restaurants...and sell apple perischke/pastries in their bakery.  Oh, and if anyone is in need of a Mennonite Girls Can Cook cookbook, they are available at the local Home Hardware store. 

Not far from La Crete, we passed by a huge flock of some type of crane.  What were they?  I talked my driver into stopping on the gravel road so I could get out and take this photo with my Canon.  Most of them flew away but a few stayed behind to pose for me.  We carried on down gravel roads for another hour where we checked into our campsite for the night.  It was at that point that I noticed my i-Phone was no longer in my back pocket.  Nor was it on or under my seat. Uh, oh!  Where could it have gone?  I knew I had it in La Crete...so it could be at the hardware store, the museum, the bakery or where we stopped to take a photo of the birds.  We decided we had no recourse but to re-trace our steps.   I prayed.  Even if it had fallen out of the motor-home, how would we ever find a small phone on an expanse of gravel road?

As we neared the area where we had stopped to 'see the birds', we both spotted my phone lying on the roadway. It seemed no one had passed by since we were there two hours earlier and the phone was none the worse for wear.  And that was the happy ending to the case of my missing cell phone.  I have been so thankful to have my phone these last few weeks...to keep in touch when there was cell service and to take quick photos anytime, anywhere. 

We stayed at Aspen Ridge Campground in High Level....camped among the groves of aspen trees. And from there, we headed north to ...

...the 60th Parallel and Northwest Territories. 

It is called 'the waterfalls route' for reason!  We stopped at Twin Gorge Territorial Park...Alexandra Falls is near the parking lot and Louise Falls is a 2 km. hike away. Beautiful!

We camped on the shores of Great Slave Lake at Hay River and carried on our northward journey the next day.

Our plan was to stay at Lady Evelyn Falls Territorial Park that night, but the bugs were like a plague and so we made a quick escape (after our hike to the falls).

This bug-photo was taken through the window of the RV, once we were safely back inside.  We kept our mouths shut while we were there!

We drove to Fort Providence and found a lovely camping spot along the north bank of  the Mackenzie River...

...where the sunset was amazing.

Had we come a few years earlier, we would have crossed the Mackenzie River by ferry...

...but the Deh Cho Bridge (with a span of1.6 km.) was completed in 2012.  Prior to that time, anyone living on the north side of the river was cut off from the rest of the country for a good part of the year.  The ferry ran only during the summer months...while an ice bridge was built over the river in the winter.

The road from Fort Providence to Yellowknife is a long and bumpy one...through the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary. 

We spent three days in Yellowknife...hiking, sight-seeing and enjoying the delights of the area in summertime. 

We even found a cafe with the same name as one of our favorites back home and enjoyed Fish 'n Chips on their deck...with whitefish from Great Slave Lake.

It seemed there was a raven with a story to tell wherever we went!

We often build an inukshuk as our 'calling card' when we hike in faraway places.  It somehow seemed more appropriate here than in the desert of California or the river banks in Quebec.

We had a lovely campsite on a knoll on the outskirts of Yellowknife.  It turned out to be the perfect spot for viewing the northern lights as well.  

Next it was on to Fort Simpson...almost the end of the road.This village is home to 1200 people, mostly indigenous. It is also the gateway to Nahanni National Park.

We wondered about the giant tepee overlooking the Mackenzie River next to our campground. It was erected for Canada's 150th b'day and the 30th anniversary of Pope John Paul ll's visit to Fort Simpson in 1987. It was built by the stars of The Timber Kings and featured on that HGTV show earlier this year.

It was Sunday, so we thought we would visit one of the local churches in Fort Simpson.  There was only one with a morning service that day, so that's where we went.  It was a lovely old Anglican church and we enjoyed our morning service with the handful of people that gathered that morning.

The highlight of our trip was our flight on a float plane into Nahanni National Park...a park with no road access.

Our original reservation was cancelled due to weather and we re-booked for the following day. It was amazing!

We were fortunate to have Ted Grant, the owner of Simpson Air, as our pilot and tour guide for the day.

We landed at three different spots within the park and had a most memorable day.  I will share more of Nahanni once I have had a chance to 'unpack' my photos.

From Fort Simpson, we began our journey...southward and homeward. It was a bit of a nerve-wracking day, since we had a flat tire while in Fort Simpson and were now using our spare. The closest tire shop was a 12 hour drive (on mostly gravel roads) to Fort Nelson, BC. And did I mention that there is little or no cell service along that stretch of road either? Thankfully, we made it back to BC over those gravel roads without another flat tire.

On the Liard Highway, just north of the BC border we came across a large herd of buffalo on the roadway.  We stopped, watched and waited...and finally inched our way forward and past the massive beasts.

Who knew it was the 75th anniversary of the legendary Alaska Highway?  We drove the section from Fort Nelson to 'Mile 0' at Dawson Creek...and crossed the historic Kiskatinaw curved bridge on the Old Alaska Highway.

It was good to be back on paved roads...which we shared with logging trucks and tourists.

And a black bear now and again.

We passed through the Cariboo region of our province...where wild fires still burn out of control and roads are still closed. Our route was smoky but smooth sailing until we were some three or four hours from home.

We saw black smoke up ahead and traffic came to a standstill. As it turned out it was not a forest fire, but a fatal head-on collision on the highway.  Very sobering. We joined the queue of vehicles and waited.  There were no detours. It was seven hours before the road re-opened and 2AM before we arrived home.

How nice to find a 'welcome home' bag with fresh pastries hanging on the door knob when we got home. We slept for a few hours and then enjoyed coffee and pastries for breakfast on our back patio in the morning. It was good to be home!

And that is a brief re-cap of our time in Canada's far north.  I'll be back with another post or two on our northern adventure in the summer of 2017! 

Enjoy these last two weeks of summer.