Friday, September 8, 2017

To the Northwest Territories and Back ~ Roads Less Travelled

We were away the last two weeks in 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 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 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 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.


  1. Such an interesting trek filled with so many experiences. Those bugs would have me running. Yikes. How fun to come upon that Mennonite Farming community and the restaurant. Beautiful sites. Glad you finally made it home.

  2. What an incredible journey! The scenic views, the wildlife and the experiences! You do such a great job of documenting your travels. Glad you made it home safe!

  3. What an interesting journey you had. We talk about driving into the Yukon and NWT one day, after retirement. You've led the way! Glad you made it home safely.

  4. Fabulous travelogue as always Judy! Loved it!
    The cranes were probably Sandhill cranes. Bee in your bonnet: a trip to the Platte river/Nebraska area to see the yearly Sandhill crane migration might be worthy of your travel bucket list. People come FormΓ© all over the world to see it; my folks went on an Elderhostle tour and thought it was astonishing "wonders of the world" event.

    Do you have the iPhone "find my phone" ap installed on your and Elmer's phones? Not sure if you lost your phone in cellular service area. I've used the ap on Bernie's phone to find my phone; the satellite map showed exactly where it was sitting on the curb in front of our house. Amazing how precise it was.

    1. Thanks for the reminder. It will be installed...soon!

  5. Wonderful adventures in Canada's north! What a blessing to be able to travel so far and see so much of our beautiful country. I'm glad you had safe travels and yes, that accident would be so very sobering. I look forward to seeing more photos of your trip Judy.

  6. Judy, What a wonderful adventure. I loved seeing all your pics. Thanks so much for sharing.

  7. Good tip from Jill regarding lost cell phones. I will also be downloading that app. Another wonderful road trip in your beautiful country. So wild! So amazing to see how far civilization extends. You always leave me wondering where next. 🏞 πŸŒƒ πŸŒ‰ πŸŒ„ 🌁

  8. It's living the Canadian adventure that only can be experienced like traveling in your motor home. It was fun to hear you share your adventures of places seldom travelled.

  9. What an amazing trip!!! So much to see and so little time to see all the wonders in this great country of ours. We need to discover more "share the chair" locations - love your picture. So glad you found your phone and yes - I think Jill is right - those were Sandhill Cranes. Amazing!

  10. Fantastic documentation for those of us waiting for this post. Your photos were so great but I'm sure don't quite make it as wonderful as the real adventure you two had. Your motor home has taken you places....and always with your best friend and travel buddy.

  11. You have a gloriously beautiful country. I so much enjoy the pictures from your travels!

  12. Your blog is so inspiring as I can travel vicariously with you to places I may not get to. Lovely photos capturing the memories.

  13. Oh, how I love this recap of such a wonderful adventure! Such beautiful country!
    God surely blessed you in so many ways.....finding your cell phone, the flat tire, the perfect camping spots! My goodness, I've never seen so many big bugs!!! What in the world?

    You cell phone adventure reminded me of something that happened 25 years ago! It was Christmas week and I had just had some dental work done a new lower bridge made. We were in the car going tomDallas to look at Christmas lights when we pulled over to the curb so I could get out and better buckle my you g son in his car seat. I'd forgotten hat I'd taken my bridge out (it was hurting me!) so at the end of the evening, we stopped at McDonalds to get a snack - and I couldn't find my teeth! We retraced our stops where I'd got out and finally gave up and was driving home when I remembered getting out just a block up the street from our house! As we turned the corner, the headlights glinted off the metal on my dental bridge! It was lying in the street a tire width away from the curb! Untouched in the 4 hours we had been gone! The miracle was - it was right by a bus stop!

  14. Definitely Sandhill Cranes. Please what was the date of that pix? I wait for them to fly over here. I would know better what day to watch for them if I knew the date you saw them.

    You has some marvelous vacation, one to remember and thankfully you (and we) have your stunnning photos and story. Many thanks. Some of those places I know, having visited, lived there or flown over. Truth North strong and free.


    1. We were in the La Crete area on August 19th (one month ago) as we began our trip to the Northwest Territories. That was my introduction to Sandhill Cranes!

  15. I saw them today Judy. Right on time.

    Sorry about all the typos. You must have autocorrect on. What a strange thing to call it.

  16. Thank you for sharing your amazing adventures!!! Love all those beautiful pictures.


'The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.'
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson