Mackenzie River

Weekend Fun!

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Whew, I had a fun weekend here in Wrigley! Yup, I am back in the little community at the end of the all-season road, and from my very first night here, the fun began. A friend of mine here ended up house sitting, except with one surprise — there was also a 10-year old girl there! So, it was house/baby-sitting. I decided to go over and see how it was going for him.

When I got to the house, he wasn’t there. I figured he must have gone out snowmobiling, so I decided to go for a walk and check back later. Sure enough, he pulled up in a few minutes and I hopped on! It’s been years since I was on a skidoo and man, was it ever fun! Woo hoo! I screamed, I squealed (yes, like a girl), I shrieked, I leaned, I bonked heads (gently) with the girl, and then got into a minor giggle fit! We blasted our way all over Wrigley, which is basically mecca for snowmobilers — treed trails, hills, the river valley, and a labyrinth of paths all over the community. It’s totally acceptable to cut across anyone and everyone’s yard in winter with a skidoo (usually going mach 3, often in the middle of the night)! We had such a blast!

We went back to the house, and I decided to stay over. I was partly feeling sorry for my friend who had this job sort of dropped on him, and partly to spend time with the girl, who is a pretty cool 10-year-old. It wasn’t a terribly late night, but I was ill-at-ease due to the TV being on. I am so deconditioned to it, it makes me feel quite strange. The next day, I went to work and in the evening, it was the girl’s birthday, so we had a great birthday party for her — chicken dinner with a chocolate birthday cake, icing, candles and everything. I mention this, because you can’t buy birthday candles anywhere in Wrigley, but I had bought them in Fort Simpson a couple of weeks ago for my friend’s birthday! So we celebrated both birthdays and had a great time. Not surprisingly, the local kids found out about the cake, so they had some too. It was coffee cake, so you can imagine the effect! The whole gang left shortly after a couple of our adult friends came over — another party was in the works!

I stayed with the adults for a bit, but decided to go see if my friend needed back-up with all the kids hopped-up on coffee-cake having a sleep over. Yup, he did. Yikes! They were wild. A major pillow fight was underway when I arrived — I took my glasses off to make sure they wouldn’t get broken! Crazy! Eventually, they calmed down a bit and a couple went upstairs to play video games and a couple slept. I claimed the love seat, got comfortable and slept okay until one of the kids turned the TV on. Ugh. Anyhoo, that was the end of Friday.

snowshoesSaturday I really wanted to go snowshoeing! I was getting ready to go when, you guessed it, a few kids came over to see what we were up to. I had three little shadows as I went, and it was hard going. I thought I would be slow compared to them (this time, it was Pepsi!), but in the deep snow and crazy ice on the river, the snowshoes really shone. They are so amazing! So, I had to slow down and help the kids and they didn’t last long. One little boy kept trying to stand on the back of my snowshoes (a big no-no, for those who don’t know!) so I finally offered to carry him on my back. Wow, never done that before! Not easy! I really wanted to cross the river that afternoon, so the kids went back to town and I did my thing on the river. It was amazing. It’s about 1.2 km across, and I made my way there and back. A couple of the older girls had followed me after all, and they were cheering for me to go all the way. They fared a little better in the deep snow, but it still took a while to slowly pick our way back. I let each of them try the snowshoes, and they did really well. These shoes are about 54″ long (137 cm), by the way.

partofthetrailOn Sunday, we ended up all going for a nice hike down to Hodgson Creek, the creek that never freezes in winter. Actually, that’s not true — where we were, farther upstream, it had nice thick ice on it, but at some point a little ways downstream, as far as we know, there must be a little hot spring. The result is pleasant gurgling water all year round! :) We had fun, walking, playing, making a fire, and roasting apples over the fire! Delish! You have to cook them slowly and let the skin totally burn. They, scrape the skin off and enjoy the yummy baked apple! :)

Walking back to the village, we invented a new game. It involved kicking trees to get all the snow the fall off on you. We have some serious snow up here — I shovelled for an hour on Friday afternoon at work — and it sticks to the trees wonderfully. Then, a little play wrestling in the snow and we eventually made our way home. One little girl asked me three times if she could come over, but I had to say no. It isn’t easy, since I know she doesn’t want to go home and spending time with me is far more fun, but I just have to keep some boundaries. I can’t take every kid home or let every kid in who wants to. It’s a strange world, where kids play in the streets all by themselves, where parents aren’t too fussy about where they are, where the outdoors is their playground, but they still have satellite TV (some of them) and video games. They like to be outside (and they know how to bundle up), but they are afraid to go into the woods alone. There are wolves around, so their parents have instilled a hearty fear into them. I sometimes feel it’s too bad, but on the other hand, it’s a safety thing and they will probably grow out of it when they are older and go into the bush on their own (or at least the boys might).

So that was my busy, fun, crazy weekend! :) Hope you are having a great winter too!

snowshoes

Fly in to Fort Simpson

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I would like to take a moment to encourage anyone interested in exploring the Northwest Territories to do so by small airplane! What better way to see the north? You skip over the rough roads and save time while getting a beautiful view! And right now, that’s the only way here! :)

Our ice bridge went out yesterday. You see, the village of Fort Simpson is situated on an island in the Mackenzie River, right at the confluence of the Liard River. There is a permanent crossing to the island over the snye, so that’s not a problem — some would argue it’s not a true island then. But our village is on the west side of the Liard, and since the highway comes from the east, a river crossing is necessary. In summer, it’s done with a ferry, the Lafferty.


Image from the GNWT site

In winter, once the ice is thick enough, they build an ice bridge. This means they grade, flood and maintain the crossing to make it as smooth and safe as possible. Last week, it was starting to get very bumpy and it was restricted to 4X4 vehicles only and yesterday, while I was working, it “went out.” This doesn’t mean that the ice was so thin or detached from the banks that it actually “left.” It just means that it wasn’t safe any more and it is likely to start breaking up soon.

What else can I say? This is a very nice area, with lots of tall trees and the two rivers (Liard and Mackenzie). It is so picturesque… There’s a business, Rowe’s Construction, that is just a construction yard like any other, but it’s on the most lovely spot, with a scenic view of the confluence. I swear, ten degrees (hundreds of km) farther south, this would be where the uppity condos or sprawling million-dollar mansions are built!

I’ve sort of become used to living somewhere people go to get things…. High Level, Edmonton, and Sudbury are all “hub” communities, with significant populations of people located on the edges, or for miles around, who come into town to get the things they need. Now, I live somewhere that people live. Does that make sense? It’s a subtle difference. Fort Simpson isn’t a hub, although it’s the only town (village, actually) for hundreds of kilometres (not exaggerating). Everyone just lives together peacefully — First Nations people, English, French, many other nationalities and every possible combination!

There is a different feel in town. Perhaps it’s our removal from mainstream society that brings us together, much as facing common hardships bonds people as friends. Not that we have very many hardships to endure, but our groceries are sometimes lacking (or ridiculously expensive), and our mail service a little slower than major centres, and we live without many conveniences that those of you in urban centres cannot imagine! There is no coffee shop, and I have found myself wishing on days off that I had a place to go, sip a latte and surf the wireless, but alas, I must make my own latte and enjoy our wireless at home! I won’t even go into the speed of the internet, but for those of you geeks out there, let’s just say it’s about a tenth of what the rest of southern Canada has. I’m not sure how the internet gets here, but I’m pretty sure we are all funneled through a common, monster satellite connection (hence at busy times, it slows down even more).

The village has its own power generation on site, as transmission lines long enough to reach us from, well, anywhere, are completely impractical. Once in a while, something gets a little out of whack with the phases of the power, and one day, an alarm went off at the airport because of that. Suddenly, even though the regular power appeared to be unaffected, the runway edge lights and PAPIs stopped working, as did the microwave in the lunch room. Go figure! This power-phase issue might relate to the little-known fact that stove clocks in Fort Simpson run fast. My roommate told me this, and sure enough, we set our stove clock a few weeks ago, and it is now running about 40 minutes fast. It used to only run 10 minutes fast (we had trouble setting the minutes). So, one of my running jokes is that time is weird in Fort Simpson.

And it is weird! I have been here less than a month, and it feels like three! Days pass amazingly slow when there isn’t a lot going on, and at work, if I am busy (one day I had 80 acft movements in my 12-hour shift!), it only speeds up a little. I’ve had second- and third-order deja vu a few times, which I haven’t had in quite a while. I think it’s aliens! Or the northern lights — we get them a lot here, and they are so amazing. Maybe the aliens are using the aurora to control our minds! If that’s the case, the message they are sending here is “what’s the rush? Relax. You have lots of time…”

The preceding post was started last week, on April 26. As of today, I am actually done in Fort Simpson for a month or so. I’m being transferred to Wrigley! But that’s a whole other post (which will have to wait, because I won’t have internet there…)!