Well, I am in Norman Wells right now! If you don’t know where it is, look it up – we’re at 65 degrees North, just 1 degree south of the Arctic circle!! Woo hoo! I got in yesterday after a LONG journey to get here… which I’m going to tell you about right now!!
I was working midnight shifts, 7 in a row, and I had planned my trip so that I would leave right after my midnight shift and drive North to Yellowknife, and then catch a plane to the Wells! I was used to being up until 11:00 am or noon, so I knew I’d be good for a few hours of driving at least. I left High Level at 8:20 am or so (a bit later than my shift ended, but that was okay) and headed for the Northwest Territories border.
At the border, I made my first stop, to take a picture of the border sign. As soon as I stopped the car, the car was swarmed with bees! It was the weirdest thing. I washed my car last week, so maybe there is a soap residue, from the foaming pink brush, that attracted the bees. A little ways across the border there are some beautiful waterfalls (I blogged about them in the entry called “Bugs Like Rain”) where I made my next stop. There were the bees again, and when I stepped out of the car I was hit by the heady smell of wild roses blooming! It was amazing! Combined with the amazing I’ve-just-been-unplugged-from-the-matrix sound of the water falls, it was so incredible. I had a short walk there and then hit the road again.
My next stop was a side trip to Hay River. It was going to add about 70 km to the trip, but I wanted to go there to buy some BC fruit at a stand that I heard was going to be there. And have lunch at the Caribou Restaurant, where they have sushi!! Wild, eh? Sushi!! 🙂 Looking around as I was driving, I noticed again, the skinny, skinny trees, and the feeling like I was driving on a plateau. I couldn’t put my finger on it last time, but this time, I figured out why. It’s because the trees get shorter as they get farther from the road, so it gives the feeling of a downward slope away from the road. The sky was pretty cool, too, with cumulonimbus (thunderstorm) clouds and clouds that looked like Dr. Seuss’ hats!
After I had bought the cherries for Steve, and had a short nap, I left Hay River, continuing on to the ferry that would take me across the Mackenzie River. One thing I noticed right away; you know how if there’s a bump in the road, they’ll often put a small red-diamond sign along the edge of the road. Well, in the NWT, when they put a red diamond on the side of the road, they mean it!! I think my car almost bottomed out on the first one!! After that, I slowed down for the bumps (in Alberta, I don’t have to). After a couple hours driving, I got to the Mackenzie River. It is so wide, and has quite a fast current! The ferry was already en route from the far side, so I only waited about 5 minutes. There was a van waiting to cross as well, and when the ferry got to our side, a semi drove off and then we drove on. There was basically just a ramp that came down and we drove from the sand to the boat. Just to give you a sense of scale, the ferry could probably transport 2 semis and a couple cars across at a time (or maybe 8 cars at once). Not terribly big, but not tiny either. It was pretty amazing to cross, and the angle that the ferry had to cross at to compensate for the current was at least 45 degrees. Very cool. As we were crossing, I looked across to the other side and saw 2 vehicles waiting, and what I thought was a buffalo? Could it be? You betcha!! There is a HUGE buffalo sanctuary on the Northern side of the Mackenzie. I took a picture of a small herd just lazing about just after the ferry loading area (another picture taken from the window of a moving car – I hope it turns out)!!
My next stop was only about 10 minutes down the road, at Fort Providence. What a cute little town! It is about 5 km off the highway and I was in need of a pit stop. It was so idyllic, along the banks of the Mackenzie, sun shining, a nice breeze to keep the bugs away. Along this part of the river, it’s wide and fast, with steep, 100-ft banks (or so) and a few islands as well. The trees are quite tall, and mostly spruce, and there are buffalo in the center of town. Okay, it’s not much of a town, but still! I had a club sandwich at the local (only) diner and was a bit nervous at first, ’cause there were no cars parked out front. Turns out the locals don’t really bother driving there, they just walk. Cool concept, eh, walking to the local hang-out joint! Anyway, I really enjoyed my stop there (where I also put my head down for 5 mintues for a power-snooze) and then hit the highway again. Only 300 km to Yellowknife now! That’s nothing!
I can’t say the last 300 km went uneventfully, but well, they did!! I saw several buffalo, usually in herds, and in one herd, I saw some of the calves too. They were cute, in that chunky, buffalo sort of way, and they were a lot lighter brown than the adults. They were laying down, and I was travelling one hundred-and-some km per hour, so I didn’t see if they had the bumps on their shoulders. Anyways, I started noticing poplar trees again, which was kind of weird. Also, near the Mackenzie, the rocks along the edge of the road are sort of limestone-looking, with that sedimentary layered-ness look. About halfway between Fort Providence and Yellowknife the rocks changed; It reminded me of Northern Ontario. Except the colour of the rocks was more pink – they should have named Yellowknife Pinkrocks! Apparently Yellowknife got its name from the natives in the area who used copper-bladed knives, and there are some mines in the area. Yellowknife as a town really reminds me of Sudbury! It is built among the rocks and the lakes, and on the shore of the Great Slave Lake, and the lakes are more like Northern Ontario lakes in that they are less reedy along the edges.
To say I was exhausted would be a slight understatement. But, I am so glad that I made it safe and sound, had no problem finding the hotel either. I was going to explore Yellowknife a bit that night, but I was just too tired. I’ll blog later about the trip to Norman Wells! Stay tuned!