No Longer in the Territories

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Well, I am back in High Level, now! I flew out of Norman Wells via Canadian North (the only airline which serves N.W. regularly), arriving in Yellowknife at 4:30 pm and in High Level at 11:30 pm. It’s a good thing, ‘cause I had a midnight shift! The flight went nice as did the drive. This time, I saw a lot less wildlife than I had on the way there. On the way North, I saw a moose, a fox, a wolf/coyote (not sure) a rabbit (on the side of the road), and lots of buffalo (but only 1 along the edge of the road)! This time, I only saw the buffalo (about 300 km of the trip is in a Buffalo Protection Area, and there are buffalo signs instead of moose signs) and a couple of rabbits. So, a good trip overall! Steve gave me a book on tape to listen to – it was very interesting and helped the time to pass too! I’ll blog about it another time….

My last few days in Norman Wells were great! This morning, a local pilot (one of Steve’s co-worker’s husband :P) gave us a ride in his Piper Cherokee – it kind of reminded me of a Chevette, if you remember those!!! It was in very good shape, though! We went south along the river first, then crossed over the Franklin Range (remember the mountain I hiked down?) which was really cool on the backside. It is much steeper – it has huge cliffs in some sections! Then we flew towards a large lake (but not the Great Bear, which I guess is a bit far for a short flight) and then around in a circle and passed North of Norman Wells and followed the river to the North for a bit. We could see the Mackenzie mountains in the distance, and they looked as huge and beautiful as always! We had a couple of bouts of turbulence, but nothing to scare us or make us seriously ill (though I was a bit queasy)! 😛

Other neat things about Norman Wells…. The gas, water and sewer services that go from the houses/trailers/businesses to the town supply are all inside “utilidors.” These are large conduits (metal tubes) that run horizontally a few feet above ground, on poles (for the same reason the houses are on stilts). The tubes go from every house and join up with a network of utilidors. It’s a little odd to see. Especially the fire hydrants that tap into the utilidors. They are just red boxes – presumably there are hydrants inside? And where the streets have to cross the utilidors, they are built over them like a road built over a culvert. I even saw places where a little set of steps (4 steps) goes up and over the utilidors to allow people to cross over them without having to climb over!

Imagine living in a town with no road access. How would your local Wal-Mart/Home Hardware/grocery store keep its shelves stocked without the semi-trucks coming 3 times a week? Well, in Norman Wells, in the summer, most supplies are brought in on barges. These are flat, slow-moving boats that come from Hay River (which if you recall, is a little off the beaten track already) across the lakes and rivers!! Well, some things come in on planes, like “food mail.” This is what Steve does for most of his groceries, since the grocery store has prices that are similar to most convenience stores – yikes! But, with food mail, he puts his order in online and a person in Yellowknife gathers up all the stuff he wants and puts it on the next days’ plane. It’s like having a personal shopper/shipper, essentially, and the prices are more like what he’d pay in Yellowknife, which is only a bit pricier than major centers farther south. Not a bad deal! Although he doesn’t always get everything he wants… But, some people in N.W. prefer to buy bulk (especially non-perishables) and their stuff comes in on the barge. The barge came in a few days ago, and people were pretty excited about it – it was all the buzz in town!! 😛 All vehicles and big stuff like furniture has to come in by barge. Now, I should clarify that in winter, there is a winter road, from Wrigley and from there to Fort Simpson, which takes something like 12 hours to drive – you’d have to bring jerry cans of gas with you – and then another 6+ hours to Yellowknife from there!!

Another thing I noticed while in Norman Wells was the demographic. Not a lot of old people (so it’s not a big retirement destination!) and not very many non-whites. Well, Steve told me why; it is so expensive to live in Norman Wells, that you can’t do it unless you have a well-paying/government job, usually with perks or a northern allowance of some kind. Interesting, eh? So, it’s a myth debunked that northern communities have a lot of Inuit – not always. Another myth debunked – the mosquitos. They are no more fierce or plentiful than High Level!!

I also went for walks along the Mackenzie River, went to friends’ places, went to work with Steve, went for dinner at the restaurants in town, visited the little museum/gift shop and many other fun things! Hope everyone else had a good week, too! Keep in touch!

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