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…)!

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