Well, it's December 7th today and it sure is the winter season. The VanDerk has been holding up well. We manage to sleep soundly in the van every night, regardless the fact that the temperature has fallen to -15 C at times, both in and outside of the van.
Now that the majority of the trip has fallen behind us, we are left pondering the question we came into this thing with. I know we have been upholding the stance that -Canada is Great- right from the beginning, but something here, I must confess. We have repeatedly stated the following things: "Canada is great", we said, "This country sure is great", we said, "Wow was a great nation", we said. But we weren't sure. Was it great? Was it truly and utterly great?
Each experience we've had on the road surely supported the notion that in fact, our country is pretty damn great. By now, we have concluded that the answer to our question, "Is Canada great?" is a simple YES. There are little things that perhaps aren't so great, such as when there are lots of bison lying on the road and refusing to get out of the way for your vehicle. But the great things really come out on top in this project, and that is for sure.
Earlier today, sitting in a Tim Hortons in the small town of Deer Lake, Newfoundland - population 5000 - I heard a voice: "Korry." I looked up and saw a friend who I knew during high school and have seen on the regular even since I left high school. Canada is one big small town, they say. And that is pretty great.
A few days back, Kristel and I interviewed the mayor of Mary's Harbour, a small town of about 350 people in Labrador. Alton Rumbolt is not only the mayor, but also a fisherman, and he was happy to explain to us all about the industry. He explained how he wakes up around 4 am in the summer, and then eats breakfast, because he'd have to eat at least one meal during the day, right? Then work long days, sometimes 16 or 18 hours. -That's just the way it is- -We don't see no summer- -I like it this way, don't mind- And you know, it's just like anything, he said. We left that interview glowing with admiration for that man. Damn, is this country great.
And then today we saw these things. And it was great.
Anyways, our trip will officially end on December 16th at 9 pm, when we head to a Hey Rosetta! concert to ice the cake (top it all off, tap the whale on the fin, finish our lives for the time being). In the meantime, we will be catching up with Twillingate for the first time. A small and beautiful town, Twillingate used to thrive off of the fishing industry until the cod moratorium in '92. After that we will be going to St. John's, the capital of the world (or is it the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador? I can't remember).
In conclusion, I must say that we came to a very clear realization a week back while talking with a man in Cape Breton: we were discussing how this trip is an amazing opportunity to receive free and extensive education (thank you Drs. Ringash and Bandiera, so so much). Sometimes we run into people who say, somewhat belittlingly, -you guys really hit the jackpot for a free vacation!- Which isn't so true in the end, at all. We are EXTREMELY lucky to be receiving the education that has come along with the Canada is Great project. As I always say, -What a time to be alive!-
Peace and love,
It is deep into November and we are deep into exploring the East coast of Canada. BUT WAIT! We've actually been up to a lot of cool new things since the last blog post almost a month ago. Here is a quick condensed list of what we've been up to since October 13th -
1) We left Haida Gwaii and drove from Prince Rupert, British Columbia, through Prince George (shout out to the home base city where I worked this summer!), and down into Vancouver.
2) We spent a night with a friend in Vancouver, and then spent the weekend in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, with some more friends.
3) We headed to Port Hardy, a small city at the Northern tip of Vancouver Island, and spent three days between Port Hardy and the smaller community of Coal Harbour just 15 minutes away.
4) We drove from Victoria to Hamilton, Ontario in 49 hours.
5) We spent just over a week in Southern Ontario sorting out things back home (as we both call Southern Ontario home base).
6) Then finally we drove out East, and our first stop is Saint John, where we currently are!
Saint John is completely different than any of the places that we have visited so far on our journey, but it is the same in the sense that there is massively supportive community feel, and even us as 'tourists' can easily notice that. Unlike the cities in the North (Yellowknife, Dawson City, and Whitehorse), St John is a pretty old place. It is a city tied to the American revolution. Many of the British Loyalists fled from eastern port cities of the USA to Saint John, and began a new life here.
The city was once booming with the ship building industry. It was a prosperous industrial location, and remains an industrial place today (Irving Oil is located just outside of the city, and the Irving company is currently building a massive headquarters just outside of the uptown, space for 1000 employees!).
Saint John is a must-go-to-see-all-the-cool-things kind of city. It is a destination. Which I never thought before coming here. And I've quickly learned this in the few days that Kristel and I have stayed here.
A really good documentary to watch is CBC and Hemming House Picture's "City on Fire", directed by Saint John local Lauchlan Ough. While it's main story is focussed on English comedian James Mullinger's attempt to fill a stadium in St John for his comedy show (only two years after moving to the city and after many people said he could never have a career here), the documentary also focuses on how great St John is as a city. Definitely a must watch.
Saint John also has a super cool cityscape. We checked it out after the sun went down from the top of the Hollywood hill (not actually Hollywood hill, but it has a big Hollywood-type sign saying "Saint John", overlooking the city). You can see the massive two flames and lightshow-eque beauty of the Irving Oil refinery, the tops of a few old gothic churches, many Vicotian style buildings, and a few tall modern office towers. In the distance, you see four cranes at the shipyard, and maybe a ship or two off the shore.
It's all pretty cool. The uptown area also used to be what some may call a "shithole", but now it is alive and thriving, and a super great place to walk around. There are a ton of new restaurants and businesses lining the streets, and while we were walking down the road with architect Bob Boyce as he gave us a little tour, we not only ran in the MP Wayne Long, but we also ran into the Mayor Don Darling. What a place!
Peace and love,
Our project, Canada is Great, has been going great. I guesstimate that we have over one hundred hours of footage, ALREADY, and will be accumulating a lot more in the next few months!
We are in the southwest, currently in Vancouver and soon off to Vancouver Island, after a wonderful time spent in Haida Gwaii.
Some great things that have happened in the last week and a bit:
-we were lucky enough to be in Haida Gwaii during a potlatch event, which is a traditional Haida celebration involving lots of dancing, music, food, gifts, and speeches from important people
-we witnessed David Suzuki receiving a new Haida name, as he has already been adopted into a local Haida clan in the past
-we met a super cool filmmaker and multimedia professional from Haida Gwaii, who runs the company Innonative.
-we talked about our project on the CBC Daybreak North radio show
-we talked to a carpenter who built a guesthouse almost entirely from wood that washed ashore the island, and it was amazing
-we admired the hard work and detail put into building a stackwall house, by an over-70-year-old woman, who has been continuously building her house for 40 years
On another note, the recent history of Haida Gwaii is grim, but worth learning nonetheless.
Haida people have been living on the islands for over 10 000 year. Haida Gwaii consists of 150 islands, with two main islands, and it is rich in resources. The first European contact was in 1774, and the years following can be told as no fairy tale. The Europeans found value in sea otter pelts, and soon the otters became extinct in the waters around the islands. Diseases such as tuberculosis and smallpox were introduced, bringing Haida populations down tremendously (this happened in the late 19th century). The Haida experienced forced assimilation and were not permitted to speak their native language or practice their culture in any way. Logging became a main industry on the island, and huge areas of old growth forest were completely cut down. The islands and their people were being treated with no respect for hundreds of years. Luckily, from what I saw and understood during our visit, things are getting better for the Haida, and are expected to continue that way!
.Our trip in Haida Gwaii went as followed:
Arrive in Skidegate from the ferry
Head north to Old Masset and Masset
Slowly head back south, stopping in Port Clements, Tlell, Skidegate, and eventually Queen Charlotte
For those of you reading this who have never heard of Haida Gwaii, you may have heard of the islands by their previous name, the Queen Charlotte Islands. The islands were initially named by white people in 1787. This was by Captain George Dixon, who named them after his ship, the Queen Charlotte. In 2010, the islands were officially renamed Haida Gwaii, which means "islands of the people".
When we first arrived in Masset and Old Masset (located at the North of Graham Island in Haida Gwaii), we explored the town, driving down every street and learning about the history of the place. Old Masset is one of the Haida villages that remained after the smallpox epidemic in the 19th century. Masset, 2 km away, became a major military location during WWII, and only in the mid 90s did the military downsize to a remote control operation. It went from having hundreds of employees to just a handful at this time. This website has a great history of the military in Masset.
The next stop was Port Clements: a small village located on the Masset Inlet which was previously visited by tourists for two main things: the Golden Spruce and the white raven. In 1997, the spruce was illegally felled by a man named Grant Hadwin, and the white raven was electrocuted on a power line in front of the Golden Spruce Hotel.
I'd reccommend reading the book "The Golden Spruce", written by John Vaillant about the life and demise of the famous golden spruce. Hadwin felled the hundreds of years old tree in protest of the forestry industry, and it was not taken well. Some wonderful girls that we met on the island brought us to see the acclaimed spruce tree, which was felled over a decade ago, and now sat horizontally on the forest floor.
Down in Skidegate, in the south of Graham Island, the Duke and Duchess arrived for a short visit a few days before we got to Haida Gwaii. During their trip in a traditional Haida canoe, a silent protest was happening. In protest of the Pacific NorthWest LNG (liquified natural gas) terminal that was just recently approved by the federal government, residents of Haida Gwaii wore their blue NO LNG shirts and held NO LNG signs. Here is a good site further explaining the issues surrounding LNG.
In Queen Charlotte, known locally as Charlotte or Charlotte City, we were walking down the main road and saw a beautiful stackwall fence in front of a house, so we went to speak with the owner. He invited us into his backyard, and we shot the s$!t for a while, as he prepared some salmon for canning.
Fishing and hunting is very important in Haida Gwaii. Many people rely primarily on a stocked freezer of fish and deer, and food from their gardens. Since food comes over weekly from the mainland, the milk and eggs and bread are often gone a few days after it arrives on Monday. It's important to be stocked up in winter, because sometimes the ferry will be cancelled for weeks at a time due to bad conditions in the Hecate straight (the area of ocean between mainland BC and Haida Gwaii).
And I will end this with a video of people on Haida Gwaii having a ball and singing to Taylor Swift.
Peace and love,
Well, we finished the Northern stretch (Northwest Territories and the Yukon) and are shallowly into the West Coast portion of our project! So far we have been in Haida Gwaii, probably the most beautiful place on earth. Haida Gwaii consists of a few islands off the West Coast of British Columbia. It is close to the southern tip of Alaska, and accessible by an ~8 hour ferry from Prince Rupert on the mainland in BC. It is also accessible by plane.
There is one highway that runs through all of the communities on Graham Island. And it is great, because travelling from one end to the other is only about 1.5 hours! So we travelled north and south a few times during our week here.
I had never heard of Haida Gwaii until about nine months ago, when I was talking to a treeplanter who told me of her friend who works here as a filmmaker. After that, I didn't stop hearing about the islands. Primarily, I borrowed The Golden Spruce - a book about a man who cut down an extremely important tree in Haida Gwaii - from a friend. Then a couple of my coworkers told me that they would be moving here in this upcoming year. So Derk and I did some extra research on the islands and realized that this trip just wouldn't be complete without a week in Haida Gwaii.
And so now we are here! And it's crazy, because it really enforces the idea, and the fact, that Canada is great. Like SO GREAT.
A woman who we spoke with in Yellowknife (the first place we went to on this trip) gave us the name of a friend of hers who currently lives in Haida Gwaii: Kung Jaadee (Judday), a Haida storyteller (also a published author: check it out here). We contacted Kung Jaadee and met with her, and she was just so amazing. Over the week that we have been on the islands, Kung Jaadee shared masses of information about the islands with us, shared dinner with us, let us sleep at her place, let us borrow dishes and cutlery for a public dinner, and drove us to where we needed to be. The amount of gratitude we have for her is enormous. The level of amazingness of our trip increased tremendously because of her.
We were also lucky enough to meet many other amazing people, and experience some truly special events:
-we spoke with a Haida man who was just so wonderful, the kind of man who had a million things in his list of things to do, and there is no doubt in his mind, or anyone else's, that he will get them done. He has carved many beautiful totem poles, and designed and built, with the help of 40 strong men and 100 strong children, a longhouse in the centre of Old Masset for public use. He is also a talented argillite carver, here is some of his work.
***Old Masset is a village just north of Masset. It is one of two villages where the Haida people regrouped in the late 1800s after the severe smallpox epidemic introduced by Europeans hit the islands and killed the majority of the population
-we spoke with an over-70-year-old woman who was quite an inspiration. She moved to Haida Gwaii after travelling half the world, after spending years in the North of Canada living off the land, and she immediately knew that this is where she was supposed to be. At seven and a half months pregnant (about 35ish years ago), she built a house for herself using her knowledge and the materials that she had at hand. This includes salvaged wood and rocks from the beach. WOW eh.
-we were invited to a potlatch, which according to Google is "a gift-giving feast practiced by indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of Canada". Unsurprisingly (knowing the history of Canada), potlaches were banned by the Canadian government from 1884 to 1951, for many reasons, but generally because it was a major event showing Haida culture, and the government wasn't about that. But thank the gods that potlatches are being practiced again, because they are amazing communal events.
The potlatch really, truly was a gift-giving feast. Kristel and I arrived around 5:30 pm, and sat at the back of the massive community hall, likely filled with about 400 people. Food was served to us the whole night. There was potato and salmon soup, crab, lots and lots of salmon, more fish, more fish, and more fish. Then there were hundreds of pies, and many, many cups of delicious frozen berries. All the while, there was beautiful traditional dances and music. Many speeches followed, and many people received new Haida names, including children, and adoptees. David Suzuki was adopted into the Haida nation at this potlatch. That was quite a sight to see.
-as treeplanters, we were intrigued to meet so many Coastal planters, those who live on Haida Gwaii, and work here as tree planters in the spring. We met JP and Sid, planters who have worked here for at least nine years, and just recently bought a house on the island. How we met them was quite a story as well: Kristel and I were walking down the road with our friend Donnie, and to our left JP, then unknown to us, yelled from his front porch: "Hey, do you want some fish!?" And so we met JP and Sid. So that was great, really great.
So verdict of the story: go to Haida Gwaii if you get the chance. Everything is just the best here.
Peace and love,
We left Yellowknife on September 11th, and headed West to the Yukon. Along our way, we passed approximately 250 bison, who were either standing on the road staring at our car as we slowly drove past, or were grazing on the side of the highway. Bison tend to give no f*#$ about cars. They just lolly-gag around, and don't mind having a car drive by 1 metre from them.
Bison on the road means that it is unsafe to drive at night because they camouflage well in the darkness. Thus, on our first day of driving after leaving Yellowknife, we planned to stop around 8:30. Unfortunately, about one hour before we planned to stop for the night, our tire blew. And blew it truly did, I had never seen anything of the like. The tire was literally exploded. Luckily, we were only 5 km away from a small town. And we had just completed a six hour drive down a back highway that was a gravel road, so we were actually so fortunate to blow a tire this close to a town.
Our jack was bent and broken, so when a local pulled up, we got some help from him jacking up the van and trying to get the wheel off. Of course, the lug nuts wouldn't budge. Whoever had tightened them previously, had tightened them too much, and not one would move even the slightest amount. We thanked the man who stopped to help us, and he continued on his way after giving us the number to the local mechanic. We called but no answer, so after a night on the side of the bush highway, we called again, and two mechanics showed up to help us out the following morning.
10 minutes later, the blown tire was off and the spare was on. They told us we should stop in the closest town with auto services, Fort Nelson, and that was 2.5 hours down the highway.
With a small prayer to the road gods and the bison gods, we made it. We stopped in Fort Nelson and got a new tire, a new car jack, and some apples, granola bars and potato wedges to snack on. And then we were again on our way!
Across the Alaska highway: our views impeccable and the weather perfect. Snow crested mountains jutted up around us, and clear, blue lakes popped up everywhere. We stopped at the Liard hotsprings and soaked in the sulphur-smelling water for a while (this was amazing). We stopped in Watson Lake for the night, and in the morning after being handed the "Yukon News" for free from a local, we were off, aiming to reach Dawson City by the evening.
Of course, as things go, we didn't make it by the evening. It turned out that we had taken the wrong highway for the entire day, and by nightfall we had entered into Vancouver. So we spent the night in Vancouver, walked around Stanley Park the following day to get some excersise, and then decided to say "screw it" to the trip and just spend the next three months on the beaches of California.
No, actually things worked out quite well for us this final day of driving. We actually didn't take a wrong turn at all, and we actually did end up in Dawson City by the evening, just as our plans went. It was a flawless day of driving.
And alas, we were there. In the city of gold, the city of dreams. We pulled into the downtown, and not a car nor a soul was in sight. It was a Tuesday night. What was going on? We asked. Unsure of how to answer, we went and did laundry, then went to a bar and watched a dancing show.
And the week went on.
Peace and love,
Our time in Yellowknife has come to an end. What began as a quick stop at the end of the highway in Northwest Territories, ended as an almost two week long stint, and our time there was quite amazing. Goodbye Yellowknife and all of the amazing people who reside within.
But before we ACTUALLY leave the place (in a spiritual sense, we physically left it a week ago), here is some more info.
Yellowknife is a lively city full of passionate people. Very much everyone we spoke to, regardless if they are in the architecture profession or not, has strong feelings and a certain appreciation for various architecture throughout the city. Whether it be the home of the local architect Kayhan Nahji, widely known as the 'teepee' house, or the St Pat's High School located downtown which demonstrates how natural bedrock can be used for utility purposes INSIDE of the building (such as seating area for the students), Yellowknifers know what is happening with the city's architecture, and they want to talk about it. Which was sure as all heck great for us!
Some of the main topics of interest (some of which are architecture related, and some of which are just Yellowknife related, HA!) that were brought up to us time and time again include the following:
The Old Town - The Old Town is a section of the city that draws many tourists because of its artistic and odd nature of existence. It used to be the main area of the city itself, back when the population was smaller, but as the population grew and issues with plumbing and waste management arose, the downtown area of the city was moved just up the hill. Many of the interesting folk that we met in Yellowknife reside in Old Town: throughout various 'abodes' such as an ~70 year old barn-turned-residence, small shacks, and a zinc-plated condominium building built on top of uneven bedrock. The centre of Old Town is a bare rock that juts up out of the earth, called Pilot's Monument. There is a light on top of the rock that flashes when a float plane is arriving into the bay, warning boaters and canoers to get out of the way.
The Woodyard - Located in the Old Town, the Woodyard used to be a Woodyard. Some fellows leased the land back in the 30's, to use as a yard to store wood. They built shacks on the land for their workers to have a place to live for free, and eventually many shacks were erected across the whole area. When the lease ended, people continued to squat in the shacks throughout the Woodyard. Since the late 70s and 80s, many of the shacks have been taken down, and only a few remain today. One of the Woodyard residents, Alison McCreesh, recently published a graphic novel about her experience moving to Yellowknife and the Woodyard. Check it out here!
The Houseboats - There are about 40 houseboats in the bay in Yellowknife. Living in a houseboats means that you fall out of city jurisdiction, and thus do not have to build to code. From what I understand, most are still built to code, because having an issue on your houseboat such as a fire would be disastrous, as you cannot obtain insurance. There has been talk of making changes in regards to the houseboats over about 40 years (based on foreseen safety issues such as drowning, or fires, and such), but still nothing has come of it. Since the houseboats have existed, no one has drown trying to get to and from their home. Another interesting fact: if a houseboater wants to sell their house, its often tough because a person cannot get a mortgage for a houseboat. But those who live on houseboats LOVE it, regardless the extra work it requires to live comfortably.
The Aurora - The Aurora Borealis, also refered to as the Northern Lights, are easily viewable in the skies of Yellowknife. We were told that we arrived in the city at the perfect time because it is still not to cold, but the Northern Lights are out and dancing during many of the nights. The Aurora isn't too visible in the summer months because it is too light outside. The winter is the best time to see the Aurora because it is dark for most of the day. I tried to learn about why the Aurora exists, in about 10 minutes, and all I took from it was that it is caused by 'solar storms', storms that occur on the surface of the sun. Yay!
The cold as all heck winters that last for eight months - We didn't get much experience in the cold as heck winters because we weren't there to experience them, but we heard a lot about it. The sun rises at 10 and sets at 3. It reaches -50 Celcius. Oddly enough, most people have nothing bad to say about the winter. Many people actually rave about it. Those who have experienced Southern Ontario winters say Yellowknife winter is actually better than Southern Ontario! Also, most of the people who survive this city for longer than a few months tend to be outdoorsy, and enjoy the winter weather for all to activity that it provides.
The long and hot summer days that don't last for too long - The summer is short in Yellowknife. But people take advantage of it. The day is long, with an early sunrise and a late sunset, so it is important to be out-and-about for as long as possible, taking advantage of the heat and the sun.
The Snow Castle - The snow castle is a structure built yearly on Yellowknife bay, after the water is completely frozen. Headed by main man 'Snowking', a team of people spend about a month to build a castle made of snow and ice, and then for the month of March, various festivities are held in the castle.
The Diamond Mines - Diamonds were discovered in the north of NWT in the early '90s, and now four diamond mines are in existence. Many of the workers at the diamond mines go to work for two weeks, and head back to the city for two weeks. Here is a cool video of one of the diamond mines, Diavik.
Additionally, many Yellowknifers mentioned some of the current issues that the city as a whole is dealing with, which include:
The demolishing of the Robertson Headframe at the Con mine - The Robertson headframe is a landmark in Yellowknife. But because it exists on a contaminated closed down mine, it's destiny seems to be tending towards demolition. The headframe is 76 m tall, and is currently the tallest building in the Territory. No one knows when, or really even if, it will be taken down.
The blasting of the natural bedrock to make flat area to build on - Many of the contractors coming into Yellowknife these days find it cheaper and quicker to blast away the uneven bedrock when building new residences and public buildings. People are mad, and people are sad about this. Although it takes a bit more work to develop a building design that incorporates the uneven terrian below, it allows for the natural landscape to persist, and that is what many Yellowknifers want. One of the most interesting buildings in Yellowknife was built in the 80s as a personal residence. Initially belonging to Gino Pin, his home was built on the side of a rock, even when city official didn't beleive that the land could be used for building.
Transcience - I mentioned the issue of transience in a previous blog post. But this becomes an issue. People come to Yellowknife without knowing much about what it will be like. Many will have a year or two on a work contract in the city, and when it is up, they head back south. We were told that if you live here long enough, you come to realize that most of the new friends you make will likely be up and gone soon enough. It becomes tough for many jobs, because new people have to continually be trained in the same area, and then nothing more can come out of the job because there isn't enough experience to make it to the 'next level'.
One more thing I must mention - in a previous blog post I noted that Yellowknife is named Yellowknife because it's main industry in the 1930's was knife production, and they all tended to be yellow in colour due to the pigment of the bedrock found under the Great Slave Lake. Which I then followed up with a 'just kidding'. While this statement is definitely historically inaccurate, it isn't that far from the truth.
Yellowknife was named as such because of the knives that the local Dene band carried. This native group lived on the islands around Great Slave Lake, and their knives had yellow copper blades.
Peace and love,
A quick decision made when we were still in Valemount, BC, led us up to the end of the highway in the Northwest Territories. By August 29th, we had already driven from Edmonton to Valemount, and had done this because we were planning to head up to Whitehorse, Yukon as our first (and only) stop in the North, and Valemount was on the way from Edmonton. But one short conversation regarding another potential plan led to a quick detour to the Northwest Territories. So on August 29th, we turned back around, headed back to Edmonton, and took a straight away to Yellowknife.
The ride north was interesting. It was a lot of Derk in the driver's seat, and a lot of me doing not much. We stopped for the first night because roads can be quite dangerous in the night in the Northern parts of Canada, and then we continued on at 7 am the following morning. Eventually the trees got shorter, the landscape got rockier, and then we were in Yellowknife, after only about 20 hours of driving.
In Valemount and for days prior, we had been listening to three songs on repeat, just over and over and over again: John Denver's Country Roads, Dublin Blues by Guy Clarke, and Outlaw Shit by Whalen Jennings. Unfortunately, our source of these three songs was long since left in Jasper, Alberta (it was played on a speaker that was connected to a phone that is owned by an awesome friend named Allie who jumped out of the van in Jasper because she had no intention of following us up to the territories). So we were stuck listening to a variety of songs, much more than three, for the whole of our journey (bummer, right).
Now, in Yellowknife, I am sporting a yellow knife pin on my sweater (which I wear everyday since I live in a van) and on the blade it says "Yellowknife". The true mark of a newly fabricated Yellowknifer, or perhaps just the mark of a visitor.
Within approximately 18 hours in the city, people recognized us, thanks to the -Visit Yellowknife- Facebook page, which shared a post with our photo and a short blurb about why we are in the city in the first place.
We took this adventure, which began at the end of the highway, head on without any clue of how it would turn out. And with each person that we meet, and each amazingly built structure that we see, I have come to realize that we really got ourselves into something good. Derk and I looked nothing up before driving here. We didn't look at the population, at the main industry, at the main tourist attractions. We punched "Yellowknife" into Google maps....... and then went to Yellowknife.
-is the capital of the Northwest Territories
-is on Great Slave Lake
-has a small number of residents who live on houseboats, in what is known as "Houseboat Bay"
-has a snowking (the king of the snow castle that is built every winter)
-is not to be mixed up with Whitehorse, capital of the Yukon, simply because its name is a colour followed by a noun
-is named Yellowknife because it's main industry in the 1930's was knife production, and the knives all tended to be yellow in colour due to the pigment of the bedrock found under the Great Slave Lake
-used to be a thriving gold mining town, and now it is a thriving capital city in relatively close viscinity (hundreds of kilometres) to a few diamond mines
-has a small neighborhood known as the Woodyard in the the eccentric Old Town, where some people choose to live a simple life in shacks, that are often decorated with cool objects that were found at the local dump site
-has a local dump site where the common folk are permitted to salvage other's garbage
-is at the end of the highway, and it is unexpectedly big for someone like myself who expected it to be a small city with just a few streets and a few little stores (I was obviously completely wrong)
Transience is a common term around here as well. Many people come up to Yellowknife (often abbreviated as YK in the city) for work, and when winter hits, they get the heck out. Winters are long and dark and tough. You have to be a certain type of person to withstand the winters here. But of the people we've met, the long lasting residents, those who came here decades ago with the intention of staying two weeks, are still here today. Because for some people, people who like the outdoors and the snow and the cold, this place is really heaven. The outdoor enthusiast seems to thrive in YK. It wasn't until our fifth day here that we met someone who lives here who doesn't completely love the city at all times of the year.
Derk and I are afraid that the rest of our trip won't be able to compete with YK.
Peace and love,
The above photo displays the side of a residential recycling bin that was out at the end of a driveway on recycling day.
While I was working early this summer, I bought some camera equipment and realized that travelling in the fall with only two backpacks to carry our stuff would be super difficult (at the time I was already living out of a backpack and I was like WOOOOOOAH! I cannot even fit my tent, sleeping bag and camera in my bag, let alone all the other things that we will accumulate for our trip). So I confided in Derk: "This is going to be realy hard," said I. "Yes, I was thinking that too. It is stressful, I think I will buy a van," she said. "Ok," I said.
And thus Derk hit up the good old internet, found a man named Gino, and met him at his deli. With Gino, all of his sons, and his wife watching her, Derk inspected the vehicle that he had for sale: A 2000 GMC Savannah with approx. 140 000 km on it. The visible rust has been painted over to make it no longer visible, and the front shocks had been recently replaced. The A/C didn't work, so Derk said "Hey Gino, would you be able to fix the A/C and get the vehicle E-tested and certified?" And Gino, who appeared to like Derk quite a lot to the point where Derk's mother stated, "Gino is quite dazzled by you, that will make things easier," said "Ok, for sure."
Before the official purchase, a family friend who is quite familiar with automobiles and all that comes with them, went with Derk to check the van and make sure she wasn't getting ripped off. "No issues, it looks fine, you won't get a better deal for that price," he said. So she bought it and did all of those things that you do after you buy a vehicle (all of those things).
She then outfitted it so that we can live in it for three months. This means a vent in the ceiling, a bed for the both of us, a fridge to keep our food cold, and space to keep all of our things. There is also a passenger bench for Megan and Allie to comfortably drive across the country in the back of the van. And thus, we have the VanDerk. The interior is made of wood, but Derk believes that eventually the interior will deteriorate (just due to use). So when our trip is complete, she is going to rip it all out, and use her welding skills to redo it all in metal. Woow, metal.
Peace and love,
***below is a photo of the VanDerk in front of a giant mining truck, which was behind the Walmart in Hinton, AB.
Time is flying by and things are happening!
We are finally off on our journey into the good, good expansive lands of Canada. After a summer of hard work (planting, and planting and planting trees (Korry), and delegating, and delegating and delegating the planting of trees (Derk)), our adventure was off to a rocky start in July. With an initial starting date of August 1st, we quickly realized that carrying around various camera equipment, camping gear, and many days worth of food was an impossibly difficult feat for two people with just two backpacks. Doable, but it surely would not have been the most comfortable of circumstances, given that we would be on our feet and moving from town to town virtually every day of the following three months.
So things turned out like this: Derk went vehicle searching in Ontario, bought and renovated a cargo van, and was planning to meet with me in Hope, British Columbia, around August 4th. Unfortunately, at the end of July I had to fly home to Ontario from BC because my grandmother was not doing well (Rest in peace Granny! I love and miss you). Plans then changed dramatically: I drove to Thunder Bay with Derk and two friends, where they stopped to work for two weeks and I worked for for four days with them. I then caught a bus to Calgary, met with my family and spent a great week with them exploring Alberta, then Derk met me in Edmonton, and our trip finally began.
If the story behind all this (this website, our adventure, etc.) is somewhat vague, thus leading to you asking questions such as "Who the heck is Derk?", or "Who the heck is the writer of this article?" or "What the heck is going on?" or "Are the Rocky Mountains actually made of rock?", continue onto the following link to find out about such information, in -relatively- detailed formats.
Who is Korry, who is Derk, and what is this adventure across Canada all about?
What's the deal with the cargo van?
But for the slightly-not-so-interested-in-the-relatively-detailed-information people, and the slightly-lacking-in-time people, here is a quick recap:
I (Korry) applied for and was awarded with the Drs Jolie Ringash and Glen Bandiera Renaissance Award offered through McMaster University, which is an award offered to any student at the university to pursue something outside of their current field of study. I applied with the idea of travelling across the country, looking at the diverse architecture in small-town-Canada. My ex-coworker Kristel Derkowski, who happens to be a graduate of Architecture school at Carleton University as well as a lover of all cool new travel experiences, is accompanying me (and ultimately providing us with the means of travel in her van, unofficially named the VANDERK).
August 27th (plus or minus a day or two) was the official day 1 of our exciting expedition. Derk and I, along with our two friends Megan Wain and Allie B Hasbany, drove from Edmonton, Alberta, to Jasper, Alberta, then from Jasper to Tete Jeune Cache, BC.
There I was residing in an ~25 year old log cabin, called the -Rainbow Retreat-, inhabited by three young fellas who live here "because of the mountains, it's the mountains that keep us here". A good old friend, Alan Yukon, is one of the inhabitants, and he gladly opened his doors for us to stay a couple days. Alan, also a dabbler in tree planting (delivering and delivering the trees to the planters), is a passionate entrepreneur leading mountain expeditions, living in the MOST SUPREME location for such an endeavor: "the best place in the mountains in all of Canada" he says.
The -Rainbow Retreat- was initially a bed and breakfast, and the owners would provide a great meal for visitors and play some interesting music, providing a true "log cabin in the mountains called Rainbow Retreat" vibe. The B&B sign is still up, though it is quite ragged and hanging broken in its hinges.
Peace and love,