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.