Wednesday, August 11

The Final Frontier

Well, the final frontier in terms of roads, anyway. I've been in Yellowknife for almost a week, and this has been by far the highlight of my trip. I'm not sure how many have ever thought to take a close look at this place on a map, but it is at the end of the road, literally. Two roads go north from the boarder with Alberta - the first one ends about 80 clicks from where it starts in a town called Hay River, while the other goes north for about 500 km till it hits Yellowknife. This place easily has one of the deepest feelings of isolation that I've felt in Canada. Whereas the Yukon is a stopping point for people going to Alaska, there's no other reason to come here than for Yellowknife itself. And that's by no means a bad thing. But then again, I haven't made it to Nunavut. Well, not yet, anyway.

As for the getting here part, I somehow managed to make it all the way from Edmonton in just two days, covering 500 km the first day, and over 1000 on the second. The only reason I was able to make such good time was that the people who took me most of the way on day two drove (as I'm told) like true Northerners, doing about 170 km/hr the whole time. They were both extremely nice, a girl about my age and her mother-in-law. Besides offering me food the whole trip, they gave me their phone number, invited me to stay with them, and offered to show me around town the whole time I was there. Come to think of it, 'extremely nice' doesn't do them justice. Still, their house was already very crowded (3 people staying in a 1 1/2), so as not to take too much advantage of their hospitality, I opted to camp out instead. But I was over to their place for dinner last night, and after eating, they drove me farther north, up the rest of the 'highway' (actually just a dirt road), to see some very nice waterfalls and lakes.

I have a hard time describing how I feel about this place in and of itself. Unlike Whitehorse, it's very flat, but the geography has other fascinating features. The soil is extremely arid, more like a big layer of pebbles than anything else. Because of that, seeing trees growing out of it has a definite beauty of it's own. And of course there's the wildlife, most notably the Bison. I'd never seen anything nearly so impressive until now. On the drive up we must have passed 40 of them on the road. They're no taller than a moose (about 6 ft, 1.75m on average), but they're so incredibly massive! I have no idea what they weigh, but it must be around 2 tones. If I were to sit down, their heads would still be bigger than my whole body. Seeing them in motion was easily an experience in it's own right. And they have no fear of cars whatsoever, but then again, why should they? If they do get hit by a car, most of the damage will be on the car's end.

Something else that I have to mention is one of the local seafood restaurants. They're right on Great Slave Lake (about the same size as Lake Ontario), and they only serve what they catch that day, which would usually give you a choice of about three or four different kinds of fish. They cook them quite literally to perfection, and then give it a dose of some sort of garlic vinaigrette. It looked very good - but the taste was unbelievable! I got a hint as to why towards the end of the meal, when I poured some of the vinaigrette on what was left of my salad, and suddenly lettuce became surreal... I don't know what's in that sauce, but it must be spiked with a drug of one sort or another. Being in the restaurant felt in some ways like being back in frontier times, as the building itself was a log cabin, the kitchen was just behind the bar, and most of things being used were late 19th century style. And of course, the whole place was standing room only.

After I leave here, I'll probably head for Edmonton, as pretty much all roads out of the N.W.T. go in that direction. It'll be nice to get back to a city and get clean again, though I doubt that I'll stay there for more than a day or two. I've done the tent thing before (my record for living in a tent stands at 3 months straight), but still, I hadn't bargained for doing the outdoorsey thing for too long on this trip, and after a week a hot shower will feel very, very good. Still, my opinion of Edmonton is the same as before, so after a little while, I'll probably head towards Jasper.


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