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Yellowknife, Northwest Territories


By Lisa Pierson

Flying in to Yellowknife was a tranquil and beautiful sight. Far below, the Great Slave Lake looked smooth and dark. The closer the plane got to the shores, the paler the water looked. What was slate blue before, was turning to a softer blue and was also dotted with bits of rock and earth.   I imagined Yellowknife to appear much more barren and lifeless, but I turned out to be wrong. The area was not only brimming with life but thriving and proud as well; I would later learn that it was much like the people. 

Whereas on the plane the vastness of the lake stood out, the first thing I noticed as stepped out of the airport was how enormous the sky sounded, felt, and looked. There were no skyscrapers or smog blocking the sky, which was the lightest of blues. The air felt so light and tasted, well, like air, a strange feeling to a city dweller such as myself. 

My first activity was to walk around the old section of Yellowknife, which is not surprisingly called Old Town. The neighbourhood is an eclectic mix of log cabins, tilting shacks, and house boats. Walking along the winding dirt roads, I was delighted by the sights of the colourful houseboats on the lake. Blue, yellow, and red, and that was just one house. I came to understand that the vibrant colours were a way to cope with the long, dark winters. 

Not only does Yellowknife offer a beautiful and rugged landscape, it also has a rollicking nightlife. The boisterous Gold Range bar showed me what real fun is to be had in the city.  There was not one jaded urbanite in the place, and you won’t find any trendy micro-brews here. The customers were up and dancing to the country tinged rock n’ roll bar band or mingling with the crowd. Conversations with strangers seem as natural to the locals as the scenery. 

Although not a large population, less than 20,000, it takes a strong society to live in a place where the winters are not only long and cold, but dark as well.   The people I encountered were proud of the extreme weather conditions they endured. Most of the art on display at museums and shops in Yellowknife were paintings with snowy landscapes, and photographs of their frozen world.   However proud they are of their capacity to withstand the trials of winter, they take every advantage of the sunlight and warmth when summer comes. People are out on their bikes or hiking, and the yards of many residents are filled with flowers of all colours and sizes. Every moment of this precious weather is enjoyed because they know the cold is yet to come.

The morning I left Yellowknife, a chill was in the wind that was not present the previous week. Summer was leaving quickly and it was time for me to take my exit as well. 

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