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Guest Post: North of 60

Does anyone remember that TV show? I had forgotten about it until I recently crossed the 60th parallel and saw souvenirs to that effect.

Just over a month ago a friend and I crossed that ‘invisible line’ as we began our Canadian adventure trip. We had had a tiny peek into the Yukon a couple of years ago on a day trip during an Alaskan cruise. I was wowed and wanted to return almost immediately. It took two years, but not only did I get back to the Yukon, I also got to see the capital of the Northwest Territories (NWT) too!

Many of our friends said to us, “Why would you go up there?” Our answer was, “Why not?”

I realize that anyone can Google either territory or capital city and learn much of what we did on our trip, but here’s a personal look at what I took away from each place that Google or Wikipedia can’t give you.

Yellowknife, NWT

Having grown up in a small town, Yellowknife reminded me of just that. It has a tight-knit community feel just like a small town. There’s only one Walmart, one Canadian Tire, you get the idea … So if you are new and don’t know everyone yet, you soon will.

Yellowknife has a rustic feel (think pioneer town) in that something has been made out of nothing there. The landscape looks like northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba (in particular the Creighton – Flin Flon area) with the Canadian Shield, forests and lakes. Although there are lakes in and around Yellowknife, surprisingly there isn’t much wildlife in the city – something I was quite fine with.

Yellowknife - view of float plane mural at Pilots' Monument and some of the houseboats you can see from there.

Yellowknife – view of float plane mural at Pilots’ Monument and some of the houseboats you can see from there.

For those reality TV fans, we saw and toured Buffalo Airways and met Joe and Mikey from Ice Pilots. We also saw the summer version of the road to Dettah featured on Ice Road Truckers.

The thing that surprised me the most about Yellowknife was the houseboats. I guess I associate them with warmer climates, but apparently that’s just not necessary. Why boat in to the mainland all year when you can walk in on the ice in the winter?

The highlight of my time in Yellowknife had to be the air show. Held every other year, the Yellowknife International Air Show is just like any other you’ve been to but with crowds of hundreds, not thousands. If you wanted to talk to a pilot, you could. If you wanted to tour an aircraft without an hour-long wait, you could. And seeing the Snowbirds three of the four days we were in Yellowknife, well that’s just priceless.

Yellowknife - Buffalo Airways plane and hangar

Yellowknife – Buffalo Airways plane and hangar

Whitehorse, Yukon

If the thought ‘you’ve seen one territorial capital, you’ve seen them all’ comes to mind, you’d be surprised – Yellowknife and Whitehorse couldn’t be more different.

Whitehorse - view of the Yukon River.

Whitehorse – view of the Yukon River.

Whitehorse looks like any other small city in a province – in fact, it reminds me of Moose Jaw.

Whitehorse is very family friendly and accessible; there is a lot to see and do. For example, just in the downtown area you’ll find everything from museums and shopping to all sorts of outdoor adventures.

The landscape of Whitehorse reminds me of Calgary – the city is flat, but mountains are just off to the side. You never feel crowded or closed in – we prairie people like our open spaces, don’t we? The fast-flowing Yukon River runs right alongside the city. A series of parks and lots of trails to explore only add to the adventure that Whitehorse offers. Another highlight, depending on how you view it, is that there are often animals (bears in particular) in and around the city. I guess the fishing is good!

Whitehorse - view of the Yukon River

Whitehorse – view of the Yukon River

Surprise must-do: The Whitehorse Rapids Fishway.

If you ever find yourself in Whitehorse (especially in August), this is something you just have to see. Here you can view one of the longest migrations of any animal from indoor comfort. Large viewing windows allow you to watch salmon (and other fish species) as they take a bit of breather from their long swim. A lot of scientific research is done here – in fact, each and every fish is counted. Can you imagine? Whether you’re into biology or not, young and old will find this stop fun and interesting.

Whitehorse Rapids Fishway (480x640)

Whitehorse Rapids Fishway

If either (or both!) of these cities are on your bucket list, what are you waiting for? Yellowknife is an easy one-hour flight from Edmonton and that definitely beats the drive – we were told it is 18 hours! Whitehorse is also only about a one and a half hour flight from Vancouver. Or visit both and fly between them like we did – I recommend flying Air North. Remember when you used to get two free checked bags and a snack-like meal on flights? Well, you still can – you just have to go north for it.

J

 

Jill Laycock has lived in Saskatchewan all her life and in Regina for the last 20 years. Her life is spent on a computer and she travels whenever she can. You can follow her adventures on her blog: 40 Here, 40 There, 40, 40 Everywhere!  where she’s whittling down (but always adding to) her bucket list, or connect with her on Instagram!

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