Go to Yellowknife, find your soul

For a place that’s so close to Edmonton (hour and 45 plane ride), it’s strange how few have visited the city of Yellowknife in our Northwest Territories, the place to find your soul.

The Background

I was told this might happen before I left by a buddeh and therefore needed little encouragement. A good dose of finding your soul seemed like just the ticket. Let’s take a trip to the real great white north. The territory with the polar bears on the licence plates that say Spectacular Northwest Territories. It was nothing short of that.

Bread and butter

Flying north out of Edmonton feels like flying over a piece of land that does not end. The fact metropolitan Edmonton is the most northern city of over a million folks in North America is unbelievable, considering how much untouched ground there is north of it. That ground starts to break up as you approach Yellowknife. Lakes, rivers, hills and the mighty Canadian Shield (a favourite for locals), are now your bread and butter.

Cameron Falls, Yellowknife, NWT
Cameron Falls, Yellowknife, NWT

Don’t run out of gas in Yellowknife

This actually didn’t happen, but there was the potential of it happening and if it wasn’t for the wait in line during road construction, it could have easily happened. The van we borrowed (what else in Yellowknife?) from the landlady has been up and down a few hills in its day and there was no way we were coastin’ into town on fumes like cousin Eddie in Christmas Vacation.

The Van
The Van

No underground parking

This was easily my most city slicker moment during the whole trip and thank you to my party for not absolutely roasting me for it. Yes I asked. It was a newer looking building I swear. So yes, underground parking is not ideal in a place like this. What’s worse: not becoming wiser with age or becoming starchy?

The runner up for most city slicker moment was asking for a window seat at the Yellowknife airport for the return trip. The two airline reps paused for a second after I asked and slowly looked at one another and then back at me, wide smiled. There were only four of us on the flight. I laughed out loud when I walked on. Two thumbs up for Canadian North airline in case anybody is considering. The cookies were great.

Camping in September and rookie mistakes

At least I can share the blame with several of the circumstances we put ourselves in once we unpacked our supplies and understood, rather quickly, the rookie mistake we had made. We camped at a site next to Reid Lake, roughly an hour drive outside Yellowknife along the Ingraham Trail, which didn’t have but a few guests that seemed impressed with our willingness to camp with a tent – it was cold. We packed essentials like marshmallows, snacks, food for supper, coffee for the next morning, but fell light on the suds. It didn’t take long to polish off a couple cold ones while setting up and getting a fire going (another task that didn’t cooperate as planned). We didn’t run out of beverages completely, but the ol’ Baileys for coffee the next morning took an awful hit.

Old town and downtown 

One of the highlights of visiting Yellowknife is seeing Old Town, which is a short jaunt from downtown. The houses are small and bunched together and you are surrounded by water on all sides minus the route you came in on. House boats hug the shoreline and every once in a while you stumble upon public art or a neat spot to grab lunch like the seasonal Wildcat Cafe. Beer and french fries – is there anything better? You can also scamper up Pilots Monument to get a great view of the town, the water and, off in the distance, the city’s downtown.

Pilots Monument, Yellowknife, NWT
Pilots Monument, Yellowknife, NWT

Those visiting the Knife for the first time expecting the downtown core to be on the smaller side with a rough and tumble attitude will not be disappointed. Strolling through on a Sunday might make you think everyone’s packed up and moved south to Alberta. Not the case. The just shy of 20,000 folks that call this city home have great pride in where they live and for good reason. Most are transplants that have picked up and gambled on living in one of Canada’s remote cities where a new restaurant or beer joint, such as the hip Woodyard that boasts itself as being the only brewery in the territory, is like Christmas morning when you’ve been good all year round.

Old Town, Yellowknife, NWT
Old Town, Yellowknife, NWT

Find you soul

I’ve heard folks talk about taking trips to get away and find something they’ve been missing in their daily nine to five, 11 to seven or 10 to six (I mention these other hours because people work them all the time and it’s tough as hell). Does getting away really make that much of a difference or do our minds believe, for a short period of time, things have changed until the inevitable routine kicks back in and we’re springing for the nighty night herbal tea blend at 9:30 p.m. on a Tuesday night? (whatever, at least I admit it).

I think we all get something different out of trips and it’s not so much what we experience in a different surrounding as it is how we let ourselves experience it. Letting go of where we can from or the place we call home and embracing the here and now no matter how difficult or unsettling it might feel to not check in on social media or think about work or what your friends are doing that Saturday.

Yellowknife is the perfect place to do this. For one, there’s little cell phone reception in the bush, which is basically the whole god damn territory, so there’s no point in even taking your phone out of your pocket to do anything besides snap photos. The second is something I alluded to earlier about how much untouched ground there is in the northern part of Canada. It’s encouraging to experience this because despite how connected and small the world can feel from time to time, actually seeing these far off places on the ground brings us to the realization that, individually, there’s so much for us to discover.

Travelling more is a easy argument to become a better person, but there has to be a commitment to being present in those sometimes strange, out of your element situations. It’s worth it and in the end you realize it makes an impact on probably the only pure part of who you are.

Only an hour and change from Edmonton. Go to Yellowknife: find your soul.