Three full days in Yellowknife

Posted by Patrick Lam on Saturday, May 7, 2022

Table Of Contents

There was a few days after classes ended and before the New Zealand border opened for me, so I decided to visit the Northwest Territories. Working the list: after visiting Saskatchewan in March, I now have yet to spend a night in just Manitoba and Nunavut. I have been to all other Canadian provinces and territories. Also added YZF to my list of airports walked to.

Hello Yellowknife!

I stuck mostly to COVID-safe activities, though maybe NWT infection rates were low when I was there. It’s hard to tell. Specifically, in April, that meant cross-country skiing/bushwhacking, aurora spotting, and take-out from restaurants. I also did go visit judo practice once. Risk actually is pretty low when there are a total of 4 people there, but I got some tips which I hope will be useful in tournament.

I like the scenery in Whitehorse more than in Yellowknife, though that may also be a function of the season. Whitehouse is next to the St. Elias mountains (highest mountains in Canada) and I visited in September. Yellowknife is next to Great Slave Lake, which you see on the flight in. The lake is impressive as a sheet of white and probably also when melted.

Unfair comparisons: Mr. Raven in Yellowknife vs good views in Whitehorse in the fall.

In Yellowknife, even only two weeks after the equinox, days had gotten to 14.5 hours when I left, April 10; days were getting longer by an astounding 6 minutes a day. Early April in Yellowknife still has ample snow (even fresh snow) but at the same time it’s also melting and there’s a lot of ugly dark snowmelt along the highways.

Bush Pilots' Monument, a bush pilot in a plane, and Old Town from the ice.

Early April also is a good time to photograph aurora in Yellowknife. Earlier in the year is more sure—fewer clouds—but there are fewer clouds because it’s astoundingly cold. April is usually a reasonable temperature (within 10 degrees of freezing; still need to be well-dressed but it’s not extreme) and there’s still enough darkness. I guess one advantage of going in December or January is that you don’t have to stay up as late. It was also much easier to scope out safe viewing spots in Yellowknife than in Saskatchewan. No ditches this time! I was lucky enough to have a Kp7 event, so plenty of action, and no clouds. But that was only on the last night I was there. The first night might have worked too, but I was too tired. Other nights were cloudy.

Finally, successful aurora spotting. Didn't have to go far, but better views outside town.

The gun-like sounds at the Giant Mine Boat Launch were somewhat disconcerting. I don’t think that was auroras.

I rented cross-country skis from Overlander Sports. Probably my technique is wrong and I could be doing it easier. I got out on Frame Lake in Yellowknife for an easy first trip on the lake. I then tried to go around Plant Lake on the Ingraham Trail, but there wasn’t really a trail. With the amount and crustiness of snow on the ground, skis weren’t a viable means of transportation. Snowshoes would have worked but it would have been more than a day trip. Was a good idea to have an inReach satellite communication device given the lack of crowds. Instead I went to see Cameron Ramparts and Cameron Falls themselves.

Cross-country skiing adventures: bushwhacking up a hill, postholing, good-looking rock, Cameron Falls, embarking on Frame Lake, Dunbar Drop at the Yellowknife Ski Club.

The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is well worth a visit, with informative displays about natural history, aboriginal culture, and settlement. The Bush Pilots Monument gives a good view of downtown Yellowknife from on the water.

Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre: Polar bear on a hunt, bison, geese.

Restaurants: Bullock’s Bistro was great. But I also got food from the grocery store and had Mountain House dehydrated food for one supper. Good to have that option given a lack of kitchen in the airbnb.

Bullock's Bistro (×2) and grilled Arctic char.

Also I did some work from Yellowknife, including talking to students and writing final exam questions. Indeed, final exam questions was my main activity on Saturday April 9. Needed to get done, even if I was in a place where I could do more tourism (fatbiking was an option).