Today began with a ride through the “old town” to find Great Slave Lake. The mundane facts are that it is the second largest lake in the Northwest Territories and the deepest lake in North America. It has a sandy beach and the center of much activity in Hay River. I was the only person there when I arrived and the lake was alive, but peaceful. It is vast and stretches to the horizon, giving the feeling of an ocean and felt like a pretty special place to be. Thinking that Tracey might have liked to see it too, I retrieved my vial of ashes and let the wind carry some to the water. Once again, I had that feeling of a lighter spirit, having found the right place for her.
I rode back through town to Hwy 1 to explore the route to Fort Providence and find the waterfalls along the way. They were not very hard to find – all are well marked in territorial parks. I stopped briefly to top up my gas at Enterprise and have a hot dog before heading up Hwy 1, which is the waterfall route up here.
Waterfalls are my happy place and I find they evoke different feelings. The first falls I encountered were at McNallie Creek. The river was absolutely surging through the forest and bursting through the opening of the falls. Watching it made me feel wild and powerful – like I could accomplish anything. I stood and soaked up that feeling for a good long while before heading out again.
Along the way to the next falls, I saw a few more of those large brown birds I had seen in Northern BC. I found out later that they are sandhill cranes. A few kilometers off the road took me into Lady Evelyn Falls. These are also spectacular, but very different from McNallie. The falls span the entire width of the river, which flows over it in a much more civilized manner. Still, they thunder with the power of their drop. I had been told by Annette that if I took the little path to the right, I would find a rope going down the hillside that would take me right below the falls. I went off down the path and there were a couple of kids there that had just scrambled back up the rope. I asked them if that was the place and they said yes it was and you could go right on down that rope to the forest below. Two more little girls appeared as we were chatting. I said “Well, now you get to see an old lady go down the rope!” The little boy said “Can we watch?!” LOL. I said “Absolutely!”, and down I went. It wasn’t too long or difficult a descent (about 30 feet or so) and when I reached the bottom, one of the little girls poked her head over and said “You did that really well!” Just as you would imagine her mom or dad would say to her. Always nice to have a cheering section! It was a worthwhile climb, in spite of the voracious mosquitoes. Being at the base of the falls was stunning.
Also on the advice of Annette, I continued down that same side road to the community of Kakisa. This is a small Dene community a half hour of so south and west of Fort Providence. As I rode into the community, I spotted some people working on a community garden. I pulled over and asked about it. This led to a conversation with Margaret Leishmann, who was an elder in the community. Margaret is a healer and does a lot of work with traditional medicine and teaching traditional ways in the community. She told me about the willow that was an important medicine and how the moose love it. The moose are a main food source for them in Kakisa. She pointed out the log house that she had grown up in. We talked for some time about life and healing and we had a great conversation. She said her mom had lived to be 105.
After the team had gone on to the next location, I rode around a bit. It was a tidy little community, and on my way out, I stopped at the peaceful little cemetery and took a photo.
The last stop on my tour today was Fort Providence. There is a big bridge into the town that was photo-worthy. On the way back to Hay River, I found a way to pull off the road and get close to the water where I could get a good picture of the bridge. As I approached, there was another person down there with his bike. His father and a friend had put a boat in at Fort Providence and gone all the way to the Arctic Ocean near Inuvik. His father had died a few years ago and this man was leaving some ashes at the beginning and end of the journey he had done.
After taking a photo of the bridge, I headed back to Hay River. I had dinner and a re-pack and now it is time to head for bed. Back to Alberta tomorrow!
Alberta is put on hold for a couple of days while I travel about the Northwest Territories. Loaded up the bike and went back to the room to do a final check and fill up my water bottle. In doing so, I couldn't help but observe the irony of the "We can make a difference....Room to be green" sign, encouraging us to re-use towels, sitting beside the plastic water cups, wrapped in plastic! Umm....maybe re-usable glasses......?
Today was a very pleasant ride from High Level, AB to Hay River, NT with minimal traffic and a good road. I didn’t stop much for photos and just enjoyed the ride. The weather was perfect for riding – 20 degrees, overcast and no wind. I did stop a couple of times for photos and the horse flies and mosquitoes immediately swarmed about the bike and my helmet! I kept my visor firmly shut to make sure none of them got inside. The landscape along the highway was flat and vibrant green with trees and grassy ditches. Every once in awhile, a pretty river or boggy marsh would appear to delight the eyes. I saw one lone black bear, but none of the bison I have been told are all over the road. I have no doubt I will see that before I leave, though.
Reaching the border, I braved the horse flies and mosquitoes to take a picture with the 60th Parallel sign. Now, I have been north of 60 already by travelling into the Yukon, but they didn’t have a big cool sign that made me feel special for doing it! I stopped at the Visitor’s Centre which is attended by two friendly young people. I could have even got a certificate to prove I was at the 60th parallel, but I figured the photo would do. They have some amazing wildlife displays and local arts in addition to their maps and information. I succumbed to the temptation of ice cream and black cherry pop and decided to take a break. When I got ready to leave, I could not find my phone. Anywhere. “Impossible,” I thought. I had taken photos with it minutes before. Searched high and low, checked all my pockets and little purse about 5 times each, and searched the bike. Nothing. All I could think of was maybe the couple that had been there at the same time had picked it up from the table by mistake, thinking it was theirs. So, I left a card with the employees with the name of the hotel and headed out to ride the last hour and a half to Hay River. Intent on not letting the incident ruin my day, I stopped at Alexandra Falls just up the road from the border. It’s a very cool waterfall through a deep gorge. I was disappointed that I was unable to take a picture without my phone, but hung out for a bit watching the water crash over the edge and froth up in steamy mist at the bottom.
Louise Falls was a little further up the road, but I thought I would stop on my way back out at that one, hoping Hay River would resolve the problem of not having a camera. Spent the next hour to Enterprise thinking about what action I should take if my phone should not be found. Stopped in Enterprise for gas, as there’s not much other reason to stop there, and continued on to Hay River. My first stop was at the Visitor Centre to find out where my hotel would be. I got off the bike and was greeted by Peter, a local gentleman who welcomed me to Hay River. As I was entering, the couple I had seen at the visitor centre pulled in behind me! I asked them about my phone and they said they had not picked it up by accident and graciously offered to call it and see if I could hear it. Figured it was worth a try, even though I knew the ringer was on vibrate. No luck. Well, phooey. I went into the visitor centre and was again welcomed by the friendly staff there, who directed me to my hotel.
Upon checking in, I went straight to the room to de-gear. The day had warmed up considerably by the time I arrived at the visitor’s centre and I was darn good and warm when I arrived in hay River. Bent down top pull up the leg of my riding pants to undo my boots and felt a rectangular lump on the inside leg…… Instead of putting my phone into the zippered pocket of my riding pants, I had put it into the zippered vent of my riding pants right above the pocket! It had slid down the lining to my foot and I never felt it with my boots on! Relief flooded through me and my ride finished on a positive note after all.
Once settled, I changed my clothes and threw on my runners for a walk about the town. Hay River is small, but has everything one needs. Still in search of a cheap pair of flip flops, I stopped in at the North Mart. They had exactly what I needed and more. Chatted with Wendy and Anita, who had suggestions on what I should see while I am here and also on where to go for dinner. Leaving the North Mart, I strolled up and down street for a few blocks and found the Town Hall and a neat Inukshuk by the fire hall. In that short space, there was also a picturesque church and a couple of very colourful schools – loved them! Heading back the other direction, I stopped at the dollar store in search of a Northwest Territories flag sticker for my bike. I didn't find one, but did find some rabbit pelts - not your everyday item in your everyday dollar store!
My tummy beginning to whine about its neglect since ice cream and black cherry pop, I headed over to the Back Eddy, recommended by Wendy. They have a great menu – something for everyone – and I had a hard time deciding. Until I saw the whitefish. I thought since I can’t go to Whitehorse without having arctic char, I should try the local fish in Hay River. The server was a pretty, friendly girl who assured me it was good stuff. When she brought it out, she said it had been swimming this morning – can’t get more freshly caught than that. It was delicious, with a very mild flavour and thoroughly wonderful texture. Nicer than halibut, I thought. I had just begun my meal when Annette came in and sat a ways down the bar from me. It wasn’t long before we were chatting away and I felt like I had stepped into my neighbourhood bar and been made completely at home. Annette filled me in on the sights and secrets of adventures to have in the area and now I will have to pick and choose what I accomplish tomorrow! Being like-minded, we talked of all kinds of things from children, and even to politics (since we have pretty similar ideas), patting ourselves on the back for being so smart. 😊
Can’t wait to head out on some explorations tomorrow! Are you coming along for the ride?