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!