I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was cold, even by Yellowknife standards, the kind of cold that will take your breath away, but I had quickly learned that when you step outside at -40 C, breathe shallowly, through your nose. Only rookies take that deep breath that burns all the way down the windpipe, ending in an uncontrollable cough.
It was January, and I had been in Yellowknife for two months, before heading to Fort Resolution (population, 500), on my first work assignment. Now, this wasn’t your typical ‘head to the airport and stay in a fancy hotel’ type trip. It was more like ‘kid straight out of university gets in the cargo van and hits the road’ type job.
In my 21-year old infinite wisdom, it seemed a good idea to start a 600 km road trip at 6 pm and drive, alone, through the night. My decision was no doubt influenced by the necessary recovery time required after a Saturday night on Yellowknife’s infamous ‘Range Street‘.
With the tunes cranked, I cruised along Highway 3 towards the South Slave. It wasn’t until I got to the Ice Road, 3 hours later that I realised I had not seen another vehicle for 300 kilometres. Today there is the Deh Cho bridge that spans the Mackenzie River but not so long ago, Yellowknife was a ferry ride or an ice road away from the rest of civilisation.
There are many ice roads in Northern Canada, made famous by the History Channel series, ‘Ice Road Truckers’, but this was before those days. This ‘not-so-northern-girl’ had never experienced driving along a perfectly good highway then watching it vanish as you continue your journey on a road of ice, with visible cracks and a very fast flowing river underneath.
Safely across, and proud of my brave journey, I looked up at the sky. That moment, on the other side of the Mackenzie River on Highway 3, I lost myself in the dancing Aurora and the tranquillity of the night. There was a profound moment of understanding the breathtaking beauty of the Canadian North, the respect it commands and the adventures that await.
Even after many years in the North, if the ‘lights are out’ you still stop what you are doing and watch the eerie glow. It became such a natural thing to look to the sky on any clear night that I found myself instinctively looking up to the sky long after I left the North.
Bags are packed. . . When should we go?
Canada’s North is so much more than a vacation destination. How many places on this planet can you experience a winter’s day at -40C, and a summers day at +30C? Where can you go golfing at midnight in June but travel across ice roads to connecting communities in January? Whether you want to enjoy the midnight sun or the dancing northern lights, there’s an adventure waiting in Canada’s North!
Go in January to experience the northern lights. The coldest days can also bring some of the clearest nights, so chances are you will see the lights dancing!
Go in February to enjoy the best winter has to offer: snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, kite skiing, ice fishing or dog sledding. And as they say, “It’s never snowing in the pub”, so after your outdoor adventures warm up with local Northern dishes, treats or beverages at one of the city’s restaurants, cafes or brewpub!
Go in March to experience the Snowking’s Winter Festival and Ice Castle on Great Slave Lake.
Go in April to enjoy the end of the winter season and warmer days. The lakes are often still frozen but the longer days make it the best time for a winter hike and picnic lunch.
Go in May to see mother nature come back to life. If wildflowers and birding is your thing, you won’t be disappointed!
Go in June if you are looking for midnight sun. June a favourite month and boasts some of the most delightful weather in all of Canada. The kids will be amazed at a game of catch or a swim as the clock strikes midnight! Check out the Summer Solstice Festival or the famous Midnight Sun Golf Tournament.
Go in July to enjoy some of the best camping nights and outdoor adventures. Go for a swim or kayak, jump on a float plane to a lodge or hike to the falls. There is no shortage of lakes and rivers for endless water fun. Visit in July to experience the famous Folk on the Rocks Music Festival.
Go in August to see the Northern Lights reappear again. As darkness falls upon the city for the first time since May, August is a great time to enjoy the Northern Lights without your parka!
Go in September to see the short but sweet fall season. You may be sailing, or you may be snowmobiling in September, but there is no better time to experience the colours of mother nature!
Go in December to experience the winter solstice – the shortest day of the year and some of the most beautiful sunsets you will ever see.
And go anytime to experience the warm hospitality and the beautiful souls that call ‘the north’ their home. Canada’s North is a unique and special experience. Your adventure is waiting!