Seeking True North, Day 8: Yellowknife, NT.
Though it retains a bit of its frontier aura, Yellowknife is no isolated lonely outpost. A modern city, it lacks the quaintness of Whitehorse's 19th century charm but bustles with a lively art community and vibrant aboriginal influence. During the summer, festivals celebrate all kinds of events and the city exudes a positive energy. Even in winter, when most of us would hole up inside with a roaring fire, intrepid Yellowknifers bundle up in their Canada Gooses (extreme weather parkas) and enjoy the great outdoors with temperatures regularly in the -30° to -40° F range.
One stellar example where cultural diversity and thriving artistic initiative come together is a massive work of art on a rock face near Old Town. Called Yellowknife Cultural Crossroads, the project was begun in 1999. An organic work which will continue to evolve, it was conceived as a tribute to the close collaboration among Metis, Dene, Inuvialuit, English Canadian, French Canadian and Quebec cultures in the North. Various components have been added by artists from each of these cultures.
As evidence Yellowknife has not abandoned its frontier quirkiness, perhaps the most popular street in town is an Old Town lane called Ragged Ass Road. Named by three drunken prospectors down on their luck, the moniker stuck and souvenir shops now sell Ragged Ass Road street signs.
Our day started with a visit to Old Town Glassworks, a popular local glass studio that has crafted a thriving business transforming old wine and beer bottles. In-house designers cut the bottles down to tumbler size, polish the edges, and sandblast etchings of northern scenes and icons on the sides. They even offer workshops to teach visitors to create their own.
Behind the studio is Old Town Bikeworks, owned and operated by Matt, the husband of the glass studio owner. From his bicycle wheel geodesic dome workshop, he rents, repairs and sells bicycles. He was in a great mood because he had just successfully repaired their 50-year-old water heater. When we asked if he was familiar with the similar but much smaller and less functional bicycle wheel dome in Whitehorse, he told a humorous story about meeting the owner of that structure who was visiting Yellowknife. Matt wanted to discuss the various advantages of different ways to connect the wheels, but his guest was interested only in telling Matt how he thought it should be done.
For lunch, we decided to try the Woodyard Brewhouse and Eatery at NWT Brewing Company. Just opened last November, the Woodyard, named for the historic Yellowknife neighborhood it calls home, was quite a departure from the Old Town fish-and-chips places we visited yesterday and the day before. A salad was really a salad with a thoughtful combination of ingredients and a savory light vinaigarette, rather than a pile of finely chopped greens with a few shredded carrots on top. Paired with one of their on-site-only craft beers, it was the healthiest and most flavorful meal we've had on this trip.
After hearing about the sand golf course from Eden and Kaitlyn, we had to go check it out for ourselves at the Yellowknife Golf Club. From the moment we arrived, it was clear this was not your stuffy country club course. We caught up with Arthur, a friendly local member, unloading his clubs in the parking lot. He gladly spent a few minutes with us explaining the quirks of a sand course with its granular fairways and—grass traps? Actually he explained that the biggest obstacle on the course is the local ravens. They apparently love to pick up golf balls and fly off with them. Many lost balls have shown up on rooftops in the city. Taking advantage of the long hours of daylight this far north, the club holds a midnight golf tournament each year at the summer solstice.
From the golf course, we were off to the Bristol Monument, a massive cargo plane towering above the treetops near the Welcome to Yellowknife sign. A memorial plaque explained that this Bristol freighter was donated to the city by the former WardAir, a local company instrumental in transporting supplies and people to remote trading posts, schools, mines and oil fields in the mid-twentieth century. The particular plane on exhibit was the first wheeled aircraft to land at the North Pole, a feat accomplished in May 1967. This was all the inspiration we needed to plant a letterbox nearby commemorating this aircraft legacy. Now there's an active letterbox in the NWT.
|Yellowknife Cultural Crossroads|
|Old mining equipment on display on Ragged Ass Road|
|$24 for glass made by studio, $45 for workshop to make your own|
|Add a tarp and your bicycle wheel dome is actually useful.|
|Small town life: There is no sign indicating the building on the right is a restaurant, let alone its name. Fine food inside!|
|Fourteenth hole tees off from the clubhouse deck. Note artificial grass pad used on the course.|
|A relaxed family event|
After this relaxing, mellow day in town, we're looking forward to hitting the trail tomorrow and exploring the only road going north.
TUESDAY, 23 AUGUST 2016
- Walked: 3.2 mi.
- Raven caddies: 6
- Friendly Yellowknifers: all
- Bicycle wheels in dome: 351
More Photos from Today
|If you can't beat 'em, celebrate them. Raven featured as "mascot" of Yellowknife Golf Club.|
|Tee box for hole #10|
|Who needs an ATM when you can bring in an ATMobile?|
|One of Yellowknife's many art galleries|
|Coast Guard maintains a presence on the massive Great Slave Lake, the tenth largest lake in the world.|
|A community of about 30 houseboats near Joliffe Island across from The Rock. In winter, they can walk to the city.|
|Even the dumpsters and utility boxes have an artsy vibe in Yellowknife.|