One of the many great things about Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (my home town) is the great outdoors, fresh air, wide open spaces and ease of access to nature – you’re never more than 10 minutes away from a fresh water lake. Boating, jet-skiing, tubing, swimming, ice fishing, snowmobiling, skiing, skijoring, dogsledding, and more! You can enjoy being out on the lakes year round, with plenty of room for social distancing! Let me share with you a 2020 overview of my experiences on the lakes in and around Yellowknife; a four-season “ykation” of sorts! (I’ve just made up this term!)
With the exception of an August floatplane day trip within the Northwest Territories, I haven’t traveled since Christmas 2019 (the last time I saw my family!). And for someone like myself with such a travel bug, who had intentions of traveling the world again, this has been excruciating! But I’ve managed well so far. (Note: I am not discounting all the hardships that people all over the world have had to endure).
We all know that travel these days is very limited due to the coronavirus pandemic. Personally, this new reality has caused me to shift my perspective, expectations, and overall attitude. While this wasn’t what I had planned for my year off, I am learning to make do! You’ll see from my story that there are plenty of possibilities and opportunities here in my own backyard! (And with 45 weeks remaining, I still have plenty of time to work with).
That being said, while I haven’t left the territories in 2020, I have been very fortunate here in my own backyard. Thanks to three different friends with boats, I’ve been on various excursions on the lakes in and around Yellowknife during all four seasons (one of these friends even has five different kinds of boats!). I was on three motorboats, a canoe, a sailboat, a dingy, and a houseboat; oh and a snowmobile for the May excursion!
The majority of people from outside of the Northwest Territories seem to have this perception that it’s is always frozen and cold here and we only have one season – winter. This is no thanks to the numerous reality TV shows that keep this skewed perspective alive (i.e. Ice Pilots, Ice Road Truckers, Ice Lake Rebels, The Amazing Race Canada). As a born and raised Yellowknifer, this drives me NUTS, especially because none of these shows are even produced by locals! So I’m going to take the opportunity to show you my reality and paint a more comprehensive picture of Yellowknife for you.
Spring – May 2020 – Prelude Lake
Prelude Lake is about a 25-minute drive from Yellowknife; I went out to a friend’s cabin perched on the rocks surrounded by the (frozen) lake. Here, the snow is melting, the sun is shining and Dave and Capri are trying their luck at ice fishing (there were no bites!)
Summer – June – Prelude Lake
Early summer, same location as above. This shot was taken on June 26, 2020 at 10:03pm, with our “midnight sun” lighting up the sky. The lake had thawed out enough for boat access only a few weeks earlier. Being on a boat is one thing, but staying out at a rustic cabin, there’s nothing like it! It sure recharges the batteries!
This is the very same spot where I photographed an amazing aurora borealis display back in September 2019, which I’ve included below for comparison. Such stark differences, literally day and night! And both so spectacular! Who needs TV or movies when Mother Nature puts on such magnificent shows for you – and with no repeats and no monthly fees!
Fall – September (2019) – Prelude Lake
While this is from 2019, I included it for comparison with the above images (same location). This shot was taken September 19, 2019, at 11:52pm. It is very rare that I stay up late enough to get out and photograph the aurora borealis, so I was thrilled to witness this! See my earlier post on the Yellowknife aurora borealis here.
Summer – July – Great Slave Lake
My friend Lora invited me to come for dinner at her houseboat on Great Slave Lake (right in Yellowknife). This was a rare experience for me; after having lived in Yellowknife all of my life, I’d only been on a houseboat about 4 times at that point, and they are located right there in the city, only five minutes from downtown!
Great Slave Lake is HUGE. It is the second largest lake in the Northwest Territories, the second largest lake entirely within Canadian borders, the deepest lake in North America (614 metres), and the tenth largest lake in the world! It covers an area of 27,200km² in the southern part of the territory. With that kind of depth and size, you can imagine how plentiful (and large) the fish are! While you could go out on a multi-day trip, you don’t have to venture out far to enjoy the lake.
Lora picked me up in her sailboat and we sailed to her houseboat. We enjoyed a lovely visit and dinner outside on the deck and then she brought me back to shore by canoe under an amazing sunset! (See the video below). What a perfect summer evening this was!
Summer – August – Long Lake
No boat was needed here. On this particular summer evening I happened to be in my backyard finishing up a fire pit visit with a friend, when the sky lit up and painted everything beneath it with a warm and glowing pink. I knew that Mother Nature was in the midst of creating a masterpiece and I couldn’t miss out on this. The sky was on fire! I gathered my camera gear, hopped in my car and took a short drive to Long Lake, 5 minutes from my house, where I witnessed this spectacular sunset! This shot was taken on August 9, 2020 at 9:10pm.
Summer – August – Great Slave Lake
Overnighting on a motorboat – a first for me! (I don’t count my past sleepover experiences on the Norweta that journeyed across Great Slave Lake and down the Mackenzie River, a luxury yacht in French Polynesia or mega cruise ships!) I was like a little kid on Christmas morning, so giddy for what was to come. We anchored ]about 20 minutes outside of Yellowknife, where you could still see the city far off in the distance. (You can just make out some buildings on the right side of the image below).
Enjoying some pre-dinner snacks and a Campari spritz on the back of the boat. This is the life!
August is the beginning of the infamous aurora borealis season in Yellowknife. On this evening, I had my first aurora sighting of the season! While it wasn’t the most spectacular show, it was an added bonus during the overnight boating trip – particularly since I’m rarely up at this hour! This shot was taken on August 21, 2020 at 11:48pm.
Fall – September – Great Slave Lake
I had an incredible birthday weekend this year! I went on another overnight boat trip on Great Slave Lake, where I explored the land, gathered interesting rocks to bring back home, picked a huge bag of low bush cranberries, and enjoyed another delicious fish fry. We were blessed with such beautiful weather! Fall is my favourite season and I just love being outdoors at this time! Click on my birthday video below.
I had a little accident during this outing. I was unsuccessful in disembarking the boat one morning; I missed my step on the rocks and slid into the water up to my chest as I was trying to grab onto the side of the boat! Fortunately help was not far. This wasn’t my idea of a morning shower, but I guess it did the trick! Good thing I brought an extra set of clothes! (except for an extra pair of shoes!)
There’s nothing like having a fresh fish fry shore lunch while you’re out on the lake! Mmmmmm, so tasty, healthy, simple and local (we had pike)! And at this time of year, with the first frost already passed, low bush cranberries were ready for the picking, and boy were they ever plentiful! They were EVERYWHERE! I was in my element, sitting in the bush picking away and filling my bag (just over two hours)! It reminded me of all the times I went out picking in the fall with my Mom! I now have plenty for cranberry sauce, baking, cocktails, etc! Happy happy birthday to me!
Fall – October
I spent Thanksgiving Dinner at Lora’s houseboat…..but I didn’t take any pictures! (That’s another first, not taking any pictures!!)
Fall/Winter – November
In November the lakes are beginning to freeze up and not surprisingly, it’s unsafe to walk or drive on them during this time. However many houseboat residents still make daily trips on the lake with a canoe during freeze up.
Winter – December – Great Slave Lake
Only a few days ago I returned from a well-needed mini staycation on Lora’s houseboat on the frozen Great Slave Lake – another first for me…. sleeping on a houseboat! What a treat this was! The weather was particularly mild (for us here in the north) during those 3 days, with the temperatures in the single (minus) digits; such gorgeous weather to be outdoors! (For those of you unfamiliar with life up here, residents live in their houseboats year round and in the winter you can drive on the ice).
It was so cozy to have the pellet stove going beside me all day, as I worked on getting my photos organized, continued working on this post and did some reading. Solitude, peace and quiet, no distractions. And the breathtaking views I had, ever-changing as the sun goes up and down; the camera was never far away!
From sunrise to sunset and even afterwards, you never know what kind of surprise Mother Nature has in store for you, as you’ll see in the images below.
Sunset from my upstairs bedroom balcony on the houseboat, taken at 3:56pm, December 2.
With the mild temperatures, it was no surprise to see people out on the lake cross country skiing, skijoring, walking their dogs, snowmobiling…. It was gorgeous outside! The shot below of the full moon and houseboats was taken at 11:41pm (yes, in the evening)! It looks like another planet!
I was hoping for the aurora borealis to appear during my stay, especially since Yellowknife had been experiencing thick cloud cover for weeks. Fortunately on my first night, the aurora made an appearance! This shot was taken from my upstairs bedroom balcony at 11:06pm, December 1.
On my final (Friday) afternoon at the houseboat, I decided to take a 10 minute “walk to shore” and visit the Woodyard Brewhouse and Eatery (NWT Brewing Company) for a beverage (or three!). Walking from the houseboat on the lake and entering the neighbourhood on Ragged Ass Road (yes, there really is a road called this!), I felt like I was a visitor in my own hometown, walking down a new path for the first time.
What an incredible getaway this was, to just unwind and work on things without everyday distractions. I am now recharged and happy to be back home with my girl Tika!
The thing I love most about traveling is the sense of “newness” you get from visiting a place; and while I’ve lived here in Yellowknife for my entire life, this ykation/staycation (and all of my little excursions) gave me a great dose of newness – and this has satisfied my fix (for the most part)!
Many people I’ve spoken with about my year off and how I’m unable to travel internationally (and even nationally) think that I must be disappointed. While it wasn’t what I planned for, I won’t let this bring me down. No matter how calculated your plans and decisions are, you never know what tomorrow will bring. You cannot control life, but YOU CAN control your mindset and attitude. I am grateful for the life I have and I will make the most of it! Just look where I live!!! Such a spectacular part of Canada and currently one of the few places in the entire country with no active cases of COVID-19 (and only a handful all year!)
I don’t need to travel far to get my fix (although I do miss my family!). I just need to get out and about, walk a new path, be open to what is right in front of me; and I have been doing just that. I am grateful for my friends and for the experiences they’ve shared with me. They’ve helped make these difficult times less so.
I hope that my story demonstrates that we do in fact have four seasons here in Yellowknife, and regardless of the season, whether it is +30 degrees Celsius or -30 degrees, each one presents boundless opportunities for good times and newness (even for a life long Yellowknifer)! And if you’ve never had the privilege of visiting here, I hope that my story broadens your perspective and maybe even plants a seed of interest…. and one day you will come for a visit to experience any or all of Yellowknife’s four seasons!
And now I’d love to hear from you. During these times of travel limitations and restrictions, what have you been doing to meet your travel fix?
PS- If you’re in the market for any photographic fine art prints, feel free to peruse the various galleries on my website! I’ve got plenty of options. Or, if you’re in Yellowknife, stop in at Javaroma to see what I have in stock. All in-stock prints are 20% off until December 20. Clearing out my inventory!).
Wow! That story turned out great. Good job and looking forward to see more of “Live a Little.”
Oh your Tawnaness. You live in a great place in spite of the fact that it is freezing cold. Here in DC, I have not been able to get out much due to DC quarantine restrictions, but I have been able to do much in Virginia. Lots to see here.
I hope that her Tawnaness continues to have even if it is with her fun friend Laura.
With travel restrictions in place I have not been able to travel to Los Cabos, Mexico every six months as planned but thank you Tawna for reminding me of the beauty of the North. Your blog actually made me homesick for Yellowknife. Thank you for sharing with us and allowing us to travel through you eyes.
Yes, not being able to go to our fave getaways has been rough… but they will still be there next year and hopefully everything will be in a much better state, globally! Thank you for reading and I’m so glad it brought you closer to home, even if just through pictures and videos!
What a fantastic blog with so many terrific pictures to detail life in the Knife and on the water! I am certain that this has opened up the perspective that many people (southerners especially ) have about living in the NWT. Your photography work is astounding. With a blog like this you should be a ‘Tourism Ambassador’.
Tawna, you asked about what we are doing to get our fix in this year. Well, we have been throughout our own province of Saskatchewan, travelling the grids roads looking for ghost towns, and looking for small prairie cemeteries. In the cemeteries we photograph those headstones of pioneers born in the early 1800’s and then go looking for them in Ancestry.ca to learn more about them. We have made four excursions this year – Estevan area in the SE, SW in the Govenlock, Shaunavon area, Sheho- discovered the gravestone of Captain John Powell, from Michigan and Bresaylor where Elizabeth Bremner, matriarch of the first settlers who lived here, was born in 1787, in Headingly, Manitoba. There is just so much more to see and explore on the grid roads as opposed to speeding down the highways and missing it all.
Those travels sure keep you guys busy and engaged! And good for you! There’s tons to explore. You’re so lucky to have places to go on road trips to! I wonder how well you guys would have managed here in YK without being able to go on such excursions. Happy to know you guys aren’t feeling cooped up and bored!
Thank you! And yes, I have often thought of myself as an unofficial tourism ambassador- always promoting my home town and territory everywhere I go- and it still surprises me how few people that I have crossed paths with have yet to venture out this way…. and continue to travel to the places that everyone else goes to. They are truly missing out!
Awesome….so descriptive and so colorful! It made me realize how much I miss Yellowknife! You can take the girl out of Yellowknife but you can’t take Yellowknife out of the girl!! I think this blog might help readers understand what its like to live in Yellowknife and maybe encourage some to make the trek, once it safe, of course. Covid-19 restrictions make it impossible for us to see each other in person (its been a whole year….sigh), so I am looking forward to reading more blog posts, as I know you’ll have many with your year off! Fabulous job…..as always!
What a great story about NWT and especially Yellowknife! I truly enjoyed my visit in 2017. The area is beautiful with so much to do. I’d love to return in late spring or early summer to fish in the Great Slave Lake and explore new areas! Great Slave Lake only beats Crater Lake by 60 ft. As the deepest in North America and Crate Lake is only 40 miles from my house. Gloria and I have been hiking and camping close to home this year because of Covid, but I think we will take a month this spring if we can and travel through Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico and maybe Texas. If you tried real hard you might even convince me to drive the new highway to Tuk this summer!
Chris, You are one of the very few people that I have met out in my travels that have come for a visit and I’m so happy you did. As I’ve wrote in other comments here, I’ve put the invitations out to countless people, and only a few have actually come for the visit…and they have either came back a 2nd time or planning to! I know you’ll be back:) You spring trip sounds like a lot of fun, that’s a lot of ground to cover! And if all works out, I’m hoping to go international…I still have 10 months left of my year off, and I have a few places I’d like to get to if I can:) And the Inuvik-Tuk highway would be AMAZING for you to experience! So far up there, you can dip your toes in the Arctic Ocean, it would be a memorable trip for sure! (I might not be here though!!!) https://www.tawnabrown.com/build-it-they-will-come-up-the-inuvik-tuktoyaktuk-highway/
I can’t imagine what it will be like if and when the day ever comes for me to leave Yellowknife; it’s such a huge part of my identity, I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I belong anywhere else! I sure do hope that this story inspires people to come up for a visit; I’ve put out the invitation countless times for all of my life, during all of my travels, and only a very very small handful of people have came…. Everyone else is missing out big time. And one day, I may move…. and then they lost their local tour guide! Don’t wait….
Tawna, what a beautiful story of the north and Yellowknife in particular. As usual, your photos are AWESOME! you have done an amazing job portraying Yellowknife with it’s beauty and many interests. Thank you so much for reminding me why I loved Yellowknife so much!
Thank you Beverley! Isn’t it gorgeous? As you know, I can’t imagine living elsewhere or finding another place that I’d be content in, but Vernon does intrigue me…. maybe we should do a house swap some time!!! (But I’d love to visit also, so that wouldn’t work so well if we weren’t home!)
Marvelous article. You look so wonderful and happy. Still hoping to get to Yellowknife. Not being able to travel far this year has been a journey in itself. The year started in all sorts of chaos even before the pandemic and took a few more bad turns before it settled in 128 miles trip to a new town to visit my best friend, and ending on November 3 with our move to be my best friend’s neighbor. When we reunited 5 years ago after losing track of each other for 34 years, we promised we would always have each other’s back. She was an enormous help with the move. We adopted each other and consider ourselves family now and so we celebrated Thanksgiving at her place and we will host Christmas Eve and Day. I have residual vertigo from the brain injury in May. Having cared for traumatic brain injury patients, I knew it was up to me to get better. There are good days and bad days but with the marvelous weather we are having right now, it’s all good. My house is decorated for Christmas and after a year of isolation due to medical issues and COVID, I am at peace with it. I can’t wait to explore the area I now live in. I’m getting back to my photography and my art and I have a new appreciation for life. Having faced the alterative, nothing can keep me from what I want to do. I’ll get to Yellowknife because its on my short bucket list.
Sending you and Tika virtual hugs. Have a wonderful Christmas and I hope 2021 brings you all the things you love.
Wonderful photos and lovely prose! You are so positive, upbeat and optimistic. It did my heart good during this pandemic to read your blog, admire your amazing photos and enjoy the videos. Oddly enough, with all the places I’ve lived and travelled to throughout my life, I have never been to Yellowknife. Your photos and descriptions make me want to visit that part of Canada. Bob and I spent two and a half years living in Baffin Island in the Eastern Arctic back in the ‘70’s and your photos brought back some memories of those incredible years. It was one of the highlights of our lives and memories I cherish. Continue to enjoy your year off and keep those wonderful photos and stories coming!
Hi Tawna – Beautiful web site and photos. I wish you lots of luck in photography. Glad to know you, you live in a very beautiful place and you are very creative.
Thank you Robert! Yes I sure do live in a beautiful place- if only I could convince more people to come and visit and see for themselves. They really have no idea! But you sure do!!!!
Oh my … this makes me realize how much I miss the North (even though I was only there for a few years) and why I’m always encouraging family and friends to take a holiday in our Northern part of the Country and see how beautiful it really is and how wonderful the people and community are. I look forward to reading more on your blog and seeing the world through your eyes!
Thank you very much! Isn’t it bizarre how hard we have to promote the North yk family and friends and even strangers, and yet they don’t come (or very few!!)?! If I had someone inviting me to a place like this, I’d be there in a heartbeat (aside from Covid restrictions!) Not sure if you saw my latest story- published April 21 (focuses on some winter adventures in my own backyard!) I wonder if you did any of these when you lived here!! I’m surprised to hear from a number of Yellowknifers who have read the story that they haven’t been to some of these places- and it took me 43 years!! Why do we do this to ourselves?! Glad that I’ve been taking advantage of my surroundings and enjoying my own backyard:). Makes the situation of not being able to travel much more bearable!