Our Trav­els: To Yel­lowknife, With Love

This mem­o­rable trip to the North in­cluded cel­e­brat­ing Canada Day in the Land of the Mid­night Sun.

More of Our Canada - - Contents - by Brandy Satur­ley,

My jour­ney through the Cana­dian land­scape has taken me to many large cities and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties over the past cou­ple of years in prepa­ra­tion for tour­ing ex­hi­bi­tions of my paint­ings in­spired by Canada this year, co­in­cid­ing with the Canada 150 cel­e­bra­tions. One year ago, on Canada Day 2016, I had the op­por­tu­nity to cel­e­brate in Canada’s North, on the edge of the Arc­tic Cir­cle. I spent

Canada Day week in Yel­lowknife on an epic jour­ney in the land where the sun and the peo­ple never sleep.

I flew in over Great Slave Lake as the mid­night sun chased us, throw­ing a gilded, glis­ten­ing spot­light from rivers to lakes as we touched down. Global warm­ing is hav­ing the most dra­matic im­pact and caus­ing vis­i­ble shifts, say my hosts, who shared some pizza with me at a neigh­bour­hood wa­ter­ing- hole just a stroll down the gravel lane. That first night, I slept in an artist’s shack moved to Old Town in 1980 from nearby Jol­liffe Is­land; it seemed fit­ting I would rest my head in­side this tiny piece of Cana­dian his­tory.

Walk­ing into down­town Yel­lowknife the fol­low­ing morn­ing, I found my­self at the Prince of Wales North­ern Heritage Cen­tre, named after the Bri­tish prince him­self. It is a thought­ful and im­pres- sive mu­seum for its size, telling the story of the first peo­ples here, the Dene First Na­tions.

My hosts in Yel­lowknife were a savvy me­dia team: Kyle cre­ated YK On­line, and Jen is the cre­ative di­rec­tor for Tait Com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Both are com­mu­nity con­nec­tors who made my trip both ed­u­ca­tional and en­ter­tain­ing.

We ven­tured into town and took in the Canada Day pa­rade on a swel­ter­ing day in the “Arc­tic desert,” as the re­gion is of­ten re­ferred to lo­cally. Our evening fea­tured a cast of lo­cal char­ac­ters and cre­ators, and a feast of blue­ber­ries, white­fish, trout and a lit­tle home­made birch syrup de­liv­ered by Pike Mike. Pike Mike is best known for his role on the An­i­mal Planet se­ries Ice Lake Rebels. A man with se­ri­ous skills, he can weave a yarn, play the man­dolin, help you catch record-sized trout and teach you about sur­viv­ing off the land, all in one evening.

After, we set­tled in for a pa­tio round­table of five cre­ative women: a film­maker, an en­gi­neer, a graphic artist, a print­maker and my­self. It felt like a res­i­dency of sorts, all in one day in a small com­mu­nity in a land of ex­tremes. At 1 a.m., it was still light out. Days are full here this time of year with the mid­night sun, and ev­ery­one is try­ing to squeeze out ev­ery minute of this golden time.

Our Satur­day was spent ex­plor­ing what this area of Canada does best: the wild and life on the edge. The day started with some off-road ex­plor­ing by jeep and a hike to Cameron Falls with Kyle, Jen and Steve Sch­warz, a ge­ol­o­gist and Getty-sell­ing pho­tog­ra­pher. The ex­pe­ri­ence was vivid and in­for­ma­tive; my brain was buzzing and fir­ing on both halves. The rocky climbs were end­less, and ev­i­dence of tec­tonic shifts and things bub­bling up to the sur­face dis­played blue­prints left for ge­ol­o­gists in this land so rich with min­er­als and pre­cious met­als.

In the af­ter­noon, the lake beck­oned and we hopped into a mo­tor­ized ca­noe for a closeup tour of the colour­ful house­boats around Jol­liffe Is­land. Park­ing the boat on an un­in­hab­ited is­land gave us an­other chance to ex­plore lichen and moss-cov­ered rock. Finds of the day in­cluded rem­nants of furry in­hab­i­tants and a claim stake from a prospec­tor of the past.

Evening landed us at the Wild­cat Cafe, an Old Town log cabin turn­ing out food since 1937. An evening walk took us to Latham Is­land through a neigh­bour­hood of ar­chi­tec­turally di­verse homes with stun­ning vis­tas. Many homes here—whether mil­lion-dol­lar or shack—dis­play a nice rack of horns or a skull, and lots of Cana­dian flags. We ended the night with one more hike up and across rock to Pi­lot’s Mon­u­ment, which af­fords a 360-de­gree view of the town.

We set out the next day to cir­cle Yel­lowknife by car, filling in the blank spots in my visit. The out­skirts of the city are dot­ted with com­mu­ni­ties that blend ex­pen­sive, con­tem­po­rary prop­er­ties with mo­du­lar homes and funky work­shop shacks. Ev­ery­one here seems to be a tin­kerer, a cre­ator, a crafts­man or an artist. A seem­ingly in­con­spic­u­ous shed can hide a metic­u­lous and trea­sured workspace.

You can eas­ily find a Timmy’s or a $6 iced cap­puc­cino here, which was well worth the bucks dur­ing the con­tin­u­ing swel­ter­ing heat. We took our cus­tom cof­fees to the Lake­view Ceme­tery, with gravesites as metic­u­lously crafted as the cre­ations in the mak­ers’ sheds we’d seen ear­lier in the day. Some sites were en­cir­cled with white picket fences, and some had trees grow­ing in the cen­tre. Min­ers, chil­dren, Na­tives, hockey fans and even Elvis fa­nat­ics are present here, re­flect­ing the lives I have seen in the area. Our day ended with a feast fit for a mineworker at the fa­mous Bul­locks Bistro in Old Town, a leg­endary shack brim­ming with din­ers’ graf­fiti and things left sta­pled to the walls and ceil­ing. It’s a sassy and hu­mor­ous place serv­ing up fish, bi­son

and even cari­bou ribs. A thun­der­storm and a rain­bow marked our way home as we wrapped an­other full day on the edge.

On the Mon­day, I spent half a day vis­it­ing with two dis­tinc­tive and well-known Arc­tic artists. Jen Walden is a painter, as well as a film­maker, a hockey coach and founder of the Bor­der­less Arts Move­ment in Yel­lowknife. Her dis­tinc­tive, di­men­sional and tex­tured style ex­plores Cana­dian and north­ern life through peo­ple, wildlife and to­pog­ra­phy. I then went look­ing for Fran Hur­comb, a veteran Cana­dian pho­tog­ra­pher and pho­to­jour­nal­ist with more than 30 years of ex­pe­ri­ence cap­tur­ing Canada’s North. Fran re­cently pub­lished a book about Yel­lowknife’s Old Town, where she lives, de­pict­ing the area’s vivid his­tory and in­di­vid­u­als from the past three decades.

We then hit a moltenhot tar­mac at Buf­falo Air­ways and got a per­sonal tour from Mikey Mcbryan, who’s fea­tured in the docu-se­ries Ice Pi­lots. My evening in­cluded a visit with a husky from a sled dog team, see­ing “YKEA” (the lo­cal dump is known as Yel­lowknife’s IKEA; noth­ing gets thrown away here), scav­eng­ing and a latenight climb with a bot­tle of vino, some blue­ber­ries and sto­ries as a red sun crested the hori­zon, not to set, but only to rest and rise again.

Be­fore fly­ing out, I had a chance to visit the tal­ented folks over at the Abo­rig­i­nal- owned Eras­mus Ap­parel, which cre­ates Abo­rig­i­nal-in­spired de­signs screen-printed on cloth­ing, the per­fect sou­venir for this trip.

And then that was it for my six days on the edge of the Arc­tic Cir­cle, where help­ing your neigh­bour re­ally is the first order of busi­ness, and the only way to sur­vive in this land of ex­treme weather and ex­treme liv­ing. This ex­pe­ri­ence in­spired many a paint­ing when I re­turned home to my stu­dio on Van­cou­ver Is­land. These peo­ple have heart and grit and tal­ent be­yond what­ever ex­pec­ta­tions I had go­ing in. I love you, Yel­lowknife—see you for the freeze! n

To learn more about Brandy and her art, visit www.brandysat­ur­ley.com.

A view of Back Bay from Pi­lot’s Mon­u­ment. Right: two re­mote-is­land finds.

Clock­wise from top left: Canada Day pa­rade; artist Jen Walden; a lo­cal artist stu­dio; cheers to the Mid­night sun.

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