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Yellowknife in Review

Throughout my life I have never been one to set many goals. The bucket list I made when I was 10 years old included things such as “get a basketball scholarship to a good high school.” Which isn’t a thing, incase I fooled you. On that list of 100ish things, not one of them included a career goal. And every bucket list after that followed the same trend. Things became more achievable, because they actually exist, they’re still not very reasonable. See number 21, Visit the International Space Station. I contacted Space Adventures, and it costs 50 million USD to go. FIFTY FREAKING MILLION DOLLARS. But its still on my list.

Of the things on my list, I figured number 14, See the Aurora Borealis, would be fairly achievable. All I had to do was travel from sunny Florida, head North, basically to the Arctic Circle, in the middle of winter mind you, and stay up really late, disregarding the time change of course, and BAM. I could knock number 14 right off the list. Yellowknife had other plans in mind though.

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I grew up in Buffalo, NY. Boyfriend grew up in Orlando, FL. See the difference?

When I first learned about the Aurora Village in Yellowknife, NT, it seemed perfect. I had a really long layover last January, and I planned the whole trip right there in the airport. I knew I would be in Northern Canada by the end of 2017. Everything seemed so perfect. They offered hotel pick up, winter clothing rentals, heated seats and tepees with hot beverages. And every picture I saw was absolutely stunning.

The Lodge and an example tepee. Photo cred: Boyfriend.

I traveled with Boyfriend, and I made all these super romantic plans. Which was pretty much sleep all day, maybe venture out for food, and then get on the bus at night. What can I say, sleeping is great no matter where you do it. I was really banking on the Northern Lights captivating him so there would be no need for any other attractions.

So following the strict schedule I had made, our first day in Yellowknife was spent napping and waiting for our winter clothing rental to get there. The clothes arrived in the late afternoon and I think I made my reservation a little late because nothing fit quite right and everything looked a little weathered. But the boots, jacket, and pants were key to staying warm when we ventured out for dinner. We spent a little time walking around town, and eventually wandered into the Woodyard. The food here knocked my socks off. Boyfriend tried some of NWT Brewing Co.’s beers, which has its brewery on site. I on the other hand am not a beer lover, so I tried a variety of ciders they offered. All were excellent.

Notice the boot warmers on the left? So crucial for warm toes.

Finishing up our meal, we returned to the hotel to wait for our bus. The excitement I was feeling was palpable, I had wanted this for so long and I just could. not. wait. We finally boarded the bus, and made our way to Aurora Village, and as we entered our tepee for the night I fell in love. The warm sanctuary in the -20C degree weather became my favorite place on the planet. Our tepee sat on the edge of a frozen lake, which provided us with an unobstructed view of the grey sky. And that right there is where things went sour. It wasn’t a deep blue sky, or a black sky, or a starry sky, it was grey. A grey, gloomy, cloudy night, where nothing was to be seen. Even the full moon that night was obscured. After around two hours of consuming my weight in hot chocolate and waiting for the clouds to clear, we were forced to concede to the fact that there would be no Aurora viewing that night.

This was our tepee. All to ourselves.

But that was okay! After all I am inherently and optimist and I just knew that the next night would be the one for us. After all, that was the night that I splurged on a private tepee, and it just made sense that everything would work out. So we awoke Saturday morning, okay it was actually Saturday afternoon, got bundled up, and went to brunch at the Black Knight Pub. The food here was satisfactory, the environment more so, but nothing to rave about. Except their hot chocolate. That was perfect.

Following brunch, we headed to the Dettah Ice Road for two reasons. The first was HOW COOL IS IT THAT YOU CAN DRIVE ON A FREAKING LAKE?! And the second was talk of an Ice Palace that we had heard the night before. So we walked out there to find the Ice Palace was still under construction so it was more like a one story ice house, but still definitely cool to look at, and I’d love to see the finished project.

It’s hard to see how expansive this road is. It made me feel miniature though.

After that we returned to the Woodyard, had a few more drinks, and desserts because it was on our way home and everything was so good how could we deny ourselves a stop? And then we napped. (Stop judging me, I was mildly jet lagged and I had been out all night, okay?!)
We left the hotel that night and things were looking more promising. It was clear out, and on the bus ride you could see a faint grey line which was apparently the Aurora Borealis. But it was early in the night and it could only get better from there right? Well, no. That was wrong. So incredibly wrong. We were able to see some stars, and we sat in our chairs waiting for the show to start, and as we waited we saw those evil clouds rolling in. After around an hour we were back to the same view we had the night before. The plus side on this night was that we had our own tepee, which was smaller and so a little bit warmer, and I brought snacks and a book to read. So we spent the remainder of the evening in front of a fire, eating pringles, reading, and dancing.

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Thanks to Boyfriend for putting up with my shenanigans.

After striking out two nights in a row, and factoring in the fact that our flight left at 5:30 in the morning on Monday, we decided not to book another night for Sunday, and instead we spent that day eating room service and watching movies.

Photo cred: Boyfriend

Overall Yellowknife was fun. There was good food, nice people, and snow, which is something I miss more than anything else since I moved to Florida, (sorry Mom and Dad.) I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything else, but I’ll have to do things differently next time. First thing is that I will stay longer. That’s hard to do with Boyfriend’s work schedule but we’ll have to figure something out. The second thing is to actually look at the lunar schedule before booking anything, the darker the sky the better the view. Which totally makes sense, but I never even considered it. And the final thing I’d do is give up what I’ve named the “Best Place in the World” tepees for a moving tour. If I had booked with someone else who offered mobility, even if we still saw nothing, I’d feel more satisfied if we had the opportunity to chase the Aurora, rather than simply hope for something to change. Which leads me into a piece of advice that I need in my life right now. If you want something you have to go after it. You can’t wait around for good things to come to you.

Please share your Aurora experiences with me. I’ll live vicariously through you until I get a second chance to see it for myself.

The view from our hotel room!

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