Sunday, July 16, 2017

Hay River, North West Territories - 1973 and 2009

The North West Territories is so special to me that it gets two posts!  I have a little personal history with this area so I thought would be fun to share.  Here we go..with a bit of a blast from the 70's to throw in as well.

In 1973 just a couple of months after my 21st birthday I listened to the adventure that we all know now lurked deep in my soul and headed north.  Well, what I considered north - when I talked about being "up north" the locals laughed at me as Hay River is in the southern part of the NWT.  Now that I've been "really north" I get it.  

Hay River then...

Hay River is a community of approximately 3600 people just over the border from Alberta in the very southern North West Territories. It lies on the shores of Great Slave Lake which is the deepest lake in North America at 2014 feet as well as being the tenth largest lake in the world.  In 1973, while I was working as a long distance telephone operator at the telephone company here in Regina I chatted with a co-worker who had worked up there for a few months for CN Telecommunications and I was intrigued by her stories. She told me they were always looking for telephone operators.  I decided that was what I was going to do.  I thought it might be something different to do and the loads of money I would make would pay for an extended trip to Europe. The original plan?  To work at least six months, make my fortune and wander around Europe for six months.  Well...that didn't quite work out as planned but we'll get to that later.  So less than a month after my 21st birthday CN Telecommunications flew me up to Hay River to begin my new job. As soon as I got there we were out on strike - I think I worked one shift and out we went.  As I recall, I had no clue this was going to happen - now I would be googling Hay River and the company like crazy.   We were off work only a week but it certainly put me behind financially.  I had to borrow money from my parents to pay the next months rent.  The so call subsidized rent... that you had to pay the full amount and get a refund later that took forever.   For the first ten days or so I lived in a three bedroom trailer by myself - the first time I had ever been on my own (I still lived with my parents at this point but don't spread that around okay?) and I was terrified.  It didn't help that the back door of the trailer didn't lock properly. On the bright side, the work wasn't bad but as our accommodation was in the New Town and the Toll Exchange in the Old Town it involved a taxi ride both ways  A subsidized taxi but never the less a taxi.  You would try to go with others as some of those taxi drivers were a bit on the creepy side and of course it was cheaper that way as well. Some of the girls moved into accommodation in the Old Town but it was not anywhere I would have wanted to live. And that Northern allowance?  Oh didn't get that until you had been there six months. Hmmnm...maybe I am not going to make my fortune here after all.  The work was okay and rather fun at times.   The job involved both long distance calls (the area I was experienced in) and information so that part was kind of fun along with putting calls through to the Dew Line in the Arctic.  Even though I was in the "southern north" I got to talk to people all across the North West Territories. which I loved.   

We were all young and so drinking and partying was the name of the game. I've never been a partier but it was hard not to get involved in it. And they certainly didn't have to twist my arm very hard to get me to take part. My new roommate in the trailer flew into Hay River with pot tucked into her shoe and the partying really began in earnest.  There were lots of guys to date and hang out with as well.

About a month after I got there I was moved into a furnished bachelor apartment in an apartment building that had no sound proofing.

My sparsely decorated apartment showed off my two passions - football and Paul McCartney.  I lost my passion for football after the 1976 Grey Cup (we lost thanks to Tony Gabriel intercepting a pass and running for a touchdown...yes, I never got over that) but as anyone can tell you my passion for Paul McCartney still burns brightly.   I guess that's one formula for having a tidy apartment - have next to nothing! 
My new building was party central. I remember skipping down the stairs after midnight to do my laundry and hopping over passed out bodies along the way. ...oh those days when I could skip down stairs. I remember a drinking game we used to do..oh never never ended well for me.  I can't face Rye whiskey to this day.  Getting off work at 2 a.m was no barrier- the parties in my building were just going into full swing. How those guys got up and did a full day of construction work is beyond me but we were all young and silly and hey it was the 70's.  Let's just say it was an educational experience in so many ways and leave at that.

As I did not have a car up there I had to depend on other people to drive me around to see the sights. A short lived boyfriend took me to see the falls and another friend drove a few of us to the lake one afternoon when she was able to borrow someone's car.  My parents drove up to visit so we did a bit of local sightseeing.  I would sometimes get four day weekends off but I never went anywhere like Yellowknife or Inuvik even though I thought about it and wanted to see those places   - I was just too scared to go anywhere on my own.  18 months later when I finally went on that trip to Europe on my own I thought "why the heck didn't you jump on a plane to Yellowknife or Inuvik" but I was too scared to go on my own.  Yes, that noise you just heard was me giving my 21 year old self a slap on the side of the head.  Luckily in my next post you will see that I finally got to these places but it took long enough!

I am shocked at how few photos I took - none of the interiors of the trailer (not that it was up to much), no photos of the outside of my apartment building and barely any photos of friends.  Mainly drinking ones which I won't share here!  And I will spare you my Instamatic photos of the falls.  The next year I got my first "serious" camera.

Looking at the pictures above it really wasn't bad - they provided a sofa bed with chair, a dresser and a table and chairs.  Not bad Laurie..(slap!)...why didn't you stay and work and get that trip to Europe? But I was a young lady out of my depth - I grew up in a city - a small city but a city nonetheless with all the conveniences of restaurants, public transportation,  movie theatres....  At this point in my life I had no idea what I was all about, but who does at 21?  I had barely visited a small town let alone lived in one - I must say I hated living in a small town and especially one that had none of the amenities I was used to.  Management at my place of employment was horrendous and I wasn't making as much money as I thought I would - even once the partying slowed down (mainly because all the guys left town as winter was setting in and construction, etc. was done)  and I actually started reading books from the library and giving my poor liver a rest.  There seemed to be 2 things you could do there: drink/party or nerd out and read as they had a decent public library.  No decent restaurants to visit, no coffee shops (don't make me laugh!) the one bar we young out of towners used to go to was in Old Town and nicknamed The Zoo.  It was called that for a reason and women only went accompanied by a man. Not the place you wanted to be taken on a date.  Not that there were too many places to be taken on a date... I went there once with one fellow accompanying about three of us girls.  So we bought booze and partied in our homes or once in a while had a bonfire and partied there.

The local high school known as the Purple Pen.  I thought it was horrible. 

Showing off my Rider Pride in the countryside  and just plain showing off by Great Slave Lake

Two friends and I asked management if we could share a three bedroom trailer that the one friend was currently living in on her own. (with actual carpet on the floors - the height of luxury compared to the trailer I had lived in) We figured if the three of us could bunk in together we might just make it through the winter.  The constant noise in my building was starting to get me down.   However, they said no so they lost three employees.  Everyone was scuttling out of there like rats deserting a sinking ship - either heading home or finding employment elsewhere. After three months (so that I wouldn't have to pay for my airfare up) I flew home.  There was nothing left for me there - the two good friends I had made up there were giving up, disappointed like I was and flying home as well.  In fact, one was on the flight with me.

It was only after being home for a couple of months (and back with my parents...)  I got the overtime they owed me (which I had to fight for) which enabled me not to fly to Europe but to put a down payment on my brand new red (with navy blue racing stripes) Gremlin X.  Don't mock or judge me..oh how I loved that car.  Did I regret going to Hay River?  Not at all. Did I regret leaving Hay River so soon?  Nope...but do regret not backpacking around Europe. (I guess it's never too late, right?)

Hay River 2009

Years later I talked about going back to see how it had changed but wasn't motivated as I knew no one there.  In 2009 that changed.   At the time I was Director of Prairies/North of our national walking club and a club had been started in Hay River.  Nancy, the president invited me up there to meet her club and do some walks so how could I resist.  I flew to Edmonton to visit my sister and then my friend Eilleen and I took the Greyhound bus (sadly that route no longer exists) from there up to Hay River.  Now that was a journey and I appreciated the long drive my parents had done 36 years earlier. We left at midnight and arrived in Hay River that afternoon.  There were a few stops along the way and the driver kindly stopped at the North West Territories border so we could take photos.  Why did I take the bus?  Well I wanted to see the scenery and hopefully get a photo of that NWT sign (my parents had had their photos taken with it on their way up to see me in 1973).  The main reason, however, was financial - I couldn't use air miles for Hay River and I just could not afford to fly.  So far in 2009, I had been to London, Egypt, Jordan, New York City, Las Vegas, North Carolina, North Bay Ontario,Ottawa, Ontario and a walking weekend in Medicine Hat/Cypress Hills in Alberta just the weekend before this trip.  Yes, 2009 was a big travel year for me.  By this time I was an old pro on the bus and the stories I could tell...and will!

 We stayed with Nancy and she and her husband Tom were the perfect hosts driving us all over the place and treating us like queens. It was wonderful!!!  And now the good photos start...

Back at Great Slave Lake....36 years later and probably 36 pounds heavier....maybe more!

I was so happy to see Great Slave Lake again...I had seen it in Yellowknife on a trip there in 2006 but it wasn't Hay River.  I still remember the awe of seeing this lake for the very first time.  On the way to the lake we drove by the old telephone exchange that has now been closed for years.

The next afternoon we drove to Enterprise to walk the route from Alexandra Falls to Louise Falls.

Alexandra Falls 

Louise Falls - it had started raining by this point
Even though the falls may not be as spectacular as Niagara Falls I prefer them as there is no tourist tat around.  It's just you and nature.  I love it.  The 4 km route between the falls is so pretty as well.

Token dog picture - beautiful Sheena who was Nancy and Tom's dog.  She was such a sweetheart.

As you can see the walk between the falls was a beauty.

The next day we joined a group walk along the shores of Great Slave Lake.

No, I didn't walk on the logs - as you can tell by the photo below they were WAY ahead of me.  I sauntered along doing a shorter route and taking photos.

Tom made us birch tea at the end of our walk and it was quite tasty.

The next morning while Nancy was at work Eilleen and I did the 10km walk around the outskirts of Hay River and in town.

There was a path through the woods but we were advised to stick to the road because of bears on the trail filling their faces with berries to get nice and fa for their winter hibernation. 

Yep, the purple pen still stands!

And here is my old apartment building - I am shocked it's still standing to be honest.  I can't even remember which apartment I lived in there.

What a great few days it was and I am so glad I got to revist the place that I still have fond memories of.  Even though life in Hay River did not agree with me on a personal level I am so glad I had those three months there and 36 years later got to see it again. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Prince Edward Island

The next province up is Prince Edward Island.  Despite PEI (as its known) playing such a huge part in the formation of Canada it actually did not join Confederation until 1873 - six years after Canada was formed. The reason?  Crippling debt and pressure from the other provinces of Canada who were afraid that the United States would take it over.

When most people think of PEI they probably picture Anne of Green Gables.  Well, you won't see any of that here....  I have visited this beautiful province of red soil twice - with a friend in 1995 and on a solo road trip in 2008. Mainly because I am too lazy to scan photos that had Green Gables in them (and I can't find the photo album anyway), the photos here were taken on a (kind of wet) long weekend in 2008.  Confession time...I'm not really a big fan of Anne. Oh dear...people are already on me about being a "true" Canadian as I dislike curling and there are not enough adjectives in the world to express how much I hate hockey.  Now I'm really in trouble.....

So off we go in my rented Yaris for a short overnight trip...

First stop is the beautiful Prince Edward Island National Park...specifically Cavendish Beach.

Except for the one person walking along the beach in the photos I was the only person.  It was windy, invigorating and absolutely wonderful!!!

Red earth, green grass and (almost) blue sky...gotta love it!

And here's the East Point lighthouse...

Of course, there has to be a dog and bonus time, you can see my rental as well...I think the dog approved of it. As you can see by the puddles I basically stepped out of the car whenever the rain stopped.

My bed and breakfast for the night -Tir na nOg Inn. in St Peters Bay.  I wanted to visit a different area than I had been before which is why I ended up here.  9 years ago it was somewhat cheaper!!!  The 435 km Confederation trail shown below, runs right across the street from the inn.

I stayed in the Green room

The front drawing room.  

As luck would have it the local fire hall was having a lobster roll fundraiser so the hosts collected our money and collected our meals. Our hosts, their friends and other guests at the inn gathered around the table to enjoy it together.  It was delicious!

The next morning I woke to torrential rain which did not show any signs of stopping.  I had plans to drive along the east coast winding my way back to Charlottetown but it did not make sense to do this when I would not be able to see anything.  So I headed back to Charlottetown a few hours earlier than I had planned.  I stayed in a really strange bed and breakfast there that I won't even mention here...oh well it was central and cheap.  Even more convenient the Enterprise rental car location was a block away.

Of course, my main focus for PEI was to walk the capital city walk in Charlottetown.  So I did!

Province House completed construction in 1847.  It's not the most attractive building but this is where the Charlottetown Conference took place in 1864 which resulted in the Canadian Confederation three years later.

I fell in love with this row of houses.

And that's it! Yes it was short but on this trip I attended a walking convention in Nova Scotia, flew to Newfoundland for a week. drove through New Brunswick, flew to Ottawa then up to Nunavut so cut me some slack okay?  Even though my road trip on this occasion was short I did enjoy it. I am shocked at the few photos I took in Prince Edward Island due to the dire weather. Well, I have a solution for that - I need to go back on another solo road trip!!!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The beauty of Alberta

Next up is Alberta.  This oil rich province has a population of over four million.

The capital city 

Edmonton  (population roughly a million) is the capital city.  Calgary, in the south has a slightly bigger population than Edmonton.  There is an ongoing rivalry between the two cities.  I can say without hesitation I am an Edmonton girl.  I went to school there for a year and my sister lived there for a number of years so I've been there quite a few times.  The best I can say about Calgary is they have a good zoo.

I love Edmonton's river valley and the downtown area.  Of course there is the huge West Edmonton Mall which is a major tourist attraction.  I have been there numerous times simply because it was the closest mall to my sister's home.  To me, Edmonton is the river valley and its many walking paths.

The following pictures were taken on my last trip to Edmonton in the summer of last trip to say goodbye to the city..and my sister, before she headed east to Toronto.  I did a beautiful 5 km walk in the river valley with the local walking club.

The North Saskatchewan (means swift flowing river in Cree) 

It was an absolutely beautiful walk..then I arranged to meet my sister at Fort Edmonton Park  (largest living history museum in Canada) which was at the end of the walk.

And then it was Canada Day...

The Alberta Legislative Buildings 

Another walk in a different part of the river valley.

A beautiful view of the river valley from downtown.

Lethbridge (and area) 

Another place I have visited is Lethbridge in the southern part of the province.  My cousin and family live there so have visited quite a few times.  It's a city of about 93,000 people.

Perhaps Lethbridge's biggest claim to fame is the High Level bridge that soars over the coulees.  It was originally constructed in 1909 and is the longest and highest trestle bridge in the world 1.6 km in length and 314 feet in height.

Another view of the bridge from the coulees

Ah, the me that's what Lethbridge is all about.  My cousin lives very close to the coulees so we always walk in them when I visit.  What's a coulee?

The coulees are a great place for dog walking!

There's more to Lethbridge than coulees however.  While visiting my cousin one summer I got up very early one Sunday morning and went for a long walk.  Why?  I was training for a half marathon the next month. I walked from their place downtown (where I had the streets to myself) and over to a well known park and back to their place again...

I thought this was pretty cool.

Then I got to Henderson Lake - I loved this shot.  I did have a disturbing incident there...a fellow ahead of me was out walking his boa constrictor.  Yes, you read right.  He stopped to sit down on a bench as I scurried past and then got up to walk again - let's just say that part of the walk was good for my speed training.  I hate snakes!

I then took a break and stopped at the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens which were lovely.  

Also nearby is Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump...yep, that's the name.  It's one of the world's oldest and best preserved Buffalo jump sites.  The First Nations tribes would cause the buffalo to stampede over a cliff thus killing them.  They would then carve the carcasses up and transport them to a nearby butchering site.

Yes, jumping from there would be pretty much a jump you wouldn't be getting up from and some smashed in heads- especially as they would be tumbling on top of one another.  Kind of horrible to picture isn't it?  It is quite interesting to visit with an excellent visitor centre - definitely worth a stop if you are in the area.  It lies 73 km west of Lethbridge.

One of the residents in Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump...a prairie dog.  Blurry but oh well, had to put it in so I could say this "Alan, Alan"!!  (if you've seen the hilarious BBC video you will get it, otherwise just keep scrollin' on) 

Teepee on the site.

There were some great walking paths in the park...even if there were notices that there was a bear in the area.  A common occurrence in this part of the land.  


When people think of Alberta probably the first thing they think of are the Rocky Mountains..and Banff...

The Vermilion Lakes

The infamous Banff Springs Hotel - nice to look at but out of my budget.

Does my butt look fat?

The town of Banff and token dog picture.  The town of Banff is very touristy but I found it fun to snoop around the shops.

Walking back to town from the Vermilion Lakes.  I once did part of this walk on my own several years ago and I got it into my head that a cougar was stalking me.  Don't ask me why...but needless to say I walked er...scurried back to town..which is why it was only part of the walk.  Walking around on your own is not recommended in cougar OR bear country.

Did these canoes/kayaks...tempt me? on....

Looking down on the main drag in Banff townsite from a park.

Another great walking path.

Moraine Lake from many moons ago. Yes the lake is that colour.  My friend Pat and I went out in a canoe like this one.  Now that was an adventure.  We were both so nervous that when we got our instructions we thought the other one was listening.  NOT.  We got ourselves tangled up in the lumber on the sides of the lake..twice.  It's hilarious now but at the time we were freaking and I was yelling out to people "does anyone know how to canoe"?  We finally got out of there ourselves - our "audience" was no help.  Splitting their guts laughing and filming us to show a couple of idiots in a canoe to show their friends back home. I'm sure our escapades were viewed many many times in Japan... Once we got ourselves untangled we just sat in the middle of the lake until our time ran out.  So that's the canoe experience out of the way and I've done a kayak experience too. (similar experience, different friend).  Let's just say I am not an outdoorsy kinda gal - except for walking trails. (with a roof over my head and a restaurant meal at the end)

One of the friendly residents of Banff - a marmot.  So darn cute!


Another great place to visit is the town of Canmore which is 26 km east of Banff.  I have stayed there a few times - in bed and breakfasts and most recently a youth hostel. (these photos were taken during my last trip there in 2014)  It used to be cheaper to stay here than in Banff although I am not sure of that now.  It has boomed as a tourist area with nearby Kananaskis park.

On my last visit we (because you know by now I am too much of a weenie to walk on my own in places I could get eaten)  did an 11 km walk around the area...I mean you have to love walking this trail. Don't let that blue sky fool you..we got stuck in a thunderstorm that rolled quickly through.  But it was one of the best walks I've ever done.  Loved it!

Medicine Hat

(yes we have some weird ass names in this part of the world...from the native word Saamis which translates to Medicine Man's hat) 

The largest teepee in the world - this stands beside the highway and is something you can't miss.  Although Medicine Hat is one of those places you tend to fill up with gas at on your way along the Trans Canada highway I have been lucky enough to visit twice.  The last time I actually stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast and was able to do a walk that took me downtown via the teepee as my B and B was quite close.  It really is a nice little city and well worth a stopover.

Beautiful mural - could this be the Medicine Man?  On the particular trip I took these photos I enjoyed a break at a lovely coffee shop downtown before heading back to the bed and breakfast...on my own two feet. My favourite way to travel!

There are so many more places in Alberta I could show but it has already taken me too long to do this blog post!   In the next few years I hope to revisit Waterton Lake, Banff, Jasper, see the Badlands for the first time and so much more.