Read This Now: ‘The Ferries and the Last Frontier’

26 03 2012

Alright, alright. So I’m throwing shame and modesty to the wind, and promoting one of my own Northern stories as a “Read This Now.” But this has been in the works for awhile, and I’m really excited to see it published.

My four-part essay series, The Ferries and the Last Frontier, is going live on World Hum throughout this week. It’s about my January trip through the Alaskan Panhandle by state ferry. Part one, “The Roughest Place in the World,” is up now – the rest will follow daily through to Thursday. Check it out!


Photo Friday: Sunrise in Whitehorse

23 03 2012

Four Days In, Seven Thoughts About Yellowknife

19 03 2012

1. I knew, intellectually, that I wouldn’t be surrounded by mountains anymore, here – but I’m still surprised, every time I step outside, by their absence.

2. The Yellowknife-Whitehorse comparisons are constant and unavoidable. So far, Yellowknife is a clear winner in two categories: coffee shops that actually remain open into the evening (Javaroma, bless its heart, keeps its doors open until 10pm every night) and proper pubs – there’s at least one here, The Black Knight, which is one more than Whitehorse can claim since Tippler’s was forced out of business.

3. On Saturday night I saw by far my best Northern Lights yet, from my backyard right in the heart of downtown Yellowknife. I’d say that display alone makes the trip worthwhile.

4. Another comparison: So far it seems as though Yellowknife has a more dressed-up approach to office life than Whitehorse. One suggested explanation is Yellowknife’s orientation towards Alberta’s big cities, while Whitehorse cultivates that BC outdoor-casual aesthetic. Another is the presence of major multinationals here – among them, mining giant BHP Billiton – in contrast to Whitehorse’s masses of business-casual Yukon government employees. Whatever the reason, the end result is the same: I feel under-dressed in the office tower elevator.

5. I work in an office tower. I ride an elevator to and from the 10th floor, multiple times daily. File under: Things that do not occur in the Yukon.

6. Sometimes I hear snowmobiles passing by behind the house.

7. There is no love-at-first-sight plunge for me here, not like when I first visited Whitehorse. Still, this is the city where my mother was born and spent her early years; this is the other major city in this region I’m so fascinated by. I’m glad to be here.

Photo Friday: Eagle Summit, Alaska

16 03 2012

Off to Yellowknife

14 03 2012

I leave for the NWT capital tomorrow. I’ll be spending a couple of months there, working at the Up Here head office before coming back to Whitehorse to work remotely. Looking forward to it!

I visited Yellowknife briefly when I was really young. I don’t remember a thing. Visually (and probably more generally, too) I think it’s going to be quite a change from Whitehorse – for one thing, it’s on the shore of Great Slave Lake, one of the largest lakes in the world. Also, there are highrises – I’ll even be working in one! – which is a major visual departure from Whitehorse’s four-storey rule.

I’ll hope to post some first impressions over the weekend.

See the Ravages of Denali at the Anchorage Museum

12 03 2012

Frostbite. Blisters. Exhaustion. Sun and wind burn. And that’s before we even get talking about the emotional impact of summiting Mt. McKinley, North America’s tallest.

A photography exhibit on now at the always-excellent Anchorage Museum aims to capture the scars the mountain inflicts on its visitors. Photographer Tim Remick set up at base camp and shot climbers as they returned from the summit – the results, from the images I’ve seen online, are powerful.

After: Portraits From Denali runs until April 15. Check it out if you’re able!

Welcome to Frozen Danger Land!

10 03 2012

Last year on this site, I reviewed Mad Dogs and an Englishwoman, a Yukon dogsledding memoir by British travel writer Polly Evans. I was pretty hard on the book – in large part because, as I wrote, it seemed that Evans tended to “exoticize or dramatize the Yukon, which, really, is dramatic enough on its own terms.”

It seemed like Evans felt a need to introduce a (not entirely genuine, in my view) sense of danger: There are references to the proper techniques to prevent drowning, should she happen to fall through the ice on a frozen lake or river — this, despite the fact that she’s being taught how to mush by experienced guides at one of the region’s best-known tour operators, well able to avoid any potential weak spots in the (very thick) mid-winter ice.

At one point Evans referred to her arrival in “one of the harshest climates on Earth,” and I thought to myself: Come on, lady. We have not one but TWO Starbucks franchises in town. Sure, it gets cold, but when you get down to it Whitehorse is really quite a civilized place.

Later I referred to my home receiving a “sort of Frozen Danger Land! theme park treatment.” Evidently, said treatment made me a tad touchy and defensive.

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