Weirdo pics from through the lens of my leaky old pentax
What a dreamland
What a dream
A collection of some of Emily's adventures.
Weirdo pics from through the lens of my leaky old pentax
What a dreamland
What a dream
Have you ever heard of the Falcon Lake Incident? The famous UFO encounter that happened out here in 1967? It is said to be the most credible documented UFO encounter in North American History. It's a great story. I encourage you to read Lyndon's story about it here >.
Basically the story goes that back in 1967, a hobby geologist named Stephen Michalak was out exploring the woods of Falcon Lake when a couple of flying saucers showed up. One landed, he approached it, he tried to communicate with it, tried to touch it, burnt his hand and then was burnt by the exhaust when it took off. A full in investigation took place after that involving the RCMP, and apparently the Canadian and American military. Who knows what it was, or what really happened, but it sure is a great story and was a real big deal in Falcon Lake back in the day.
This past May long weekend marks the 50th anniversary of "the encounter". To celebrate, our friends at The Falcon Beach Ranch organized guided horseback tours to the the encounter site, where Devin told the story of the incident, and later everyone gathered for a BBQ meal and a talk with UFOlogist Chris Rutkowski. Rutkowski also launched a book that he had just written along with son of Stephen, Stan Michalak all about the incident. You can pick up a copy from McNally Robinson Books.
Obviously I wasn't going to miss out on a banger of an event like this! A bunch of us booked onto the 2 pm ride on Sunday. The weather was quite perfect. The morning had been drizzly but the rain held out for us and made for a beautiful moody atmosphere. The ride was so fun, and there were some pretty hard core UFO geeks on it, which made it really entertaining. Devin did a bang up job on the story telling, and we learned a lot.
The Ranch offers guided horseback tours to the UFO site. I recommend it 100%, it's a wonderful little ranch with great horses, the trail is super beautiful, the Imries are fantastic folks and great guides, and it really is an incredible story. That all that mystery and attention happened here in Falcon Lake back in the day, but now is a mostly forgotten about story.
After the beautiful journey up to Yellowknife aboard Alfie, Josh's '85 dodge camper van, I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to fly up and take photos of the resort where he will be working for the spring and summer, Blachford Lake Lodge.
BLL is a wilderness retreat lodge a half hour bush plane ride from Yellowknife, NWT. Perched on a rock knoll overlooking Blachford Lake, the resort lies in the heart of the rugged northern Canadian Shield, superb Aurora-watching country. They host travellers from around the world and cater to groups from corporate meetings to yoga retreats. During the off seasons the resort is transformed into a northern woodland classroom with the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning, a northern-led initiative delivering land-based, university accredited educational experience, and FOXY (Fostering Open eXpression among Youth), a retreat for young northern women which works to promote mental and sexual health and healthy relationships. The mixture of high end tourism and not-for-profit social work programs present at the lodge was something that I had great respect for, and kept the nature of the lodge and the guests it caters to grounded in reality, something that is often missing in other high end destination tourism outlets.
I was very excited to check it all out.
We flew in via the iconic "Workhorse of the north", the Twin Otter. Conceived and built in Canada, the Twin Otter was first used in 1965. As well as being able to land on water, snow, ice and rough ground, the plane is flexible inside too: it can carry up to 19 passengers or 1940 kg of freight or a mixture of the two. Our flight consisted of five passengers, a bunch of potatoes and a new washing machine for the resort. The aerial perspective of all that endless wilderness and space was an incredible precursor to the arrival at the lodge.
When the plane landed on the ice in front of the resort we were greeted by the whole gang of staff and volunteers. Gathered to schlep gear off the plane and up to the cabins, and to fill the plane up with items to be sent back to Yellowknife on the return journey. It was a great introduction to the BLL community and I felt very welcomed.
We were put up in the charming Beaver cabin. A sweet little cabin built with local logs. It was amazing how easy it was to heat. One little fire in the cast iron stove and in no time we were sweating. I've always loved the simple elegance of log construction. No nails, just scribed linked logs cut by chainsaw. And the way the building settles over years, like it's a living entity. The cabins embodied the true nature of a bush cabin, rustic and simple and so cozy. No pre-fab disneyland reproductions here.
I was particularly excited to get to know the lodge and its people with it being a family run rural eco tourism destination, drawing many parallels to Falcon Trails (my own family run resort here in Manitoba). I was given the full tour of all the ins and outs including the solar power, water and the clivus composting toilets. Really interesting to get the behind the scenes on how all that works and compare with how things operate at our High Lake eco cabins.
Blachford has an incredible team of volunteers from all over the world, helping out all over the resort, from helping the cook prepare the exceptional meals to the endless job of preparing firewood to trail maintenance to really neat projects like making soap out of spruce gum harvested around the resort. Having the resort full of all these vibrant and interesting persons made for a great company and community way out in the remote bush.
Over the next couple days, while Josh learned the ropes of his new job, I just got to wander around, exploring the exceptional network of hiking trails and lookouts around the resort and zipping around the lake via skis and fat tire bikes. Here I was thinking that I'd had my last ski for the season back in March, what a treat! Plus there's a sauna and a hot tub. Yeah, exactly my favourite kind of place.
Blachford lies in the the northern region of the Canadian Shield. The wilderness tapestry of boreal forest taiga. Rocky outcrops and hundreds of glacier formed lakes and rivers. The exposed portion of the continental crust, the four billion year old crust of Acasta Gneiss, the oldest rock in the world. So metal. I couldn't get enough of this landscape.
And the Aurora Borealis. There's really no way for me to properly articulate how magnificent an experience it was, standing on the middle of the frozen lake with the sky above me lit up, dancing and exploding with light and colour. It was so alive.
Blachford is situated right underneath the auroral oval and being way the heck out there, it is completely free of any sort of city light pollution. There are two main seasons for aurora viewing; Summer/Autumn (mid August - mid October), and Winter/Spring (Christmastime - mid April). I was there just as winter/ spring season was ending and was still treated to an amazing display.
After a day full of exploring, with a belly full of the lodge's hearty food, all cozied up in a log cabin with a roaring fire, it was pretty much impossible to stay awake. So I set an alarm for midnight. Come the alarm time, I dragged myself of bed, suited up, got my camera and tripod and headed out into the night. The sky was black, no lights. So I went back to bed for an hour. It was particularly difficult getting out of bed the second time. Really tough. But I did it and I am so glad because the reward was great. I grabbed one of the bikes and pedaled around the lake under the dancing sky. I have seen the northern lights many times before, but nothing like this. I will always remember the emotions, humbling and awestruck, this magnificent and ethereal performance elicited.
I was so impressed with this beautiful place. It was hard to leave.
I encourage you to check it out if you ever have the opportunity. There's a ton of great info on their website: blachfordlakelodge.com
Many thanks to the fine folks at Blachford Lake Lodge for the opportunity and making my stay such a special experience.
Spring = freedom. The transition time between the busy ski season at my sweet Falcon Ridge Ski Slopes, and the crazy summer photo booking season. So when the opportunity to head north on a road trip in Josh's charming 1984 dodge camper van came up, I was delighted to join in on the adventure, despite being fresh off the road from a two week powder shredding mission in the Kootenays.
From Falcon Lake, to Prawda to check in on Caleigh's bee colony, to a send-off party at Cousins Deli in Winnipeg. From the quirky army surplus store that has taken over the whole town of Westbourne, MB, to Slave Lake. Through kilometers and kilometers of charred forest fire sites to spruce bogs to multiple stops at Peavy Marts. We journeyed up to Yellowknife where Josh would be spending his spring and summer working at the prestigious off the grid fly-in Blachford Lake Lodge.
Here are some of the moments I collected on my camera along the way.
Met Jordan and checked on the bees! They survived the winter and seem to be in pretty good shape!
This tiny town just off the Yellowhead is home to a great little army surplus store. A lot of what I know about it is hearsay, but apparently the guy who runs it acquired it from his father or grandfather who had it before him. So collecting army surplus and reselling it has been the guys life. I picked up a great -40 sleeping bag and a bunch of army issue socks for a steal of a deal. And was tempted by many other treasures. We drove into the town and explored a bit. It was incredible. Every bit of unused or abandoned space in town, from churchyards to old gardens was used by this guy to store so much army stuff. From old tanks to rolls and rolls and rolls of army wire.
Worth the stop. Although I've heard that the hours that the store is open is a bit hard to predict. We got lucky.
Josh was super stoked about the huge populations of snow geese we encountered in Saskatchewan. He's kinda like a lab sometimes.
We pulled into Saskatoon for dinner and after a quick facebook poll as to where to eat, we settled on The Hollows. It was a really cool locally owned hip restaurant hidden in the historic "Golden Dragon". Great food, pretty fancy. We felt a little out of place in our trucker hats.
Travelling in Alfie is really a beautiful thing. Supremely comfy, particularly with my army issue -40 bag. The first night we pulled off somewhere between Saskatoon and Edmonton nestled amongst the oaks of an old homestead. A couple big old owls hung out in the trees and watched us as a tremendous wind picked up, and as we parked and tucked in, we could see lightning flashing towards Edmonton. All night the wind howled. The storm was exhilarating in the cover of Alfie. The morning light revealed the details of the pretty little farm and skeletal houses around the property.
I was totally enchanted with the landscape as we headed north of Edmonton. The land of black spruce bogs, characterized by the "drunken" trees struggling to stay upright with the heaving melt of the permafrost, and the remains of fire swept forests. The storm we watched roll in turned to snow and the driving conditions were less than ideal, but made for a beautiful moody and mysterious landscape. Josh made good use of his latest Peavy Mart buy, some kelly green Stanfield long undies.
We spent our third night camped beside the incredible Alexandra Falls. Frozen water cascading 36 m down over sandstone and limestone escarpment. Real nice. And we made a raven friend at the campsite.
We made it to Yellowknife, and I got to visit my buddies Sarah and Darryl. That was great. Yellowknife is a cool place, it's got good diversity of interesting folks with a really neat old town section that is on its own little island. My favourite part was the enchanting little community of houseboats that resides frozen into the ice of Great Slave Lake, just off shore of the city. I think part of the appeal it has something to do with being about to avoid paying property and city taxes, plus it's just so cool. So so cool. A houseboat village!? Sign me up.
Next to the houseboat village, we explored around the ruins of a magnificent snow castle. It was incredible. I guess they have a big festival in it in March, with dance parties and djs and concerts in it all month long. It was real cool and real neat.
k, that's it for my looooong part I post. Sorry if it took a long time for all those pictures to load on your computer or phone or whatever. Next I'll do a post on my amazing visit to Blachford Lake Lodge.
Weird early melts have left the lakes beautifully snow free with trails of smooth patches winding all over the ice.