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.