Being born and raised in Yellowknife is a fairly unique distinction that I’m always proud to share. Wherever you go, the North is always a conversation starter. The world has a fascination with life up here and almost everyone makes some type of statement along the lines of “it must be so cold!” You try to place the statement in the context of appreciating the peaceful beauty of a still night sky at -40, and the contrast of extremes to a sweltering day in July when the daylight literally never ends.The North is the land of airplanes, and growing up my love of flying was fuelled as an inquisitive little passenger (and sometimes junior co-pilot) to well-known bush pilots such as Rae Baert, Jim McAvoy, Willy Laserich, and Buffalo Joe. Airplanes, and the adventures they provided, shaped every dream in my imagination.
Many years later I was in a Twin Otter flying over the Arctic Ocean and I decided I couldn’t wait any longer. Two days later I purchased my first airplane, but it was an agonizing three months before I had my license to actually fly it. My Kitfox has taken me on some of the greatest adventures imaginable across the NWT, landing on frozen lakes in the winter at some of the best fishing places in the world. Even though it’s not my career, there is a certain sense of accomplishment in being a “bush pilot” with my two-seat plane on skis.
I’ve traveled to all 7 continents on the planet, but there are experiences in the North that just wouldn’t happen anywhere else. I’ve run an immunization clinic sitting on wolverine pelts in an outpost camp. I built a houseboat on the bay and lived there for five years, and ran the world’s only floating wind and solar powered travel agency. I have kite-skied on Great Slave Lake, the Arctic Ocean, and Hudson’s Bay. I sailed the Northwest Passage on an icebreaker as part of a health research team. In the middle of the night I’ve been hauled out of bed for an emergency medevac. I competed at the national biathlon championships, and while I wasn’t the fastest skier I showed them I was a great shot! I’ve housed stranded airline passengers on my couch when all the hotels were full. I honoured a bush pilot’s final wishes and took his ashes on one last tour of Great Slave Lake. Beat that world!
When you live in the North the great adventures and opportunities are not in a faraway land, they are at your front door. You don’t have to wait for someday, the adventure is always here and now. Growing up in the North you truly realize that it is a big place: big land, big sky, and big lakes, teeming with big opportunities, big challenges, and yes, big trout. The North never says “you can’t do it”, it only ever says “look at what you can do”. It’s not that it comes easily, but hard work and resourcefulness are just part of the fabric of everyday. In the North we live great adventures because we can. It’s what we do.