Did I mention I live in northern Canada? I’m sure I did. Not much else to talk about up here other than, well, being here. Now, as far as the province of Alberta’s footprint is concerned, we’re definitely on the upper end of things. Not that I’m trying to brag or anything, especially when you consider the whole lot more of Canada there is yet to the north of us. And those inhabitants are infinitely hardier than I am, of that there is no question. Ever catch an episode of Yukon Men? Me neither. But I’m sure they’re quite a bit more rugged than I can ever pretend to be.
Anyway, I won’t have much to do with the "North" for much longer, nor will it have much to do with me in the same respect. The fam and I are heading south. Not too far, mind you, half a day's drive. Just enough to get us back into the mountains, a place to finally call home. Have I mentioned the moving-back-to-the-mountains thing? Probably, but it’s worth repeating.
As the end of August creeps steadily closer and the calendar threatens to flip to a picture of leafy trees turning shades of yellow and orange, so too does our time up north near its end. And, like many of you, I suspect, the looming prospect of dwindling time is a subtle reminder of the things you have yet to do and are about to miss your chance at doing it.
So, while we’re still living so close to the border of the geopolitical zone above us, we decided we should skip over that imaginary line and see what’s up there while we can. “Let’s go camping in the North-West Territories of Canada!” we said.
And when I say “we”, I mean my wife. This was her idea. I didn’t want to go anywhere.
Don’t get me wrong, I love camping, and I really like checking out new areas. But the "customer reviews" I’d received from friends and anonymous weirdos generally left me wanting.
“Yeah, it’s kinda like here, just with more bugs. It’s not bad, I guess.”
Ooo! With rave reviews like that, how could I say no?
Anyway, you know where this is headed. I’m loyally married, so it was decided for me; we were going. Besides, you know the saying: Happy wife, Happy No-need-to-get-into-a-long-and-costly-divorce-settlement.
So we looked up potential campsites and things to do while we were up there, finding a nice little chain of territorial campgrounds adjacent to several terrific scenic waterfalls, just north of the border. Huzzah! We then looked at the weather forecast for the area, of which they were calling for periods of rain during the few days we would be up there. Oh, well. What’s camping without a bit-o-drizzle anyway?
We got our gear together, re-checked the weather, packed all our camping shit into the car, checked the weather again, frowned, and headed off. We were making pretty good time until we realized we’d forgotten to pack the tent, a rather essential item, so we turned back to pick it up. Once on the road again, we thought we’d also left the kid at home, so we turned around yet again, only to find he actually was hidden among the chaos of the back seat. So we turned around once more, no longer sure we were even tracking North at that point.
Eventually, we crossed over the 60th parallel celebrating our arrival into the Territories with a big, colourful touristy sign with stuff written on it. Of course, we played the part, as we are very much tourists at heart.
Less than an hour later, we neared the campground where we would set up camp like a single-family gypsy caravan.
Oh. Right. And the rain.
It was raining so hard we nearly missed our turn. We swung in with mud spattering against the side of the car, and I bolted into the campground's main office.
“Hi,” I said to the registration attendant. My shirt was soaked from the three-second blitz between the car and office. He didn’t seem to hear me, so I tried it again, this time in North-West Territorian.
“Hi,” I said. He looked up. Success! “We’re checking in.”
I looked around the spacious administration building filled with impressive native artwork and sculptures, certain I had no room in the car for even the tiniest souvenir. I turned my attention back to the counter where I found a map of the campground. On it, campsite loops A and B were depicted, along with a future loop C. Having left our time machine at home, we would only have access to loops A or B.
The man at the desk was pulling up our registration information, filling in the blanks. He asked for the license plate number of our vehicle, as well as the one for our camper.
“Don’t have one,” I said. “We’re tenting.”
He blinked twice, looked out his window – which was blurred from the heavy rain – then turned back to me. He shrugged, asked another question.
“How many nights are you… (a pause) ‘tenting’?” I had the feeling he was insinuating something.
“Three nights,” I replied.
He blinked again.
“It’s raining,” said the ambassador of all things fucking obvious. "A lot."
I was tired, and it had been a long drive. You'll have to forgive me. “Sure is,” I said, joining him in exclaiming things out sardonically. “That’s a pencil,” I added, pointing to his administrative essentials. “That’s a sticky note. That’s a stapler. This is money I’m exchanging for the privilege of putting up a tent on soggy moss and pointy rocks in which I will share close quarters with a three-year-old and a pregnant spouse with the delusion that the weather will improve."
He nodded, understanding what I was getting at. Maybe he had kids too. Before too long, I was back in the car, puttering along as we searched for our little plot of Territorial paradise.
Finding it, I nosed the car into our designated campsite, and parked. My young family and I just looked on at the cold, thick rain flowing across the windshield in waves. Even the kid was quiet, maybe thinking it was best to keep silent lest his parents send him out to pitch the tent. My wife and I were of one mind, silently wondering if we might just be able to live in our overstuffed vehicle for the next few days instead. Though my wife corrected me later: she was actually thinking about finding a hotel somewhere.
But it turned out to be not all that bad. It actually turned out pretty good, our time in the Territories. After twenty-four hours of relentless rain, where we did our best to entertain a busy three-year old, the clouds showed mercy, giving way to a toasty ball of fire that is the sun. We checked out a series of spectacular waterfalls, enjoyed some nice hikes, and took great pleasure getting in some quality family time as the missus and I lovingly watched our energetic little imp immerse himself in a world of natural discoveries.
And the bugs? Hardly had any.
So, even though most of the signs more or less pointed to “Nah, not worth it, let’s stay home”, we went. It would have been sooo easy to leave the camping gear packed away, whittling away the days uneventfully until we went back to work. The weather looked bleak, the bugs sounded obtrusive, and the drive was long, so... justifiable, right?
But who cares what things look like from so far away. You can’t clearly see the worth of an experience until you get close enough to engage your other senses anyway. Get out there. Go touch stuff. Go smell stuff, and taste stuff. Not asking you to go out there tongue first, licking everything in sight, just get out there and experience something for the sheer experience of it. Doesn’t need to be perfect.
My clothes are still drying, our gear still needs to be cleaned and sorted out, but our time camping up in the North-West Territories was great. Make the most of the time you have while you can still do it.
If the Tourism Board of the North-West Territories is interested in giving me a commission for this editorial, I won't say no. But for the rest of you readers, a "Like" or a "Share" would be payment aplenty. Thx!