Yellowknife, N.W.T. – Gord Gin does not give up easily. We are cruising Graham Lake in the Northwest Territories, desperately seeking moose. Our small group includes Kay from Australia who, no surprise, has only heard stories of the largest species of the deer family that may weigh more than 300 kilograms and top two metres in height. She wants to see one.
In a small boat, under a bright blue sky, we motor into serene bays, constantly scanning the shoreline for signs of wildlife. Gin is our host at Yellow Dog Lodge, a fly-in fishing lodge about 55 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife. He assures us that bear, wolves, lynx, wolverine, porcupines and yes, moose, live in the Arctic taiga around us. But today they’re hiding.
As much as we would love to see a postcard-perfect Canadian moose, we three visitors are pretty happy with our stay. We left Yellowknife via floatplane to land at Yellow Dog Lodge and sure enough, before the engines had stopped on the Air Tindi Cessna 208, Casey, a large, friendly Labrador retriever, had wagged his way down the wharf. (I noticed that Casey, the perfect host, said goodbyes to the group leaving before turning his full attention to us.) Everything about Yellow Dog Lodge was welcoming: the lack of formalities, the cabins, the lakes and the fact that you couldn’t see another sign of civilization.
Gord and Kathy Gin took over the lodge in 2006. In the 1970s it had been owned by Duncan Pryde, a fur trader, member of the territorial legislature and author of Nunaga, My Land, My Country, a story about life with the Inuit. Pryde was one of those larger-than-life northerners. There are plenty of tales about him; Gord related a few one morning as we hiked. Accompanied by Casey we did a loop, starting uphill on crunchy moss, through stands of spruce, past juniper and wild cranberry bushes. We stopped on rocky ledges and looked down at the lodge and the lakes.
Later we trolled for trout on Duncan Lake. In less than 10 minutes, two of us caught silvery, one-to-two-kilogram fish. Then Gord did what is apparently mandatory on a fishing trip: he brought out the beer and we bobbed in the boat, pondering such important questions as would the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline ever be built in this peaceful neck of the woods and why weren’t more fish biting? It was a great morning, rounded off by having those fish we did catch for lunch back at the lodge.
As for our moose hunt, we were unsuccessful. But when we cruised up a marshy channel of the Nicholson River we did get to hop out and hike to a waterfall tumbling from yet another peaceful lake.
Two things to note about a trip to the Northwest Territories: this is the place to go if you are starved for sunshine; in summer it averages 23 hours of daylight. And don’t even think of hiking without a net over your head—I swear the mosquitoes save themselves for visitors.
For more information on Yellow Dog Lodge visit its website at www.yellowdoglodge.ca.
For information on travel in the Northwest Territories visit the Northwest Territories Tourism website at www.spectacularnwt.com.