Yellowknife to Vancouver drive, day 1

Sasha and I woke early at our B&B in Yellowknife and after a simple breakfast began our drive south. Tragically, we were never invited to meet the proprietors’ 24-year-old parrot Cosmo (possibly “Gosmo”) McBeaky, which I heard when booking from Toronto and had been psyched to meet north of 60°.

In Yellowknife and during the NWT and northernmost Alberta parts of the trip, the air quality was at 11 in the Apple weather app, whereas I never saw worse than 7 in Toronto. We drove past Sasha and Mica’s former school in Edzo, and then down toward the route through High Level which we had chosen to avoid wildfires near the Liard highway.

For most of the drive, we swapped between our respective Spotify libraries (mine only in the minority of spots with cell coverage, because there is no space on my phone for downloads) and sang along to the many songs we both know. We also listened to Serkis’ reading of The Hobbit from the battle against Smaug in Esgaroth to the very cusp of the eucatastrophe in the Battle of Five armies before pausing in High Table to share a large Mediterranean pizza.

We added another 300 km to our earlier 700 and got to Grimshaw as a severe thunderstorm was starting. We opted not to camp due to the expected bad weather and checked into the last available room in a hotel full of fire-fighting teams and lost power ten minutes later when Sasha was in the pool and I was doing an intense 25 minutes on the elliptical machine (my first time since the U of T gyms closed for COVID). I feel like I’m fitter than I remember being then, but part of it was surely desire to move my legs after a bus and three flights followed by the three hour Oppenheimer screening we attended last night, plus today’s driving.

I saw more ravens in a day than I think I ever have, and we got a close look at twenty or so bison of all sizes standing around and atop the road. They have truly impressive bulk and presence, and seemed utterly unperturbed by us, though willing to slowly shift off the road while we watched them and took some photos.

We are monitoring wildfire locations and road closures, but presently planning to drive into BC via Jasper and to camp tomorrow night if we can find a good spot and decent weather. To leave space in the Mazda for Sasha’s move I packed as light as possible, omitting a fly for my tent and all my rainy weather clothes (indeed, I brought just three shirts, my two intact-ish pairs of cargo trousers, and fresh daily socks for a five day trip).

I am hugely grateful to my parents and especially my mother for making the trip possible by helping me secure an apartment as guarantors. The chance to spend one-on-one time with Sasha is a true blessing, and the trip will doubtless be a source of memories and stories between us for life.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

14 thoughts on “Yellowknife to Vancouver drive, day 1”

  1. Both our most direct routes from here (via Jasper and Valemount or via Banff and Revelstoke) involve going through Kamloops.

    Present conditions there:

    “There are 23 fires of note, or fires that are considered highly visible or pose a threat to human safety. 
    Among those is the Ross Moore Lake wildfire, burning in the small farming community of Knutsford, B.C., just 24 kilometres south of Kamloops. It covers 26 square kilometres and has prompted the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) to order the evacuation of 344 properties. 

    Knutsford rancher Doug Haughton told CBC News that the fire has grown “immensely” since it was discovered on July 21. As he spoke on Monday morning, he said he could hear helicopters passing overhead helping with firefighting efforts. The B.C. Wildfire Service says 38 firefighting personnel are battling the blaze with the help of heavy equipment and air support. 
    Hundreds of people from other provinces and countries are in B.C. helping fight fires, including some from Mexico, Australia and Brazil.
    Regional district information officer Colton Davies said smoke from the Ross Moore Lake fire is “extremely visible” from both the Coquihalla Highway and Highway 5A, and strong winds blowing northeast fanned the growth of the fire and spread smoke over Kamloops and other communities.”

  2. Behchokǫ̀ residents told to ‘evacuate by tonight’ over wildfire

    Residents of Behchokǫ̀ have been told to “evacuate the area immediately” because of the threat posed by a nearby wildfire.

    An emergency alert sent to residents’ phones in the area ordered people to register at Behchokǫ̀’s Kǫ̀ Gocho Sportsplex Centre, where more information is available.

    A notice posted by the community government stated residents with their own transportation should head to Yellowknife, despite Highway 3 to the city being imperilled by the same wildfire, which was less than two kilometres from the road on Monday. As of 6pm, the road was open – watch the NWT Department of Infrastructure’s website for highway updates.

    Residents should “evacuate by tonight,” that notice stated, urging people to head for Yellowknife’s multiplex, which will again be transformed into an evacuee shelter.

  3. It is amazing to hear about your adventure with your brother; surely an opportunity of a lifetime.
    It is sobering and very sad to hear that Behchoko had to be evacuated because of the wild fires. I hope that all the people made it safely.
    You are likely to face some fire situations along the way; so stay informed, calm and as careful as you can be.

  4. The wildfire fight in B.C.’s Interior is becoming increasingly intense.

    A wildfire burning south of Kamloops is growing rapidly and residents are being warned to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

    The Ross Moore Lake fire is highly visible, located less than 10 kilometres from the city limits.

    It’s grown to 2,600 hectares in less than four days.

  5. Such an interesting account you have provided of Day 1 of your trip – the time together – songs – wildlife -the richness of the journey

    So sad about the evacuation of Bechako

  6. At least three homes burn as fire reaches Behchokǫ̀

    At least three homes burned in Behchokǫ̀ overnight, the NWT’s wildfire agency says, confirming fire ZF015 reached the community.

    There is also a fire at the dump and spot fires around the community, the agency stated just before 9:30am on Wednesday, urging people not to return even though the highway has reopened.

    Edzo “has not been compromised” yet, the agency added. Aircraft will try to get an aerial assessment of the fire as soon as possible.

    “This is critical in choosing the strategies and tactics necessary for managing the fire safely – and assessing what additional risks are at play today,” wildfire information officer Mike Westwick wrote.

    “The fibre-optic line has not been compromised due to Highway 3 breach. This remains a risk,” he added.

  7. “There remains a lot of uncertainty about the fire’s exact status, Westwick said, as crews had to pull well back overnight for their own safety. Extreme fire behaviour is expected again on Wednesday, with strong east winds.

    Highway 3 was closed overnight from Fort Providence to Yellowknife, but reopened along the entire route after 7am.”

  8. “The entirety of Highway 3 — from Fort Providence to Yellowknife — closed overnight due to wildfires.

    Wednesday morning, the Department of Infrastructure said the highway reopened about 7 a.m., including the portion between Behchokǫ and Yellowknife.

    The fire’s burn area was last mapped at more than 63,000 hectares, but that was prior to its significant growth on Tuesday.”

  9. Canada: generations old and new scramble to contain fires burning at record pace | Wildfires | The Guardian

    ‘Real threat to city’: Yellowknife in Canada evacuates as wildfire nears | Canada | The Guardian

    Yellowknife begins evacuation as wildfires approach | CBC News

    Yellowknife: Hundreds of fires raging in Canada’s Northwest Territories prompt evacuations | CNN

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