We’ve really embraced it this year – Aly went on a school ski trip to Whistler. I’d show you some photos except she didn’t take a single one (I think she’s doing teenagerdom wrong – shouldn’t there be hundreds of selfies of her on the slopes?). I asked if she was going to call while she was there and she pointed out she didn’t call when she went to India for 3 weeks so “the chances are not high”. She was right.
Sascha bought me a trip to see the Northern Lights for Christmas which we finally got around to taking this weekend. We’d had to reschedule once or twice due to the weather. I was a little worried when our flight was canceled and we had to route through Calgary (which got us into Fort McMurray for 2am), but it doesn’t seem to have been due to weather.
The aurora forecast is an interesting thing. There is a Kp Index (the scale of geomagnetic activity which ranges from 0-9) and then you need to factor in location, visibility and even the brightness of the moon. You also get a colour forecast (it was always green when we were looking). It’s by no means an exact science. We had missed the peak of the geomagnetic activity earlier in the week and the forecast was a little overcast so we weren’t overly optimistic.
Kellie and I had bought mum and dad a trip to Iceland to see the Northern Lights which they had gone on last week and, although they saw them, it was more grey with a hint of green. This was great to know because the first night we were looking, that’s pretty much what we saw. For the second night, we drove further out of town to Willow Lake and got lucky with a gap in the clouds and geomagnetic activity and had about 30 minutes of green streaks overhead. I was VERY happy and Sascha was very relieved (since he’d promised to take me further North to Yellowknife in the Yukon next year if the edge of the arctic circle in Fort McMurray, Alberta, wasn’t sufficient!)
It was certainly VERY chilly (-27 degrees with wind chill). We came pretty wrapped up, although Sascha had forgotten to bring a scarf – only to discover that scarves don’t seem to exist here. Instead, balaclavas are all the rage! The temperature would feel fine for a few minutes, but then suddenly an almost imperceptible breeze would blow through which had us both instantly running for the car!
We found a great ice sculpture park and playground made of ice. I’d be jealous of the kids here except that Sascha mentioned how little of the year it was actually realistic to go to a playground!
Sunday evening we headed down to the river, only to find that on Sunday evening in Fort McMurray, the thing to do seems to be to drive across the river. We’d obviously learned everything we could possibly need to know from watching Ice Road Truckers so we headed out there too. We decided to opt out of trying to climb up the bank on the other side since there had been several trucks sliding around before finally making it up the other side!
Other interesting things of note – we were starving when we finally got in at 2am on Friday so we headed straight to a drive-through – only to discover the windows had all frozen shut! There were also some issues with the turn signal freezing. At least we’d been able to get a car – the rental company kindly agreed to leave the keys in the car for us!
- We were starving when we finally got in at 2am on Friday so we headed straight to a drive-through – only to discover the windows had all frozen shut! There were also some issues with the turn signal freezing. At least we’d been able to get a car – the rental company kindly agreed to leave the keys in the car for us.
- Bus stops are completely enclosed which seems like an excellent plan
- Bologna was offered on all the menus we came into contact with. Interesting.
- Parking lots come with power outlets so you can plug you car in to keep it warm.
It’s a pretty small town, but it was a lot of fun to revisit where Sascha used to live and go to elementary school. It was the only place he’d lived growing up that he’d never been back to.
Fort McMurray is an oil town and also the site of huge wildfire this past summer. Weirdly this meant that little had changed since he was here. The oil industry has had it’s ups and downs since, but he had been here pretty much at the peak of the boom so there hadn’t been that much development. There was a huge amount of fire damage, but mostly in the new areas. Entire developments had, sadly, been wiped out, leaving just a few scattered homes with the sidings melted off them.
It must be very strange to still live in your home when the majority of your neighbours’ homes are completely gone. There are definitely a lot of new homes going up but it made me wonder where all these people have gone in the meantime.
Last week wasn’t the best week, especially after having to have Merlin the rabbit put down. So it was really nice to get away from it all and spend the weekend together. Dani and Toryn kindly came over the hang out with the kids while we were gone – thanks guys!