THE HIGH ARCTIC
DAY TWO - THE WOODYARD
From the Bush Pilots' Monument, a group of us, led by a couple of people who knew the town quite well, led us down the hill to the lakeside.
You'll remember that a little earlier I mentioned earlier that Yellowknife is actually two towns in one. The original settlement that was founded in the 1930s is just here down by the lake on the waterfront.
That would be quite natural. There was no road access so everything came in by water.
The original town consisted of loads of of old ad-hoc wooden cabins assembled by the miners who came here in the late 1930s in search of the gold that had been discovered in the area in 1934.
They were either assembled from parts shipped in or else from materials found locally
There are still a few of the original cabins remaining and this was pointed out to us as being one of them.
The most typical area of the old town is called by the locals "The Woodyard"
The first cabins were erected here round about 1937 and a couple of years later a commercial wood-cutting operation was set up. This became quite well-known as a useful source of firewood for the citizens of the town back in those days.
Although the woodyard has closed down, several of the local residents seem to be still carrying on the tradition.
Talking of the local residents, we hadn't gone all that far when we were sidetracked by some of the most extraordinary people you would ever wish to meet.
The Woodyard is well-known for its esoteric residents who seem to have a much better grip on the realities of life in the peri-Arctic region than the pseudo city-dwellers who live uptown.
Vilhjalmur Stefansson, probably the last of the great Arctic explorers, made a very famous and pertinent remark about this kind of thing.
His opinion was that the Franklin Expedition, and many other similar ones, came to grief because the explorers, instead of adapting their lifestyle to suit the Arctic environment, tried (and failed) to survive in the Arctic by bringing their own environment with them.
There is a considerable amount of evidence suggesting that a more traditional lifestyle is still being carried on by at least some of the residents of the Woodyard.
One of my fellow travelling companions was convinced that this was the hide of a musk-ox, stretched out and drying in the sun.
I've already mentioned that this is the kind of place where I could quite happily be at home, if I could afford to pay the rent.
And even more so when you see things like this parked up in people's gardens around here. In fact it took me quite by surprise to see this car here.?
Such an unexpected sight to see that it made me wonder just how it came to be here.
It's an old Ford, probably from the 1940s and because I didn't want to go onto someone's property and peek under the tarpaulin I can't tell you any more than that.
There wasn't anyone about to ask either, which is a shame, because I would like to know more about it.
And in particular, how it came to be here because there were no roads back in those days and this wouldn't have been the kind of vehicle that you would have expected to see battling its way through the kind of tracks that would have been here.
If you know any more about this car or what it might be, please feel free to .
And that's not all either. I told you that this was my kind of place. In the garden of a house right by where we were standing, there were a couple of abandoned lorries.
This one wasn't very easy to identify and I couldn't get round to see a maker's plate.
Someone reckoned that it resembled a Russian lorry of the 1960s that they had seen in Syria. If that's the case, this will be a Chevrolet of the 1940s of the type that was supplied to the Soviet Union under Lend-Lease during World War II.
But as Elrond once famously said in Lord of the Rings
"I would gladly learn more"
This one was much easier to identify - for the simple reason that I could see the badge on the side of the bonnet.
Slowly being overwhelmed by a growth of Arctic Willow is an International Harvester model R150.
What's so special and exciting about this is that it's quite a rare vehicle. As far as I could discover, they were only made from 1953 to 1955. The whole range of "Model R" lorries totalled about 250,000, of which well over half related to just one model, the smaller R110.
While we were here we met a woman who told us that she was a computer programmer and that she had developed the computer program that a member of our party was using on her tablet.
That led to quite a conversation - a conversation that didn't involve me because I was still being distracted by all kinds of things lying around abandoned to the elements.
Such as the remains of this cart here. It's unlikely to have been horse-drawn up here in Yellowknife but it was still one of the many excitings thing to find around here in the Woodyard.
And I haven't finished yet, as you will find as you read further on.
Further round the bend we were lucky enough to encounter another local yokel.
He spends his time making sculptures by collecting all kinds of abandoned objects from around the town and balancing them on top of each other.
And believe me, he was an extremely vocal local yokel. Having lived here for a considerable number of years, he told us a whole host of interesting and exciting stories about life down here in the cabins around the woodyard.
Our vocal local yokel pointed out a little footpath that led us right down to the waters edge where we could walk along the lake shore on a boardwalk.
There were many interesting things to see down here, such as all of the house boats that float on large iron pontoons in the lake.
Or, at least, they do in the summer, when access to the houseboats is by boat.
In the winter the lake freezes over and is so solid that never mind access on foot, residents can even drive their vehicles right up to the front door
We were told that rents in the town are much more expensive that you would think for around here, and many people are priced right out of reasonable accommodation.
However, the lake is actually outside the boundary of the city. People can live here on a houseboat without paying rent at all, and without paying any local authority charges.
This can on occasion lead to quite a considerable amount of controversy.
There are of course no services available to those who live in the houseboats. If they need anything, they may well take advantage of the setvices available in the town - without usually paying for them of course.
Many of the local residents and indeed the town council are none-too-happy about this situation and has led to several confrontations.
We were told that on quite a few occasions the farces of law and order have been involved.
A little later on, we arrived at the quayside. This is where it all happened in the days before the road came here, and where there is still some kind of activity going on.
It's called the Government Quay and was built in the early 1940s to ease the unloading of goods coming along the lake. When the first beer boat arrived after the Spring thaw, all of the town would be down here celebrating, tongues hanging out.
We arrived for a look around just as a fishing boat pulled up to the dock so we had something of a guided tour of the boat and its catch.
I remember thinking to myself that a good way to have passed the afternoon would have been to have gone for a nice lake voyage, and I was disappointed to learn that had I been here much earlier, I could have gone out with them.
But anyway we'd had an exciting afternoon to date and there was still plenty more to see.