David Millers’ Favourite Place

Former Toronto Mayor David Miller shares his favourite spots in Yellowknife


 

“The places I love the best are in Canada’s North—places like Yellowknife, Iqaluit and Whitehorse. It’s really the surrounding wilderness that I love the most. The fishing is spectacular in the frigid waters of Canada’s northern rivers. This is where I had the most amazing Arctic char I’ve ever tasted.

“I first started travelling up North as a teenager. We used to go canoeing in the lakes of Northern Ontario. I’ve also been on two big canoe trips in the Far North, one in the ’80s and one in 2003. On this last trip, Canada’s Arctic really captured my imagination and my soul.

“It’s hard for people to imagine being there, if they haven’t experienced it. It certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. The thing that really hit me was the isolation. You have to work just to get there. First, you fly into Yellowknife. Then you take a private plane off into what feels like the furthest place imaginable. Once you arrive, you can paddle a canoe for days through wide-open spaces and see only a few people.

“We were on the Burnside River in Nunavut and the water was so clear, you could see every stone, every flicker of a fish, every fallen branch. And if you looked up to the sky, you actually felt that you could see forever. There is a Robert Service poem about the North that captures my feelings perfectly. This is just one verse:

I’ve stood in some mighty-mouthed hollow
That’s plumb-full of hush to the brim;
I’ve watched the big, husky sun wallow
In crimson and gold, and grow dim,
Till the moon set the pearly peaks gleaming,
And the stars tumbled out, neck and crop;
And I’ve thought that I surely was dreaming,
With the peace o’ the world piled on top.

“This is also the land of the Midnight Sun, and for a few months in the summer, the sun never sets. It’s really quite an amazing thing to experience, and on my last trip, it was actually a bit of a lifesaver. We got weathered in at a small fishing camp, unable to push on. After several days, we finally decided to get up at 3 a.m. and start paddling at 4 a.m. That was the only time when the water was calm.

“If we had been further south, we would not have been able to get moving, because you can’t paddle in the dark. At that time of day, when you set out on the water, it’s such a special feeling. You really feel like the world is yours to discover.”

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