Yellowknife: The Aurora Borealis in Autumn

For as long as I can remember, the Aurora Borealis has always been something I’ve dreamt of seeing. It was always my impression that I would need to go far up North in the middle of winter in a Scandinavian country just to see it though, making it a little difficult to do.

In researching where to best see it though, I came across several places touting how Yellowknife, Northwest Territories is in fact one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. You mean I don’t even have to travel out of my home country? Sold!

The Aurora Borealis in Yellowknife in August reflects on the lake surface.

Why Yellowknife?

With flat lands, no mountains, nor salt water surroundings, the resulting dry climate creates an ideal condition for seeing the Aurora Borealis, making it scientifically one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. Yellowknife also sits directly under what is known as the Aurora Oval. This allows us to see the Northern Lights every which way, including directly above you—which is such a surreal experience.

When geomagnetic activity is high, this oval can stretch further south—sometimes as far south as Northern Ontario. In these cases, if you drive far enough to a place with little light pollution, you can often see a hint of green along the horizon facing North.

The unmistakable green colour of the Aurora Borealis seen north of Toronto.

In Yellowknife however, the Aurora Borealis is literally dancing right in front of your eyes, making the show that much more spectacular.

The Aurora Borealis at Tibbitt Point—at the very end of the Ingraham Trail.

The next question I asked myself was: when is the best time to see the Aurora Borealis?

In the Spring of 2016, I happened to meet someone filming a documentary on why the Japanese have a love affair with the Aurora Borealis. He told me a little known secret: go see the Aurora Borealis in the Autumn season. You get to see the lights without having to endure the cold winter weather. He explained the Aurora Borealis never really stops during the summer months. You just can’t see them then because the night doesn’t get dark enough. Once darkness starts to roll in again at night in mid-August, the Aurora Borealis viewing season begins.

And that’s how I found myself in the Northwest Territories in late August of 2016.

*The film he was making is currently scheduled to be released in early 2019! Titled Aurora Love, you can head to their website for more details.

The Aurora Borealis in Yellowknife can be quite spectacular.

The Advantages of Seeing the Aurora Borealis in Autumn

There are a number of advantages of seeing the Aurora Borealis during the Autumn season. If you think I may have missed a reason, please feel free to let me know in the comments below.

  1. Temperature. One of the most obvious reasons is the temperature. Mid August to early September offers a cooler but still manageable Autumn temperature in Yellowknife. With an average of about 13C, you won’t have to endure the cold temperatures of the Northwest Territories in the winter. This lets you stay out for a longer period of time without having to go indoors to warm up.
  2. Travelling. Travelling by foot or by car in Autumn is much easier than in the winter months. Without the snow-covered roads, you’ll be able to drive to wherever you want to see the Aurora Borealis.
  3. Reflections. The rivers and lakes have yet to freeze over during the Autumn months in Yellowknife, which means if you go by a body of water to see the Aurora Borealis, you’ll get to see the reflection of the Northern Lights, which also makes for spectacular images.
  4. Photography. Using your camera outside in the Autumn months poses very few problems. If you’re out by a lake, you may get some foggy lenses at most when the humidity increases, but other than that, you won’t have to worry about the laundry list of items you’ll want to do when you photograph in the winter time.
  5. Blue Hour. Daylight hours are still somewhat long in August with sunset being around 9pm in late August. This means you’ll have chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis during blue hour when it isn’t pitch black. This is great for wonderful blue hour images with the Northern Lights that you don’t see too often.
The Aurora Borealis during blue hour can be quite stunning to see as well.

The photo above was taken at Tibbitt Point, which is about 60km northeast of Yellowknife. I drove about an hour to get to the end of the Ingraham Trail, which offered a great view of the Northern Lights. With the reflection seen in the water, I was able to capture this in the blue glow of the evening. This was taken shortly after 11pm.

This particular photo covers most of my points. I had to drive far to get here, you can see the reflection, and you can see the blue glow of the evening.

The Disadvantages of Seeing the Aurora Borealis in Autumn

While there may be some disadvantages of seeing the Northern Lights in Autumn, I don’t believe they are significant enough to not see them during this time.

  1. Scenery. If you love winter scenery, then seeing the Aurora Borealis in winter might be the better option for you. With untouched snowscapes and those clear winter nights, it can be a great time to experience the Northern Lights.
  2. Travelling. While it might be easier to travel in Autumn, you’re restricted in travelling on only the roads. In the winter, with frozen lakes, you are gifted with different vantage points that you wouldn’t normally get in Autumn.
  3. Humidity. While humidity is generally not too much of a concern, there may be chances where your lenses can fog up through a night by the lake. If this ever happens, you’ll need to take proper care of your camera gear.
I love a good winter scenery so seeing the Aurora Borealis in winter was something quite special for me.

Seeing the Aurora Borealis for the first time in my life was breathtaking. Reminding us how small we are in this world, the Northern Light puts on a show that you will never forget. And that’s precisely the reason why I believe everyone should see the Aurora Borealis with their own eyes at least once in their lifetime. It is that special a moment.


Taku Kumabe currently has openings for his 2019 Aurora Borealis Photography Workshop at Blachford Lake Lodge in the Northwest Territories. Click the photo below, or the link above, to find out more about this workshop, and to register!

Autumn in the Northwest Territories

Autumn has always been my favourite season for photography. With an explosion of colours, Mother Nature reminds us her beauty is unmatched. With all the changing colours and that cool crisp air making its way back, it’s a nature-lover’s paradise. Couple this with an arctic backdrop and you have yourself a photographer’s paradise.

Autumn colours of the Northwest Territories in late August.

In August of 2016, I was fortunate enough to be able to go to the Northwest Territories to see what it had to offer. Being further North than my hometown of Toronto, the Autumn season in the Northwest Territories starts around mid-August. The days slowly start to get shorter and darkness starts to fall at night, allowing us to see the Aurora Borealis again.

If you’ve ever wondered what the Northwest Territories are like, follow along as I take you through my journey through the southern portion of this beautiful territory.

My trip started in Yellowknife (flying from Toronto to Calgary to Yellowknife via Air Canada). We rented a Jeep to explore various areas of the territory, camping along the way. We had no set itinerary; we just drove where we wanted to go. With breathtaking scenery at every turn from waterfalls to remote towns and of course, the Aurora Borealis, it was an inspiring trip to say the least.

Outlined below are the major stopping points that we took during our four-night, five-day road trip through the southern portion of the Northwest Territories.

Ingraham Trail

The Ingraham Trail spans more than 60km from Yellowknife and makes its way to Tibbitt Point where it ends. In the winter time, this area is the starting point to an ice road that leads trucks to several mining sites.

Yellowknife to Tibbitt Point

Tibbit Point

Other than a small parking lot, there’s not much else to Tibbit Point. However, we were tipped off by another photographer saying it’s a great place to see the night sky. Upon arrival, we saw small rocky shores along the lake, where you can spend your nights gazing at the Aurora Borealis. That’s exactly what we did one evening, witnessing a spectacular display of the Northern Lights.

Along the Ingraham Trail there are several Territorial Parks, camping sites, and areas that offer spectacular lakefront views for the Aurora Borealis. Not too far from Tibbit Point was Cameron Falls, which we went to visit during the daytime.

Cameron Falls Trail

We made a stop at the Cameron Falls Trail, which is part of the Hidden Lake Territorial Park.

Map from Yellowknife to Cameron Falls

The waterfall is roughly around a 30min. hike on a well-marked trail from the parking lot, which seems to be open year-round (along with a nearby outhouse). The water cascades down the rocks and makes for a great place for photos. There is a lookout with a bench that offers this view, as well as the view down the river.

Cameron Falls Trail is located within Hidden Lake Territorial Park, about 47km into the Ingraham Trail.

A little further down the Ingraham Trail is where you can find the Cameron River Ramparts Waterfalls, which are smaller than these ones here. I didn’t make it out there so I have no photos of it, but the two are connected through an eight to nine kilometre hike along the river.

Looking down the river that Cameron Falls opens to.

While we couldn’t make it out here during the evening, we went to another spot that was also suggested to us by another photographer. Cassidy Point, we were told, is not too far from Yellowknife, and has a great lakefront view of the Northern Lights.

Cassidy Point Park

Cassidy Point Park is accessed by the Cassidy Point road, which is the entryway to the famous Aurora Village. Rather than turning on Aurora Village Road, you simply continue on Cassidy Point until you see a small opening to your left. The park is a small beached area with a dock, and boats perched alongside it. The lake here freezes over in the winter, making an unofficial ice road to go to the other side. During Autumn, however, it provides for a great backdrop to the Northern Lights.

Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary

The Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary (just northeast of Fort Providence) is a protected area bordered on the west side by Highway 3—otherwise known as the Frontier Highway—and by Great Slave Lake on the east side. There is no road within the sanctuary, but imagine driving down a highway and seeing groups of bison roaming around the side—sometimes even crossing the highway. That’s what it was like driving down Highway 3 from Yellowknife. They are majestic in their own ways, silently roaming around and minding their own business even when they see you.

A herd of bison roaming along the side of the Frontier Highway—otherwise known as the Yellowknife Highway, or Highway #3.

Kakisa

The drive from Yellowknife to Kakisa passes by the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary, bordered by Highway 3.

Driving further South, we reached the small town of Kakisa. It seemed almost abandoned as we didn’t see a single person there while we drove around during the day. I later found out this is a traditional Dene settlement with a population of just 45. It is in fact the smallest community in the Northwest Territories. Located just by the Kakisa river, we did notice that it offered a great view that would only be accentuated by a showing of the Northern Lights.

So naturally, we went back that night to be confronted with a brilliant showing of the Aurora Borealis.

This Aurora Borealis showing in Kakisa was intense, bursting with flare everywhere we looked.
The many different colours of the Aurora Borealis showed its presence that night.
Beautiful curves of the Aurora Borealis in Kakisa.

Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park

Having a craving for waterfalls, we continued further south along Highway 1 (Mackenzie Highway) to the Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park. This park comprises of Alexandra Falls—the third highest in the Northwest Territories—and Louise Falls, which is the smaller of the two.

Kakisa to Alexandra Falls and Louise Falls

Both waterfalls are beautiful in their own way. The sheer power of Alexandra Falls is mesmerizing, especially when you’re able to sit right on the edge of the rocks, listening to the power of the water rush by you.

The larger of the two waterfalls that comprise the Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park.
Alexandra Falls is where the Hay River plunges into a deep limestone canyon.
Louise Falls—the smaller of the two waterfalls—is a few kilometres further south of Alexandra Falls in the Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park.
Seeing the raw power of Louise Falls is exhilarating up close.

Alexandra Falls was so memorable to me I remember I really wanted to come down there during the night to see this landscape with the Aurora Borealis. Seeing the waterfall plummet to the river down below with the rocky gorge surrounding it, I imagined a scene of utter beauty.

It wasn’t until we arrived there at night that I realized this wasn’t going to happen. Walking along rocky shorelines and steep passes in pitch black wasn’t the smartest choice. I reluctantly stayed in the car by the side of the road, hoping to see any glimpse of the Aurora Borealis that evening.

It wasn’t until about 1:20am that we saw some lights appear. It was, however, short-lived.

As it turned out, it wasn’t a very active night for the lights, so we slowly made our way back to the campsite feeling a little empty inside.

Sambaa Deh Falls Territorial Park

Driving all the way back west on Mackenzie Highway, making several pitstops along the way, we finally made it to what would be the final stop of our camping tour: Sambaa Deh Falls Territorial Park. With its raw power, this waterfall was fantastic to see up close.

The scenic drive from Alexandra Falls to Sambaa Deh Falls on the Mackenzie Highway (Highway 1).
Peering over the ledge overlooking the waterfall.
The river on the north side of Highway 1.
The raging river on the south side of Highway 1.

Since we weren’t able to see a lot of the Northern Lights the night prior, we were really hoping to see it again this night. The only problem? Clouds were coming in quickly. By nightfall it was pouring rain, and it didn’t seem like it was going to let up anytime soon.

The tent we were in was so fragile that the strength of the pounding rain nearly toppled it over. Rather than sleep in it, we opted to sleep in the Jeep, where at the very least we knew we would be kept dry overnight.

Needless to say we didn’t get much sleep that night.

As much as I would have loved to continue exploring the Northwest Territories—we were only a couple hours away from Fort Simpson after all—we had a schedule to keep that day, so we made our way back to Yellowknife, ending a fantastic five days of driving and exploring around the southern side of the Northwest Territories.


Continue on my Autumn adventures in the Northwest Territories with my blog post on my first visit to Blachford Lake Lodge.


Taku Kumabe is currently offering a photography workshop in Yellowknife this August to photograph the Northern Lights! Click this link for more details or click on the image below.

A Winter Wonderland at Blachford Lake Lodge

Blachford Lake Lodge, located about 100km southeast of Yellowknife, is an eco-friendly lodge located high above the rocky shores of Blachford Lake. It is so remote, it can only be accessed by a 25min. float plane ride from Yellowknife.

Flying over the Northwest Territories on a float plane.

My first visit to Blachford Lake Lodge was in August of 2016. This blog post recounts my experience then. Three years later I found myself back at the lodge with nothing but great moments to recount. This time, yearning to experience a true Canadian winter experience, I took the challenge to go up to the lodge with -40 degrees Celsius temperatures in a snowy winter wonderland of a setting, and have absolutely no regrets.

Yellowknife in the wintertime is drastically different than in autumn. The landscape changes and you are reminded that cold doesn’t necessarily have to mean you stay inside. At Blachford Lake Lodge, that’s probably the last thing I had in mind.

A winter wonderland scenery at Blachford Lake Lodge.

The Arrival

The float plane now lands on the frozen Blachford Lake. Being completely frozen over, it’s safe to go on top, allowing you to experience the lodge from even more vantage points than when I was last here. The disembarking of guests sure looks great with the hazy sun in the background.

Disembarking from the float plane at Blachford Lake Lodge.

Lodge Rooms

Blachford Lake Lodge has several cabins scattered all over their property, each providing ample views of Mother Nature at her finest. My last stay had me at the Eagle’s Nest cabin so this time I opted to stay inside the lodge. Sunrise 1 was the room, and it came with two double-sized beds and one single bed, with windows galore, providing a spectacular view of the sunrise each morning.

The Sunrise I lodge room at Blachford Lake Lodge.

Being in the lodge means direct access to the showers and common areas, which in hindsight helped since putting on/off our winter gear every time was quite the chore. Also, who can resist waking up to the smell of bacon wafting onto the second floor? No worries for those non-bacon lovers as the smell won’t penetrate through closed doors.

Activities

I was happy to see that the inside of the lodge itself still retained its rustic yet homy feel to it. With the sun-lit common areas, it’s a perfect place to relax and soak up the atmosphere. Indoor activities hosted by the lodge include a speaker coming in to tell you about the traditional Dene culture (sadly she could not make it to our session), salve making, and dream catcher making.

If you’d prefer to be more active, not to worry as they have you covered there too. From fat-biking to cross-country skiing, skating, hiking, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and igloo-making, the staff and volunteers at the lodge do what they can to keep you busy. And busy I was, as I tried to cram in everything I could during my four-night, five-day stay there. I succeeded!

Paths are pre-made for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, so it’s a straightforward affair. Travelling across the frozen Blachford Lake and looping around islands that you would normally have had to kayak or canoe to in the summer, was fun times.

Possible lynx tracks sighting on one of the frozen lakes we snowmobiled on.

Snowmobiling

When I found out they were offering snowmobile rides (extra fee applies), I was game; it would be my first time on a snowmobile, and now that I’ve been on one, it certainly won’t be my last time.

Snowmobiling at Blachford Lake Lodge

Isaac, our guide (pictured below), was very knowledgable about the trail system, the wilderness that are scurrying around, and the surrounding paths. He would stop and explain behaviours of various animals once he saw their tracks in the fresh snow. This 2.5 hour tour ended up being almost 3.5 hours, as he took us over frozen lakes, through an abandoned mine, and to a part of Great Slave Lake where we were able to see a pressure ridge passing through the entire width of the lake. It was beautiful and incredible to see the raw power of Mother Nature first hand.

Isaac, our snowmobile guide explains to us his findings of wildlife markings in the snow.

Hiking

Blachford Lake Lodge has several hiking trails to suit anyone’s comfort level. The 2km, 4km, and 6km loop trails are well marked, and paths are carved into the deep snow, letting you enjoy the hike with ease. We were blessed with beautiful blue-sky days so we enjoyed hiking all three trails. No need to bring a thermos with you because if you get thirsty, just grab a mouthful of snow from a branch and eat away. For real! There’s nothing like eating fresh northern snow—so much cleaner tasting than eating snow in Toronto…not that I do a whole lot of that.

Beautiful sunset colours at Carldrey Lookout point.

You’ll pass by fields of untouched snow with pristine winter scenery one turn after another. And while you’re in the middle of the trail system, stop and listen. You will witness absolute silence, which may sound strange, but is a good reminder of how remote a location this place really is. You may come across fox and lynx trails, or ptarmigans flying about—the peculiar looking birds of the north—and if Lady Luck is by your side, you may even see them in front of you.

Food

With all these activities at the lodge, you’re bound to get hungry. Not to worry though, as I’ve had nothing but great experiences with meals at Blachford Lake Lodge. Their chefs know what they’re doing, and take care to serve a variety of dishes to keep things exciting for everyone. As luck would have it, the chef in charge while I stayed loved to bake. How does eating a different type of freshly baked bread for lunch and dinner sound? It’s music to my ears that’s for sure.

The buffet table at Blachford Lake Lodge is always filled with a hearty meal. Dessert is waiting nearby on the counter.

Meals are buffet style, where you take what you can eat, from the main table. But remember to leave room for dessert, because there’s always something sweet waiting for you after lunch and dinner.

You’ll notice I don’t have a lot of photos of food from this trip. That’s because I couldn’t wait to dive in at each meal and forgot to take them.

The Aurora Borealis

If it’s the Aurora Borealis that enticed you to come to Blachford Lake Lodge, you’re in luck. With no light pollution around, the only thing lighting your way at night are the night stars and the moon. The lodge lights are on, but don’t take away from the viewing experience. They’ve also installed minimal lighting along pathways to cabins to guide you throughout the property.

The Aurora Borealis at Blachford Lake Lodge.

If you love your sleep and don’t want to stay awake all night long, you’ll be glad to know they also provide wireless buzzers to each guest. With a night staff always available in the lodge, they will be your eyes while you are asleep in your bed. If a showing of the Northern Lights are visible, the buzzer will ring, vibrate, and light up, letting you know it’s time to wake up. The night staff will also knock on each door to ensure you are awake—unless you’d rather sleep that is.

The expanse of the Northwest Territories with the Northern Lights.

It’s a system that seems to work fine—although for me, I found myself awake anyway as that’s part of my enjoyment staying at Blachford Lake Lodge.

The Tipi

If you want to gaze at the night sky but want to quickly warm up, you can have the staff set up the tipi for you. They will light the fire and even provide all the goods to make some s’mores—just to make sure you don’t go to sleep!

The tipi backed by a fantastic showing of the Aurora Borealis.

My time in Yellowknife and Blachford Lake Lodge in the winter couldn’t have been any better. It was truly a Canadian winter experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was cold, but still manageable—if you dress appropriately, you’ll be just fine.

Have you ever been to Yellowknife before, or seen the Northern Lights? Let me know below in the comments.


If you’re interested in seeing the Aurora Borealis, I will be hosting a photography workshop at this lodge in August 2019. Please head over to this page for all details and to book your spot. Feel free to let me know should you have any questions.

Lunenburg

My previous post took you through the wonders of Peggy’s Cove in the early morning light. This post will take you through another must-see area of the Southern coastal area of Nova Scotia: Lunenburg.

A drive around the southern coastal region of Nova Scotia wouldn’t be complete without going to Lunenburg—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—so we decided to make this our destination for that evening’s ride. A direct drive from Peggy’s Cove to Lunenburg should take about an hour and a half, but when I’m in a new place with camera in hand, that time stretches to more than double.

Driving along the Lighthouse Route (Route 333), I took several detours to all the coves that lined the shores. Every road we drove on would lead to breathtaking scenery that we would have loved to have ourselves on a daily basis.

Our driving route from Peggy’s Cove to Lunenburg, hugging the shoreline as we went.

While we admired the many views going north on Peggy’s Cove Rd., I enjoyed the loop around Hwy 329, off of Hwy 3. It does add a little more time to your drive to Lunenburg, but when you’re in Nova Scotia, I consider the drive as part of my experience there.

 

Lupin, Lupine, Lupinus

Whichever name you go by, there’s no doubt these flowers are very picturesque.

They grow wild all over the province and offer so much colour to any landscape. Pink, purple, light pink, and light purple, you’ll see patches of them as you drive along the highway, making driving so much more enjoyable there too.

Lupins along the shores at Blue Rocks. 

Apart from the Lupins, there were other flowers that made for great foreground elements.

Flowers along the shores of Blue Rocks.

 

Mahone Bay

The three churches in Mahone Bay is another popular stop en route to Lunenburg, and is quickly becoming one of Nova Scotia’s iconic views.

Picturesque Mahone Bay.

 

It’s a charming little costal town and a great place for a break. We arrived there shortly before 5pm, so we had to hurry in through the many quaint shops before they closed. A quick stop at Lahave Bakery for a delicious cup of cappuccino satisfied my coffee craving.

Inside Lahave Bakery in Mahone Bay.

Shortly thereafter though, we left to go to Lunenberg, since we wanted to eat dinner there before sunset.

 

Lunenburg

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lunenburg is a beautiful port town that is home to the world-famous Bluenose (now Bluenose II), Nova Scotia’s sailing ambassador. I knew I wanted to spend some time here, just wandering around the narrow streets, and to admire the architecture and harbour.

Quaint sitting area found while walking in Lunenburg. Taken on my iPhone.

Hunger may have got the better of us though, as we walked from one seafood restaurant to the next, looking at their offerings. We opted for the Savvy Sailor Cafe because of the one dish.

The scallop sandwich, which was what we were looking for, was a hit. Both a unique offering (never had scallops on a bun before!) and tasty, it was a perfect match.

Scallop sandwich from the Savvy Sailor Cafe. Taken on my iPhone.

We had a great view of the port and Bluenose II, which happened to be in town that week.

Lunenburg Harbour at sunset. Bluenose II is the second boat from the left with the tallest mast.

After dinner, we headed over to the other side of the bay area to the entrance to the golf course, where we were told by a few people that it offered one of the best views of the Lunenburg harbour. We stayed there for the sunset that evening just enjoying the moment. The sunset wasn’t anything spectacular but we did have a nice subtle showing of purples and deep blues in blue hour.

Lunenburg Harbour at sunset with boaters.

Looking over to my right, I see some great golf-green lawn which contrasted nicely with the purple skies.

Golf course across the Lunenburg Harbour as seen at sunset.

Blue hour at Lunenburg looks the best when seen from the opposite side of the harbour, and when the lights at the harbour turn on.

Lunenburg Harbour at sunset.

A wider angle shows the entire harbour at blue hour.

Lunenburg Harbour at sunset.

And another one.

Lunenburg Harbour at sunset. The famed Bluenose II can be seen if you look closely!

 

Blue Rocks

I had the grand idea of going out that evening to do some astrophotography. Since we opted to stay in Blue Rocks—a 7min. drive from Lunenburg—we were in a prime location away from the village lights. After taking in the sunset, we went back to our Airbnb (which by the way, was very nice—see below), cleaned up, and then just instinctively got ready to retire for the evening. My astrophotography idea had just vanished into thin air as I was too exhausted from the full day’s events.

Sunrise at The Point at Blue Rocks.

Not catching the stars only means one thing though—we woke up around 4:30am to catch the sunrise at the point at Blue Rocks. As I peered out the window of my Airbnb after waking up, I saw the sky was a burning red. Excited to see this even more at the point, we hurried our way there. A short 4min. drive away, we came upon the most vibrant sunrise we had seen in our trip.

Sunrise at The Point at Blue Rocks.

The picturesque point painted with the beautiful sunrise offered the perfect subject for any photos, and I was happy to be there soaking everything in.

Sunrise at The Point at Blue Rocks.

Jumping from one spot to the next, it was brilliant wherever I looked…it was honestly hard to stay still!

Sunrise at The Point at Blue Rocks.

The boats anchored in the bay, the fishing huts perched afar, the rock formations, and that vibrant sunrise all made for one exhilarating morning.

Sunrise at The Point at Blue Rocks.

The various stores dot the Point at Blue Rocks.

Sunrise at The Point at Blue Rocks.

I love the unique look of the fishing boats here with the taller bow (front) and shorter stern (back); it’s something you don’t see too often in Ontario.

Fishing boat at sunrise at The Point at Blue Rocks.

More boats seen with the brilliance of the sunrise.

Sunrise at The Point at Blue Rocks.

Taking a drive along the shores of Blue Rocks after the sun had risen was also a very refreshing way to start the day.

Shoreline at Blue Rocks.

Afterwards breakfast, we headed back out to Blue Rocks where we rented kayaks for a few hours and enjoyed the calm waters of Millers Pass.

Kayaking through Millers Pass in Blue Rocks.

The area is known to be one of the best places to kayak in Nova Scotia as its suited for everyone from the beginner to the experienced paddlers.

Kayaking through Millers Pass in Blue Rocks.

 

Airbnb

(https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/20538112)

The entrance to the airbnb.

So where did we stay? It was the perfect location for a quiet getaway with some of the best views to be had. I opted to stay away from the village of Lunenburg just to experience something new. Since Blue Rocks offered some great views, and was close to Pleasant Paddling, it was our ideal location—I wanted to go on a morning kayak trip so the proximity to the Point was ideal for us. I later found out that Blue Rocks is considered one of the best kayaking destinations in all of Nova Scotia, which is just icing on the cake!

The beautiful garden at the airbnb in Blue Rocks.

The airbnb is a small but charming place, and the owner—who also stays there—is a very welcoming and friendly individual. She had renovated the entire house herself, and tends to her beautifully decorated garden that is a great place to relax in as well. While you share the home with the owner, the guests get their own bathroom.

The beautiful garden at the airbnb in Blue Rocks.

Breakfast is included in this airbnb, and for us was some very tasty homemade granola and sweet potato muffins, with yogurt, fresh fruits, juice, and coffee. It was more than enough to get our morning started, not to mention very good. The only unfortunate part of breakfast was we ate too much of the granola that we didn’t leave space for the muffins.

The beautiful garden at the airbnb in Blue Rocks.

Without a doubt, I would recommend this airbnb for those looking to get away from the village, and connect with nature.


Have you ever been to Lunenburg and/or Blue Rocks? How was your experience? I would love to hear about them so please feel free to comment below and let me know what you did!

Mosaïculture Gatineau 2018

Every now and again I come across art exhibitions that really make an impression on me—Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror earlier this year being one of them. When I visited the nation’s capital on Canada Day, I took a trip across the Alexandra bridge to Gatineau, Quebec where the Mosaïculture Gatineau 2018 exhibit was being held. I didn’t know what to expect from this exhibit at first, but as I made my way to the park, parts of it revealed itself and I knew I was in for something exciting.

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Peggy’s Cove

Peggy’s Cove, located just 40km south of Halifax is home to one of the world’s most iconic lighthouses. This community, nestled along the shores of St. Margarets Bay, has much more to offer though, including some of the freshest lobster you’ll eat and a myriad of great vistas in the village.

As a photographer, I was looking forward to taking photos of the lighthouse, but by the end of the day, I had come back with memories of great seafood that left me wanting more and vistas that rivalled my expectations of the lighthouse.

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Toronto to Muskoka in Less than 35min. with FlyGTA Airlines

With summer literally just around the corner, there’s no shortages of cottage-goers making their way up north of the city; every long weekend Highway 400 gets jam packed with those wishing to escape the city for just a couple of days. With drives lasting hours though, one can hardly call this a vacation. With the stress of having to drive there competing with everyone else, dodging traffic, and escaping collisions, you’re literally exhausted just from the drive.

You can kiss all of that goodbye, however, now that FlyGTA Airlines makes its way to Muskoka in less time than it takes you to reach the 400 from downtown. Beaming with pride, the FlyGTA Airlines CEO, Chris Nowrouzi (below, welcoming me to his aircraft), joined us for the media tour ride to Muskoka.

Chris Nowrouzi, CEO of FlyGTA Airlines, welcomes me inside his plane.

Inside the plane, Nowrouzi goes on to explain that these sickness bags are not your plain-old white bags you see on every other airline. These ones on FlyGTA Airlines have colourful illustrations on them, making them almost too good to use. Below, Nowrouzi explains to us the concept behind creating these unique bags.

Chris Nowrouzi telling us all about the colourful sickness bags.

In the photo below, you can see Z103.5’s Hammer pumped for his flight to Muskoka.

Z103.5’s Hammer is all thumbs up for the flight to Muskoka.

The flight from Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport to Muskoka’s Air Terminal only took 33min. from takeoff to landing, and it was absolutely stress-free—not to mention you can enjoy the view while not having to care about dodging traffic. Thirty-three minutes is a pretty short flight, but I couldn’t stop admiring the scenery below. With beautiful coastlines, so much lush greenery, and islands dotting the lakes, we truly do live in a gem of a province!

Coastline

Peering down through the window, I caught a glimpse of this unique view. It was a swimming pool out in the middle of a forest. I didn’t see any homes anywhere near this pool, so I’m not sure what that was all about.

A pool sits in the middle of greenery.

Another great view as seen from my window.

Scenery as seen from the window.

Looking down the plane, I see the two pilots flying with care, as they try and keep this flight as smooth as possible.

Two pilots man the airplane.

Jazz, always on the lookout for great views, takes to his phone and records a video of the flight.

Jazz filming the flight.

After touching down in Muskoka, this is where you have the option to continue your trip via a rental car (there’s an agency located inside the Muskoka Air Terminal), taxi, or in the future, possibly a shuttle to your Muskoka resort! Now that’s a stress-free vacation if you ask me.

Muskoka chairs waiting for us at the Muskoka Air Terminal.

The two pilots get out to chat with everyone.

The pilots mingle.

The Muskoka Air Terminal is located just about 10 min. north of Gravenhurst and 10min. south of Bracebridge, making it a very convenient location to continue your journey to various parts of Northern Ontario.

Muskoka Air Terminal

The FlyGTA Airlines plane sitting outside the Muskoka Air Terminal.

The FlyGTA airplane sits at the Muskoka Air Terminal.

After refuelling, it was time to head back in the plane for our trip back to Toronto.

The group enjoying the ride back to Toronto.

The 10-seater (including pilots) airplane seats comfortably even when I had my camera bag in the footwell. With quite a bit of storage space under the cabin and behind the seats inside, I’m sure you’ll have no problems getting all of your summer needs inside the plane.

Fluffy clouds.

The plane can get a little bumpy depending on the weather, but that’s just par for the course for small aircrafts—if you ask me, it just makes the ride that much more fun. Just look at all those fluffy clouds and you’ll forget all about the bumps!

Jazz looking over to the city of Toronto.

It’s clear that this new route to Muskoka will be very convenient for many people. Whether you need to get to Muskoka for business, a family vacation, or to the cottage, you can’t go wrong with spending just a little more to get there stress-free in only 33 minutes.

The Toronto skyline as we come in for a landing.

And on your way back from Muskoka? You’ll get to enjoy this great view of the Toronto skyline.

The FlyGTA Airlines shuttle brings us back to the underground tunnel.

FlyGTA was kind enough to shuttle our group back to the underground tunnel, which further made this one truly stress-free trip to Muskoka.


For more information, click on the appropriate links below:

FlyGTA Airlines

Muskoka Airport

Blachford Lake Lodge

Blachford Lake Lodge

Blachford Lake Lodge

While planning my trip to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, I thought it would be nice to supplement my camping itinerary with a little bit of pampering—after all, we were celebrating our fifth anniversary and wanted to make this trip a little more memorable. After searching online through countless pages of things to do and places to go, I came upon Blachford Lake Lodge and I am truly grateful that I did.

Perhaps it was the five days of camping in the wilderness of the Northwest Territories, or maybe it was the 1600km of driving we did in those five days, but whatever the reason, we found our trip to Blachford Lake Lodge in the last week of August so relaxing, memorable, and truly a great place to enjoy Mother Nature at her best.

Sunrise over Blachford Lake with the lodge on the left.

Sunrise over Blachford Lake with the lodge on the left.

Blachford Lake Lodge—situated in the most remote of places about 100km south east of Yellowknife—is an eco-friendly, all-inclusive lodge that aims to pamper its guests by creating a family-like atmosphere while you’re there. My experience with the lodge, starting from my many email enquiries and ending with my flight back to Yellowknife on the chartered bush plane, was a fantastic one.

Because of the location of the lodge, you can only go there via a chartered bush plane, like the one below—or in the winter time, you have the option of snowmobiling there, or taking a trip with a dogsled! Our bush plane carried 13 guests, which just happened to be the only guests to share the lodge with us during our 3-night stay there.

The bush plane that flew us to the lodge.

The bush plane that flew us to the lodge.

The lodge is run by a limited number of staff members and a large number of volunteers who come from around the world to gain experience in hospitality and tourism. The volunteers are there for a two-month period so there is a bit of a turn-over rate.

Common lounge area with the daily updates on the chalk board (right).

Common lounge area with the daily updates on the chalk board (right).

After disembarking the bush plane, we were warmly greeted by the staff and volunteers of the lodge. We were brought up to the main lodge area where we had our initial orientation. Our bags were packed up onto a buggy, where they drove them to our respective cabins.

The Eagle's Nest cabin.

The Eagle’s Nest cabin.

During the orientation period, they told us to relax, and treat everyone as if we were all one big extended family. (I’ll mention that it was an interesting coincidence that of the 14 guests staying there, nine of them were Japanese!) Our cabin, the Eagle’s Nest, was a spacious one with two bunk beds along the wall. With a pellet-starting fire place, this was quite roomy for my party of three.

Inside the Eagle's Nest cabin with the pellet stove.

Inside the Eagle’s Nest cabin with the pellet stove.

The volunteer who went around to check up on us at the cabin was new so she didn’t know how the pellet-starting fireplace worked when we asked. She was more than happy to look into it and got back to us at a later time. While this isn’t a big deal, it’s things like this that add up when you have a high turn-over rate.

I personally found the staff and volunteers to be truly helpful and at our needs. If there was something we wanted, they would be happy to accommodate to our needs. If we wanted a fire pit started at night, they would start it up and even give us a bag of marshmallows to go along with it. Mmm…it’s the little things like that, that make you feel pampered.

Excursions

There’s no shortages of things to do at Blachford Lake Lodge. During the day, you can explore the grounds by hiking the 2km, 4km, or 6km loop trails, canoe/kayak Blachford Lake, take a motorized boat and go fishing, or just take it easy and enjoy the lodge itself.

Boating to an eagle's nest in the rain.

Boating to an eagle’s nest in the rain.

Hiking on one of the trails.

Hiking on one of the trails.

There are guided hikes that you can sign up for, and the volunteers do a great job of organizing this the day before. We went on two hikes—both of which offer fantastic views—a boating trip to see if we can see any eagles nearby (the rain didn’t stop them from giving us a great boat ride either), and took a guided kayak/canoe tour around Blachford Lake.

A great view of the landscape at the Carldrey Lookout—our destination for the 6km loop hike.

A great view of the landscape at the Carldrey Lookout—our destination for the 6km loop hike.

Kayaking on Blachford Lake.

Kayaking on Blachford Lake.

There’s even a popular porcupine on the grounds that isn’t afraid of humans.

The resident porcupine.

The resident porcupine.

Food

With any all-inclusive package, food plays a big role. The meals at Blachford Lake Lodge were hearty, satisfying, and just what you wanted after a full day of activities at the lodge. I looked forward to every dinner we had.

First day's hearty meal that really hit the spot.

First day’s hearty meal that really hit the spot.

All three meals are self-serve and buffet styled. You line up and grab what you want on your plate. Afterwards, you clean your plate by throwing away leftovers in the appropriate bucket, and place the dish on the rack. This is all part of their eco-friendly program so while some may have issues having to do this on their own, I personally didn’t mind it at all.

The buffet-style food table.

The buffet-style food table.

Hiccups

While we all strive for perfection, there will always be some room for improvements. There were a few hiccups along the way but this didn’t really affect the quality of the trip overall. One breakfast, my family noticed that the orange juice that was put out tasted funny. In fact, it no longer tasted like orange juice, and there was a bite to it that only comes when the juice goes bad. We enquired about this to the kitchen workers and they shrugged it off saying the orange juice was fine. Nobody else was complaining about it, so I took a glass full and drank it. I later realized I shouldn’t have had that glass as my stomach was a little upset for the good part of the morning and afternoon.

There was another time where the cranberry juice that was put out was not mixed with water. Only the concentrate was put in the pitcher! I informed the kitchen worker about this and they took it away without an apology.

The dining area.

The dining area.

Our last hiccup came when we asked to get a thermos for our tea. They gave us a thermos not realizing that an old tea bag had been sitting in there for who knows how long. We made our tea in the thermos and as soon as we drank our tea, we noticed it didn’t taste right. After telling the kitchen worker about this, their response was “yuck!” with no apology afterwards.

While these issues are not enough to affect our overall experience, it’s just one of the drawbacks of having a constantly-changing roster of workers who may not be trained enough to handle various situations.

Aurora Borealis

It wouldn’t be a trip to the Northwest Territories without an Aurora Borealis sighting. While it’s never a guarantee that you’ll see it, there’s a good chance that you will during the viewing season. I intentionally went during the start of the Aurora Borealis viewing season before the temperatures drop to a chilling -30C (and beyond). All we needed were clear skies and an active geomagnetic storm to pass through and we were set. Of our three night stay, we were blessed with seeing a fantastic showing for one night. This wasn’t my first time seeing the Aurora as I had a few other sightings during my camping road trip prior to coming here, but this had to be one of the more spectacular viewings that week.

Blachford Lake Lodge Aurora Borealis

Blachford Lake Lodge Aurora Borealis.

After a day of hiking the trails and enjoying the outdoors, my family decided to jump into the outside hot tub to enjoy the scenery and evening sky. What we saw then was just the beginnings of a fantastic showing of the Aurora Borealis. It started early around 10pm at which point we weren’t sure if what we were seeing were just clouds. But watching it move quickly across the night sky, we knew this was the real thing. You can’t ask for a better timing as we sat in the hot tub, relaxing and viewing the Aurora Borealis. With so much activity in the sky and being surrounded by the beauty of Blachford Lake and the lodge itself, it was the perfect evening.

I was up until around 3:30am admiring and taking photos of the Aurora Borealis. I just can’t get tired of seeing them.

Here’s just a sampling of the lights that I was able to capture as I was in awe every second of the evening.

Overall

Overall, Blachford Lake Lodge is a terrific place to stay and enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer. Located in the most remote of places, it’s a great getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life. And with plenty of activities to choose from, you won’t have trouble keeping yourself busy. My trip during the Autumn season made travelling and enjoying the night sky comfortable. I only wonder how things are during the winter—and one day I hope to find out!

Staff and volunteers saying goodbye to some of the volunteers who left Blachford with us.

Staff and volunteers saying goodbye to some of the volunteers who left Blachford with us.

Group photo of most of the staff, volunteers, and guests during our stay there.

Group photo of most of the staff, volunteers, and guests during our stay there.

 


For more information on Blachford Lake Lodge, visit their website, Facebook page, or Instagram account.

Experience Langdon Hall

Langdon Hall Hotel & Spa was a name I was familiar with, but I never knew much more about it than that. This all changed when I was recently invited by Renée Suen to the chef’s tasting menu at this luxury hotel and spa. We were given a private tour and were able to photograph the property to our liking. Here is what I came out with.

Experience Langdon Hall

Experience Langdon Hall

The night was filled with great company, exemplary service by the hotel’s staff, and of course, exquisite cuisine from Langdon Hall’s Executive Chef Jason Bangerter and guest Executive Chef Murray McDonald from Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland.

Chef Jason Bangerter (center) with Chef Murray McDonald from Fogo Island Inn (right).

Chef Jason Bangerter (center) with Chef Murray McDonald from Fogo Island Inn (right).

My afternoon there started with a private tour of the grounds by Chef Bangerter. He led us through the large garden where we bumped into Chef McDonald, picking herbs for that night’s menu.

Chef Bangerter and Chef McDonald picking herbs in the Langdon Hall garden for the night's menu.

Chef Bangerter and Chef McDonald picking herbs in the Langdon Hall garden for the night’s menu.

As we made our way through the garden, Chef Bangerter would pick out some herbs, hand it to us to eat on the spot, explaining to us why he loved it and how he would use it in his dishes.

Second kitchen dedicated to special events.

Second kitchen in the new wing dedicated to special events.

The tour eventually made its way into the hotel, where Chef Bangerter showed us the new wing, that is now home to the spa, exercise room, and more suites.

Bar and lounge area of Langdon Hall.

Bar and lounge area of Langdon Hall.

Inside Langdon Hall.

Inside Langdon Hall.

Inside the dining room, a large table for 10 people was set up right next to the large windows that offered views of the pond and patio. The menu and explanations of the paired wines, were handed to us letting us get a glimpse of what was to come that evening.

Our dining table inside Langdon Hall.

Our dining table inside Langdon Hall.

The inspiration behind each course—that were all impeccably plated—was explained in detail, allowing us to understand the thinking behind the meal that we were about to consume. The sommelier of the evening, also seated at the table, offered his views on the wine for each course. I found each pairing to be right on the spot, with each wine enhancing the dish it was paired to.

Pease Pudding and Cod: Split pea, jogs dinner, savory yoghurt. Paired with 2006 Le Ragnaie, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Tuscany.

Pease Pudding and Cod: Split pea, jogs dinner, savory yoghurt. Paired with 2006 Le Ragnaie, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Tuscany.

Murray's Spruce Moose: Spruce gremolata, seed cracker, caribou moss and berries from the bog. Paired with 2013 Suertes del Marqués La Solana DO, Valle de la Oratova, Tenerife, Canary Islands.

Murray’s Spruce Moose: Spruce gremolata, seed cracker, caribou moss and berries from the bog. Paired with 2013 Suertes del Marqués La Solana DO, Valle de la Oratova, Tenerife, Canary Islands.

Fogo Island Snow Crab: Cured foie gras, Niagara grapes. Paired with 2014 J.M. Soher Pinot Gris, Grand Cru, Winzenberg.

Fogo Island Snow Crab: Cured foie gras, Niagara grapes. Paired with 2014 J.M. Soher Pinot Gris, Grand Cru, Winzenberg.

East Coast Caviar: Marigold Madeleine, Oyster Leaf, Creme Fraiche. Paired with 2013 Burrowing Owl Chardonnay, BC, VQA, Okanagan Valley.

East Coast Caviar: Marigold Madeleine, Oyster Leaf, Creme Fraiche. Paired with 2013 Burrowing Owl Chardonnay, BC, VQA, Okanagan Valley.

Floating Fogo Island: Bakeapple, anise hyssop. Paired with 2013 Big head, Niagara-on-the-lake, select late harvest riesling.

Floating Fogo Island: Bakeapple, anise hyssop. Paired with 2013 Big head, Niagara-on-the-lake, select late harvest riesling.

Exterior of Langdon Hall.

Exterior of Langdon Hall.

I excused myself between courses as the light was quickly fading outside. To capture the blue-hour light, my friend and I ran out to the front of the property with our tripods in tow, and did some long exposures. It wasn’t until a few moments into our photo-escape that a staff came out from the front doors and let us know the next course had been served!

The pond in the back during twilight.

The pond in the back during twilight.

Back patio area of Langdon Hall during twilight.

Back patio area of Langdon Hall during twilight.

Back patio area with a lighted tree makes for a great place in the evening to just sit and relax.

Back patio area with a lighted tree makes for a great place in the evening to just sit and relax.

Moving from the front to the back of the property, we continued our little photo escapade since this was the only time we could capture the property under this light. Another staff member came out again and let us know that our meal had been served but covered, so that it would be ready for us when we came back.

Langdon Hall dark chocolate.

Langdon Hall dark chocolate.

The dessert included Langdon Hall’s signature chocolate that were made by Chef Bangerter. Explaining to us that they had mixed four different types of dark chocolate to come up with the one that they thought best reflected their vision. The dark chocolate was smooth, not the least bit bitter, and finished with very little aftertaste. It was interesting to find out that one of his earlier revisions of his chocolate had even less of an aftertaste than this one.

This experience was not only tasty but inspiring and left me with a lasting impression of Langdon Hall. Every staff member I encountered was very welcoming and friendly. The wait staff knew even the smallest of details of each of the dishes that were presented to us, allowing us to ask them questions about it as well.

All this at just an hour away from the west end of Toronto, I look forward to the day that I can come back and experience it all over again.


Langdon Hall Hotel & Spa is located in Cambridge, Ontario, at 1 Langdon Drive. As of this writing, many of their Summer BBQ series event have sold out, but limited tickets are still available for their overnight packages on September 2nd, 2016.