Up here, winter is otherworldly. Spring is euphoric. Summer is delirious. But fall-time may be the best season of all. So dig out your flannel and get ready for some fun. Here's what's awesome about autumn in the Northwest Territories:
The return of night
“Some praise the Lord for Light,
The living spark;
I thank God for the Night
The healing dark.”
That's a quote from Robert Service, the bard of the North, and he knew of what he spoke. After months of endless daylight, the return of darkness comes as a relief – comforting us, cloaking us, putting us at ease.
...and the return of the auroras!
Maybe the best thing about the return of the darkness? The auroras come back. Indeed, autumn might be the best time to see our celestrial lightshow, before winter's chill sets in.
Campgrounds all to yourself
In the hot season, parks are bustling with tourists. In autumn? Not so much. You'll have your pick of campsites, plus plenty of peace and quiet while you slurp your coffee beside the river on a crisp fall morning.
In autumn, our most ubiquitous ungulates (try saying that three times fast!) begin to move en masse. Great herds of caribou flow south form the Arctic coast, sweeping through the Barrens toward the treeline. In places, such as along the Dempster Highway or at lodges on the tundra, you'll find yourself practically in the midst of this great migration.
Speaking of caribou, autumn is harvest time. Locals head out onto the land to stock their freezers for the coming winter. It's a great time to visit Indigenous camps and learn about traditional ways of life. Or, if you're a hunter, you can hire a guide and do some harvesting of your own.
Crisp autumn hikes
Autumn hiking is no sweat. Get it? No sweat, because the weather's cooler? Seriously, it's the best time of year to trek in the Northwest Territories.
The first dusting of snow
In some parts of the North, they call it "termination dust" – the first snow of autumn, when the peaks become dusted with powder. Over the coming weeks, the snowline works its way downslope – until, too soon, everywhere is white.
Once the nights get cold, the sugar rises in the berries and they become, literally, ripe for the picking. Berry-harvesting is a competitive sport up here, with some folks actually chartering planes out onto the tundra and bringing back hundreds of pounds of juicy goodness. Get yourself a mouthful today.
You know it's fall-time up here when you hear the geese honking overhead, fleeing southbound. Scores of other species take to the skies as well, making this the best birding time of the year.
In fall, you don't have to feel guilty about being indoors. Snuggle up in a cozy log cabin and do some easy reading. That's what the season is for.
You also don't need to feel guilty about fall-feasting. The cold is coming, so you'd better build up your energy reserves. Moose stew anyone?
In late August and September, the tundra turns so red that it looks like it's on fire. Imagine, a whole landscape of radiant crimson. It's the prettiest time of year.
And because fall is the prettiest time of year, it's the time when photographers flock here. You'll find photo workshops taking place at lodges on the Barrenlands, where you'll learn how to turn all that beauty into an image that pops off the page.
Fall is for fishing. The water's still open, the pike and trout and char are still biting. Pull on a woolly toque and go wet a line!
And best of all, no bugs!
Yeah, that's right.
Life is good.