These regional omissions were pointed out to me several times as July 1 neared. As “Canucklehead” put it in a comment: "The Canada 150 Countdown? Where's Manitoba? Yukon? The WHOLE DAMN EAST COAST? Time for a new title!"
Then there's this comment from “From The Rock”: "Still waiting for something from Newfoundland. Why don't you come visit?"
Honestly, I would like nothing more. Between now and the Canada 200 celebrations I plan to attend as a vampire or mummy, I solemnly pledge to explore more of the six provinces and two territories that aren't covered by the Ontario-Quebec-BC-Alberta-NWT Countdown. (Happy now, Canucklehead?) Now that my Atlantic Canada to-do list is out there, here are the five spots at the top of my 50-year itinerary for Yukon and Nunavut:
There’s still gold in the hills surrounding the former Yukon capital, but these days it’s far from the only draw. The vestiges of the late-19th-century Klondike Gold Rush are still prominent: The Yukon Gold Panning Championships each July; tours of Robert Service‘s home, which provide insights into the life and work of the “Bard of the Yukon;” Diamond Tooth Gerties saloon, where live can-can shows remain a staple; and the Downtown Hotel, where Sourtoe Cocktail, made with a real mummified human toe, is still served. One simple (and disgusting) act will get you into the Sourtoe Cocktail Club: “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips have gotta touch the toe.” And note-to-self: Several toes have been swallowed over the decades, and I don’t want to be “that guy.”
Starting near Dawson City, the Dempster winds 730 gravelly kilometres to the town of Inuvik, NWT, on the wildlife-rich delta of the Mackenzie River. Along the way it crosses the Arctic Circle, passes the jagged peaks and moss-carpeted valleys of Tombstone Territorial Park, and bisects enormous tracts of tundra that are home to moose, caribou and grizzly bears. If all this doesn’t make the miles melt away, the highway is also an essential lifeline for remote northern communities where First Nations customs are still practiced as they have been for centuries.
Kluane National Park and Reserve
Do the math: When 82 per cent of a national park is covered by either mountains or glaciers (or both), you know you’re in for something spectacular. It certainly adds up in this list’s largest park, a 21,980-square-kilometre wonderland of icy beauty tucked into Yukon’s southwest corner. Mixed forests and colourful alpine tundra flourish in Kluane’s remaining 18 per cent, providing a home for eagles, grizzly bears, wolves and other creatures that are often at risk in busier parks to the south. And topping it all off — literally — is Mount Logan, at 5,959 metres Canada's highest peak.
Auyuittuq National Park
If you’re going to name a peak after the Norse god of thunder and lightening, it had better be…striking. And Mount Thor is certainly that. The dramatic granite monolith in Auyuittuq National Park on Baffin Island is a respectable 1,675 metres tall — starting almost at sea level — but 1,250 metres of that is sheer cliff, creating the Earth’s greatest purely vertical drop. In addition to being predictably popular with rock climbers, the precipice is world-renowned among base jumpers. For my part, I’ll probably leave my wingsuit at home.
Bathurst Inlet Lodge
Formerly a Hudson’s Bay Trading Post and Oblate mission, the 42-year-old lodge offers nicely appointed rooms in a variety of quirky locations: a deconsecrated church, cabins overlooking the Burnside Delta, the two-bedroom Taipana House, a former trading post warehouse, and a former radio transmission station. Staying here is said to offer a glimpse into the traditional Inuit lifestyle, as well an opportunity to spot Arctic wildlife such as foxes, seals, barren-ground caribou and muskox from hiking trails and sea kayaks. Also in the area is the Wilberforce Falls, the highest waterfall above the Arctic Circle.