Governor General’s History Awards 2014

"Governor General's History Awards"

The GG History medal (Photo credit: Sgt Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall)

"Governor General's History Awards"

Mark Zuelhke with his Excellency David Johnston after receiving the Pierre Berton Award for Popular History (Photo credit: Sgt Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall)

"Governor General's History Awards"

Janet Walker, President and CEO of Canada’s History Society delivering her remarks (Photo credit: Sgt Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall)

"Governor General's History Awards"

The award recipients, finalists, family and friends – a few dignitaries – at the ceremony. I’m about four rows from the back! (Photo credit: Sgt Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall)


Afterward there was a reception and we were allowed to go on a guided tour of Rideau Hall. Fellow history geek Lina Crompton, me, and Jennifer Huang from Canadian Heritage took advantage!


Book Tour Part 1: Toronto, Yellowknife and Whitehorse

September 25: Book party at The Pilot pub from 5-7pm (Toronto)


Me with cousins Richard and Marianne in the great space at the rear of the Pilot – unfortunately it was the only place that didn’t have aviation artwork. Oops!


Some of the great artwork in the Pilot – a Canso with its crew.


September 28: Launch event at Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre Café  (Yellowknife)


Yvonne Quick, an aviation legend in her own right, cuts the huge cake I bought for the event. Thank goodness some groups of tourists wandered through to help us out.


The Book Cellar was on hand with copies of Polar Winds, which owner Judith Drinnan artfully arranged.


Me signing books for Chuck Tolley, Rocky Parsons and Mike Burns. Chuck and Mike are central to the Fox Moth Society, which supported my research.



Outside the Heritage Centre the next day I happened to run into colleague Whitney Lackenbauer, who just published The Canadian Rangers (UBC Press).


September 30: Signing at Mac’s Fireweed Books  and launch party at Yukon Transportation Museum 6-9pm (Whitehorse)


Me and “History Hunter” Michael Gates


My set up at Mac’s. Cake pops!


Me and private pilot Scott, in town to visit his daughter from Ottawa.


A blizzard hit the morning after I arrived – and the day of my events!



At least people in Whitehorse have a sense of humour about the weather!


My book on display at the Yukon Transportation Museum gift shop – keep an eye out for signed copies when it opens again in the spring!




My cousin Judy Forrest and new friend Chris (photo by Bruce Barrett)


Chatting about book to an audience of aviation legends including Joe Muff and Rick Nielsen in the back (photo by Bruce Barrett)


Janna Swales (YTM Director of Collections and Research), me, pilot and author Bob Cameron, and Casey McLaughlin, Exec Director of YTM. (Photo by Bruce Barrett)


Me and Joe Muff, Director of Commercial Flight Operations at Air North and one of my new friends through this book!

#YEG Essay in Avenue Magazine

 Homing in on Edmonton 

 A Central-Canadian gal learns to love Edmonton

for_web_puzzlefinal_2I have a confession to make. Back in 2008, when my husband and I had just  finished our degrees and the world economy was in a downward spin, he was offered a job. Good news. Great, even. But — and it’s tough to admit — this central-Canadian girl swallowed hard when she heard it would mean moving to Edmonton. Edmonchuck. Deadmonton.

They are unfortunate nicknames that don’t fit the city I now know, love and, yes, champion (pun intended) to people around the world.

So it might be the most northerly metropolis in North America, but it’s certainly not a Siberian gulag or sleepy backwater. In fact, Edmonton combines the best of the  different places I’ve lived, creating a wonderful geographic fusion.

It’s the same size and feel as Ottawa — my childhood home — with its abundant parks, government workers, and festivals. But it’s also a little libertarian like Wyoming, where I hung my hat for two years.

There are times I swear I’m back in Dawson City, Yukon, where I spent half a winter writing in Pierre Berton’s childhood home. It’s especially strong when I’m walking my dog through the snowy back alleys of Mill Woods and smell a wood fire, or happen to catch a glimpse of the northern lights, while hanging out in a backyard hot tub.

And if I squint just right looking at Whyte Avenue, I’m back at university in Montreal. On a rainy fall afternoon, I could easily be in the Kerrisdale or Kitsilano neighbourhoods of Vancouver.

Edmonton also indulges my international tastes. Missing France? I head to Duchess Bake Shop. And I promise you won’t find better butter chicken in Leeds than at one of our great Indian restaurants.

After two years of enjoying all this city has to offer, I have a new nickname for it: Home.

Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail is the author of For the Love of Flying. She is currently working on two books, Polar Winds: A Century of Flying Canada’s North (forthcoming from Frontenac House), and a Second World War-era novel, Chasing Skies. She is a member of Avenue’s Top 40 Under 40, class of 2012.


(Published in Avenue Magazine, February 2013. The lovely illustration is by Byron Eggenschwiler )

Travel article about Alaska and Yukon on

I recently found out about a new journalism site,, being set up by Montreal-based reporter and editor Warren Perley. After checking out this new delivery model – readers pay only for the stories they want to read, and there’s no advertising – I was intrigued. Enough so to get in touch and offer to write something on spec, which I’ve never done before!

There are some great articles (with photos) by Canadian journalists and writers available, including:

  • Duane Radford’s “Yukon Discovery Day in Dawson: singing, dancing and a barrel of fun”
  • Warren Perley’s “Little Albert’s whacky world of bullets, beatings and bad guys”
  • Margaret Somerville’s “Ethics and law governing abortion must catch up with current science”

And, of course, mine: “Quirky, colourful characters emerge in winter tour of Yukon and Alaska.” A little teaser…

A September snowstorm blew in the day we arrived in Whitehorse. Other tourists were fleeing as we arrived. Were we foolhardy ‘outsiders’ tempting Mother Nature’s mood swings with a three-month car tour of the frigid North? The road sign as you enter the Yukon reads, ‘Larger than Life’. We discovered that it refers to more than the scenery!

Beautiful British Columbia (Part II)

From our B&B's porch in Valemount after a day of rain.


Vancouver on a perfect summer day


Downtown Vancouver as seen from the Seawall


The view from our tent on Salt Spring Island


Doug getting ready to snorkel off Salt Spring Island


We found a new friend on the hiking trail...


Beautiful British Columbia (and Washington State)!

Some shots from a recent road trip from Edmonton, Alberta through to BC and WA (and back):

Salt Spring has a vibrant artist community – and many of their pieces are out for public enjoyment.

Salt Spring Air seemed to have a thriving business: saw three of their Beavers take off in quick succession while enjoying an ice cream cone one afternoon.

After a night camping by the ocean at Ruckle Provincial Park, we enjoyed driving from winery to bakery to cheese shop. Above is the rear view of the Salt Spring Winery where we ate our lunch while sipping a glass of their lovely Pinot Noir (and got a bottle of their Blackberry Port to go!).

After a couple of days in Victoria staying at the English Inn while visiting with family, we boarded a ferry in Sidney bound for Anacortes, WA. We had to stop for a bit to let a pod of orcas go by!
We found this sign in Burlington, WA right next to a church in a building that looks like Noah’s Arc. Religulous? I think so.

From there we drove east to North Cascades National Park, stopping for a permit at the park office. Then we did the 30 min hike through temperate rainforest to Thunder camp site.

In the middle of mountains and under the canopy of trees, darkness fell fast. I got a fire going and whittled a marshmallow stick while Doug got dinner made and rigged up the backpack so that we could string it up the tree when we went to bed. It is bear country, after all!

Our dessert that night was an amazing slice of home-made blackberry pie!

Flying High in Yellowknife

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be in Yellowknife, NWT for the Midnight Sun Float Plane Fly-In doing research for my book on northern Canadian aviation history. Here’s a little photo album from this amazing event:

It may be ranked one of the coldest places in Canada during the winter, but July was warm, sunny, and surprisingly bug-free!
After a great meet-and-greet on Friday night and a pancake breakfast Saturday morning hosted by the Piro family, I boarded a Buffalo Airways Douglas DC-3 along with 20-odd other passengers for an aerial tour of YK.

Our pilot was “Buffalo” Joe McBryan (below) himself, and co-piloting the aircraft was Tyler Sipos. And of course they have a few good luck charms, like this polar bear I’m holding.

Joe is an aviation history buff and it didn’t take long for us to get to chatting about northern aviation, his role in it, etc. The next thing I knew, he was inviting me to tag along on a Norseman flight with a group of folks.

I guess I behaved okay (and didn’t get airsick), because he then invited me to join him, his granddaughter, and the director/videographer of Ice Pilots NWT for a trip down memory lane for a 50th anniversary special. Up we went in the Norseman again, this time bound for Gordon Lake.

By dinnertime we were back at the old Ward Air float base (that’s Max Ward’s turbo Otter behind us below) for the Ice Pilots Jamboree.

To recognize Joe for all his generosity toward the fly-in and the Fox Moth Society, reps from both (Yvonne Quick and Mike Burns, respectively) presented him with a model of his beloved Norseman – which he promptly flew off-stage, grinning!

It was a gorgeous night, and all the fly-in folks enjoyed mingling with the Ice Pilots crew. So much so, that a bunch of us went out afterward to the Monkey Tree and closed it down!

There was no sleeping in the next day for me, though, as I had an interview lined up at 8:30am with a local aviation legend. Then at 9:30am I was back in Joe’s orange jeep headed to his dock in preparation for the bush pilot memorial fly-by.

After a bbq lunch it was tour time at the Buffalo hangar, where I got to see Joe’s office just full of aviation history books, photos, and even a motorcycle!

Sunday night was the wrap-up banquet and auction. My new friend from Cold Lake, Terry, gallantly bid my book up to $100 – so I thought he deserved a kiss to go with it!

After the banquet, some of us wanted to keep chatting – and I didn’t want to miss out on any good stories! Next thing I knew it was 1am (hard to tell by the photo below, eh?)
Monday after a big day doing research at the archives (in the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre), I was invited to a friend’s house for supper. Then we set off for a short hike at Cameron Falls – at 9pm!
But when you’re in the land of the Midnight Sun, the days really do go on forever… I think the memories will too!

Berton House Top Ten

It’s that time of year. The time of year when magazines, tv shows, internet sites, and everyone else make top ten lists. So I will too. About my time up north (although it’s very hard to pick just ten!).

Here they are in no particular order:
1. Working, reading, watching tv, chatting, and napping at Berton House on the sectional snuggled up in the HBC blanket.
2. Experiencing ice fog in minus 40-degree weather in Dawson. Yep, I’m a little strange.
3. Doing the sourtoe cocktail with friends at the Dowtown bar in Dawson.
4. Going curling in Inuvik and hanging out in the curling club post-game. Best place in town on a Friday night!

5. Hiking up Dome Mountain in Dawson in December – and then sliding down on my backside!

6. Finding out I had family in Whitehorse and getting to spend great times with them. Thanks so much, Judy, Bruce, Ben, and Charlie!
7. Hanging out at Bombay Peggy’s and being there for close-down on November 10th!
8. Doing old-timey portraits with the gals in Dawson: Easy-laine, Diamond Tooth Sandy, and Jailbait Jenny. Oh yeah, and I’m Dawson Dani (the one with the gun).

9. Visiting Old Crow and getting to attend a community feast. Such a friendly town and glad I got the chance to go twice!
10. Skagway, AK in September: delicious food, good hiking, and seeing that the Sarah Palin store actually exists!

Yukon Reads and Writes!

I’ve met some neat writers, historians, and storytellers during my time in the Yukon and I wanted to share some of their 2010 works with you (while I sit in the Whitehorse airport awaiting my flight home to Edmonton!):

1. Michael Gates’ History Hunting in the Yukon is a collection of essays from this local historian and researcher. I got to meet Michael and his wife Kathy at their home last week… their Yukon history library is drool-worthy!

2. Claire Eamer’s Lizards in the Sky is a great science-y book for kids about animals in unexpected places (ice worm, anyone?).

3. John Firth’s One Mush: Jamaica’s Dogsled Team is about the only Caribbean dog musher to complete the Yukon Quest, the 1000-mile journey from Fairbanks, AK to Whitehorse, YT. I heard him on the radio and it sounds like researching and writing this book was quite interesting!

4. Tor Forsberg’s North of Iskut is a memoir about the writer’s voyage of self-discovery (and survival) in Iskut, B.C. in the 1970s.
5. Gus Karpes’ Tales from the Lake is a series of vignettes about experiences on Lake Laberge. On a personal note: Thanks, Gus and Irene for getting me my copy of Arctic Dreams so efficiently!

6. Clea Robert’s poetry collection, Here is Where We Disembark, is drawn directly from the life – present and past – in the Yukon.

Hike on Dome Mountain

With a week till I leave Dawson and the temperature at a balmy -15 Celsius, I decided yesterday I would climb Dome Mountain one more time.

I’d climbed the Dome twice before. Once with Doug when we first arrived in the Yukon in late September. It was -10 degrees, sunny, and there was just enough snow to make the powerline trail treacherous. The second time was late October. That time I took the road, which was slick, and didn’t bring any snacks or water. An hour and a half in I decided to pack it in. But I memorized all the shortcuts…

This time I was prepared and had a plan. With a thermos of hot chocolate and snacks in my backpack, dressed in layers, with a lightweight hat/gloves for the way up (and heavy hat/gloves for the way down), I was determined to make it to the top.
I took the 9th Ave trail up to Crocus Bluff, then took the road to the first cut through (next to the creepy abandoned cabins). Somewhere around Pierre Berton Cr. two dogs joined me and escorted me all the way to the top, when they disappeared just as suddenly as they’d appeared.

It was snowing lightly the whole time – we’ve been getting a lot of snow here lately – and I realized how much had been accumulating as I made my way up the road. The first 1/3 was completely plowed. The middle section had about 2-3 inches on it. But when I got to the last leg, I wished I’d packed some snowshoes: there was at least half a foot of snow to trudge through.

I was determined, though, and even with hips and calves burning I made it. After a final sprint up the mound to the ice-encrusted bench, I drank my hot chocolate and surveyed my home for the past few months.
Then I started picking my way down the face of the hill toward the powerline trail. This time, however, it had enough fresh powder on it to cover all the sharp, stabby bits I’d been afraid of in September. So I let momentum take over from time to time, grabbed the bottom of my parka tight around my legs, and embraced the great Canadian winter pastime of bum-sledding!

Back on the 9th Ave trail I waved hello at the Parks Canada guys working on Robert Service’s cabin, opened the door to Berton House – my house these past three months – and smiled with satisfaction.
Then I had a nap for two hours.
© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.