My Hometown: Fort Smith, Northwest Territories

For Janet Bell, Fort Smith in the Northwest Territories is a surprisingly easy transition from the tropics to a special sliver of the Great White North.

Fort Smith in the Northwest TerritoriesPhoto: Janet Bell

Northern Fun: Fort Smith, N.W.T.

My husband, Ken, and I have lived in Fort Smith for the past five years. Ken is the manager of a power plant and I am a substitute teacher. We moved to Fort Smith after ten years in the Cayman Islands, where I taught at Cayman International School.

Prior to Cayman, we lived in Fort Good Hope, N.W.T., for eight years, so we were very familiar with long winters and temperatures of -40°C. We both felt that it was time to move back to Canada to be close to our son, Tyler, who attends school at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary.

Fort Smith, which is 1,600 kilometres north of Calgary and hundreds of kilometres from the nearest Tim Hortons, is a quiet town with a population of just over 2,000. In less than a ten-minute walk from our house, we can be at Slave River, watching the pelicans playing and fishing in the rapids. The ice has barely broken up in the river when the pelicans return each year from their migration to warmer coastal areas.

A short drive out of town and we are likely to spot a black bear or a few bison, especially in nearby Wood Buffalo National Park. Other days, we’ll see a lynx or several sandhill cranes.

I loved living in the Cayman Islands but I missed the seasons. In winter, I enjoy cross-country skiing and seeing the northern lights. I love spring in the north because we can spot the first crocuses in early May when there are still patches of snow on the ground.

During the spring and summer months we golf, bike and go for long walks. I also love the fall and seeing the leaves change colours. Fort Smith is a perfect place for getting outdoors—with a camera, of course!

It was a big transition moving from Cayman to Fort Smith, but it’s wonderful to be able to come home for lunch every day and never worry about the traffic, especially as there are no cruise ships in port for the day. In fact, we don’t even have any traffic lights here!

It was great living on an island with parrots, iguanas and turtles, but it’s pretty awesome to see pelicans, bears and foxes regularly. Now, if we could just do something about those mosquitoes!