In its first summer of existence, the Tłı̨chǫ All-Season road gave residents of Whatì, N.W.T. an opportunity to enjoy a summertime staple, the ice cream truck.
Dominic Doctor, who's from Behchokǫ̀, drove out a mobile unit that sold soft serve ice cream, slushies and burgers. He drove to the community for the Tłı̨chǫ Annual Gathering and the handgames tournament that followed.
"Kids and even the adults, they really love the soft ice cream because its something they can't get in the community," he said.
Jerrick Camsell was one of those customers on Thursday afternoon, but he wasn't in the mood for ice cream that day.
"Of course I love slushies, it's hot," he said of his decision to get one.
Doctor runs a store in Behchoko but decided to expand to offer the mobile service. He said he enjoys seeing the reaction to kids getting a favourite treat.
"The kids come up wanting the soft ice cream and when you give them the ice cream, see this huge smile on their face and saying thank you with with such a glow and sincerity," he said.
"It was so worth it to come out here and to see the kids and even the older adult kids smile when they get that soft ice cream. Priceless."
He said the road is what helped make those smiles happen, although it wasn't all smooth.
"The drive was it was a little rough at times, but all-in-all was really good," Doctor said.
The $185-million road known as the Tłı̨chǫ Highway connects Whatì to Highway 3 and onto the national highway system, year-round. Previously, Whatì was only accessible by a winter road, which typically opens late January and closes mid-April.
The road's surface is loose gravel and sharp rocks have been an issue to some of the users. Whatì Chief Alfonz Nitsiza said he personally has had three flat tires from driving the road.
"Eventually, hopefully one day we'll have it chip sealed," he said.
But overall the road has given Whatì the chance to showcase it's beauty, Nitsiza said.
"We're getting more and more visitors, people bringing up their boats," he said.
"They just love this community, they love the beach there."
Work is being done on the nearby falls to make it more accessible for visitors and there are discussions on creating a campground within the community.
Alex Nitsiza, a Whatì resident, said he's traveled the road a few times and found it good. He's also collected feedback from different residents and has heard some complaints on it being narrow in sections and the loose gravel presenting an issue.
But overall he said the road has been good and he's not surprised the community is seeing more visitors.
"When you have a beautiful place like Whatì, you expect to see some different people coming in," Alex said.