We Arrived!

When we left the Yukon to pursue a new life as early retirees 17 months ago, our plan was that we would return for at least one month every year. Except for that first year. Mr. C travelled back and forth quite a bit doing contract work, but I wanted to experience an entire uninterrupted year in the Shuswap before leaving. And also, I was a little bit afraid of coming back too soon. Afraid I would be overcome with homesickness.

But this year we have both come back together and I’m pleased to report that I don’t feel any grief or homesickness whatsoever. We really do have the best of both worlds. It was a good decision to relocate – we love living in the Shuswap. And it was a good decision to keep our Yukon property…our tiny-yet-full-of-character heritage log cabin that has sunk in the back corner so that a marble rolls in a lazy S pattern across the floor and where Fox Lake is only fifteen steps from the front porch. (Yes, I just got up and counted them. 15 steps.) Some sad day we will have to sell it because a time will come when we will need the income. That is the day that will break our hearts. But not yet. Not for a dozen or more years.

Here at the cabin, we only exist in the here and now. There is no yesterday. There is no tomorrow. Only today. And since we will be here for a long and luxurious 7 weeks, that is a lot of todays to enjoy.

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Fox Lake

So…we spent 5 days traveling 2,560 kilometers (that’s approximately 1500 miles for you metric-challenged folk) from our new home in the Shuswap to our home-away-from-home in the Yukon. Lots of people do it much quicker than this, and I think it’s a shame. I love the drive, I love the Alaska Highway and I love taking my time to enjoy it. A seven-hour driving day is just about right for us, though we usually end up driving for eight. After 8 hours, we’re tired and ready to stop for the day.

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The Alaska Highway somewhere between Fort Saint John & Fort Nelson, BC. May 2015

 

And the weather on this trip! Don’t get me started…the weather was completely, absolutely, 100% FANTASTIC the entire drive. Sunny blue sky. Warm. Perfect. Every day.

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When we arrived in Whitehorse, Mr. C picked up the car (he travels back and forth doing contract work in the winter, so keeps a car here) and went off to contact his flying students while I continued on to the cabin in the truck & camper. I was looking forward to that first glimpse of the lake … looking forward to following the twisting North Klondike Highway until it crosses Fox Creek, past the boot-end of the lake, all reedy and full of beaver dams before it climbs a bit and follows just above the lake. When we arrived at the top of the drive, I got out to unlock the chain and smelled the hot dusty smell of early spring, the sticky-sweet smell of newly opened leaves (spring comes late in the Yukon), the clear green smell of lake water. I smiled when I saw the Private Residence sign nailed to a tree. That’s Us! The Collins’ are back in residence!

In the truck, Sam stood on the passenger seat, his front paws on the dashboard. He was whining and staring intently down the drive, ears up, tail wagging. He knew exactly where we were. Back in the camper, the cats opened their eyes, stood up and stretched, enjoying a welcome break from the swaying and rattling of the “noisy moving house.”

“Hello house! Hello lake! I’m back!” I stood outside the open truck door and threw open my arms, yelled the words with a big grin on my face. The little cabin was so happy to see us, too! The first thing I did was unlock the front door and go inside, one step behind Samson. Sam jumped up into his window seat to see if his basket of toys was still there (it was) while I set about opening the house. I unlocked each shutter in turn, opened the windows to let in the air and light, turned on the propane, and lit the fridge. I carried the cats into the house and set them down on the bed. They knew exactly where they were, too. Whiskers curled forward, ears pricked up; they raised their chins and sniffed and sniffed. Then they set about investigating the entire place, saving the best for last: a roll-about on the deck and a good long soak in the sun on the deck they remember so well. Meanwhile, I unpacked the camper and stowed away the groceries, our clothing and the selection of quilting, knitting & sewing projects, my laptop, notebooks and novels to read that I’d brought with me.

There was still a bit of ice on the lake, and the leaves on the willow trees along the lakeshore were not quite open yet. I was so glad! I love to watch them unfurl. Spring in the Yukon lasts about 3 days. I’m glad I was here in time to see it.

When Mr. C arrived we set up the patio furniture and had supper.

Grilled cheese sandwiches & a bag of chips. Beer for him and a cider for me. Maybe not the healthiest supper ever, but just the perfect homecoming feast after a long five days on the road.

Ahhhh….It’s good to be back!

Alaska Highway, Whitehorse to Watson Lake one year ago today

One year ago today I drove away from Whitehorse, embarking on a solo journey down the Alaska Highway in -30 something temperatures. I stopped along the way to take some photos and jot down some poems. Here is that post.

Day One: Whitehorse to Watson Lake (December 2, 2013)

This is the Alaska Highway: 037

 

 At 10:45 in the morning my car’s thermometer is pegged at-30: as low as it will go. I do not know how cold it really is, only that it is colder than 30 below. After an hour on the road, there is still ice on the hood of the car and the clutch is still as stiff as tar.
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I am driving East, into the rising sun, with everything I own.
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Poem:

When the road ahead
is drenched in molten gold
I know to raise my hand
in anticipation of being blinded,
until
the road slides west
and sunrise
falls

behind me.

044Haiku:

outhouse in December
someone has left the seat up
amber icicles

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Poem:

Driving east,
sarah brightman
eases the pie jesu
into the rising sun

as brilliant bursts  of liquid bronze and gold
splash champagne,
while shadows
chase the sweetness
of the melody
across the hillsides.

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Poem:

Telephone poles stretching
one after the other,
t-braces white with frost,
a thousand messiahs
with knees and feet of alabaster

and frosty brows bowed down,
connected by living wire,

carrying my whispered voice
from christ jesus
to christ jesus

to christ jesus
until it reaches
your
ears.

This is a short video of the road, shot holding the camera on the dash as I drove. It’s beautiful. Click here if you can’t see it.

Alaska Highway: Watson Lake to Fort Nelson December 3, 2013

Day 2 Driving the Alaska Highway

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Contact Creek Lodge just outside of Watson Lake:

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Contact Creek has the cheapest gas on the highway:

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Somewhere between Watson Lake and Muncho Provincial Park (if you’re viewing through email, you’ll need to go directly to the website to see the short video)

Bison on the road. They lay on the sides of the road like statues. Like big boulders. You don’t realize it’s an animal lying there until you’re passing it, sometimes!

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Caribou on the Alaska Highway in Muncho Provincial Park (if you’re viewing through email, you’ll need to go directly to the website to see the short video):

The drive through the mountains was awesome. A-MAZ-ING.

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A long and winding (but scenic) road that used all my defensive driving skills. The road is quite a bit narrower in the winter because of the snow plowed off to the side.  It wasn’t scary at all, but you do need to be alert and drive to the conditions.

I didn’t take any pictures of the road as it winds around the lake. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s sort of like driving on a flat roller coaster. Every corner is a blind corner. The road is about 1.5 lanes wide, and you can see what’s coming from several bends ahead, but you can’t see it coming right around the bend you are on. So you go slow. When you meet a transport truck, one of you has to pull off onto the side as far as you can, with a sheer rock wall on one side and the lake right on the other. Then you creep past each other with a wave and a grin before continuing on  your way. It’s probably not so bad in the summer, but in the winter the snow makes it even narrower. So you can understand that I didn’t have any attention to spare for my camera!

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All the mountain driving was tiring. Just when I thought I was through the mountains, I hit Stone Mountain Provincial Park. The road here was nice and wide, though, and other than a lot of climbing and descending, it was just fine.

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