Thursday, September 30, 2004

Yukon Ho! My Brief Flirtation with Homelessness and the Deep North

This is the Law of the Yukon, that only the Strong shall thrive;
That surely the Weak shall perish, and only the Fit survive.

The Law of the Yukon, by Robert Service

That’s what I had written on a piece of napkin, along with a prayer, when I rode the Greyhound bus to Whitehorse, Yukon. I had purchased the “Go anywhere in Canada ticket” for $116 (Canadian). It took five days from Toronto, and I spent the twenty-four hours of my twenty-third birthday on the Alaska Highway . I took with me:
1. The cloths on my back.
2. Two changes of underwear.
3. Several pairs of heavy winter socks.
4. One set of winter coveralls.
5. One heavy winter jacket (Thanks, Mr. Sparkes!)
6. One pair of steel toed winter work boots said to be good down to forty below zero.
7. One sleeping bag said to be good down to twenty below.
8. One six-pack of meal replacement drink, along with seven pounds of homemade trail mix (ingredients purchased at Bulk Barn for $11.69 Canadian).

I mention all this because the other day I received an e-mail from Jim, one of my former housemates. He wondered what I wanted done with all the stuff I abandoned in the hall closet four years ago, and he has kindly offered to mail me the journal entries I made on Tim Horton’s napkins during the homeless stage of my northern adventure.

Here are my three housemates from “phase Yukon” of my life. Jim is the one on the left. It is impossible to even scratch the surface of my surreal sojourn in the Yukon in a mere blog entry, but here are some of the highlights:
1. Trying to sleep down by the river in minus forty-below weather during my homeless phase.
2. Spending half the night reading the "Wanted!" and "Missing Persons" bulletins in the outer entrance of the Mounties' station when I realized that minus forty is too cold for sleeping down by the river.
3. Witnessing a spectacular meteor (be sure to check out this link, I was there!!!) while walking along the Yukon River between the time the homeless shelter closed in the morning and the time the rest of the town opened. It lit up the pre-dawn sky like day before landing about 100km away, and I heard the sonic boom.
4. Getting a job with the CBC as a tech assistant, and then being assigned to chauffer the Inuit reporters from Nunavut during the Arctic Winter Games.
5. Sleeping in snow caves and helping build an igloo while winter camping in Kluane National Park.
6. Taking cross country skiing lessons from a former Olympic coach.
7. Seeing the Northern Lights . . . and way to many other things to mention.

Showing off at Miles Canyon

The Carcross Dunes, marketed as “The Smallest Desert in the World”

A relic of the gold rush on the way to Haines Junction, Alaska

An early snow plough for the Yukon Railway (Haines Junction)

My media pass for the Arctic Winter Games (which made me feel really, really cool at the time). I only spent four months in the Yukon, but it left me with a decade worth of memories, and its magic is still tugging at my heartstrings.