Once and a while as I navigate Whitehorse rush hour traffic, driving past posh coffee shops and trendy city folk, I wonder why I moved to the Yukon.
Then again, on occasion, it becomes blatantly obvious why I moved to the Yukon.
Last week-end was one of those occasions.
My family and I spent the week-end with Rich’s buddy and mechanically-minded northerner, Mike, at their claim near Carmacks, about four hours from Whitehorse. The road from Carmacks progresses in stages from gravel road to rocky track. The last 10 minutes of the drive is a harrowing experience on a narrow track sandwiched between a cliff edge and a mountainside with some rather large potholes (or small canyons, depending how you want to look at it.)
Once we reached the top of the road and I managed to pry my fingers from the "oh s**t" handles, I had a chance to take in my surroundings.
The campsite is a small patch of cleared land on the crest of a hill overlooking the mountains in the distance, miles from anything resembling a cell signal. There are no camping fees, outhouses or picnic tables here, just us, what we brought with us and what is provided by nature. We’re not alone though. The area is home to some impressive wildlife. During our drive we frequently came across wild animals, including a bear and a lynx. In fact, we saw more wildlife this weekend then we did during our entire week-long trip to Alaska last month.
The claim is even more remote then the campsite. It’s another 20 minute ride on an ATV to the valley where Mike is convinced there is gold.
While the men went mining, Oscar and I hunted for edible plants armed with a detailed field guide. We found blueberries, black crowberries, rosehips and cloudberries in the subarctic flora, as well as several medicinal plants. Many of the berries were’t quite ready yet but we fried up some fireweed shoots to garnish our burgers and sausages for dinner and made a delicious tea from the dried leaves of fireweed and yarrow. (Richard was quite wary of trying the tea but even he said it was nice - and he's British!)
“It’s so quiet,” Oscar claimed at one point. While this may be true for him, the fact that he keeps up a fairly steady stream of chatter during his waking hours meant it wasn’t quite as true for me. Never-the-less, the steady buzz of human-produced noise we are so used to was noticeably absent.
Out here, miles from civilization, with only the tenuous link of a satellite GPS tracker linking us to the outside world, we really are on our own. A fringe of wary watchfulness and sense of danger exists at all times, just at the edge of consciousness.
Not far from our campsite we climbed some rocky peaks with a 360 view which Oscar claimed as his castles. We could see for miles and miles without any sign of other people.
It was fantastic.
As of yet, Rich and Mike haven't found the golden nugget that will make us filthy rich. They seem content with the the cold beer by the fire after a day of physical labour, the possibilities and the experience.
My gold, it's is the quiet, the peace, the independence, the nature and the wild. There are over 180,000 square miles of it out there, only a few minutes from just about anywhere in the Yukon.
My gold is remembering why we moved to the Yukon.