I am in love with Northern Canada, and I have only had the privilege of visiting it three times. Once I visited Fort Smith and Yellowknife, and twice now I have been to the Yukon and ventured a little ways into Alaska. It's enormous. It's sparsely populated. There is little to no cell reception outside of a major centre or certain small towns. You have to be careful where you get gas, because there are long distances between stations and nothing is open for 24 hours like in the heavily populated south. People are friendly, and quirky and when you ask them what bright them there and what keeps them there still (if they never left), the answer is always the same. They stop, they get this far away look, shake their head slowly and reply '... well, it just gets in you. You come here for one thing, and if the North isn't done with you when you leave... you'll be back.'
Since the BD and my first stint to the Yukon last September, I have read and thought about it quite a bit. We bought a few books on the gold rush, I've read all of R. M. Patterson's books and a small collection of his journals about his canoeing and trapping days in the Nahanni area of the North West Territories. My friend Peter gave me a book on the creation of the White Pass Railway, and we were fortunate enough to ride on that exact railway at the end of our five day adventure hiking the infamous Chilkoot Trail from Skagway, Alaska to Lake Bennett, British Columbia. To see that trestle bridge they built in harsh winter conditions over 100 years ago (you ride past it now, as it's been lopped off at both ends and a new bridge has been built for the train to bypass the old one... but there it stands, straddling a great ravine in the mountainside, a testament to the sturdiness of the men who dreamed it and built it.) is pretty fucking amazing. I have gotten to do and see more than most, but not nearly as much as some, and we eagerly look forward to going back, whenever that will be.
For now, it is good to flip though my travel journals, collection of Instax and digital photos, and paint about it. Oh, how I love telling stories with lines and paint.
This morning I put the finishing touches on this piece, and hung it in the cafe:
If you have ever driven to the Yukon, it's almost anti-climatic. The road snakes between the BC/ Yukon border 2 or 3 times before you are fully in the Yukon. There is one unimpressive sign letting you know you have arrived, and then a few kilometres down the road, you are welcomed with a much more impressive sign, back into BC. It's amusing. One of the cool stops you can make (and one of the last places to get cell reception for the next 6-8 hours, depending on how fast you drive.) is the Watson Lake Signpost Forest. We have yet to add our own sign to the growing tourist attraction. There are signs there from all over. Pilfered road signs, handmade signs, boots nailed to the post with the previous owners name's hastily written on them, and where they can from. Signs on toilet seats (I shit you not!), weathered photos, signs carved neatly on wood, nicely painted signs; some people put a lot of thought into some of these, and some merely wanted to leave a record of their jouney behind on anything that was handy. Next time we will. This painting will have to stand in place of a sign for now.
The North isn't done with us yet. I can feel it, and I'm glad.