There comes a time in a person’s life when we must make a very tough decision. Would you have the guts to make a decision like we had to do? It was tough.
How, When and Why we decided to move to the Yukon. 6000 feet up on Sheep Mountain, Irma admires the view of Kluane lake.
In our case we were the movers as we had made the decision to move to Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory of Canada. How did this happen? Even more important, “why“. To tell the story let’s take a look at where we were in 1992. Gaspereau fishing was going downhill. We managed to find work planting trees in the Cape Breton Highlands for a few weeks and both Irma and I worked hard to make certain we had enough pay in the office to qualify for unemployment benefits.
This was our dilemma.
The Highland tree planting was almost at an end and the handwriting was on the wall. Soon there would be no more work. Three of our girls, Sandy, Nancy and Colette had relocated to the Yukon and shortly thereafter, Colette was to marry in Whitehorse in August of 1992 and we decided to go to the wedding. We flew to Vancouver and then caught the plane to Whitehorse. We carried our backpacks and tent as we had decided to fill our days with sightseeing.
After a couple of days in that beautiful city we were offered the use of a car to go wherever we wanted and soon left for a place called Haines Junction, about a 2 hour drive away. Words alone cannot describe the beauty of the Yukon Territory.
There is a lot of woods. Driving along the Alaska Highway and you will see miles and miles of rich green forest. This highway was built during the second world war to provide a corridor from Alaska to the lower 48 states and when you drive along it becomes an amazing feat of engineering and labor.
The trees really do not grow half as high as in BC but there are a lot of them. The distance between the mountains on either sides of the highways is vast thus creating huge valleys. I would estimate the distance from peaks on the right to the peaks on the left at about 10 miles or more. The St. Elias mountains rise in places to about 8,000 feet or more.
We didn’t really take along too much food except what we really needed for a few days. What we did do was to bake some cookies and squares we found in a recipe book somewhere. These were loaded with calories. Many calories. Probably 1,000 per cookie. They were supposed to sustain a person for hours on end. We were to find out that this was true. At Haines Junction we entered Kluane National Park, Canada’s largest National Park up to that time. Here the mountains are beautiful. This is on the Alaska Highway. At the visitor center we discovered that there was a hiking trail to a glacier a few miles ahead.
I was dying to go but Irma was against it. Of course she was right as the distance from the parking lot to the Kaskawulsh Glacier was 22 km each way and you had to walk across creeks up to 3 feet deep through water that until a couple of hours ago had been 10,000 year old ice. We stopped at another visitor center at the Slims River of the highway. This is the area where the two teams of construction workers met in the middle of the Alaskan Highway during the 2nd world war. One group had started from Alaska and the other from the British Columbia end to construct the highway.
In the center a young lady informed us that even if we had wanted to go on the hike to the glacier we couldn’t because we would need a bear proof container for our food and all of the containers we out on the trail being used. She pointed out that there was another trail that went up over Sheep Mountain where we would see many Dall sheep.
It would be a 10 hour hike.
We decided to do it. We went to a campground nearby and pitched out tent on the beach of the lake. It was tough to sleep as it is as bright as day for some 21 hours and hardly dark for the other 3 hours. We arose early, had breakfast and drove to the end of the trail where we parked the car. It would be at this point that we would emerge from the mountain after the hike. Little did I think that a few hours from now we would decide to move to the Yukon.
We had to walk about 2 miles to get to the trail head which was along the highway. As we passed a visitor viewpoint on the lakeside we spotted something in the ditch below the road. I climbed down and retrieved a video camcorder that must have fallen from a vehicle that had parked to take some footage. Perhaps the owner had placed it on the bumper and absent-mindlessly forgot about it and left the lot, It probably fell off as he made the turn. Once we arrived back home I managed to buy a battery pack for it. We watched the tape to see if we could find out the owner but without luck.
A year later we were skiing on Whistler Mountain when I wiped out while filming and away went the battery again. This time I gave up on it as it was not a digital machine and was outdated. We found the trail head and headed up. Yes, up. The elevation we wanted was 6,800 feet and there were almost no flat places to catch the breath. There was a lot of bear sign including scats and massive holes where the bears had been digging for ground squirrels. It is incredible the effort they will make to find one little squirrel. After about an hour I began to feel a loss of wind and was a little weak. Irma was doing fine.
Finally we realized the fact that we had eaten over 4 hours ago. Out came those power cookies and in no time I was ready to continue with renewed pep. Finally we crested a peak and the view from everywhere was mind boggling.
The lake was absolutely stunning.
The water was the most incredible shade of emerald green while the area where the water from the glacier entered the lake was a pale fawn color that faded to the green area. From our altitude, the few fluffy white clouds were reflected from the lake as if it were a fantastic mirror. Off to the west we had a grand view of the glacier that we ( I ) had considered visiting. Even from 22 km distance it was special. If we would decide to move to the Yukon this would be a great hike.
Before us to the north stood this huge, vast mountain face and all around us grazing on the green foliage were over 100 Dall Sheep. The rams set off to an area behind us looking like a group of senators as they scanned their territory. The sheep had a good many young lambs. Wherever we looked there were patches of white where 6 or 8 were gathered feeding. Some were hundreds of feet up on the side of the steep slope of the mountain where green grass somehow remained connected to mother earth. Many more were only a few yards away from us and didn’t seem to mind our presence.
With this spectacle laid out before us, we sat down to make ourselves a cup of tea and to dine on those high-calorie cookies and squares. The ground was a carpet of tiny, short stemmed, most beautiful wild flowers one could ever imagine. The little flower heads were packed tight giving the impression that is was one huge mosaic that covered the hillside. We found out later that this was natures way of protecting these tiny flowers from the cold and harsh winds that blew down from the high mountain faces, except the occasional day such as we were experiencing on this day.
Taking all of this into consideration I suggested to Irma that we should consider moving from Margaree and relocating to the Yukon. It wasn’t only the beauty of the place but there were opportunities in the Yukon to make a living, whereas the opportunities in Margaree were non-existent.
Irma thinks things over and this is one of her best qualities. She takes a little longer to consider each faction. I pointed out the fact that the replanting in the Cape Breton Highlands was almost at an end and I had no idea what we would do in the coming year to put food on the table. If we were ever going to make a break from the tough times back home we had better do so now.
I wanted to go home, put the house for sale and be back in the Yukon by next June. We will find some way to make a living in the Yukon between now and then. I knew Irma like a book. She didn’t want to decide to move to the Yukon. Especially not 8,000 KM away. “Why go so far away?” she asked. I replied that the big part of moving is deciding what to take with you. That is the main part. You need to look at the furniture and decide if you should take it or sell it.
The way I looked at it you pack all of your belongings on a truck, climb in and go. Now it is only a matter of miles between you and where you will end up.
The truck does the moving.
If you move 800 Km or 8,000 KM it is only a matter of zeros. We would still need to find work at the other end of the trip and finding work in the Yukon looked easier than Halifax or Toronto. Another consideration was that the three girls, Colette, Sandy and Nancy were now living in Whitehorse and knowing our girls, they would be there for us if we needed help while we made the transition.
After some deliberations, Irma conceded that there was no question the move was necessary and if I was going to move, it made sense for her to come along. I wanted the decision to be ours, not mine, and we agreed to go ahead and decide to move to the Yukon.
So this is why we made the decision to move from our secure little home in Margaree, Cape Breton to the Yukon Territory.