I offer you a brief photo essay of the Yukon adventure. Names have been changed to protect the (mostly) innocent but you should know that the more incriminating photos are still on the other digital camera in Whitehorse so they will not be shown here.
First off, we hit the Dawson City Music Festival. Dawson is about a 5 hour drive from Whitehorse and we drove up on the Thursday even though the show started on Friday, to secure a campsite in the limited campground. We did the site up right and spent an hour and a half building our 'tent city'. We used two tarps, a lot of rope, much muscle and planning, some tuck tape, and a tree-pole affectionately named Dirk. Nice, eh?
The reason for the tent city is that we got caught in the rain heading back to the campsite after the first gig of the festival. Dawson City is a short ferry ride across the Yukon River from the main campsite. It's a free ferry that takes vehicles and foot passengers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until the river freezes. We got caught in the rain on the open-air ferry on Day 1 of the festival. Hence the need for a tent city back at the campsite. By the way, that's Miranda on the left, The Duchess in the middle, and me on the right.
Dawson City is a cool little place. It celebrates the Klondike Gold Rush, maintaining a lot of the infrastructure that was built around the 1890s. There are still dancing girls and gambling halls. We went to Diamond Tooth Gertie's to see the dancing girls but since we were at the early show, we apparently missed the more risque act that comes on at midnight. I understand there's near nudity - a note for future visitors. We ate at Klondike Kate's a couple times where the food is damn tasty and the daquiris are salty (?) but cheap and cold.
After the music festival (which, by the way, was totally fun and had otherwise good weather), we decided to get some backcountry camping in. The Dempster highway is the road from the Yukon up to Inuvik in the North West Territories. It is unpaved the entire way, and you shouldn't brave it without a couple spare tires, food and water supplies, and a decent vehicle. We drove up the Dempster about 60km to get to the trailhead. The hike in to Grizzly Lake takes about 6 hours, and it is mostly crazy scree, large boulders, vast vistas, and really steep climbs in both directions. Fairly brutal after four days of sittin' around drinkin' cider and watchin' other people entertain you. Ok, to be fair there was a lot of dancing done at the festival but I'm not sure that prepared our bodies for the toil of this hike. We did manage to keep our spirits up for most of the way. Here's Miranda looking high on life, probably because of the GORP; behind her you can see our destination lake.
The hike is crazy beautiful and worth the work. We saw hoary marmots about 3/4 of the way in. I figure they have no natural predators up there because they have no fear and will scuttle right up to your feet to inspect you. Isn't he cute? He is about the size of a large cat or small dog.
We started the hike at 4pm because of rotten hangovers and a very slow start to the day. Remember though, this is the land of the midnight sun so we had daylight the whole way, even though we got to camp at about 9:30pm. This is the campsite at Grizzly Lake in the shadow of the forbidding Tombstones, picture taken around 11pm:
After a very late dinner of amazing instant potatoes and a bean concoction, we slept like logs. We weren't even bothered by the guy across from us who had intense sleep apnea (read: loud gasping every couple of minutes) or the early-risers who broke camp at 6-bloody-AM. Along the trail on the way back we made time to take a group picture with the timer on the camera. We're very good at this, don't you think?
When we returned to Whitehorse we were treated to an amazing meal by The Duchess' mom, including cariboo for Miranda's first taste of game meat. We relaxed in The Duchess' hottub (every single household should include one of these, I'm now convinced), undoing the knots from hiking and sleeping for days on thermarests. Don't worry, we showered before soaking so the water wasn't quite putrid by the time we got out.
Miranda left us on Thursday, unfortunately, so we were down one good-natured companion. We couldn't decide what to do until The Duchess hit on the brilliant idea of going out to her cabin. I've been there before on previous visits and it's grrrreat. We met friends of hers out there and had some vino while a storm raged around us. The cabin has electricity but no running water. Heading out to the outhouse that night was the first time I might have really needed a headlamp since the storm and the trees colluded to darken the skies around midnight. Friday we slept in, watched a dumb movie on the ancient tv, paddled the canoe for a bit, and chopped wood. I like chopping wood. Yes, I really do. It's a great stress relief and gives you a weird sense of achievement. You keep thinking (or yelling, in my case), "Take that! and THAT! HAHAHAHAHHAHA!" I'll have to find somewhere to chop wood in or around Vancouver to keep my skillz up!
Back to Whitehorse where The Duchess attended a memorial service for a friend and I hung out with her family. I finally flew out on Saturday back to Vancouver to get to work on my long list of reading material. It was honestly one of the best vacations I have had in ages so thanks so much to The Duchess and Miranda for the good times and great adventures! I recommend the Yukon to no one since it feels like a protected part of the Earth, and to everyone for its beauty and awesome people. Yeehaw!
For now, here's a little map of the Territory with our routes mapped out.
My friend J and I arrived in Whitehorse via Air Canada, where D picked us up in her trusty truck, Delores. We picked up supplies and headed straight to Dawson City for the Dawson City Music Festival where a good, musical, mostly drunken time was had by all. After four nights in Dawson City we picked up more supplies and drove a little way up the Dempster Highway to the trailhead of Grizzly lake. A crazy hike in over terrible boulder-like scree took us to a beautiful campsite among the Tombstone Mountains. We hiked out the next day and spent a night at a government campsite on the way back to Whitehorse. J had to get home sooner than I did so we bid her a fond farewell at the Whitehorse airport, and that night D and I drove out to her family's cabin on Tagish Lake, just near Carcross. We sat out a rainy storm that night in the cozy confines of the cabin with the wood stove pumping out heat and good company offering wine and chocolate. Eventually we got back to Whitehorse again and I flew to Vancouver yesterday, Saturday.
It was a totally fabulous, fun-filled holiday. My freckled and slightly tanned self feels relaxed and mostly rested, even though there wasn't a whole lot of sleeping going on.
I'll post more later about the adventure with lots of pics. Watch this space!
Rocco just splashed out and renovated his IBM compat computer. He installed a bunch of new parts that I know nothing about and apparently it passes all sorts of benchmarks and has killer graphics. He also splashed out on a game that's been out for a while but that the old components couldn't handle (whoa, big boy!). Half Life 2 came into the apartment tonight and he's been installing all the discs (5!) while simultaneously playing the pimp game, what the industry likes to call Grand Theft Auto. You know what? I'm all for it. Ok, mostly. It's great that he has something of his own that I'm not into and that helps him relax and vent a little. I like not being a part of the venting. Of course, his phrasing of what the game means to him is somewhat suspicious. "I've lusted after this game for too many months." Lust? Cripes! He found me on the internet (yes, mom, dad, you heard it here second - thanks Kath!), so should I not worry about his affections being transferred to another virtual entity? Ha! It's all tongue in cheek, but I do wonder about the way the games consume him... At least the hero guy in the game resembles an ex-boyfriend of mine. Now I can create ridiculous fantasy sequences in my head while Rocco prowls the virtual landscape for targets. By the way, he doesn't know about the similarity, until he reads this. Mwah ha!
There are over- and undertones of community kitchens in this plan, and we all love the idea of collective cooking, sharing resources, and literally breaking bread together over good food. One of our members is a dietician and many of us are interested in local bounty and organics, so I guarantee that the food is, by all standards, good! We have a few restrictions: most of the members are ovo-lacto vegetarian so no meat soups, and one member can't eat carrots or mushrooms. One month she couldn't make it so my mom's carrot-coriander soup still made it into the list of soups we've shared. There have been a wide variety of soups including African peanut soup, hubbard squash soup, some kinda terrific down south gumbo soup, and many more. Tonight I've prepared a creamy asparagus soup that is served with a dollop of basil-almond pesto. The pesto has come out a bit salty but it might liven up the soup that right now just looks a bit muddy and boring. Another couple are preparing cherry beet borscht! I thought the green of the asparagus would be a nice contrast to what must obviously be a bright red/purple soup.
We try to mix it up in terms of who holds the soup night so the burden of hosting is also shared. There is always wine and sometimes beer; someone always brings a nice bread and usually there are some sauces, dips or spreads, even cheese once in a while to go with all the soup. Everyone keeps a small bowl and a spoon, rinsing between soups. Eventually we are all super stuffed and a bit tipsy and we all totter home with a couple different kinds of soup for future meal-in-a-minute dinners. I love these evenings with the Soup Lovers Unite, Riotously, Please* (SLURP).
Do you think a cookbook that lists recipes and has pictures of Soup Night* (SN) gatherings and little, dumb stories from the collective would sell? Can you think of a killer acronym for us?
*This name is subject to change on a whim or after the consumption of alcoholic beverages, preferably accompanying soup.
I love Threadless.com tees. Threadless is a t-shirt design competition to which anyone can submit a design. If it's accepted it goes to competition and random internet punters (like me and you) vote on submissions over a few days. The winning designs, and there are many, are printed and sold on the site but also sold at stores around the world. The winning designers get like $1000 in Threadless swag and some cold hard cash. Some are very clever, some are not to my taste. Whatever, it's a cool site even *if* they rejected my one and only submission. Guess they didn't go for the homivorous buck (that's a human-eating male deer, you guys). Oh well, I wasn't that attached to the design anyway. This Blog shirt, though, I could see myself being very attached to. I do the BLOOD finger thing every once in a while, often at parties, sometimes for students. I've been practicing the BLOG finger thing all afternoon.
In any case, the story is interesting and you can read about it in the Globe and Mail here, or on the guy's blog here. Everything starts with one small step, or so they say.
- The cat pulled a caper. She has become used to hanging out on the fire escape with me during morning watering rounds. On the whole, I keep an eye on her, but she hasn't attempted any significant escape. Until this morning. She spotted a black cat slinking down the alley and immediately jumped up onto the railing of the fire escape, springing down onto the steep, shingled roof that hangs over a kitchen downstairs. It looked like she was debating either jumping off the roof to the downstairs patio (about 3 or 4 metres) or jumping to the next door neighbour's roof (1 metre jump but 4 metres up and over the heads of two large, protective dogs). I tried offering salmon crunchies, my undying love...I considered braving the roof myself to collect her (v. v. stupid idea)... Eventually, maybe because I maintained an outward calm, she tottered over close enough that I could grab her, and grab her I did! Her fire escape privileges have been revoked for the foreseeable future. I'm just not ready to deal with the little scrapper taking on the neighbourhood. She's so petite and cute but also a little wacko and unpredictable. Bah.
- Random strangers have been speaking to me all day, singling me out of line-ups and crowds to ask questions and strike up conversations. Seriously. In every situation since leaving the house this morning, someone has spoken to me with no encouragement on my part, usually even pulling me out of my book to engage with me. I was even asked, completely out of the blue and with very little accompanying context, if I am a nursing student, and whether or not I hold Canadian citizenship. The nursing question came from a stranger who shares my first name (how do I know this? That's a different story) and the citizenship question came from the hotdog vendor at the corner of Granville and Broadway. It was a terrible hotdog, by the way.
- On a desperate quest for a bagel with cream cheese, a breakfast option you think would be prolific, the two bagel places I did find have both closed in the last week and now have For Lease signs in the windows. That's why I settled for the less-than-settling veggie street dog. I've now had too much coffee that I felt compelled to buy in the coffee shops I entered to check (in vain, it turns out) if they sell bagels with cream cheese.
- My building on campus is strangely busy today. Mondays are usually quite quiet around here, and the summer months in particular have produced an echo-y shell of a building. Today, while my electroMegnetic shields are down, it's nuts around here with cellphones a-buzzing and colleagues a-twitter.
So, ok, these things don't seem SO strange now that I've written them down, but put them all together, on a Monday no less, and it feels like an oddly charged day indeed. My gut feeling at this moment is to find a quiet stairwell and hunker down in the foetal position for a while to see if things right themselves. That reaction alone makes me wonder about my mental balance today. I think perhaps I should have slept through Monday this week.
First off, I am terribly, terribly excited about the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Dead Man's Chest! Granted, Kiera Knightley is frightfully awful and has fasted her way to the ever so fashionable Bag of Bones look, but Depp is still delicious and Captain Jack is an excellent, swashbuckling character.
I love that when the first Pirates of the Caribbean came out, Depp told the press he had based his portrayal of Captain Jack on modern era pirates - rock stars like Keith Richards. The second show opens this weekend and I think we'll try and get tickets for Saturday evening. Yarrrr!
My other time-consuming, brain-massaging hobby, besides watching So You Think You Can Dance on Wednesdays, is reading trashy mystery novels. I have a severe addiction to a particular author's work recently discovered. Kay Hooper writes mystery novels about a crack FBI team of psychics. Giddyup! You get mystery, thrills, mind-reading, ghostly apparitions with messages for the living and "out, out damn spot" psychosis. Perfect downtime reading! I tried to read them in order, there are 11 in the psychic FBI series, but they are in such high demand at the public library that queueing for specific titles takes months. I'll take what I can get where I can get it, so right now I'm devouring Sense of Evil (2003) in hardcover even though last week I broke down and bought a more recent one, Chill of Fear (2005). These books are the perfect antidote to all the academic reading I'm doing these days for school.
So, what's your brain fluff poison?
Rocco's cousin is currently living in Seattle and plays for the Seattle Gaels hurling team. Apparently everday Canada Day long weekend the Burnaby complex holds a tournament for various sports, hurling included. I won't bother explaining hurling except to say that its closest approximation on this side of the pond is probably lacrosse, but it looks more like field hocky on steroids. It has nothing to do with drinking except that it is customary to go for a pint or many after a game to rehash the details! Seattle whupped the Vancouver Harps; they've abviously been doing some very good training.
Here is Rocco and his cousin posing like they've both been hurling for a donkey's years (only true in one case):
I had never held a hurley in my life, and I didn't want to make a fool of myself in front of any of Rocco's family, but I did bat a sliotar (the ball) about a bit on the end of a hurley. The day was searingly hot but gorgeous, and it was a lot of fun to sit in our comfy camp chairs and watch a bizarre, vicious, and pretty cool sport. Yay for cheerleaders who hate to play team sports!
Makes about 12/3 cups
1 cup fresh blueberries (or frozen and thawed)
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon onion powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2/3 cup vegetable oil
Rinse and drain the blueberries well. Place them in a blender or food processor and pulse to chop finely. Add vinegar, water, onion powder, salt and black pepper. Pulse to blend.
Turn the motor on low and slowly drizzle the oil into the vinaigrette through the feed tube or top of the blender. Blend only until all of the oil is incorporated. Stir in additional water (up to 2 tablespoons) if a thinner consistency is desired. Serve immediately on salad-like things.