Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chilkoot Hike - Planning

Hiking the Chilkoot is an exhilarating experience. Although a rugged and challenging back country trail, the character of the pathway, fine camping facilities and the watchful eyes of the Rangers and Wardens make it a safe trip. With some preparatory fitness training and a decent outfit you can have an unforgettable adventure.

The Chilkoot Trail Hiker Preparation website has a lot of worthwhile information. You can also download the webpages as a printable brochure at the bottom of the page if you like.

Bear Safety information is available at:

If you'd like to review my hike over the trail last August see my entries for August 21 - 23 at:

And if you are really serious about enjoying your hike read the book:

Chilkoot Trail: Heritage Route to the Klondike
David Neufeld and Frank Norris. Only $25 atMac's Fireweed or the Parks Canada office

The proposed itinerary for the hike:

June 26 Saturday afternoon, to Skagway, enjoy dinner (yummy curry) and a good sleep at comfy hotel or B&B.

June 27 Sunday, Dyea to Canyon City (12.5 easy kilometres)

June 28 Monday, Canyon City to Sheep Camp (8.5 kilometres, some grunting)

June 29 Tuesday, Sheep Camp to Happy Camp (12 kilometres, about 8 hours, very healthy!)

June 30 Wednesday, Happy Camp to Lindeman (9 kilometres, great views)

July 1 Thursday, Lindeman to Bennett (11 kilometres, pleasant)
And train to Carcross or charter plane to Whitehorse.

I look forward to getting together to plan the trip in early May.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Earth Day +1 Spring Arrives

How do we mark the change of seasons? What turns winter into Spring? For a Carcross-Tagish First Nation Elder I worked with, the first sign of spring was the hardening of the snow in February. This change allowed everyone to travel. People could get back out on the land after three months of darkness and soft snow so deep it swallowed any attempt to go much further than the outhouse.

In Japan the blooming of the first cherry blossom marks the start of spring, but not just any cherry blossom. Last month Andrew and I visited the Yasakuni Shrine in Tokyo. This sometimes controversy-stirring Shinto shrine was established in 1869 to enshrine the souls of those died fighting for Japan. The cherry tree in the courtyard of the shrine is the site of official spring for Japan.

At our home in the Yukon we also look for a flower. My Manitoba roots tell me that the first sign of spring in the blooming of the crocus. Earth day saw the stems and fuzzy buds up but it was only the next day that the first flower cautiously opened to announce spring. And immediately the boreal pulse started, a wasp was in the blossom collecting nectar and pollen to urge on reproduction before the arrival of fall.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 4:20 PM 7'C Looking for Spring

Well, I wandered around this afternoon looking for spring again. The signs are subtle but coming. I found more fuzzy crocus, but they are all being careful about coming out. About noon I let two flies out the window, if the house was were Noah's Ark they would've been back if they didn't find summer. Didn't see them again. There are lots of busy ants on the hillside and there are boats, lots of boats waiting for water.

Earth Day, 8:20 AM -2'C Looking for Spring

I went to look for spring. The last traces of winter are fast disappearing but this morning the mud track, clacking hard under my rubber boots, held yesterday's footprints like fossils in stone. Ice still covers the Takhini River. On the way back though I noticed the dirt starting to shine with wetness under the sun and I found the signs I was looking for.

This afternoon I'll check and see what's happened.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Going to the Cemetery - Mourning and Remembering

Last Friday my step-mother, Nettie, passed away. I flew to Winnipeg to be with Dad and step-siblings. Nettie and Dad, both widowed, married in their retirement, well after my brothers and I had left home and started families far from Winnipeg. And while we rejoiced in my Dad's happiness with his second wife, we had limited connections to our three step-sisters and step-brother. This changed over the next fifteen years as Nettie contracted Alzheimer's disease and the network of family drew tighter to support Dad in his diligent (a favourite word of mine, Latin for “twice loved”) and complete attention to Nettie. Gradually I've come to realize not only how much my step-siblings in Winnipeg have cared for my Dad, but also that he is grandfather to their children. He has extended the family that loves and cares for him like we do. But these things only become obvious when the web of relations are weighted by need.

Amidst the bright sunshine of a windy prairie spring and chorused by honking Canada geese, we had a brief ceremony on Thursday afternoon. Dad, and my step-brother, Nettie's eldest, gently lowered Nettie's remains alongside her first husband. Final words - a silence - and photos of the gathered family brought closure to the funeral and interment. Dad was quiet as we headed back to the car.

We agreed it was a good time to visit Mum's grave across town. Brookside is a large venerable cemetery in Winnipeg. When established it was a long way out on the prairie. Now. although bracketed by airport, Red River Community College and an anonymous landscape of warehouses and asphalt, it retains its charm. The open vista over the runways looking west and the size and forested nature of Brookside preserves a tranquil atmosphere. The afternoon light of the spring sun on last year's grass adds a golden aura broken up by trunks of prairie oak, elm and cedar, reflected by the polished black and red grave markers.

Dad drives by memory (almost) to Mum's grave site. We walk between the rows of stone reading off the names. It takes awhile before we see the large NEUFELD scribed beneath a sunset on a prairie farm landscape. I don't remember the stone so large. In the lower right is “Helen” with a some musical notes accenting her continuing presence. Dad stops, thinks a moment, and then says, “I'd like a hockey stick or a baseball bat.” I promise to pound in a hockey stick next to the gravestone so we can find it easier next time. He seemed satisfied things would be done correctly.

Then we headed off to find Oma and Opa's graves. Dad remembered them between two cedar shrubs but after sometime we gave up and visited Grozsma's grave beside Uncle John with his two wives. His first wife, Helen, was Grozsma's cousin. Grozsma lived with us for many years. The death of her husband and the subsequent challenges of raising four children through the darkest years of the Great Depression broke her spirit. Consequently Mum was raised by Aunt Helen, her namesake. Just after I was born Grozsma moved in and I had the privilege of growing up in a tri-generational household, learning my mother tongue of German and hearing incredible stories about life in Czarist Russia and the horrors of the Bolshevik Revolution visited upon the Mennonites in the Ukraine.

The cemetery office provided a map to Oma and Opa. We'd been close, no longer between two shrubs, the stone was enclosed by the branches into a private niche. Aunt Betty's remains were added to the grave last year and, as with the other grave side visits, the memories of Christmas dinners, my aunt's love for painting, the clean soprano of my mother's singing, the times as a small boy I was brought to tend the grave of her brother Henry, my namesake, and a host of other experiences growing out of the relationships invested in the landscape of Winnipeg came flooding back. Perhaps a little bittersweet, but how poor would be our lives without these memories of challenges overcome, lives lived and the bonds of live tieing us together across geography and through time.