Showing posts from July, 2016

Fireweed not cinders

Fireweed not cinders
Great news from Ryan, our hunky Dawson City Wild Fire Crew dream (I have no idea what he looks like, by the way.) Our cabin is still not cinders and with more rain forecast it’s likely the nearby forest fire will be out. A friend passed by in his boat and has informed us that the brush, mostly fireweed, is now at chest height all over our property. So the cabin is engulfed in fireweed not flames, which is less of a worry. Though now I’m wondering if we’ll even spot it as we head down the river.

Beach landing
Some more good news, there is a beach to land our boat. The river was still frozen when we left in April so we had no idea what was sitting under all that ice.

I’m not good with landing boats. I get confused about left and right, up and down with the outboard motor. You have to do everything in a reverse-mirror Alice in Wonderland fashion. So I have a tendency to be accelerating at high speed bearing left when I mean to be slowing down and drifting right. …

Why we moved to the Yukon wilderness (Neil's version)

Neil's version of events:
Winter 2011, Camberwell south London

I didn’t pay attention when I picked Louise up from Heathrow. She'd just come back from her annual Alaskan pilgrimage (she'd been visiting regularly since before we met). 

I was happy for her to go on her own. The frozen North wasn't my thing. I was more the large pilsener and bratwurst kind of traveller. 

When she mentioned some crazy offer to move to a homestead in the Alaskan wilderness it didn’t quite register. I was in the middle of organising a conference at BSkyB, grappling to get 30 broadband lines installed at a hotel within 72 hours.

Louise and I met whilst rehearsing for a fringe theatre play. I was living in a dingy bedsit in Wimbledon and life wasn’t going anywhere. I'd made an effort to inject some sparkle by taking up acting. 

We hit it off (well, we fell in love) and I moved into her council flat in Brixton. A few years later we bought a mouse-infested place in Camberwell.

I had my own small ma…

Has our cabin and everything we own been burnt to a cinder?

(Lou, July 14th)
Much relieved to say not yet. We woke yesterday to a text from a friend in Dawson City. “Fire near or at our property. Forest fire crews in attendance.” Great. Only 7 hours to wait til 8am Yukon time when we can call Dawson Wildfire and get more detail. 

Mitts and knickers
Everything we own is in and around the cabin. Over the past five years we’ve scrounged/ begged/ bought second hand/ cheap on ebay a fuck of lot of stuff. If the cabin burnt we’d lose everything from our snow machine, chainsaws and generator to saucepans, mitts and knickers. I tried to do a quick calculation of the cost to replace it all but my brain started steaming. And then, oh yes, there is the house. We’d have to rebuild it. 

There is no insurance to cover cabins in the bush. 

Other common events that may destroy our home 
We’d mentally prepared for being wiped out by flood and ice chunks during spring break up. That’s happened to a few people we know and we live right on the banks of the Yukon. We pr…

Why we moved to the Yukon Wilderness (Lou's version)

Lou's version of events:
Winter 2011 Camberwell, South London

We left London and moved to Alaska because I called Neil a moron. 

Neil and I were living in (then) cheap and dowdy Camberwell. Neil had a job at BSkyB, I was working, or often not working, as an actor. We had a lopsided cat (a stroke victim), no kids. 

Life was fine but dull. Not much to complain about, though that never stopped me. 

The far north
I had a passion for the far north and would save all year to spend a couple of weeks in Alaska on dogsledding trips. Neil had a passion for nice food, pubs and comfort so I travelled alone. 

Cabin sitting
Whilst mushing in the Alaskan bush I met a guy, let’s call him Hank, who needed a house-sitter for his remote, off-road homestead and 50-some sled dogs. Six weeks alone in the wilderness! 

I cleared the decks of acting jobs (cancelled one day's role play for a bank, I was in high demand) and returned to Alaska a few months later. 

I didn't burn down his cabin or kill myself an…

Guns, PALs and firearm safety training

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We are still in London and bloody relieved that my PAL (Possession and Acquisition of Firearms Licence) has arrived. Now we can buy guns in Canada. We need them to ensure we stay alive beyond the first few minutes of getting home (see previous blog).
There are frequent news stories about bears eating people on arrival at remote cabins in Canada/ Alaska. Or maybe the stories I've read just stick in my mind.
Brits and Guns
Most Brits get a buzz when they first hold a gun. The wooden stock slots into your shoulder like it was always meant to be there, the barrel is velvet black with a raised sight that begs to be peered through. 

But the thrill of pointing a wood and steel tool at an object in the mid distance fades once you get good enough to hit it or realise you're shit and never will. (I had that experience with 10 pin bowling. The evening descended into a sullen bout of binge drinking and staggering to my feet to…

London preparations for our return to the Yukon

We are in London (population 8,674,000) planning one of the greatest annual challenges for bush-dwellers, the big shop. Our cabin is off the road system and 50 miles from our nearest shop, the General Store in tiny Dawson City (population 1300). There's no Co-op round the corner.  Bush shopping list During autumn and spring the river isn’t negotiable by boat or snow machine so with no road access, the nearest shop may as well be on the moon. When possible the journey can range from being unpleasant to life threatening. So once a year, armed with a shopping list that spans some 4 pages of foolscap, I buy most things we need for the next 6-12 months. Quite a challenge for someone who is used to skipping between Lidl, Superdrug and the 24 hour Tesco on an almost daily basis in London.
Our notional boat This year’s list (see below) includes a truck and a boat with 40 hp engine and all the accessories to make it river worthy, most of which I struggle to imagine. Paddles? Fuel tank? Barr…

Life between London and the Yukon wilderness

Neil and Lou’s story
We live very remote, in a log cabin in the sub Arctic Yukon bush. We are off the road system, off the electricity grid (and off our heads). We came to the Yukon in 2012 from inner city London, two urban middle-aged professionals with not much in the way of survival skills.

I worked as an actor, Neil was a manager at BSkyB.

We'd never used a chainsaw, ridden a snowmachine, driven a boat, got firewood, fished, hunted, pickled... we'd never even made jam but were pretty hot with internal communications plans and line learning.
I always wanted to live in the Alaskan wilderness, Neil didn’t. In fact, far from it. 

I'd watched a Disney film called The Wilderness Family as a small child growing up in Plymouth and fell in love with the freedom and excitement that Alaska seemed to offer. I later found out the film was made in Colorado and set in Canada, so this has all been based on a mistake.

Neil grew up in quiet suburb of well-to-do Winchester. His dreams of adven…