Alone in the wilderness

Sounds like a gripping adventure movie! Neil went out to work for 10 days and left me at home with the dog.

A haircut for Neil before he left

I did what most people do when their spouse is away. Farted loudly, slept in a star shape and left things lying around in the way.

Superstar consultant, flown out by helicopter

My only crisis was, I couldn’t open a jar of artichoke hearts. Frustrating, but not a plot for a Hollywood film.

Ice fog over the river, taken just before it stopped

I did have one big scare. I promised Neil not to go beyond the outhouse without bear spray and I only forgot once.

I was collecting some wood in the forest behind the house. I thought about going back for it, but hey, the ground is covered in a duvet of snow. Bears should be asleep by now as they hibernate when they can no longer find food. Plus, I was only 300 yards from the house.

Homer never barks unless there is a large invader. A bear, moose or human. He’s scared to bark at wolves and makes a nervous “uff” sound, as if about to turn tail and scarper.

Suddenly, out of sight and crucially, between me and the house, Homer barked, once “Woof!” Then two more times “Woof! Woof!” This means something is in the yard and hasn’t run at his first warning.

I remembered the poor mother and child killed this time last year by a grizzly. I remembered our friend shot an enormous grizzly that he believed was stalking him only a few weeks ago. I thought how far 300 yards is if you’re running for your life.

Try running in this

I started the Skidoo and edged down the hill hoping the noise would frighten the intruder. Homer came into view, not barking now, but staring. Staring… up into a tree. At a fucking squirrel.

He has never barked at a squirrel in his life, so I guess this was a joke. Very funny Homer, but a rather weak climax for our wilderness adventure thriller.

The day the river stopped

I’ve spent a lot of time alone in the bush now. Some years, Neil has been out working until late December (or so he claims) and what I notice is I listen more.

I listen for every creak in our cabin, every soft, snowy footfall and single cracked twig. I am not paranoid, I don’t worry and I do it almost without realising, as if something switches on in my brain.

Ice piled at the river's edge

The truth is, the most frightening thing I could see at this time of year would be a person. The river has stopped. The ice jammed on November 9th, but the temps have been mild since then and it isn’t safe enough to travel far yet.

Getting the boat up the bank for winter storage

No one can come in by boat, dog team or snowmachine. No one can sneak up by helicopter and there is nowhere to land a plane. The mountains are too drifted with snow to bushwhack 20 miles from the nearest mining track down steep, brush-tangled slopes. I was profoundly alone.

Sun dog, caused when sunlight refracts in airborne ice crystals

If someone made it here they would probably be in a bad way and possibly demented, else why on earth would they have come? And that thought is more terrifying than having a bear in the yard, which we do on occasion.


I have a hunting tag to kill a bear, but not a weirdo, and there perhaps lie the real bones of my Hollywood thriller.

Happily, Neil got back before Homer could play any more pranks.

At the water hole

There is a lot to do when you are alone in the bush. Nothing comes at the flick of a switch or the twist of a tap. We get fuel from trees and water in buckets from the creek, but we’ve had one major leap forward.

Our high tech office

Electric light! Can there really be such a thing? Imagine little bits of sun stuck to a tape which we connect to the boat battery, and they shine! This miracle is called LED lighting.

Sundog and husky

We’ve avoided it for our first 6 winters here. Having spent all our lives in cities, and despite the long hours of darkness, we enjoy the sepia glow of oil lamps and candles. But Neil’s eyesight is failing, and he needs back-lighting for work on the computer. It is all for him and I still refuse to wear my reading glasses.

Moonshine on the river

Next step will be Siri or Alexa, a virtual helper for an Internet of Bush Things. “Siri, turn the lights on. Make sure the battery’s charged. Take the generator outside, pull the start cord and put it in the insulated box, then plug the cable in. Maybe it needs some gas?- oh never mind.”

It’s never going to work. We need a robot. Having mastered “on demand” sunbeams, how hard can it be to make one?

Hoisting the last log up, the ridge pole

Perhaps we’ll finish the new log cabin first. I mentioned in my last blog we’d left 3 sheets of roofing tin at the Builders Merchant.

Good job we remembered to mark where we left the tin

Later we realised we were one pair of rafters short too, but who’s counting? (Not us, clearly.) There is just enough tin to cover the actual log work, so we decided to put it up anyway.

Cutting the gable ends

Then we realised we had the wrong tin. This stuff is for town, and without special fitted batons that go underneath, you cannot squirrel-proof it as the ridges are too high. Beneath it, we are laying hundreds of dollars’ worth of fluffy fibre glass insulation/ nesting material.

Notching small logs for the gables

As we have no ceiling, just a layer of plastic vapour barrier, squirrels will be able to chew though a shit load of valuable construction materials and straight into the cabin itself, faster than I can shoot them.

Checking gables are flat with a plank

I have a great recipe for squirrel leg marinade, and they make a tasty fried snack. But if we are away for a few weeks, they really can cause a lot of damage.

First sheet of tin. Rafters and lathing in place

We have started putting the wrong tin up anyway. God knows what we will do with the gaps. Stuff them with dead squirrels maybe.

Very, very cold day

The day we started on the roof, it dropped to -28C, but then warmed up rapidly a few days later. This happened when we replaced the old cabin roof too, so someone likes a laugh at our expense. But, boy, were they beautiful days.

Now, we have snow on snow on snow and with the gently falling flakes comes the feeling that none of it matters any more. The roof will be finished one day, and then will quickly be lost under a new layer of white.

The river ice is still thin in places, and very wet at the edges. After a day of trying, we gave up on getting a trail to town until we have more cold weather.

Water at the river's edge

Testing ice depth

Trail on the creek collapses as ice thins in mild weather

We will let the plot of our lives unravel for the time being and enjoy our abundance of alone-ness and snow, in our own soft-focused, gently paced adventure.

We'll try for town again next week, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there is so much snow by then, we can’t find it. Dawsonites- please shine a light into the sky if you hear us coming.

By the way, I don't use any filters on these pics, except to lighten some of the dark ones. nature does the rest for me.


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