Escape to the Wild - Homer’s television debut

(Lou, Yukon)
After a brief but glorious period of mobility we are stuck again. We had our second snowmachine, Piccolo, for almost two weeks before we broke it.

We had just undertaken our longest journey of the winter so far on it, visiting friends who also live out in the bush.

Big glacial mess
We’d cut a new trail to circumvent the local glacier. The creek has not stopped overflowing and the glacier looks like a rather uninspiring ice sculpture plonked in a moat of slushy water.


Our new trail forms a near vertical ramp down the bank then a rough ride over a pressure ridge and out onto the river. We weren’t sure we’d make it back up but the moat might have frozen in a couple of days, and if not we had ropes and a winch and could spend a tedious few hours pulling the whole damn lot up on our way back.

Trying to get up the ramp on foot
We decided Neil would ride down, then stop before the pressure ridge so we could knock out some of the worst ice chunks with an axe before attempting to drive our precious machine and sled over them.

That’s what we agreed but not what Neil did.

He stopped at the bottom of the ramp, then accelerated straight into the pressure ridge and slammed into a solid chunk of ice.


Piccolo came to an abrupt stop, listing to one side with ski arm stuck out at an ugly angle.

“You’ve broken it!”

Distraught, furious, crying I stormed off down the trail. But the snow wasn’t hard packed so I flailed around, boots punching down into cracks and holes, until I fell over.

Never mind the abandoned visit, the fact we won’t be able to get wood, water or collect the parts for the other broken machine- it was the utter shame of trashing it so quickly. And, by horrible coincidence, not 500 fucking yards from the spot our first machine was stranded for 2 weeks.

I felt so ashamed I decided we’d bury it in the snow and say a pack of wolves ate it.

Thank God it was all Neil’s fault.

We chopped away at the ice to assess the damage with the wild hope that duct tape and baling wire might somehow get us out of this.

In my mind, this will be “The Winter of Broken Snowmachines” but I think we have got a little obsessed. There was nothing wrong with Piccolo! The arm was poking out because the ski was twisted in, but not broken, not even damaged. We were overjoyed. “A lesson learnt!” I said, “we must look after this machine.”

On the way - Forty Mile ghost town
We set off again over the jumble ice, relieved and happy, and it was a full two days before we properly broke the machine and couldn’t use it any more. (See Footnote)

Dropping things on the trail as usual, this time a bow saw
Visiting is always a high point of our winter. The simple pleasure of an evening with friends happens only a handful of times for us. It’s doubly pleasurable because everyone we know here manages to live better than us. Their houses are well insulated with comfortable furniture and efficient stoves. They bring in and store root vegetables, fresh eggs, decent cheese and other delicacies.

At our friend's much nicer house than ours
As we’re away most of the summer, our shopping gets done in a one hit trip so we just don’t have the time or the energy to get beyond the basics.

And when your cabin freezes as frequently as ours, keeping fresh produce would be a full time occupation of moving them from too warm to too cold. We just can’t be assed.

So we were slightly nervous when one of our pals accompanied us back the next day for a return visit. We don’t even have a sturdy chair for him to sit in, let alone Camembert cheese and Sicilian olives.

Sights on the trail - Old Man Rock
As it was, we got back so late and were so exhausted it barely mattered. We could have all lay on the floor and ate dog kibble.


As far as the glacier, the journey was wonderful. It’s lower country up there and I was astounded to round a bend in the river and find the sun waiting on the horizon for us. I tore off my goggles and let the light blaze to the back of my skull for a few glorious minutes.


We have not seen direct sunlight since early November. The snow burned an intense pure white and here and there, jagged wafers of ice caught the light in orange flares.

Fragile wafer of ice catching the fading in sun in the foreground, if you can spot it
Unfortunately, the glacier had continued to overflow and extended its moat by another 20 yards. I went knee deep into the icy water trying to find a trail through. It was impassable. That meant getting two machines and two sleds up the ramp.

We unhitched our sled from Piccolo. We’d deal with that later. There wasn’t much of a run up. I took a gulp of air, clenched my ass cheeks and jammed my thumb on the throttle. I roared up the bank and flew off the top and into the woods like Evel Knievel. Our pal has a super powerful machine so he attempted the ramp with his heavy sled, and almost made it.
Pulling our mate's sled up on a rope
It was getting late by then and poor Homer had been left in his pen so one of us had to rush back to feed him. Seeing as I was already at the top of the ramp, I had a convenient excuse to leave the boys fussing around with ropes and carabiners.

And then our sled
I returned with Homer just in time to help get our sled up, unfortunately.

Homer had been delighted with his enormous dinner and exciting run behind the snowmachine, but things took a nasty turn when he discovered our friend had brought his terrifyingly fierce dog with him.

She is almost a full quarter of Homer’s size and was locked in an insulated travel box, but she did, I admit, growl a little bit. He slunk off into the darkness of the woods whilst we worked, and fretted anxious doggy thoughts.

Grrrrr!
The visit was great fun for everyone except Homer. Our pal’s dog is a petite, chocolate brown Labrador. We brought Homer into the cabin the next day to meet her. She did growl a little bit again, that’s true.

Homer tried to reverse through the heavy wooden door then, realising he couldn’t escape, ran to the farthest darkest corner and curled up like a hedgehog. He was too scared to move and almost wet himself. I had to drag him outside by his collar to make him have a pee some hours later.

Pathetic
I shouldn’t be documenting the cowardly nature of our large and fearsome looking sled dog as he might be about to embark on a TV career as White Fang (from the famous Jack London book set in these parts). At least that’s what Neil and I suspect.


We had a film crew from Channel 4’s Escape to the Wild and presenter Jimmy Doherty here in September. Our episode is to be broadcast next week on Channel 4 in Britain. We won’t be able to see it and have no idea how it turned out. It was fun to do though, and a great testament to my skills as a professional actor.

I spent over 20 years working as an actor. I had a classical training and worked extremely hard but never once got close to playing a lead in an hour-long primetime TV production. Since effectively giving up acting, I have achieved that much longed-for goal with no relevant skills and absolutely no effort in a couple of years.

We’ve even been interviewed by The Sunday Times. If published, it will appear in the “Homes” section. You could not meet two people who care less about home improvements and interior design. I’m sitting here looking at the hastily constructed plywood boards we have as a ceiling thinking, this is a bit of a coup.

Our place looking cute and rustic from a distance
My experience as an actor as taught me not to get too excited about the TV show, though. I once got a small part in Channel 4’s acclaimed comedy Black Books, told everyone and then had my scene cut after filming (I blame Dylan Moran’s terrible comic timing).

And as we looked at the publicity shots, I thought, hang on- Homer seems very, very prominent…

Look how small they've made me
Homer looks like the classic White Fang husky.  Looks are all that matter in television, never mind that he’s still quivering from his brush with the diminutive lab.

We probably won’t see the film until we are next in London though we may able to watch it online. But not til after broadcast, apparently. Why would that be? I know exactly why, they don’t want us to raise hell when we see what they’ve done.

“Escape to the Wild- a husky’s life on the Yukon River. Meet Homer as he grapples with bears and fights off wolves, a modern day White Fang, surviving alone in one of the world’s last great wildernesses.” 

Escape to the Wild. Channel 4, Feb 9th, 9pm. A film about our dog.

Footnote
How we actually broke our machine is so dull it’s barely worth telling. Neil snapped an $8 piece of plastic whilst trying to remove a spark plug. They have these RFI plugs at Northern Industrial in town, but town is 40 fucking miles away. A friend headed this way in a couple of weeks will hopefully bring one. Then we can fix Piccolo and collect the new adjustment pins we need for the other snowmachine which may, by then, have made their way to our Alaskan friend’s house 20 miles away in the other direction. Are you following? No, neither are we anymore.


Broken piece in a clamp, smothered in JB Weld and optimism



Comments

  1. The program was really enjoyable! Respect and love to both of you for your balls to do it!
    Babs x

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  2. Hi. Enjoyed the tv show and a litle glimpse into your incredible life out there. It is tv so I'm sure it has been edited to there likes. It seamed to question your relationship too much which is is your own private matter. The wored seams like a far nicer and simple place so long as nature gives you a break (if very hard work) where you are and wish you all the best. Good luck and keep safe !

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  3. Was fascinated to see a little of your life on the show tonight, and also very interested to find your blog! Well done for making this amazing fantasy life a reality! X

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  4. thanks for your comments. We haven't seen the show so I've no idea what they put in. have to see what we make of it... L

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  5. Liz here again from Facebook! Love reading this post (my little girl is now tucked up in bed), so interesting - and agree with the above, the documentary is wonderful. You're both amazing. So pleased they told us you got the moose three days after Jimmy left! Hope you get to watch it.

    By the way, it's a small world! We live in Southend (but from London) and Jimmy films 'Jamie & Jimmy's Friday Food Feast' at the end of the pier here. A silly thought but... from Southend on Sea to Yukon X

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    Replies
    1. Really small world. Jimmy is lovely, and yes we were very releived to get some meat for the winter. x

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  6. Came across the documentary a while back which is really inspirational, congrats to you both for doing something like this which is sure to motivate others - please keep up the blog posts, will continue to follow with interest.

    Love the pics.

    David

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    Replies
    1. David,

      Thanks so much for your lovely comments. It's really heartwarming to know that you enjoyed the programme and our blog. That really means a lot to us both. Thank you.

      All the best,

      Louise and Neil.

      Delete

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