In my twenties, though I’d already done some traveling throughout North America, after my first year at the University of Toronto, something pulled me to the Canadian Far North. Without any particular plan in mind, job, or much money, I jumped on a train and for some reason landed in the Rocky Mountains. (It was so beautiful and dramatic there and I remember taking quick dips in the Athabasca River, which was ice cold.) I met up with a couple of random people there, who were looking for something to do for the summer. I suggested the Yukon and maybe even Alaska. They thought it was a good idea, so the three of us got on the road and started hitch hiking. We were on our way. Rides were pretty good even though there were three of us. When we got to Dawson Creek, Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway, an Alaskan from Anchorage offered us a ride. But he had a flatbed truck with no room in the cab (he had three dogs in there), so if we wanted he said we could ride in the back, in the open. We decided to go for it. Everywhere was wild, pristine and beautiful – mountains, rivers, lakes, and fireweed growing all around. So after a thousand miles of dusty, gravel road, the dust on our bodies and in our hair was so thick you could cut it with a knife. A huge tarp sheltered us from the rain. We had many adventures along the way – bears, moose, rock slides – and many more after that. I remember eating a lot of canned sardines and granola, and sometimes even together. UGH!
Fast forward a couple of years. I landed a job at Mac’s Fireweed Books, the only bookstore in Whitehorse, maybe even in the entire Yukon at the time. It was a great place to work and had an excellent collection of best sellers, classics, and northern books. A lot of people came by, especially travelers on their way to Alaska. It was a thriving place, and despite online competition, today I’m happy to say, it is still thriving.
So now, there it is, Alaska or Bust and Other Stories, after all these years on the shelf at Mac’s Fireweed Books, where I once worked. It’s like going home. The photo was taken by Marcel Gareau, who has a home in Whitehorse and who happens to appear in some of the stories, of which there are 25.