Category Archives: TRAVEL

MAY 13, 1982 BABY BOY READY FOR PICK UP IN CANADIAN ARCTIC

It was a beautiful morning, May 13, 1982, to be exact, when the call came through.  Baby boy Angualik was born  at the nursing station in Cambridge Bay NWT (now Nunavit).!” Come as soon as you can”, they said.

Why are they calling us ?  Because, arrangements had been made for him to be adopted by us.  Alberta social services had done their home study, my bag was packed and ready to go.

So, early the next morning, armed with the proper documents, some baby clothes and blankets, Alex took me to the Edmonton Airport.  It was very exciting and a little daunting, to fly that great distance into the northern wilderness to pick up a baby boy.  In the Yellowknife airport I kept my eyes open to see if I could recognize anyone.

It was time to board the plane to Cambridge Bay and I saw our flight attendant in her northern parka, and the pilot in coveralls loading  supplies into the D-C 3, yes, a  world War Two plane which is now 80 years old, and many are still flying. It shuddered and shook for take off and the northern landscape of muskeg, scrub trees sank beneath us. Now to cover the 852 Km . to Cambridge,

Next stop was Cambridge Bay, a place I had never been, but these little hamlets look similar, just shocking to see civilization after the vastness of the Arctic.Our friend, Janet McGrath was at the airstrip to meet me.  She spent her childhood in the Arctic communities . Her father had been working for the government and Janet learned the Inuktitut language We had previously agreed that she  would  take me to the home of baby Timothy’s grandmother.  I was so grateful for this, otherwise I would have felt like I was  snatching him away.

We walked to her house. I am sure there was still snow on the ground, in mid May, however, it was mild and sunny.  With the advent of home heating oil, in those communities, their houses were very, very warm. They hadn’t perfected the “room temperature”concept.  To make it more complex, women traditionally  kept their babies on their backs in their parkas, so I saw ladies sweating inside their homes  with the heat so high, adorable babies peeking over their shoulder.

Janet introduced me to Grandmother, whom she said is the one who is in charge of children’s welfare.  Her house was very neat and clean, and her grandson is also very tidy. I asked her how she felt about me taking this baby away from the community, which I knew was unusual.  Many babies were raised by grandmas and aunties, but in the same hamlet.

She began to apologize because she had raised, I think she said 10 children, plus some grandchildren too,  and  felt she couldn’t take on another, . She said maybe this was a baby with a special mission.   I couldn’t disagree with her.  Every child we raise has  a special mission, and that usually is to change us a little or a lot. After this very positive visit, we made our way to the nursing station. There we met baby’s Mom, who for whatever complicated reasons,  felt unable to raise this precious boy, handed him to me, with a tear in her eye. I am sure it was a difficult moment for her.

Now to get back to the airport to catch that old warhorse of an airplane back to Yellowknife.  The thing about these planes, Alex had also experienced them often, they were either very cold or very hot. Probably, to do with what part of the plane you sat in. Back in the eighties, smoking was still allowed in planes, I have to confess, that might have been the longest plane ride I ever had (mentally anyway).  In the heat and smoke,  there I sat with a tiny boy that was less than two days old.  But of course he slept and I just stared into his sweet face, trying to prepare myself for what was ahead.  There wasn’t a thing I could do about the heat or smoke or how looooong it was taking. Head winds were extreme, and the flight that was relatively on schedule that morning was now seemingly going on forever.

Eventually, after dark, we made it to the Yellowknife airport and I took a taxi, to the Explorer Hotel.  I settled in for the night, making a little “bed” for baby boy on my bed.  I came prepared with baby formula in a can, but failed to bring along a opener. So at 2 am, I called the front desk to see if they had a opener. The young man  said

“the kitchen is locked, I could bring my knife up”. That sounded a little “off”, but I agreed. .Up he came and delivered  a very “sterile” jab into the can.

Next morning back to the airport and the 1000 miles back to Edmonton, where big brother and two sisters and Dad awaited with bated breath.

What a joy he was to look after, with so much help, always someone to hold and entertain Timothy Ian Morrison.

This is a very short version of how Timmy became part of our lives.

There could be much more written, about how much pleasure YOU  HAVE BROUGHT INTO OUR LIVES,  HAPPY BIRTHDAY TIM, WE LOVE YOU.!

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Happy handsome boy

Happy handsome boy

Big sister Janine and the

Big sister Janine and the “rabbiy”

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OUR TRIP TO THE PHILIPPINES IN APRIL 2007

I have been meaning to share this experience with my little band of readers and because this past week was the eighth anniversary of my son Jonathan and his wife Joy’s nuptials in the Philppines ,this seems like a good time.  It honors their committment and also it is the last trip Alex and I made together. There were  a few folks who thought it was too much for Alex, or maybe too much for me.  I am thankful we made the effort, the more of this world I can see the better, the best part  being all the wonderful people we met.

I never expected to get to Hong Kong and contrary to the title of an earlier blog  named “ The Joy of not Planning”  this was a time to plan carefully. After weeks of planning, booking hotels and connecting flights, printing hard copies of flight confirmations, with the hope, they would be honored when we arrived  on the other side of the world, we zipped our bags and Tim put them in the van for us.

The flight took us north over Alaska and Russia with  dazzling sunshine and endless mountain ranges. Were we fleeing the night or flying into sunshine?  Alex seemed to be energized while he read Measure of a Man by
Sidney Poitier.

We arrived in Hong Kong and what a large well run airport. With his cane, Alex managed the long line up for customs and finally we made our way to catch our shuttle bus to the Holiday Inn Express.  ( I took no chances on a bargain place to stay). We fell into a deep sleep.

Looking out of the Holiday Inn in the early morning

Looking out of the Holiday Inn in the early morning  I saw folks setting up for market.

I ventured out into the streets, but Alex was just too tired from the long flight.  The little I saw of Hong Kong was a real mixture of modern and traditional.  The Mall across the street, Times Square, was perhaps the most “high end ” mall I have ever seen.  The market was more timeless

Hong Kong fruit and vegetable market

Hong Kong fruit and vegetable market

After we recovered, we flew onto Manila, where we met Jon and his friend  Kel from Vancouver, in another Holiday Inn (which by the way was half the price of the Hong Kong one) Yes my flight and hotel confirmations were all accepted.

Travelling with Jon Joy and Kel from Manila to Baguio City, Joys home.

Travelling with Jon Joy and Kel from Manila to Baguio City, Joys home.

Jeepneys are a popular mode of travel, ( modified US military jeeps from yesteryears)

Jeepneys are a popular mode of travel, ( modified US military jeeps from yesteryears)

As we travelle toward our destination, pine trees began to appear.

As we travelled  toward our destination, pine trees began to appear.

Jon and Joy on the trip to Baguio City

Jon and Joy on the trip to Baguio City

Finally, we arrived at Baguio City to find pine trees, and moderate temperatures.  The hotel I booked from home was so pleasant, with open beamed pine logs, it reminded us of British Columbia or Jasper Alberta.

We could not have asked for a more pleasant dinning room, one whole wall missing. Just couldn't get the

We could not have asked for a more pleasant dinning room, one whole wall missing. Just couldn’t get the “toasted bread” concept. Wonderful service otherwise.

I will always recall the roosters crowing in the yard below us, and the chickens running about, and the fresh eggs served in the dinning room. Now came the amazing hospitality of all Joys relatives, taking us out to one restaurant after another lunch and dinner.  All  our travel was in taxis, who had wonderful music playing and always help for Alex to get in and out cabs.

One of Joys aunt thoroughly enjoying her oyster.

One of Joys aunt thoroughly enjoying her oyster.

Dessert!!

DesserDessert!!

The relatives at our hotel one lunch.

The relatives at our hotel one lunch.

Another super evening at a lodge that was just lovely

Another super evening at a lodge that was just lovely

Finally, the wedding day arrives, and we travel downtown to the Episcopal cathedral for the western ceremony.

See the traditional wedding shirt for bridegrooms, Alex wore one too.

See T choir was spectacular coming from the upstairs balcony.  We Gather together to  Ask the Lords blessing

Joy and Jon at the alter.  Take note of the Phillipine wedding shirt for men. Alex wore one also.

Joy and Jon at the altar  Take note of the Phillipine style wedding shirt for men. Alex wore one also.

The next day there is  the traditonal wedding from Joy’s tribe.  It was held on her parents’ property and there were probably 1,000 (yes) in attendance. Pigs were slaughtered in the back yard (this was a shocker for Kel, who is from West Van, as it would be for so many of us). Rice was cooked in great quanities, as well. Joy wasn’t necessarily aquainted with everyone, but it is a tradition to show up at all the weddings of your tribe and bring some pesos, to start the young couple off in life.  I believe Jon and Joy gave the pesos to her parents.

People kept streaming through all afternoon,

People kept streaming through all afternoon,

The building in the background is the Pentecostal church.

The building in the background is the Pentecostal church.

An abandoned gold mine where Joy's father worked years ago, today a tourist spot.

An abandoned gold mine where Joy’s father worked years ago, today a tourist spot.

I was fascinated to see the similarities of their dancing and the Inuit drum dancing.  What generous and hospitable people, whether in the stores, or taxis, or wherever we were, I agree with a travel writer I read once.  “The Phillipines are a nation of gracious people”   I know there are always exceptions , but I can whole heartedly agree with that statement.

As you can imagine, we were nearly worn out from all the festivities, and I still regret that Alex was not stable enough on his feet to get to the traditional wedding.

It might have been the next day, we flew on a small plane back to Manila and now I was smart enough to get a wheelchair for Alex.  They put us into a taxi to get to the other part of the airport, and there were literally lanes full of taxis, lined up.  When we pulled up outside the terminal where we were to get our flight to Hong Kong, I was so concentrating on getting Alex into another wheelchair, and gathering our luggage, I missed a small carry on bag in the back seat.  As I struggled to get Alex into a lineup outside the terminal  the realization struck me, that I didn’t have my tickets. Looking over the sea of taxis, I wondered  how this was going to turn out. I remember being conscious of  having wanted to tip the driver, and was out of pesos, now I left Alex in the line up and went to look for help. I found a small police station and told them my plight.  Miraculously,I had the receipt from the taxi, and that made it so they could contact the cab company, and ask that driver to return. RELIEF !!  I think by the time he returned I found a cash machine and got his tip, which he certainly deserved.  I have so often been the recipient  of mercy.

In the lineup to get into the Maila airport.

In the lineup to get into the Maila airport.

It is not a clear memory now, but we made it back to Hong Kong, and by now I was clued into the convenience of sleeping in the airport hotel, which is a great boon to anyone handicapped.  So that way, someone pushed him from arrivals right to our hotel door, and in the morning took us to departures.

All went smoothly, and the flight home travelling over  Japan straight to Vancouver was much quicker.

Sadly, Joy and Jon barely got back to Toronto and they got word that Joys father passed.  He had looked well at the wedding.  We were privileged to meet him and I will post a picture of him  to him memory.  He and Joys Mom were gracious hosts.

Probably the most expensive hotel we ever had, but worth it in this case.

Probably the most expensive hotel we ever had, but was worth it.

Leaving Hong Kong

Leaving Hong Kong

DOMINGO BATNE Joy's father

DOMINGO BATNE
Joy’s father

Domingo and Adele Batne.

Domingo and Adele Batne.

A “WEE” CRUISE TO HAWAII

GRAND PRINCESS

GRAND PRINCESS

boarding ship in vancouver

On March 22, my friend Debora, from Victoria and I met on the ship, docked at beautiful Canada Place, to start our Hawaiian adventure. Had we wanted to get to Hawaii in five hours instead of Five Days, we would have taken West Jet or Air Canada, but that wasn’t the program.  Being new to cruising, I was aware that some folks get sea sick, and I had  tucked some Gravol into my suitcase. However, I am pleased to say, no sickness. Yes, there was some pitching and tossing, but not too serious. There were about four days of sailing in cool weather, gorgeous blue water and a never ending horizon.

100_2815Our days were filled with meals, some great lectures by  a retired UBC physicist that challenged our thinking and made us laugh. Did I mention eating?  Buffet?  dinning room ,  a good time to meet all those Western Canadians, from Lower Mainland, Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Prince George, Ft. St John, Edmonton, Calgary and on and on.

Finally, on the fourth day, the sun was hot and the deck chairs filled up. Our stateroom was nearby this one, and that is my little pool that I frequented very early in the morning, watching the day dawn.Finally, early on the fifth day, we saw land, after having seen only water, for the four previous days, not a ship, not a whale, not even a seagull.

FINALLY TIME TO GET INTO THE SUN.

FINALLY TIME TO GET INTO THE SUN.

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The wait staff were exceptional, in attitude and dedication, and looked after us on the deck, which was our favorite spot to dine. In the late afternoon on the Piazza, a three-piece ensemble, piano, bass and a  terrific violinist provided  just beautiful music in an open and casual setting. A highlight of the time on ship.100_2883

Beach at Waikiki

Beach at Waikiki

A PERFECT DAY ON MAUI

A GORGEOUS DAY ON MAUI

DEBORA ENJOYING BREAKFAST OUTSIDE

DEBORA ENJOYING BREAKFAST OUTSIDE

After the five days of travel to Hawaii, we spent four days touring four islands, and then we turned toward Vancouver and spent another five days and night returning . Finally, early the morning of April 6, I thought the ship had stopped and I quickly went on deck and discovered we were back at CANADA PLACE, WITH THE SUN RISING , QUITE BEAUTIFUL!  AND  VERY  GRATEFUL TO BE SAFELY DOCKED.

CANADA PLACE. APRIL 6

CANADA PLACE. APRIL 6

The day before was April 5, and it was two years since Alex left us.  Princess Lines was celebrating their 50th Anniversary and Alex and would have celebrated 50 years this June, so it seemed rather celebratory.  It would have been wonderful to have him with me, he would have enjoyed George, our physicist who lectured, but I think our road trips were hard to beat for his liking.

I found a picture of Alex taken when he still had lots of energy  and enthusiasm for living. which I am going to share with you today.

“please pass the ice cream. on the other hand I’ll reach over and get it myself”

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THANKSGIVING IN QUEBEC 2014

100_2558 100_2560Just arrived back from Quebec, last evening, having been visiting Sharon, Alex’s sister and Ken Schmucker and their family.  It was very enjoyable and 100_2575100_2563of course the weather cooperated to showcase the beauty of the countryside.

I tried out the MegaBus, that offers inexpensive travel from downtown Toronto to downtown Montreal . It was squishy but adequate and all went as planned.

Ken and Sharon’s second house is nestled north and west of their present farm location across from a lake and among trees, trees trees.

The tiny villages with the church spires are more picturesque than I can describe.  Always, with such tidy houses, and as we went on   a tour of garage sales, it was a chance to get close to their very very neat homes, some sitting right on the edge of the pavement. Sharon speaks French so that was just as well.  I started to recall some of the phrases my sister in law Pauline taught me when I lived in Quebec. I was looking for a book to read on the my return trip, but had no success finding one in English. I am so proud of Sharon, who didn’t even study  French in high school, now reads French books, and has no problem with it. It was an enjoyable day wandering through tiny villages, and colorful countryside.100_2565

We then drove to Rawdon, to see the falls there. What a treat to see it again after so many years. It is pristine and a pleasure to hike around the area.

Beautiful pines at Rawdon Falls

Rawdon Falls

Sharon’s family was coming for  a thanksgiving feast the next day. We walked down to the lake across from their house, where they keep a kayak and a canoe, which Sharon uses frequently. She wondered if I wanted to go out. I declined,  I haven’t picked up the Morrison family’s  absolute comfort around water.

100_2578 She would have jumped into the canoe or kayak  without hesitation.100_2580

The whole weekend, the Canada geese had a convention on this little lake.  I kept my little “french” window open the whole night and I tell you the cacophony and racket  they would make at times just caused me to wonder WHAT ARE THEY DOING?  Do any of you have an idea?  I saw the same thing in Edmonton on a lake where Alex and I used to walk.  A group of them  would  take off and and then land again, and then the loud honking conversation.  My theory, I think it is a training time for the young that were just hatched early this spring. What else could drive them to  such  loud arguing but a bunch of teenagers that won’t take instructions on how to fly in formation, and say,”I am not flying that far away”  Something like that, I know the animal world communicates.

Sharon and Ken’s sons and their partners, a delightful bunch, all came for Monday and got right into leaf raking.

Brian and Joele's boys, Alex and Ben and Uncle Dan.

Brian and Joele’s boys, Alex and Ben and Uncle Dan.

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Brian, was tied up with getting his combine going, so sadly missed the turkey feast.

Thanks Ken and Sharon for a wonderful weekend.

AN ARCTIC SUMMER PART I 1977

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MORRISON KIDS WITH LOCAL CHILDREN

Alex was now contracted by the Government of the Northwest Territories to build on-site fuel storage depots in a number of Arctic communities to take care of their heating, electricity etc. Looking back I am amazed how he and Bob managed to get equipment to hamlets that had no road access. It required getting equipment onto barges the previous summer.

We are all aware of the plight of our First Nations people. I want to include some of our observations, having lived and worked in Yellowknife and an additional 1,000 km north, on the Arctic Islands.

Alex was unusually moved by his experience in HOLMAN on Victoria Island. He arranged to use the RCMP trailer for accommodation for he and probably two others. He was amazed to hear that the police only visited once a month because there really was no crime. He was equally gratified to find that the barrels of fuel he had shipped in the year before, had sat on the beach all winter in view of the town and all the men and their snowmobiles, and not a drop had been stolen. He was also very affected by how happy the children were. This was pre -television days in this hamlet. Here is the unhappy ending to this tale. A year after television arrived courtesy of the Federal Government, the Hudson Bay store was vandalised . Eventually, if my memory serves, all the windows of the northern stores were boarded up in the pursuant years, but cannot speak to the current situation.INUIT WOMEN IN HOLMAN

NORMAN WELLS is an oil town. The Scottish explorer, Alexander MacKenzie http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Mackenzie_(explorer)saw oil first in 1789 and by 1937 a refinery had been built, and it was a crucial source of fuel during the second world war, supplying the Yukon and Alaska.
Alex, Bob and Ernie our welder from Hay River, flew in there and built a tank in the early summer. When school was over, Jonathan, Michelle, Janine and I flew from Yellowknife to join them, on a fine summer evening. There still is no road access into this town, other than an ice road in the winter.

Once there, we boarded a small chartered plane to fly us to our next destination FT GOOD HOPE, 145 km north, also on the beautiful Mackenzie River. Checking the population, I find there was about 500 people there in 2012, a shrinking population, but I doubt there was even this many, when we were there, 37 years ago. Flying north into the midnight sun, made a long day.

We landed and I remember we were taken to the local School Hostel. It could be called a residential school, but it was empty now, as all the children had gone back to their communities. I was thrilled to be able to cook for family and crew with a very adequate government issue kitchen, with bedrooms for our us all. How did Alex arrange all this? Now as our supplies were unloaded from the plane and taken to the hostel, the local men came out of the surrounding area, to check us out.There was handshaking and introductions. When one man extended his hand to Alex and said his name, Jonas K???, Alex went into amazement mode and said to the poor man,(Jonathan,10 at the time, remembers this well) “How did you get here?” Poor Jonas looked blank and as Alex repeated his question, again, he made a little nod with his head and said he had walked.

More amazement,as Alex’s brain was trying to figure this out, but there are no more planes today. Alex had hired a welder named Jonas C?? over the phone who was supposed to meet us in Norman Wells, to fly in with our charter, but didn’t show. So, now Alex was wondering how he could have possibly got there before us. When Alex told the story he always included, ” just another crazy white man”. The next morning in came the welder Jonas, his own private charter, charged to the crazy white man.
In this small community of Dene and Slavey people, I recall the children coming to our door by age groups, five year olds for Janine, 9 year olds for Michelle and boys for Jonathan. Jon says there wasn’t much communication, they were from different worlds. There were ripe berries in season, I wish I could remember what they were, but the current craze for the children was to clutch a plastic bag with berries and after they were squeezed into a thick juice to enjoy, leaving plenty on their faces.Such a simple pleasure, but what struck me there in that community, was how the children that came by wanted to know my name. They didn’t want to know Mrs Morrison, they needed to know my name!! It was interesting to me. One boy was trying to tell me who he was, and he said , “he used to be my father and now he is my uncle.”
This made sense to him, as a fairly large proportion of babies are raised by their grandmothers. Among the Inuit, it was common for a girl to give her first child to her mother. Also, possibly to a sister who had not had a baby recently and had a very young baby already. It was not considered rejection and the child was fully aware who his birth mother was. “It takes a community to raise a child” right?
I remember we would try to keep regular working hours, and would attempt getting to bed before midnight with  children were playing merrily under our window, in the daylight. Then if I would go to the CO-o, for food the next morning , it would be deserted,everyone still sleeping.
The other remarkable landmark in this pretty little community was the Our Lady of Good Hope church, built in the 1860’s. Missionaries had  arrived from France , I saw the large tombstones in the graveyard there. They were responsible for the log church that looked unremarkable from the outside, but anything but ordinary inside. The interior was painstakingly painted with frescoes over every wall and even the ceiling. I will include a current picture from the web. It appears they have done an upgrade which includes a very dramatic starry ceiling.
I’ll see you soon at our next stop north in FT MCPHERSON

2005-07-06 Church at Fort Good Hope

AN ARCTIC SUMMER PART 2 1977

Hello again. We are having a NWT summer to remember, and we were ready to leave Ft. Good Hope to travel up to Ft McPherson, named after another Scotsman explorer from  the mid 1800. Those Scottish explorers were a hardy bunch. This town of around 900 is just 95 miles south of Inuvik, and the Dempster Highway was open at that time from McPherson to Inuvik, but was not connected south of there, so flying is what we did.  There were 8 of us with welders, and our family, plus everyone’s baggage which always made us a little nervous. The northern pilots are known to push the limits. I do remember flying “through” mountains, not over.! Not sure what that meant, but gratefully we arrived safely.

Now, if I recall, Alex and Bob needed to scramble to get to a destination where our Jayco trailer and welding truck had been off loaded from a barge. We were counting on the trailer for our camp kitchen and sleeping accommodation for our family. We got a lift into town, and I recall Ernie, our welder, who was a descendant of another explorer, named Camsell, with an Inuit mother, warned me that we might find some unfriendliness among the locals.  He said the elders nearly “worship ” white people and the youth are sometimes resentful.  Now that Bob and Alex were gone, that left our children and I with the obviously non white welders to wander about town.  We went into a “cafe” but discovered it was not suitable to get service for some reason or other.

The urgent need was to find accommodation for the crew, and we were not  having any success.  Sometime during the afternoon, we met up with a white man and I told him we were looking for a place to park our trailer and possibly sleeping quarters for the crew.   Just as it should be, it seems,  this gentleman had a log house and a place to park the trailer.!! They were Baptists there on a mission, and guess where they were from,  near Columbiana Ohio, and he knew my sister’s husband and family. So, when Alex and Bob returned with the truck and trailer, Alex was relieved the sticky situation was no longer an issue. You just couldn’t make that connection by calling from Yellowknife, now could you?

Ernies, wife and two children came to join us, and I got a different slant from her on the now unsavory story of Residential Schools.  Her grandmother came from Mexico, and ran a store , and for her the residential school was a life saver. In her words it prepared her for the white world, and she was completing a Social work degree at the time. She was so involved in helping the northern children and women. I have always appreciated knowing her and getting her take on one of the difficult situations the Canadian Government has gotten into.  Also, Wally Firth, the first  First Nations member of Parliament, 1972 was from Ft. McPherson.  Alex sat on a plane with George Erasmus, and many of the people of our generation, who were in leadership, were all products of the residential schools. So fortunately, some good came from them. It is so tragic that so many of those in authority violated those trusting children.  When you understand how the Inuit families lived a nomadic life, hunting and fishing  it seemed good at the time, I am sure,  the children would need to be educated.

We settled into our little camp, while the men went off to the work site everyday, by the river.   The following pictures show something of our life there. As I recall, though the children were having a good time, I believe the men were struggling with the tank construction, most likely, because Alex had introduced an improvement to his coil un-winder, and was working out the bugs.

The deadline for completion was real. Due to the fact the barge coming up the river with the years fuel supply was coming on the customers schedule, and it was up to us to have the tank ready to accept said fuel.  There were regular phone calls from “the south”, probably Yellowknife or Hay River, trying to get Alex to promise he would be ready. He was trying hard not to promise something he couldn’t do. Huge fines would be levied, for every day he kept the barge waiting, they threatened.   So, August passed, and Jon and Michelle needed to go back to Yellowknife to go to school.  It was decided that Janine and I fly back to Yellowknife with them and then return after the two school children were settled with Alex’s sister Margaret and their two little girls in our house. That meant getting to Inuvik for a commercial flight to Yellowknife. DOES ALEX MAKE THE DEADLINE?? TO BE CONTINUED

Arriving in Ft McPherson

Arriving in Ft McPherson

Michelle and Janine, on the Peel River Ferry crossing, travelling to Inuvik.

Michelle and Janine, on the Peel River Ferry crossing, travelling to Inuvik.

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A study in roots, arms and legs, at the Peel River beach.

A STUDY IN ROOTS ARMS AND LEGS AT THE PEEL RIVER BEACH

THE HIGH LINE

This story was requested by Alex’s sister Sharon and also, by Owen my brother in law from Ohio, who just loved Alex’s life and story telling, and has often told us how he regretted not coming to Yellowknife to see us.  This is a difficult one for me to share, because of the trauma I experienced on that very High mountain road in British Columbia, between Whistler and  Lillooet. I have  just spent an hour sitting in the lovely breeze under thick maple tree canopy deciding whether I would or not.

It starts back in Yellowknife.

In 1978, Alex bid for more tanks in the eastern Arctic, for the Government of the Northwest Territories and attended the bid opening and found out he was the lowest bidder.  Now, his father died and after attending the funeral and returning to Yellowknife, he had an appointment with the purchasing department and found out they gave the job to a Calgary company. It was somewhat of a blow and after some time he realized his opportunities for business here was dependent on one customer, the government of NWT.

So by the next spring we were ready to head back to Edmonton.  We asked Alex’s brother Daniel and his wife Janet, if they would drive our welding truck with some furniture, while we piled into our Motor Home that we traded our Suburban in for. When we got to Edmonton, we stored our truck with furniture and took on Daniel and Janet and went to see Victoria BC.  Of course it was like a fantasy land, gardens, water falling from rock cuts, huge fir trees, blooming rhododendron, plus  the ocean with all the gentle islands.  Daniel and Janet flew back to Yellowknife .

We crossed on the ferry and headed north of Vancouver to Squamish and Alex saw a road that went beyond Whistler and meandered over the mountains back to the main highway heading east.
After Whistler, we got to a place where we were stopped and told the road was closed and we would need to go back to Vancouver the way we had come. This seemed just too much to accept, with so much incredible scenery to be seen!

” Is there no other way to get across there?” asked Alex.

“Well”, said one man to the other, there is the HIGH LINE”( Did I detect a wink  wink? ) Alex was eager to hear about the alternative route.

“We recommend four wheel drive, but it hasn’t rained lately, so you should make it” Should make it? That sounded dubious to me.

The rough gravel road extends from south to north, from D’Arcy to Seton Portage, 33 kilometres (21 miles). It travels along the west side of the lake. The gravel route is referred to as the Highline Road and is a very popular route for dirt biking and atving in the summer and snowmobiling in the winter.( Found this on the web,  dirt bikes YES , motor homes NO. the longest 21 miles in my life)

Off we went, and the climb was incredible, and the scenery was spectacular.

So pleased to find a picture to show some of the more reasonable road

So pleased to find a picture to show some of the more reasonable road

Beautiful BC from the High Line Trail

Beautiful BC from the High Line Trail

As we kept climbing the road narrowed and became narrower until it was scary to look out my window.  Alex drove as close to the mountain as possible and all we could do was hope the two right side wheels had earth beneath them. My stomach was in a turmoil. Not being one to “freak out” in front of the children, I tried to remain calm.  Alex spoke encouraging words to the children and even found humour .  Now we had one passenger that did not try to hide her terror.  Cinnamon our cat, who picked our house in Yellowknife one terribly cold night, and had ever since showed her gratitude, and not a typical “catitude”was riding up on the big bunk above the drivers seats with Jonathan. All at once she made a mad jump down, with a shriek and dove under my feet and tried to get into the heater duct.  That should tell you something, for a cat to see the danger.  The thing I remember as we proceeded, there was no way to turn around, was how long this went on. It wasn’t just a short lived  terror.  At one point, the road had been eroded at one spot and our vehicle came to a stop, with a hill to climb.  Alex knew the peril and said , “lets pray”.  As I recall the prayer was very short and in essence was, “Lord I have done it again(pushed the limit) please help.” He eased that bulky motor home  out of park and put it back into low and it took off and up the mountain.Hallelujah, but still we were not through this trial.  I call it the agony and ecstasy because of nearly unbelievable view of mountain tops. (yes we were up there with the peaks)  and the thought, what will it feel like to tumble down off this precipice? There was no thought of taking pictures, my knuckles were too white.!!.

Anyway, as you know we did survive, but  it was hard for me not blame Alex for putting us into that situation, but of course the men that told us we SHOULD  make it were also under my judgement.

We made it Calgary and I will add this just to see what you think, about the next part of the story. Someone had recommended a church in Calgary that we should visit, so we found it on a sunny Sunday, walking in, not knowing a soul, choosing a bench  near the back with our family.  At one point in this meeting a women stood up,  very near to us,and began to speak.  I will never forget how it started.  “There is a high mountain road” , and she likened God to the mountain and she even said that we must keep as close to the mountain as possible and not be distracted by  the view. She described the experience that was still occupying my thoughts and emotions.  In essence the message was we would encounter some difficult times, but that we must keep focused on God our source.

We were stunned and a little bewildered . And yes, there were some difficult times, less of  what we would call miraculous interventions.  That is when you dig deep and search for truth, constantly making adjustments to our beliefs, and hopefully getting to KNOW,  not just believe.

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