By Marcia Love
I didn’t think it was possible to cram as much awesome into seven days as what I managed to over the last week. I was left mentally and physically exhausted when I arrived home, but it was well worth it to knock a few things off my bucket list, catch up with old friends who used to live in Maple Creek and make some fantastic memories.
The fun began with a trip to Whitehorse, a journey into Alaska (my first time in the United States, believe it or not), and wrapped up with my very first Calgary Stampede.
Former Maple Creekers Keith and Carol Friendship were excellent hosts and tour guides during my week in Whitehorse.
It’s a goal of mine to see every provincial and territorial capital and drive across the country from coast to coast – preferably before I conquer anywhere overseas. Not only is it personally enlightening, but being well-educated on our own country’s culture and history is our best defense against those who are oblivious to it. (Someone actually suggested to me I should try polar bear while in the Yukon. I think he was joking… I hope he was joking.)
Whitehorse has done an amazing job of capitalizing on the tourism opportunities the area has to offer. There are even agents in Europe who assist in promoting the Yukon to locals there. I had no idea the area was as big of a tourist destination as it is, with many coming from Germany.
Business owners in Whitehorse, Carcross and Skagway, Alaska have invested much time and energy into preserving the feeling of being there during the Gold Rush, with rustic clapboard buildings, train rides and wooden walkways.
En route to Skagway, I was able to take in the most breathtaking view of the trip. Emerald Lake is a place I’ve only seen in photographs in calendars, but it’s even more beautiful to see firsthand.
From there it was on to the Carcross desert, where the sand dunes, lodgepole pine trees and mountains that make up the landscape look more like a photoshopped image than reality.
Whitehorse has its share of dignitaries and influential individuals stopping by often. Both the Governor General and David Suzuki were in town during my stay.
The extended daylight hours take some getting used to. Waking up at 3 a.m. my first night, I couldn’t tell if the sun was finishing setting or beginning to rise.
A close second to Emerald Lake was Miles Canyon, which offers amazing hiking trails overlooking the Yukon River. I was slightly disappointed we didn’t see any bears, but it was probably a good thing.
The entire drive to Alaska I felt like a toddler seeing snow for the first time, my face glued to the window with comments of “Whoa! Look at that!” every so often.
I couldn’t count the number of places along the way where Keith subtly hinted an individual could be left and never heard from again. As the day wore on and Carol joined in on his sly threats, I wondered if I had made a mistake by not telling anyone where we were going.
But they were great hosts and when the time came to head home I was sad I had to leave.
Conveniently, I landed in Calgary just in time to take in the final day of the Calgary Stampede with another familiar face. My former “partner in crime” Monique Massiah was more than happy to help me through the crowds during my first Stampede experience.
Being the clueless country kid that I am, it took her city smarts to show me how to navigate the C-Train, as well as the Stampede itself, and pretty much everything else that was Calgary. She probably should have put me on one of those child leashes for my own safety. But despite being sometimes overwhelmed by the amount of people around me, it was a fantastic time.
After an exciting week, with my face hurting from smiling and laughing so much, I’m very grateful for friendships that don’t fade with distance.