Saturday, October 3, 2009

The End of the Road

October 2

A lot more driving, a stop at Miette Hotsprings IN THE SNOW with the Harrisons, and WE ARE HOME! It's the end of the road; the end of our adventure, and other than adding some more pictures, the end of my blog. And as I've heard about blogging- "Never have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few." Thanks for reading.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Home Stretch

September 30- October 1

We woke up at our 'campsite,' the parking lot of Fireweed RV Repair. Our trailer brakes were kaput, thanks to the Dempster. They were fixed in short order but we had a later start than we planned.

We took a different route home this time down the Cassiar Highway. It's like a civilized version of the Dempster. It's about the same distance, it's remote in it's own way and it also has beautiful scenery. However, it has more services and it's ALL PAVED! The road was like a dream by comparison. We saw three black bears within an hour and two moose ran along side of us. And to see the fall colours against the backdrop of the snow-capped mountains was breath-taking.

But the drive was not without it's own surprises. On the Cassiar Highway, the van got tempermental. The engine cut out once, then twice, and it continued in frequency until the van quit altogether. It was at this point the Cassiar seemed a little too remote for my liking. Kurt popped the hood, and the distinct smell of burnt plastic filled our noses. Kurt discovered a shorted power cable from the alternator. He tied it together to keep it running to Kinaskan Lake, our stay for the night.

Kurt woke up early and jerry-rigged the alternator with a spare power lead from an inverter in his toolbox and some Tuck Tape. He charged the battery with the generator and then flagged a construction vehicle down on the highway to give us a boost. The whole experience was a faith-builder for all of us. And it has been encouraging to hear the kids, Mackenzie and Josiah in particular, whispering to me, "Mom, God answered my prayer," several times on our homeward trip.

We've been listening to a Christian radio series for kids called 'Jungle Jam,' on CD for 3 days-all the way down the Dempster, all the way down the Cassiar Highway, and everywhere in between. The kids are enjoying the unexpected care package immensely. (Thanks, Auntie Erin!) Even Kurt has been laughing and the stories have made the long hours of road travel much shorter. Naomi and Diana love the theme song. They have it memorized and sing it out with enthusiasm every time.

I marvel at how well the kids are traveling. Ezra and Evageline, who often behave like Mexican jumping beans, sit for hours entertaining themselves without much complaint. Estelle is the one who needs constant attention. She's a lot different than on the way up. Six-month olds sleep a lot, nine-month olds....not so much.

We camped outside Prince George, and we can see home at the end of the tunnel. I can't wait to walk into our empty house and watch the kids soak it all in.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


September 28-29

Monday morning, we woke up at 7 am. The sun wasn’t up yet. Funny. When we arrived in the Arctic, we fell asleep in the sunlight; on our departure, we awoke in the dark. We wanted to get an early start, but by the time Kurt dumped the trailer tanks, loaded some last minute items and I ran over to say goodbye to our RCMP neighbors, it was closer to noon. And of course, we had to say goodbye to the Hanthorns (Dan and Heather had already left for work). The hugs were going all around, and Ezra called out, “Lynn, don’t forget about me!” The snow was falling, as we climbed into the van, and the Hanthorn kids followed us out, shouting, “Goodbye, goodbye!”

We crossed the ferry with no trouble, and even though there was a fair bit of snow, the weather was amazingly calm through the mountain pass and gorge. The roads were frozen and the driving conditions had dramatically improved since my trip to Dawson.

We had to use chains twice on the hills, the first time only because a transpotr truck had stopped in front of us. When we stopped at the Arctic Circle for a photo op, Kurt heard a hissing sound. One of our trailer tires had a leak. We made it to Eagle Plains, 40 km away and Kurt had the tire repaired at the tire shop, while I fed the kids some hot stew from the hotel cafe. We didn’t even have to wait. By the time we ate, our trailer was ready to roll again. The Eagle Plains Hotel motto is “an oasis in the wilderness,” and it is very aptly named, simple as it is.

We also hit some heavy snowfall a couple of times, but there was no wind and it quickly let up. Several times in succession, Evangeline asked, not as a question, but more like a conversation “is the road nice, Daddy? The road. It’s nice?” By God’s grace and Paul’s chains, we reached the end of the Dempster (which Ezra calls the “Dumpster”). Paul said in any season, the Dempster can be a pussycat, but it can also be a tiger. We are thankful that the Dempster only gave us a few cat scratches.

Seeing the winter scenery along the Dempster Highway was an experience not to be missed. It was beautiful. It was also a wonderful perk to drive on the snow because there was NO DUST! Any McPherson resident I spoke to about the Dempster, said they prefer driving the Dempster in the wintertime, including the Aussies! The roads are smoother, there’s no dust and no one has to wait for a ferry (because of the ice road). Even more poignant, with as much fuss as we Southerners make over the dangers of the Dempster, the people who actually live it and experience in their daily lives, barely give it any mention at all. The only time Northerners pay it lip service, it seems, is when they’re ‘counselling’ a Southerner.

But I digress.

We reached Dawson and parked at Mel’s. Mel worked with Kurt at Johnson Point and had invited us to stay in his yard. Tuesday morning, Mel gave us a tour of the house he is building, right among the gold dredge tailings. We hit the road, stopping at Five Finger Rapids, so Bronwyn, Keegan, Mackenzie, Josiah, and Diana could hike, and then continued to Whitehorse. We went to my favorite bookstore (again) and then had a celebratory dinner for the completion of Kurt's Arctic work. And we are now going to have a much needed early night. Good night.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Last Hurrah

September 28

It's here.

Today was our last day in Fort McPherson. It seems ages ago since we left home and yet it's hard to believe it's time to leave. There's mixed emotions on all accounts. We are going to miss our friends here, but we are anticipating many happy reunions at home as well.

I went over to the RCMP compound in the morning and cleaned as much as I could before church. Keegan came and helped. It's amazing how much time there is beforehand when church doesn't start until 1 PM. We ALMOST finished. The church was full for worship. There were more people today than I have seen, apart from the building project week. Paul preached on Hebrews; Kurt and the kids sang. I said goodbye to those I knew.

After church, Keegan, Bronwyn, and Mackenzie finished the last of the house cleaning. Just in time for supper too. To celebrate our last day here, we had a turkey dinner with the Hanthorns and Dan and Heather. I made cranberry sauce with the fresh cranberries I had received. Yum! It was all very delicious. We reminisced over our photo collection on the TV, and then the kids let off some steam with a snowball fight (even Ezra joined in).

I slipped away briefly because Rose had invited me for a last cup of tea. Then we all sat in the Hanthorns' living room and sang songs. To top it all off, Lynn and Paul and each of their children took turns telling us what they appreciated about each one of us and prayed for us individually. What an encouraging gesture and a humbling experience.

The kids filtered off to bed, and Lynn, Paul, Kurt, and I had our one and only visit together without the distractions of familial duties. It was a nice way to spend our last evening. But even good things come to an end, and we thought sleep might be in order before our departure.

Lord, I pray for the Hanthorns' ministry to continue to bear fruit, for the completion of the church building,for the strengthening of their faith and of those in their community, and for your Hand on them as they work, play, and worship. God Bless the Hanthorns.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Getting Ready to Roll

September 25-26

It’s getting close to our departure date and the packing has begun.. Chris, the police sergeant, was kind enough to let us stay in the RCMP house as long as we gave it a good clean before we left. For the past two days we have been busy in ‘our’ house, organizing our stuff and trying to clean around it in the process. No easy task. (Isn’t that right, Tanya and Cam?) I feel for Kurt. He just got back from his job on the Arctic Coast and jumped right into the chaos of our big move without so much as a breather. But he did sneak in a little nap.

Lynn invited us for supper on Friday night, which I really appreciated, so we could focus on our cleaning. Youth night followed right after our meal. I took the three ‘E’s home and Kurt stayed to watch a movie with the others. When it was over, he came back with Josiah, Diana, and Naomi, but Bronwyn, Keegan, and Mackenzie almost pulled an all-nighter. The Hanthorns told them it’s almost tradition to do so before their guests leave. But since we’re not leaving for a few days, Lynn thought they should pace themselves. “Why don’t you do half of your all-nighter tonight, and the other half tomorrow?” At least that’s what the kids said. At any rate, when Estelle finally fell asleep at 3 am, and the big guys still weren’t home, I decided to walk over to check on them. Lynn had gone to bed, forewarning my three that they had better be back on their doorstep at 3 am and not a minute later. (She drives a hard bargain, hey?) My guys were just heading out the door and we walked home together.

On Saturday, we woke up to snow on the ground and everything else. Winter has begun in Fort McPherson. Other than the snow, it was a mild, calm day. We continued cleaning, but after an exercise in futility working around our stuff, we made a quick decision to move everything in to the trailer, just before we headed to the Hanthorns for Esther’s 5th birthday party. Lynn had a houseful of people and was just waiting for the main course- from us. Kurt cooked salmon and salmon burgers for everyone and no one was the worse for waiting. We did the birthday thing- presents, cake, and games. And Josiah got some extra attention for being the birthday boy.

I had a nice visit with Mary C.and it was good to see Dan and Heather again, who are living at the Hanthorns again. The other missionaries, the Drosts, Daniel and his visiting sister, our neighbours, and some others from McPherson came too. It was amazing how we all fit inside Lynn and Paul’s house. After her house cleared, Lynn and I talked, Kurt tried to set up wireless internet for the church with Paul, and my 3 eldest continued the second half of their ‘all-nighter.’ When we do hit the road, I think there will be a lot of sleeping going on.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Double Digits

September 24

It was Josiah's tenth birthday. His birthday started off well, with his daddy being home and all. Kurt was calling Josiah's birthday "Deca-dude-da-day." Jo ate his requested breakfast-Froot Loops. I'm seriously thinking of reconsidering my "Eat whatever you want on your birthday" policy!

After breakfast, Josiah went on a scavenger hunt for his presents. Bronwyn did not disappoint. She made the hunt very hard, with some clues hidden inside hand cream containers and one was even inside a balloon. He loved it. I got him a pocket knife when I was in Dawson, which was a good thing, because he guessed what his gift was ahead of time.

Josiah got a custom made embroidered and monogrammed cap from the Tent and Canvas Shop. Naomi decided to get a bag too, since her birthday is going to be on the road. It looked like so much fun, Bronwyn decided to buy a bag for herself as well. And Kurt joined in and bought us a teepee!

Josiah kept thanking me for his birthday, and he said it was the best birthday he has ever had. He got his letter and gift inside from Grandpa on his birthday. (Good timing, Colin and Gerty!) Bronwyn also took Josiah to the Northern store and let him pick out a toy, and Keegan gave Jo his iPod. Aren't big brothers and sisters great?It doesn't get much better than that! Kenzie, Naomi, Diana, Ezra, and Evangeline blessed him in their special way as well, with encouraging notes and pictures.

The Hanthorns came over for supper and we had a steak and potato dinner. I saved the strip loin all summer so we could have it at the end. We thoroughly enjoyed it. The kids played inside and out. The festivities got a little out of hand, momentarily. Someone tripped, bonked their head, and there is now a dent in the wall in the boys' room. I guess a family of 11 people don't make the best house sitters. We played a game together, that involved racing to someone's empty seat, and it was a hoot!

Happy Double Digit Birthday, Josiah. I am so blessed to call you my son. You are a treasure from the Lord. I love you.

So Happy Together

September 23

Kurt called in the morning to say he was flying into Inuvik at 1:30 pm after spending the night in Yellowknife. There was a native conference in town, so all the hotels were full. Or should I say the decent ones. He got booked in a hotel room with cigarette burns in the floor, a broken down bed with springs he could feel in his back, and a noisy party next door. Kurt slept on top of the bedding because he didn’t want to risk crawling under the questionable covers. The hair on the pillow and under the sheets might have had something to do with it.

Lynn offered to come with me to Inuvik after our eventful drive from Dawson. I was grateful, especially with a baby in tow. Josiah wanted to come too. I’m sure he wanted to see his daddy, but he also offered to help out with Estelle. Awwww. The roads were rough from the start, but improved as I drove. I was still thankful for Lynn’s company, though. We had time to visit and she took the driver’s seat when Estelle got fussy. Kurt was waiting at the airport when we got there. It was so good to see him, but as soon as we were together again, it was like he had never left. We did some running around in Inuvik and it was a luxury when it was Kurt, and not I, who carried Estelle. We bought some pizza for the ride home, another luxury after living in McPherson.

When Kurt walked into the house, there was the usual tradition of card giving, hugs, and exclamations of “DADDEEEEEEEEE!” The kids gave him a tour of the house and got Kurt up to date on all their activities. But he was hard pressed to hear it all when the little ones were all talking to him simultaneously. Estelle decided to make Kurt feel really at home by keeping the two of us up until 3 am. (We found out in the morning the reason why- her second tooth broke through.)

It still hasn’t really sunk in that Kurt is done his work up here. No more 3 week stints without a husband and daddy. No more flights to and fro. No more time apart. So happy together. Now all we have to do is pack up all our belongings after 4 months of Northern living. How long do you think that will take?