The Yukon boasts of many iconic landscapes/experiences/situations and on one glorious night I experienced a few of them.
The beginning was simple enough. Our church was putting on a bonfire retreat at a farm owned by a youth leader’s family. I asked for directions and was told I could find it near the “Old Dog Hotel.” I opted for a ride.
I went in, with my naive southern upbringing, expecting a campfire, marshmallows and maybe someone would bring out a guitar if we were lucky.
This was a bonfire done Yukon style.
In the pitch black of night, approximately 6 p.m., we lined up like soldiers to receive our gear. We stopped at one popped open trunk to grab mitts, another for a headlamp and another for a quick bear warning and we were off.
Pulsing with adrenaline, we ran into the night’s forest. I found a couple of sticks on the ground, picked them up and proudly carried them over to our bonfire fuel drop-off sight.
Then promptly, dropped my sticks in dismay.
We weren’t going after sticks. We were going after trees! Not just Charlie Brown Christmas trees either, but honest to goodness 8 foot trunks of wood.
We were scrounging through the bush, in giddy excitement of finding the next log. It was the best type of activity. The kids got the joy of picking up heavy objects and the adults got free labour to clear their farm.
This rhythm continued, until we realised our headlamps were no longer needed. One glance at the night sky told us why. The full moon was wrapped in a glorious blanket of green. The northern lights had danced their way into our evening!
Under the glowing green shadow we piled the dead trees onto an old ATV and trailer; a lop-sided combo. We pulled the fuel to the centre of the field.
We stacked the trees in a Hunger Games cornucopia-esque structure, which quickly became the perfect opportunity for the adventurers in our group to practice their Tarzan skills.
Once it was quadruple-checked that the bonfire was actually kid-free, we struck the structure ablaze with the single stroke of a match (and aided by lighting fluid).
Our fire’s glow dimmed the northern lights.
This was a huge honker of a fire that mightily roared into the sky. Let’s just say that if we had built something even close to it on a deserted island, we would have had a very high probability of being rescued.
Soon our large fire was used to feed a baby fire, which was more appropriate for the art of s’more making and hot dogs.
Then the games began. Each child was given the high school equivalent of a magic wand: a hand held shooting firework. Then we launched giant glowing lanterns into the night’s breeze.
Luckily all limbs were left intact with their rightful owner.
Soon the fun was over and the fire was left to burn its course with the adults into the wee hours of the night, while we headed home.
We were divvied up into rides by location; I sat in the front seat and negotiated the old seat belt till it finally gave a creaky click.
We pulled ahead. Correction, we raced ahead using road lines as guidelines till I saw shadows in the distance.
There comes a time in life, where you really need to speak. You really need to just get up and shout something of vital importance. But somehow, there’s a disconnect in the tracks. A stray nail or two somewhere in the pathway between your thoughts and your vocal chords. And these bits and screws in your speech pattern decide to become loose when you’re on an icy road, hurtling 100 km per hour into a herd of wandering deer!
Now in my Southern upbringing, I always thought “deer in the headlights” was just an expression. But, no, no, no! It’s a fact nature. The deer stood paralyzed in the same fear that prevented me from screaming.
I could have sworn that the tip of their antlers scratched the surface of the car. We had all subconsciously leaned our body weight to the left, in final attempt to prevent hitting the animals. And thankfully our car kept sailing along the night road; by luck, by driving skill, or by God, we were coming home from a church retreat after all.
We made it! I walked in the door, kicked the snow off my boots and sat down feeling like I had passed my final exam of being a Northerner. I lived out the most Yukonic night ever!