A Sanctuary of Sorts

The top of Grey Mountain is one of my favourite places in the world. In a territory that features nine of the 10 highest peaks in Canada, it doesn’t amount to anything more than a nub, and yet for me it is a magical place.

Every summer that I have spent in the Yukon has included at least one trip to the top of the hill. Once there, I always do at least one of the following things: tramp along the ridge, enjoy a beer on the helicopter pad, imagine how scary it would be to find yourself stuck at the top of the radio tower, yell obscenities into the wind, appreciate the quaintness of our little river-valley town, pretend I’m Godzilla, turn away from Whitehorse and marvel at the immensity of the land as it sprawls towards the horizon, or sit quietly and ruminate on whatever requires rumination. On some visits, I do all of the above.

A trip up Grey Mountain is almost a pilgrimage for me, and once the downtown blare wears off, I usually feel oddly at peace up there, and if someone else is driving, a little drunk.

I use the phrase “oddly at peace,” not because I’m a chronically tortured soul but because the specific feeling of tranquility that Grey Mountain affords me has a unique texture.

I feel like I’m home when I’m up there; I feel like I am in exactly the right spot. No other mountain or hilltop feels the same — though to be fair I haven’t climbed Everest…yet.

Why this rock heap of all places? After all, Grey Mountain looks kind of like a hairy tumor.

As a person who takes the occasional cheap shot at new age spirituality, I have to choose my words carefully.

As near as I can tell, it has something to do with the consistency of the thing. People come and people go — as do phases, fads, farts, fortunes, and Dairy Queens. But I was born in the shadow of Grey Mountain and it’s nice to think it’s been looming benevolently over me ever since.

In June 2011 I celebrated the solstice with about 20 others by merrily hiking along the path that leads northward from the helicopter pad. We spent hours up there, enjoying each other’s company and soaking in the late night vitamin D. It was such a life-affirming night that no one wanted to leave the top of the mountain.

I think part of me never has.

Peter Jickling is a Whitehorse playwright and the assistant editor of What’s Up Yukon

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