Bruce Barrett and Judy Forrest came up to the Yukon for adventure and work, but never dreamed they’d fall in love with the territory — or each other.
Bruce grew up in Toronto but was living in the Northwest Territories when a friend suggested the Yukon would be the perfect fit.
“In 1978, I decided I would go to Dawson City and start an old time photo business,” he says. “I had a little Volkswagen van and I acquired a large format camera and all the gear.”
He arrived in August and it was too late to set up the business for that season. Even so, he got a job and decided to stay.
Judy Forrest, who is from Victoria, had also been working in the NWT when she and her friend Mary made a trip to the Yukon for the summer.
“We drove up the Alaska Highway in her dad’s Chevy pickup headed for Dawson,” she says.
They only made it as far as Whitehorse when they were offered a squatter’s cabin out at Marsh Lake. Instead of leaving after the summer as planned, Judy stayed and eventually bought a property near Whitehorse.
Then, on Dec. 7, 1979, the two met at the Whitehorse train station. Both were headed Outside to spend Christmas with their families, and about to take the White Pass and Yukon Route train bound for Skagway, Alaska.
The 9-hour trip gave them the chance to get acquainted.
“We found we were all headed for Seattle, which is a five-day ferry ride from Skagway,” Judy remembers. “In those days the ferries had a bar, so that was fun. We just started hanging out together and then Bruce and I had a little onboard romance.”
After Christmas the pair made plans to meet up at the airport in San Diego to travel down the Baja Peninsula.
“It was very spontaneous,” Bruce says. “It just turned out that Judy had a passport and $1,000 cash and was footloose and fancy free.”
After three months together, Bruce returned to Dawson and Judy went to work in the bush in northern British Columbia.
“Then Bruce decided to go to Yukon College and needed a place to stay in Whitehorse,” Judy recalls. “So he moved into my cabin. When I came back from B.C., Bruce was nicely ensconced.”
“We realized, if we can travel together, we can live together,” Judy says. And for the next 15 years they lived and loved in that cabin, without running water or electricity.
“We were so happy there,” she says.
They also travelled most winters, including a one-and-a-half year adventure through the South Pacific and South East Asia in 1983-84.
“We spent the first six months on my sister and brother-in-law’s sailboat with their four year old and new baby,” Judy says.
“We never actually stopped being seasick the entire time,” says Bruce with a laugh. “But the night watches were amazing – it was just you and the moon and the waves.”
Other cherished adventures include designing and building their current house, just adjacent to the “love nest” cabin, and going on canoe trips together.
“The best adventure, of course, was having Ben and raising him,” Judy says of their son, who is now away at university in Ontario.
The two got married in August 1997 on Vancouver Island at an oceanfront resort, again quite spontaneously.
Judy notes: “We always said, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be fun if we’re still together after 20 years to get married?’ Because we weren’t really believers in the institution of marriage.”
When they and their families ended up renting four cabins at the resort — they were just shy of the 20-year mark and Ben was five — they decided to tie the knot.
Over the 34 years they’ve been together, they’ve lived their advice for a happy marriage: “You have to respect the other person and give them space to be who they are,” Bruce says. “Have good times and share the things you love.”
“Super appreciate one another,” Judy says. “We really appreciate what we have in each other.”