I have heard legends about the kindness of the North, but just recently experienced it firsthand.

Sometimes when you’re still learning you make silly assumptions. I was guilty of this a few weeks ago. My better half and I flew to Whitehorse to pick up the company vehicle, which required repairs.

I figured it was pragmatic to get the dealership to do the works. Four digits later, we were driving out of Whitehorse hoping to be back on this side of the Mackenzie River before the ferry closed. Our plan seemed reasonable. We would take one day from Whitehorse to Dawson City, then another day through the Dempster Highway to Eagle Plains and then homeward bound on day three, maximizing the dwindling daylight.

Hotels were booked, emergency supplies were stocked and we had an tank of gas on reserve. We had this in the bag.

Or so we thought.

I’ve driven blind corners on busy trucking routes through the mountains. I’ve driven in pitch-black blizzards with invisible roads. I’ve driven on pure ice. This was all three at once. By the time we pulled into Carmacks, we realized we had grossly underestimated what we were up against. Exhausted by the time the sun set, we pulled into Pelly Crossing amid a non-stop blizzard and decided it was best to stay the night.

Once again, my ignorance of what I was doing became crystal clear. The lone convenience store in the community, which also doubles as the motel, closed at 6 p.m. Also, the four or so rooms at the motel were unavailable. So we found ourselves in a blizzard, in a tiny hamlet with no place to sleep.

A road maintenance crew suggested a convoy back to Carmacks, which was now several hours away and equally dubious for lodging. Cornered, my improvisation instinct kicked in and we began driving through the town, systematically asking anyone we saw if there was anything available. We finally came to the community hall where two folks were decorating for the Halloween party.

After hearing our predicament, one of the volunteers named Elmer offered his trailer for the night as he was staying with his sister, Karen, who was also decorating.

We happily accepted.

For two southerners still clearly wet behind the ears, the sense of dread and then relief was overwhelming. Thanks to Elmer’s generosity, we were able to reorganize our trip and were only out a day.

Both hotels and AirBnB’s bottomed out at $120 or so a night, but all our patron asked for in exchange for the use of a heated space and mattress for the night was a couple packs of cigarettes and a few cards for the weekend bingo.

I hope he won.

Eric Bowling

Your source for all things happening in the Beaufort Delta. Eric jumped at the chance to write for the Inuvik Drum after cutting his teeth in Alberta. He enjoys long walks, loud music and strong coffee....

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