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Is the Peel Watershed an Election Issue? September 6, 2011

Posted by Ben Miljure in Audio, General Assignment.
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With Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski expected to call a territorial election by Friday, opposition parties are beginning to draw lines in the sand on certain issues. And on one in particular, they are calling on Pasloski and his Yukon Party to make their position clear. But so far, the Premier has refused to take the bait. So, the question is, do Yukon voters deserve to know where each party stands on all the issues before being asked to go to the polls and decide the future of the territory?


Dirtbaggers, Captains and Dancing Girls May 28, 2011

Posted by Ben Miljure in General Assignment.
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Last week, I finally had a chance to get outside of Whitehorse and hit the open road in the Yukon. On Monday morning, I loaded up the car with a cooler full of food and drink, a change of clothes, my iPod and my beloved Canucks jersey. With the windows down and the greatest hits of Neil Young blasting through the speakers I headed north on the Klondike Highway bound for Dawson City.

About 45 minutes outside of town, the road wound along the edge of a cliff overlooking Fox Lake. It was the final day of the May long weekend and the car’s display told me it was almost 20 degrees celsius outside but the lake was still dressed in her winter attire which consisted of a sheet of slushy ice and a shroud of fog. It was beautiful.

The Wild Klondike

There were few other cars on the road and I was able to make the 500 kilometre trip at a leisurely pace. I stopped at all the lookouts and points of interest. I was particularly struck by the charred landscape left behind by forest fires of years gone by. At times, the remnants of burned out trees bordered both sides of the road and on some of the grander vistas I could see where the fire had torn down the mountains and ripped through the valleys. Just as surely as mother nature had scarred the landscape she was in the process of restoring it again. Wide swaths of young deciduous forest were filling in the gaps among the blackened coniferous trees that had once been so healthy and numerous.

Momma Bear & Baby Bear

I saw a lot of wildlife on the drive as well. At first it was mostly roadkill and then I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye and had to hit the breaks to avoid a coyote making a bold dash across the highway. The first momma bear and cubs I saw were smarter. They waited patiently off to the side while I drove past before they began to amble across the road. I pulled over and leaned out the window with my camera and got a couple of shots of them. A few kilometres farther up the road another animal made a break a few dozen metres in front of me. I slowed to a stop and rolled down the window to make eye contact with the wild lynx.

Curious Cat

He stood perfectly still while I snapped his picture and then he turned and sauntered off into the underbrush. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to view a lot of captive animals, including lynx, at The Yukon Wildlife Preserve. If I felt very fortunate that day, imagine my glee as I pulled back onto the highway and continued my journey.

It was just after four in the afternoon when I finally reached the outskirts of Dawson City. First I passed the airport and a few modern subdivisions and then the road curved alongside the Yukon River and I stepped back in time. The whole town was like a hundred year old photograph. I made a right on Princess Street and a block later pulled up outside Bombay Peggy’s. At one time it was a wild brothel but now it would serve as my hotel for two nights.

The Attic

I exited the vehicle and stepped onto the dirt street and then up onto the wooden sidewalk and made my way to the front door. I felt like a character in a movie as I checked in and Wendy, the owner, directed me towards my room in the attic. It was big and bright with lots of natural light coming through angled windows on the ceiling. Off in the corner was an old clawfoot bathtub. The only thing that seemed out of place was the 42 inch flat screen television. I turned on the NHL playoffs and angled the tv towards the bathtub. I may have stepped back in time but that was no reason to miss a Stanley Cup playoff game.

I had a plan for the evening so after the game I walked up 2nd Avenue to the historic saloon at the Downtown Hotel. My first order of business was to drink a Sour Toe Cocktail which is a shot of whisky with a severed human toe in it. The toe has been preserved in salt and several thousand people have made their way through the swinging doors of the Downtown Hotel to touch it to their lips.

Alas, I was told The Captain would not be in for another 2 hours. I didn’t know who The Captain was or how he’d come by his title but I assumed he was the man to see about the toe.

So, I headed back to Peggy’s and took a seat at the bar. When the barmaid stepped forward to take my order I told her I wanted to try a tittilating tart. I imagine I’m not the first man to inquire about such a treat at Peggy’s but these days it comes in liquid form in a martini glass. I spent a couple hours at the bar chatting with some locals and at 9 I headed back to the Saloon for my Sour Toe Cocktail.

The World Famous Sour Toe

The Captain was seated off in a corner. I knew right away who he was because of his hat. The bartender set me up with an ounce of Jim Beam in a large glass and pointed me over to The Captain. I sat down and he explained to me how it was going to work. The toe was resting in a pile of salt on the table. He filled out a certificate with my name on it and told me that I had to finish all the whisky in the glass and the toe had to come into contact with my lips. Then he grabbed another captain’s hat and slapped it on my head. Bottoms Up.

Bottoms Up!

I knocked back the shot and the toe slid down to my mouth. I held the glass in position and kissed the Sour Toe before slamming the glass down on the table and grinning from ear while an entourage of total strangers hooted and hollered. I felt like I had really accomplished something. After that, I was able to sign the book. I am number 40, 011 to drink the Sour Toe Cocktail. In the part where I was supposed to mark down my hometown I proudly wrote East Van.

The next day I had to work. After all, that was why I was in Dawson City in the first place. I filed a couple of stories during the day and then at 5 I headed back to the attic to write and edit a piece that would run on the morning news. With the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks locked in an epic duel on the tv, I put together what I think is my finest work as a journalist so far. I voiced it during the second intermission and e-mailed it down to the station back in Whitehorse.

I settled in for the third period and just when it looked like all hope was lost, with 5 seconds to play, Ryan Kesler tipped a shot past Antti Niemi and the game was headed to overtime. I let out a yell that was probably heard throughout Peggy’s. Then I put on my shoes and my Canucks jersey and made my way down the wooden sidewalk back towards the Downtown Hotel.
I pushed through the saloon doors and saw the place was jammed with a combination of well-healed tourists, miners and young adventure seekers. It was a good mix. I squeezed into a seat at the bar just as the first overtime began. The crowd was overwhelmingly in favour of the Canucks and we squeeked and squeeled through the first overtime and half of the second before Kevin Bieksa scored the unlikely goal that would send us on to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Celebrating under the midnight sun.

The Downtown Hotel roared and total strangers hugged and danced and we spilled out into the dusty streets of Dawson City. Looking up and down the wooden sidewalks, a similar scene was playing out at most of the other saloons. It might not have been as wild as the celebration in Vancouver but I’m sure it was every bit as fun. We strolled through town in small packs pointing and laughing and high fiving whenever we came across others decked out in Canucks gear. Up and down the streets we marched, ducking in and out of taverns to slam back small glasses of Yukon Gold Beer.

Eventually, I¬†was back in front of Peggy’s and decided to have one last drink before heading up to bed. The infamous one last drink inevitably became two or three. I found myself surrounded by a group of dirtbaggers. It was a name they had self-aplied and they were proud of it. According to them they had the greatest job in the world. They would travel by helicopter to be dropped off on remote mountain sides and unnamed valleys to bag and tag soil samples for mining companies. It did sound like fun.
They said they were heading to Diamond Tooth Gerties for last call and asked if I would like to tag along. At that point, I wasn’t in much condition to argue so we set off for the casino.

One of these guys is a dirtbag(ger)

We walked in just as the stage show began. Yes, we’re finally at the part with the dancing girls. A boisterous crowd stood around the bar yelling and waving fistfulls of money. A total stranger handed me a pint of beer and we toasted like long lost friends. I looked around and noticed almost all the people I had met in the bars and on the streets of Dawson City had made their way to Gerties for last call. I’ll venture to guess most early summer evenings in the Klondike have unfolded in a similar fashion over the past hundred and something years.

The Dancing Girls ūüôā

The next day, I headed out of town the same way I had come. In my life, I’ve had great times in far-flung places around the globe but I have never been anywhere like Dawson City. It was built by adventure seekers who headed north to find gold and themselves and that spirit remains largely unchanged. In a mere 40 hours I made golden memories to last a life-time and I re-affirmed my decision to become a journalist. Like so many before me, I had the time of my life in Dawson City and swear I’ll return the first chance I get.

A Tough Day At The Office May 25, 2011

Posted by Ben Miljure in Community.
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I have a great job. I get to go in to work everyday and do something I love. I get to meet people and tell their stories. Sometimes, those stories are especially difficult to listen to but I think those are the ones that most need to be heard.

Today in Dawson City, survivors of residential schools were able to come forward and share their experiences with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. For all the things this country has to be proud of, the residential school saga is a horrific time in our history and casts a dark cloud over everything we believe we know about ourselves and our country. We are only now beginning to come to terms with the attrocities that were committed and the lives that were destroyed over many genarations. This is the story of Roy Johnson. It is both heart-wrenching and triumphant. It is a story of destruction and renewal.

Monkeys, Midgets and Moonshine April 30, 2011

Posted by Ben Miljure in Books.
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At one time in my life I read a lot of fiction but in recent years I’ve been drawn to more non-fiction works. Now that I’m finished school, I have more time on my hands and I’m re-kindling my love affair with the novel. I recently read a really good one and thought I would share a little review of it here. Not long ago, somebody I know¬†actually scoffed at the notion when I said I considered myself a literary person so perhaps I am not best suited for this type of discussion but I don’t care because¬†I read a great book and I’d like to tell you about it.

Can the movie possibly be as good as this?

Can the movie possibly be as good as this?

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen takes place on the trains and carnival lots of a barnstorming circus in 1930’s America. Obviously, I’m no expert on that era or circuses in general (though I’d like to be!), but it seems like Gruen really did her homework before sitting down to write this book and it shows in the incredible detail she uses to describe life as part of a travelling circus.

The protaganist, Jacob Jankowski,¬†is a young¬†Ivy-league educated veterinarian who hops aboard a moving train seeking¬†escape after a tragedy shakes up his life.¬†¬†If it was¬†adventure he was after, he was more than fortunate to be boarding the train of the Famous Benzini Brothers Circus, The Greatest Show on Earth. When Big Al,¬†¬†the owner and manager of the circus, discovers Jacob is a trained vet he decides to keep him on. And so begins a summer long journey that will criss-cross America and¬†forever alter the course of Jacob Jankowski’s life.

The Benzini Brothers’ train is a crowded place with hundreds of performers, freaks and general labourers and dozens of exotic animals from monkeys to lions and even a polar bear. Jacob is forced to share a make shift room in a stable car that transports a dozen arabian horses. His roomate is Walter, a four foot nothing midget clown with a drinking problem and a temper. Initially, he’s none to pleased to be sharing his accomodations with Jacob but eventually warms up to him and even occassionaly offers him a sip of his¬†moonshine.

The train rolls from town to town putting on shows in empty fields. They travel at night and in the morning they set up dozens of tents and arrange a parade through the town to draw in the locals. By mid-afternoon the carnival is in full swing with food and games and, of course, the great spectacle under the big top. Marlena, a beautiful young equestrian is the star of the show. From the moment poor Jacob lays eyes on her he’s more than smitten and it’s not long until he’s head over heels in love. The only problem is that she’s married to the nasty-tempered equestrian director August.

As the train steams it’s way across the country, and the story towards¬†a spectacular climax, adventures and tragedies begin to pile up for young Jacob. The¬†first person narrative¬†is beautifully woven between the perspective of young circus vet Jacob and his 93 year old self vividly recalling that fateful summer even as the rest of his faculties begin to fail him in a nursing home.

At times hilarious and at others¬†heart-wrenchingly sad Water For Elephants pulled me in and didn’t let go until the final paragraph. Even though the story had made its way to a logical conclusion I was left yearning for more. Like a small child being dragged home from the circus after the show I wasn’t quite ready to leave. My only problem with this book was that it ended and that’s just ¬†about the best endoresment I can give anything I read.

Wild Things April 24, 2011

Posted by Ben Miljure in General Assignment.

As part of my job as a reporter at CHON FM, I am assigned to the environment beat. This past week I had the opportunity to take a tour of The Yukon Wildlife Preserve and I am glad I did. It was the most fun and educational three hours of my time in Whitehorse so far.

The first animals we came across were Wood Bison. They were thought to be extinct due to hunting and cross-breeding with the closely-related Plains Bison but an untouched herd was found in Northern Alberta. Now, the population in the Yukon is so strong that there is an open hunt on the animal. However, nationally they are still considered an endangered species. Bizarre.

Dall Sheep

Next up were the preserve’s three species of sheep. Dall, Stone and Big Horn. The names are a little confusing because the Dall is actually the one with the largest horns. It’s really quite spectacular the way they curl. Back to the topic of hunting, each year in the Yukon there is an auction and the winner (usually someone from outside the territory) is allowed to go in to Kluane National Park and shoot one of these majestic animals. My stomach turned a little when my guide told me about this trophy hunt.

Look at the playoff beard on that Mountain Goat!

I saw some elk, deer, caribou and muskox before we came across another animal that really caught my eye. Looking through binoculars, I saw a herd of mountain goats frolicking up and down the side of what appeared to be a sheer cliff. It was unbelievable. And then we saw one that was much closer to the fence line than the others. I’m not sure why he had wandered down from the cliff but I’m glad he did so I could snap a picture of him up close.

Hello Kitty!

Not much farther along the road were the Lynx. The Preserve us home to two males and a female and they have to be kept seperate because otherwise they would breed to much. A thin chainlink fence divides the two enclosures and the female sat up on a pedastal while one of the males paced back and forth along the fence lone. Eventually, he tired of the game and went to lay down in the snow. It was neat to see how this wild cat had some similar mannerisms to a house cat.

Nala the Arctic Fox

The next animal I saw was my favourite of the whole day. As our vehicle pulled up to the enclosure, the mischevious Arctic Fox began running up and down alongside the fence. I don’t know if she thought we had food or what but she was putting on quite a show. Just like with the Lynx, I was struck by how similar this wild animal was to a household pet. Eventually, Nala (yes, the arctic fox now has a name) tired out and lay down for a rest so I could take some photos of her.

Look at the sleepy puppy ūüôā

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve is an amazing place and the work they do there is critical to ensuring that wild animals in the territory sustain healthy populations and habitats. For those of you living in the Yukon, they are always seeking donations and volunteers. I plan on returning often. And I will also take every opportunity I can to see Yukon animals in their natural habitat. And when I do, I will write about it and post photos right here on Aurora Bennialis.

This Is How We Roll April 10, 2011

Posted by Ben Miljure in General Assignment, Sports.
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Team CHON: (L-R) Dennis (The Menace), Emily (The Slow Roller), Dan (The Man), Caroline (The Ringer), & Benjamin

People came together in bowling alleys all across the country this weekend to raise money for Big Brothers and Big Sisters. The Whitehorse event took place on Sunday at Mad Trapper Alleys in Riverdale (everytime I say Riverdale, I imagine Moose from the Archie comics, “Duhhh…stay outta Riverdale.” Anybody else? Anybody?). I was able to participate as part of the team from my radio station.

There are two components to this event. Obviously, the actual bowling is one. But the most important part was to raise money for the kids. As a newcomer to Whitehorse, my fundraising skills were lacklustre but I tried to make up for it by reaching into my own pocket and giving what I could.

More than 20 corporate teams came out to support the cause here in Whitehorse. It was an impressive showing. We fell short of our goal of raising the most money in the media division. That distinction went to The Whitehorse Daily Star. The award for most money raised overall went to Java Connection. As of Friday when I interviewed their capatain, they had passed the $700 mark. With their bubbly personalities and friendly smiles, I’m not surprised.

Well, we came up short in the fundraising department, but we cleaned up in door prizes. Between the 5 of us we had our numbers called 4 times. I personally won a Corona t-shirt with a Boston Pizza logo on it. It looked suspiciously form fitting so I donated it to Team Java Connection. They’re all female and I was confident one of them would be the right shape for it. Although, they seem to have too much fashion-sense to actually wear a BP server’s t-shirt.

We were able to get in two games in the alloted time. It has been awhile since I tried my hand at 5-pin bowling but I think I acquitted myself fairly well. I had the high score on my team in the first game with 136. In the second game I rolled a 121.


Yeah! Carter was throwing rocks tonight. Mark it, dude!

But the story of the day had to be Caroline Carter. After warming up with a respectable 121 in the first game. She knocked out a mind-boggling 179 in the second. She was nailing strike after strike. I can’t say this officially, because I can’t verify the other scores, but I would venture to guess she probably had one of the highest scores of the day. Bravo Caro!

Home Sweet Home April 3, 2011

Posted by Ben Miljure in General Assignment.
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Chez Benjamin

Chez Benjamin

After two and a half weeks of living out of a suitcase, I have finally moved into the house I will call home for the forseeable future. It’s a small house with 3 bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen all on one floor. There’s also a small guest house on the property. A very nice deck has been built over most of the front yard and in the back there is a shed and a gravel driveway.

It is located almost perfectly between my work and Main Street. A 5-10 minute walk to each. It’s only 3 blocks to l’Association Franco-Yukonnaise where I’ll be taking classes soon and there are numerous coffee shops within a stones throw. The New China Garden Restaurant is also nearby. It’s so revered by Yukoners that the territory’s Economic Development Minister recently entertained a delegation from Beijing there (I’m not even making that up…I’m not sure if they tried the Chinese or the Western cuisine).

I will be sharing the place with a very diverse and interesting cast of characters. I don’t suspect that any of them will ever actually see this blog but I’ve chosen to assign them all nicknames nevertheless. They are The Matron, Ontario, The Baker and The Girl-Next-Door.

The Matron has been renting the house for 6 years and she sublets the other two rooms in the main house. She can best be described as a little, middle-aged bundle of energy. Whenever she’s around I feel like we’re having ten conversations simultaneously and I’m never sure if I’m commenting on the right one.

I moved in on Friday and she and I had a couple of glasses of wine to break the ice. At one point she told me she was a straight shooter who didn’t like to keep secrets. Then, to prove her point she told me she wears a bridge. And, in case I didn’t believe her, she removed her teeth and showed them to me. Yikes!

As the evening wore on, I suggested that I was going to venture out and get something for dinner. She said she would order a pizza and she knew just the place. So she called and ordered from a restaurant on the other side of town. A restaurant that doesn’t deliver and by this point she had consumed several glasses of wine. But, she showed sound judgement and phoned a cab instead of driving. The driver came to the house and she gave him money for the pizza and he went to pick it up. When he came back she paid him the fare for the return trip in his taxi. That one large pizza cost over $70! And the strangest thing is, there is a pizza place only two blocks away from our house and they do deliver.

While we were eating the pizza Ontario came home. He rents the other room in the house and is called Ontario because when I asked him where he was from that is what he responded. Admittedly, it has been a while since I visited that province but I believe it is still made up of several distinct regions and towns. Perhaps one day Ontario will tell me which part he calls home.

For the time being, I know very little about him. He spent last summer in the Yukon and went home in the fall. I guess he spent most of the winter pining over some girl he met here because he came back for her. This is where the situation gets a little complicated. As far as I understand it, this fair-maiden didn’t ask Ontario to move here and now that he has she is trying to distance herself from him.

I can relate. I know all to well what it’s like to move thousands of miles for a woman only to be sent packing shortly after arriving. But, I had the good sense to go back home and get on with my life. I don’t know if Ontario has fully accepted that this girl is not interested and so he has decided to stay in Whitehorse to try to win her affections. He’s taken a job at a grocery store and rented a room from The Matron.¬†

His room¬†is¬†barely big enough for a single bed and a small dresser but he spends most of his time in there. Baseball season started on Friday and he’s been watching the Toronto¬†Blue Jays everyday. When the games are over, I think he watches sitcoms or movies. He’s constantly laughing out loud. I can hear him through the walls but it doesn’t sound like a genuine laugh. It sounds like he’s responding to things he knows are genuinely funny but bring him no good humour at the moment. I’m afraid it’s a conditioned response.

Many a friendship has been forged between men with little more in common than a love of sports and an understanding of failed relationships. Perhaps those things will help me develop a bond with Ontario but first he’s going to have to come to terms with the fact his relationship is over and then he’s going to have to actually come out of his room.

The Baker lives in the little guest house. He starts work at 2AM everyday making bread at the nearby Alpine Bakery. He’s from the Saguenay/Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec. We hit it off immediately because I spent a summer there once. His English is a work in progress but he tries very hard. We’ve decided that I will speak to him in French and he to me in English. So far, it appears The Baker will be my closest friend at the house.

And finally, that brings us to The Girl-Next-Door. The Matron talks about her constantly and at least once a day goes to visit her so I assume they are friends. Even if they are an unlikely pair. The Girl-Next-Door appears to be quite sporty. At least that’s what her attire would indicate; along with the skate and snowboard decals all over the back of her car,¬†a vehicle that’s adorned with pink rims.

When I agreed to take the place, one of the selling points The Matron highlighted was the included wireless internet. When I tried to log on I was prompted for a password. That’s when The Matron told me the internet connection was actually The Girl-Next-Door’s. She said she would phone her to ask for the password. She dialed the number and then immediately thrust the phone into my hands.


“Uh….hi….I’m the uh…new guy next door. Ummm….The Matron said maybe I could use your internet connection?”

It was an awkward introduction. I quickly offered to pay half the bill for the connection because I didn’t feel right calling up a total stranger and asking for a hand out. The Girl-Next-Door agreed to let me split the bill with her. She doesn’t know the password but she’s going to try to find out and then we’ll be in business.

Communal Deck

The Common Ground

For now, that is the divergent cast of characters that make up my new home. On the surface, we all seem so radically different and I’m sure at times our patience and tolerance will be tested but I’m confident that we’ll find our common ground. Under the late evening sun, drinking beer and barbecuing on our deck, surrounded by the natural beauty that is Whitehorse, I’m hopeful¬†we’ll learn a lot about each other and a little about ourselves.

Hockey Fans Lift Team Following Fire March 25, 2011

Posted by Ben Miljure in Audio, Sports.
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In December, the tiny community of Ross River celebrated the re-opening of a hockey rink and gathering place that had fallen into disrepair and been closed for seven years. Volunteers donated time, money and equipment to restore the building and give the isolated community of just 300 residents a facility it sorely needed. Just two weeks ago, an accidental fire burned that rink to the ground but the flames could not break the spirit of the community. This weekend they have three teams entered in The Yukon Native Hockey Tournament and their fans are by far the loudest and most passionate of any who made the trip.

CBC Reporter Wins Legal Battle (sort of) March 21, 2011

Posted by Ben Miljure in Audio, General Assignment.
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In a bizarre case, the Yukon News had petitioned the court to compel a CBC Radio reporter to divulge her news sources. The newspaper said if Nancy Thomson refused to do so they would be unable to properly defend themselves in a defamation case.

It all started in 2004 when Thomson did an investigative radio series about Watson Lake, a Yukon community with an unusually high rate of prescription drug addiction and alcoholism. The Yukon News liked the piece so much they ran an editorial praising Thomson for her work and focusing on the fact that the town’s only doctor was also it’s only pharmacist.

The doctor chose to sue the Yukon News for defamation and that’s when they turned to Thomson, demanding that she reveal the 11 confidential sources, in the community, that she had used in her series. A judge was to hear arguments on that issue today but the CBC and Yukon News were able to work out a deal. All parties, including the judge,¬†have agreed that Thomson is a credible enough witness that she can testify on behalf of her confidential sources and thereby continue to protect their identities.

Below is the story I filed for my radio station after leaving court this morning.

In a somewhat related story (and that’s a stretch), I learned the hard way that when you live in the north you should not just assume that because the sun is shining brightly in the sky that it will be warm out (even on the first full day of Spring). It’s only about a 10 minute walk from the station to the court house but within moments of stepping outside, the minus-15 degree air was causing me great pain. My ears were so frozen they felt like they were going to shatter. So I ducked into a sporting goods store and dropped 20 bucks on a fleecy headband thing. Needless to say, it will be sometime before I leave home without it or one of the toques that I left behind this morning.

Burning Away The Winter Blues March 20, 2011

Posted by Ben Miljure in Community.
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Last night I had the opportunity to attend my first community event since arriving in Whitehorse. Burning Away The Winter Blues is an annual event that sees Yukoners come together to literally burn away their winter blues. It’s a celebration of the coming dawn of spring; even if that dawn happens a lot more slowly here than in other places. After all it was minus-20 out last night.

The event began at 9pm with a meet up at the SS Klondike, a large paddle wheeler from¬†days gone by¬†that sits on the edge of the Yukon River. It’s a beautiful old ship and I wish I had photographed it but I didn’t have the opportunity for almost as soon as I arrived someone thrust a drum into my hands and said, “Take over for a few minutes. I need a break.”

“But I don’t have any rythym,” I protested.

To which he replied, “You don’t need that to play in this band!”

Old Man Winter?

So, I clumsily banged on the drum for a few minutes as more and more people arrived. Eventually, there were several hundred of us. There was¬†a giant effigy, that I can only speculate represented Old Man Winter, a dragon like the kind you see at the Chinese New Year Parade, several people in masquerade coustume, and one guy dressed as a Storm Trooper. That’s right, a Storm Trooper.

Setting Off Into The Night

After I gave the guy his drum back¬†there¬†must have been¬†a sufficient number of people because the torches were brought out. I was offered one but declined because I wanted my hands free for taking pictures. When I say torches, that’s exactly what I mean. It was like a lynch mob but in a very friendly, hippy-ish kind of way. With the torch-bearers leading the way, and the drummers setting the pace,¬†the whole lot of us set out down a path alongside the river. I had no idea where we were going but I couldn’t wait to get there!

After about 15 minutes, the path veered off into a wooded area that I later found out was the Robert Service Campground. The trail was dark and by then many of the torches had gone out but a group of people at the front of the procession were laying down tealights in the snow at the edge of the path to light the way. It was really quite beautiful.

The Gathering Masses

Eventually, through the trees I could make out the glow of a fire. It seemed very near but each time I thought we were almost there, we simply weren’t. It turns out that was one giant bonfire! An entire cord of wood was neatly stacked in the center of a large clearing. I’m not sure what sort of accelerant it was doused with but by the time I arrived it was a raging inferno.

Everyone crowded around the fire at a safe distance because the heat was so intense. Despite the minus-20 temperatures people began stripping off their outer winter layers as they danced around the flames. Eventually, Old Man Winter was tossed into the inferno and the crowd let out a great roar. A large paper bag was passed around and people were encouraged to write their troubles down and put them in the sack. It too was tossed on the fire and the winter blues were literally burned away. Things are going pretty well for the dude right now so I didn’t¬†write anything down.

A Storm Trooper watches the moon rise

At about this time, last night’s “supermoon” began to rise slowly over a mountain and we could make it out through the trees. It was stunning to watch but,¬†unfortuanetly, my little camera and un-steady hand couldn’t capture the moment in it’s true glory. But the snapshots in my head will stay with me forever.

After a while, the crowd began to thin out and I decided to make my way back to town. I took the same route in reverse but this time I walked alone. It was a beautiful night, even if it was a little cold, and that giant moon lit up the hills and mountains surrounding the town. The snow glistened in its glow. It was a long walk back, and I became reflective, as I am wont to do. I’ve only been in the north for a¬†few days¬†but I really like it here. The people are genuine and each and every one is charming, sometimes in their own peculiar way. I feel really comfortable with my decision to make this move and last night’s adventure did nothing if not reinforce that feeling.

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