Steeves: Wilderness Christmas an awesome experience

Entirely different from the city style, Christmas in the wild is an experience to remember.

Moose are often part of the wilderness Christmas experience

Snow had been falling steadily for days, rendering the driveway impassable. Supplies were getting low, although we always kept well-stocked with non-perishables.

The winter days were short, and made dimmer by the clouds and a curtain of snow. It was pre-dawn when a bright yellow flashing light lit the interior walls of our new home, penetrating the dense snowfall.

With a roar, a huge orange machine came whooshing down the driveway out of the falling flakes, pushing a froth of snow in front of it.

He cleared to our truck, turned around and continued plowing back up the driveway, leaving mountains of snow on either side.

This was our first winter in our new log home, deep in the wilds of the Cariboo, far from the nearest power pole, and we hadn’t realized snow would be quite such an issue.

In our last home, water was the problem. We had made our big decision to leave the Lower Mainland because it rained for 40 straight days and we were growing webs between our fingers and toes.

We also hadn’t realized that the highways snowplow would also do our driveway on its way by on the ‘main’ road.

But, we sure were glad of it.

In typical Cariboo style, the weather then cleared and the temperature plummeted, so we not only had a white Christmas, but also a very cool one, in a chinker log home that we hadn’t quite finished chinking.

We watched big moose move into the meadow beside the pond in front of our brand-new, not-quite-finished home, chewing on the young shoots and bedding down in the snow among the scrub birch and willows, and we fed the flocks of birds that didn’t seem to mind the snow, but were glad for a respite from scrounging for food in it.

Constant fires burned in our huge brick fireplace in the centre of the house, as well as in the wood cookstove that backed onto it in the kitchen.

The half-log mantlepiece worked very well for hanging Christmas stockings from and the peace of the season—far from shops and malls, highways and railroads, industry and people—was like nothing we’d ever experienced before.

We went out for a walk on our acreage and dragged back a fir tree we’d cut, not realizing until we got it inside, that it was a bit more scrawny and uneven than the cultured ones we’d bought in our previous life in the city.

Without power, lights were not going to be the focus of this tree, so we strung popcorn and cranberries and draped them over its branches.

We added homemade, hand-painted clay ornaments made with cookie cutters and poster paints and the embroidered or glued decorations from years past, until all our friends and family were represented.

Care packages kept arriving at the nearest postal outlet—a general store that also hosted the liquor store and gas station, some 40 kilometres down the gravel road.

Inside each package, we found almost everyone had sent some mitts and toques, but also home baking and other gifts, and treats from the city life we’d left behind.

Despite the snowy backroads and long distance from the nearest highway, we had visitors for Christmas, hardy souls determined to not miss being with family at this special time of year.

Somehow having to use candles and hurricane lanterns made it more cozy as the snow piled up outside.

With a total reliance on wood heat, gathering fuel to keep our little family from freezing was a constant winter chore.

I’ll never forget one clear night when I went out to bring in an armload of wood, seeing an eery, undulating band of multi-hued lights far off in the sky, dancing among the stars.

The northern lights are awe-inspiring, just like the wilderness they’re a part of.

May your Christmas be warm and cozy, filled with love and friendship, good health and a spirit of adventure.

Judie Steeves writes about outdoors issues for the Capital News.


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