Reflections from a personal gold rush


Sam tries her luck at the Free Claim.

By Samantha Elmsley
Photo by Samuel Sharp

I don’t want to confuse you, but this is the truth: summer is pretty much over. As such, it’s time for some post-holiday reflections.

I drove up to Dawson with a partner I had barely spent one month with, in a used car that he had just bought, with no job, nowhere to live, and no map- reading skills. My dad thought I was crazy. I thought I was free.

And I was, for three weeks, as we made our way across the country from Ontario in a yellow Ford Focus. Highlights included being west of Ontario for the first time, discovering that Calgary is actually a nice city, soaking in hot springs, and seeing bears, mountain sheep, elk, moose, marmots, and deer.

When we arrived in Dawson, I must confess that my first thought was, “Well, we could always go back to Whitehorse.” I’m sorry. I was tired. And I’m glad we didn’t. I’m glad that on Monday, we split up after breakfast to look for jobs and met up for lunch, employed and contractually obligated to stick it out.

Over the course of the summer, I got used to living in a tent. I also adjusted to Dawson, which was more isolated than I had anticipated. Restlessness set in sometimes, at which point Samuel and I would go for a drive up the Top of the World, just far enough to feel like we were going somewhere, or we would talk about our plans for the future, or watch a movie.

We peppered our calendar with things to look forward to: hiking the Dome, a visit from Samuel’s parents, a trip to Vancouver, board game nights with friends. The free claim, the music festival, and most of all, the library, also kept us busy. Failing everything, we drank: Peggy’s will forever be one of my favourite pubs, and the hostel sun deck the best place to share a bottle of wine and a good conversation.

It turns out that there’s nothing like a 7,000 kilometre car ride, and living in a tent for four months, to learn how to love someone well. It turns out that used cars actually hold up pretty reliably, if you can ignore that rattling noise, and breakdowns are only disastrous when you don’t have CAA. As it happens, Dawson has plenty of jobs in early May—the bigger problem is deciding which ones to turn down. And you’re always home when your home can be stuffed into a drawstring sack.

Don’t worry: the map reading skills come with time. I’m hoping mine arrive before August 20, when it’s time to make that drive back home.

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