Next stop was Takhini Hot Springs, operated by our hosts, Carla and Garry. The hot springs consisted of two pools, one hot and one warm, on a hillside. Being outside in warm water, surrounded by the snow and forest was an extremely relaxing, and social experience, a great way to hang out and get to know my fellow travellers. Vancouver web entrepreneur Robert Scales lead the way with diving head first into the snow and then back into the hot pool, which he assured was was a rush well worth the pain. After some cajoling, I decided to try myself, and experienced the sharp, tingling sensation of the hot water on my icy cold skin. Was it worth the rush, as Robert claimed? Well, let's just say I was not in any hurry to repeat.
Following the hot springs, we did a quick tour of the neighbouring Hotsprings Valley Retreat, a collection of cabins with a central gathering hall.
Beijing reporter Dan Luo (above) came to Vancouver to cover the Olympics for people.com.cn, a Chinese website. As we walked by a stack of wood, she asked what it was. I explained that it was firewood prepared to be burned in the fireplaces in the lodge. She was surprised to learn Canadians waste wood by burning it.
The Sour Toe Cocktail
We returned to town, visiting the MacBride Museum of where we were again served food, this time a lovely spread of crackers and cheese. The buzz as soon as we entered the facility was who was or wasn't going to become a member of the Sour Toe Cocktail Club. It's a cocktail made of whisky and a pickled human toe. Yes, a human toe. I swear. It looked nasty. In order to qualify, you have to let it touch your lips. And so I did. I have a picture to prove it (courtesy Sheryl Yen):
And if the picture's not enough evidence, here's a video (courtesy Robert Scales):
It was nasty. I've never put back a shot so quickly or heard such cries of encouragement. Robert, of course, had to show that it was no big deal. He decided to slowly sip the Sour Toe Cocktail. Unfortunately for him, the toe stuck to the bottom of the glass and he had to tap the bottom to get the toe to make contact with his lips. To his credit, he didn't even grimace.
Time being short, we were hurried into a waiting bus to move on to the Mushers' Banquet, in honor of the incoming mushers from the Yukon Quest, a group who was treated like local celebrities. We sat down at the banquet and joined the community in celebrating the winners, including the Rookie of the Year, the very youthful looking Joshua Cadzow.
I had the impression the skeleton racers we had been watching in Vancouver would not be able to handle what these rough and tumble mushers go through, all alone in the harsh Northern Canadian wilderness.
The Trip Home
Unfortunately, we had to leave the banquet early, as our flight home awaited. But back at the airport, as we were lining up to receive our return boarding passes, we were bade farewell with a dance number by a group of local dancers (pictured below).
Enroute home on our Air North flight, the in-flight entertainment was a fashion show by award winning designer Megan Waterman of Northern Garments. Northern Garments beat out Vancouver's Lululemon in the 2007 DX Awards, a Canadian fashion design award. Members of the tour were dressed in parkas and flaunted down the airplane aisle. We were then plied with food (again) and treated to a soothing Johnny Walker Red (just one rock, please). We were all very tired, but very pumped up about our trip and very full of gratitude to our gracious hosts.
As we got off the plane, we were told that Vancouver airport had been shut down at 11 p.m. (it was well past 12 midnight at this time) for security reasons, and we'd had to get special permission to land the plane. If we hadn't have been able to land, we would have been directed to Abottsford airport. Paolo Gallina, who had organized the trip from the beginning, explained that would have been no big deal - they would have arranged for buses and travelling entertainment --- and probably some good food.
To which I replied, "Then why didn't we go to Abbottsford?"
I was exhausted, but the trip had been so great, I would have been happy to keep going.
Want to experience the North for yourself? The Yukon has come to Vancouver for the Games, and there are still great events in town before the Olympics end. Check out Canada's Northern House events page for more details.