"THE THING TO DO," said Becky, ducking down into the crazy warm water of Takhini Hot Springs and then surfacing, "is to get your hair wet and watch it freeze."
Dawn and I dropped. I surfaced, winced, then laughed at the cold biting my cheeks.
Our day of dog mushing had called for soup at Timmy's before heading up the road to our cabin and Takhini Hot Springs just beyond. For my American friends, Tim Horton's is Canada's hot spot to stop. Donut holes--Tim Bits we call them--to die for. They also have delicious homemade soup, also to die for. So Becky, Dawn, and I drove back into Whitehorse from Sky High Wilderness Ranch to warm our bellies and thaw our toes. We arrived about four in the afternoon. In other words, twilight.
Once a First Nation's campsite, the city of Whitehorse has its roots in the 1898 Gold Rush. Named for the foaming, treacherous rapids of the Yukon River--looking like white horses stampeding--the White Horse Rapids once marked the greatest peril on the Trail of '98. Today, however, a hydro-electro dam replaces the once terrifying caldron. Schwatka Lake Reservoir settles peacefully atop a thousand tales of grit and grief. Adventure similar to ours--though deadly and demanding.
Tummies full, we drove out to our cabin, dumped our bags in "Klondike Kate," lay in a fire, and headed for the "best is yet to come."
|Klondike Kate cabin, Country Cabins, Whitehorse|
We drove the quarter mile to Takhini Hot Spring, paid our $9 Canadian!, shivered into our suits, and took the plunge.
We were strangers, really. Dawn is my social media techie back home, Becky someone I said hello to on the docks every day while waiting for tourists to get off the cruise ships. A woman who'd agreed to rent me a room this winter in her summer housing. But the two hours we spent in the warm womb of the earth, hair freezing over and watching ice grow around the lamps, we became best of friends. How do women bond?
I will tell you. We talk about X's, we laugh at ourselves, we tell stories about our children, more stories about our grandchildren, we split a gut over embarrassing tales, high-five our secrets, and scratch our heads over such questions as "Do you think democracy may fail?" and "Does God intervene in this troubled world?"
"I'm getting hungry," I said at last. Munchies awaited--on the other side of hell-frozen-over.
OMG! OMG! OMG! The frozen tunnel from pool to shower will kill you. Water logged, body emerging from the womb, you stumble up the stairs, stagger, throw a hand to the wall. Fingers sink into two-inch hoarfrost. You trip, lurch the last step. Reach dry ground. There's your towel, way down there--way down the icy hall on a hook, but it's too cold to stop, too cold to put it on. You make a grab, sprint, chin chattering your chest, goosebumps the size of goose eggs on your flesh, so mindless you nearly divert to the men's shower, realize your error, veer toward the women's, toss your towel, stiff as a board, to a bench, and hurl yourself with your one last last cogent thought--I'm going to die!--to the communal shower enclave and pull the knob. Hot water descends. You're Jennifer Beals in Flashdance.
We took turns hopping in and out of the cascading heat until at last, coming into consciousness by fits and starts the thought we're not going to die, we shivered into our clothes. Ten minutes later we were back at the cabin, visit to the outhouse behind us, in bed, munching on apples. We fell asleep talking.
This is what we woke to.
We could hardly make ourselves leave. Dog mushing and outhouses, phones on the trail and not in the shit, hot soup, hot springs, and hell frozen over we reluctantly headed back to Skagway...three strangers now friends.