“Witch Parking Only. All Others Will Be Toad Away”
Greeted by such a sign I realise I’d come to somewhere very special. Beverly Gray’s stunning six thousand acre property in the mountains overlooking Rat Lake near Whitehorse, is a geodesic dome full of jars and hanging herbs drying in aromatic bunches. Beverly is a herbalist, aromatherapist, natural health practitioner and award winning health-product formulator. She describes herself as a modern day ‘witch’ but Bev doesn’t quite fit the fairy-tale stereotype: she is tall, wholesome looking and has a great sense of humour.
It’s a crisp, chilly morning but we follow Bev to the back of the house where she has lit a campfire in front of a magnificent mountain view.
A group of women -who have come from around the world to learn about herbs and its applications- sit around the fire sipping herbal concoctions from recycled jam-jars.
We join them and soon after we are all following Bev along a mountain trail to pick spruce buds for our afternoon salve-making session.
Along the trail we gather plants under Bev’s supervision while she explains their medicinal properties.
As I begin to wonder what practical use this knowledge might have, I trip and fall down the mountainside into thick undergrowth.
A sharp branch punctures my calf deeply and I begin to bleed profusely. In an instant Bev reaches for some plant, gathers the leaves, puts them in her mouth and chews vigorously. She applies the poultice to the wound and secures it with a scarf.
The bleeding stops instantaneously. This is bush medicine at its best.
Back at the house she says she wouldn’t normally chew the leaves to make a poultice but given that we were far from processed salves it was the thing to do and proceeds to disinfect and apply a salve of her making to the wound.
The following day her new book, The Boreal Herbal, a guide to harvesting, preserving and preparing herbs and flowers is launched at the Aroma Borealis Herb Shop in Whitehorse.
There I spot local artist Joyce Majiski with whom I hiked around Carcross and Bennett Lake the day before.
Joyce is another living example of the strong Boreal women of the Yukon. She says ‘I go out hiking for inspiration.
Being out there is as important to me as a person as it is to being an artist’. With Joyce, the stark landscape comes alive. Later on at her studio we try different ideas, reflecting what we took in from nature that morning.
Still in Whitehorse the banks of the Yukon River beckon for a canoe trip and hike. The beauty is overwhelming.
Guided by the Kanoe People we retrace the original prospectors’ steps just before the Whitehorse rapids and find the remnants of a makeshift log tram built to transport their provisions.
At the bottom of the wooded area, dozens of school children learn the art of kayaking in the wilderness.
A midnight flight (in full daylight) to see the Summer Solstice inside the Arctic Circle takes us over the awe-inspiring Tombstone National Park where slabs of granite stack up like toppled grave markers.
Bush pilot David Sharp takes a slight detour when he spots a bank of dark menacing clouds to the West and thus we make a safe landing on the Highway which is designed to take both cars, trucks and aircrafts (in specifically designed stretches of the permafrost road).
Dave came as a young man from his native Aberdeen in Scotland for a holiday in the Yukon and simply stayed.
These bush pilots are tough, resilient and a lifeline to the spread-out communities of the area, flying their agile Navajo Pipers with panache.
The Yukon is not only awe inspiring in terms of nature but full of history as well.
You are never far from reminders of the gold rush that attracted so many people here. Some made it big, most perished. But today, this harsh but beautiful environment still attracts a particular kind of modern settler: nature loving, with a wild streak and gutsy. The perfect place to find your inner self.
Maria Visconti was a guest of Canadian Tourism Commission and Travel Yukon
There are daily flights from Vancouver to Whitehorse and Dawson City.
Things to do in Whitehorse
The Yukon is not only a trekking, skiing, rafting and biking paradise but also a driver’s dream with well-kept highways and well-appointed camp and recreational vehicles sites.
1-Hiring a car or RV is ideal to see this vast and awesome part of the world.
2-Visit Aroma Borealis and book a consultation with Beverley Gray Aroma Borealis Herb Shop, 504B Main St., Whitehorse, YT.
3-Drive or take a scenic flight to the Arctic Circle to see the midnight sun.
4-Visit the Tombstone Territorial Park with its awesome black, jagged peaks and alpine lakes. The Dempster Highway runs through it allowing you to see the fabled abode of the
5-Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people who have hunted, lived and traded here for centuries.
6-Kanoe People for kayaking lessons and guided tours.