Canada, Customers and The Klondike (Almost)

by Alan Brown

With the kind of advance publicity this talk had, it wasn't surprising that there was another good turnout.

Claire had got herself fixed up with a job whilst on the '97 Club holiday to Whistler / Lake Louise ? not in a skiing capacity, but as an equine trail-riding guide with the best-established family in the area, the Brewsters. From her base in a very comfortable-looking bunkhouse, she spent last summer looking after every nationality with every standard of horseriding. The summer scenery looked stunning. "Don't go in midsummer because of the midges ? June or September are best," she advised. Wildlife in included bears (dangerous), wolverines (very dangerous), racoons and rock rabbits, Idyllic though it looked, things weren't always perfect. Can you imagine having to ask the management of Chateau Lake Louise if you can get your horses out of the flowerbeds ! And it did rain apparently...

Claire didn't show us too many shots of the skiing ? probably thought we'd had enough after the lovely trip to Verbier, but again, the scenery was magnificent. Elks were a more common sight in the cold. She'd worked through the season in customer services of the ski company with what sounded like a fair amount of time off to ski ? even during the lunchbreaks ! Having spent the season there she is clearly very knowledgeable about the whole area and had all sorts tips about where to go within the three main areas and how to get the best deals. Going for the whole season sounds like the best option ! Given the friendly welcome Claire herself got from the locals, she was sometimes embarrassed by the professional ( British ) moaners she was asked to deal with.

As the season ended in May, Claire packed her bags and travelled west to BC for the next stage of her yearlong adventure. This time, along the Alaska Marine Highway. On a budget, she went for the cheapest accommodation on the boat which, according to pictures she had to prove it, were tents "pitched" at the stern ! No, you don't knock tent pegs into the deck, but apparently stick your tent down with masking tape! Again stunning scenery with marine fauna this time. Amazingly she met Bill Matthews, our former treasurer, in Alaska. Surprising where our members get to ? and there's no knowing when another member might turn up, so beware what you get up to !

Claire has been trying vainly to get back for more, and from what we saw, it's not surprising. We glimpsed a year spent experiencing vast contrasts ? scenery, temperatures, landscapes and wildlife. But the overall impression was of the sheer beauty of nature in all her seasons. I'm sure I wasn't alone in thinking "if only" and "what if" and watching with a touch of jealousy to the things Claire had had the guts to do. Thank you, Claire, for sharing it with us in such a professional and refreshing way.