7/11/2014 – 7/13/2014
We left Whitehorse in the morning and rode toward to the coast to meet our new “hydro buddy” and catch a boat ride out to his property. The timing couldn’t be better; he was already picking up some other friends that morning, and we were going to stay near Whitehorse one way or another because we couldn’t get the tires changed on the bikes until Monday. Jim would make another trip back into town on Sunday morning to pick up another friend, so our visit didn’t even create an extra trip. After lunch in town, we managed to rendezvous with the entire group and set out across the lake, leaving the bikes on the beach. (My bike was locked inside Jim’s shed, but Kevin’s didn’t fit. Kevin wasn’t concerned, but since the art/music festival was in town, there were an unusually high number of (drunk) people around. It wasn’t a problem). The boat trip involves crossing one lake, then navigating a somewhat exciting river section with 40 feet of differential between lakes, through to the next lake, and traveling across it some ways before you arrive.
Jim’s property has been in his family for generations, and the setting is absolute paradise (at least in the summer. Although they swear it’s beautiful in the winter too). Jim’s 85 year old mother Marion still spends summers there, and I could have listened to her explain the local history and tell stories of life there for days. The first cabin on the property was originally built as a mail outpost for the fur trappers. Today, there are many buildings, with a bit of electricity supplied by some solar panels and a generator, and there is even an internet connection supplied from the mountain top back towards town 15 miles away. Marion still cooks on the wood stove in the kitchen, in addition to a more modern propane range.
We were impressed by the amount of research Jim had done to design his off-grid micro hydro system. It’s shaping up to be really well done, and we wish we could be there to see it operate. There is enough head and flow in the stream to provide roughly 15 kW worth of power, which is more than enough for the existing compound. Jim and Kevin discussed strategies for filtering the intake water, the challenges posed by freezing in the winter, and made progress to learning how to weld the plastic pipe Jim procured for the penstock, something neither Jim nor Kevin had any experience doing. The logistics of getting the material and doing the concrete work in this remote location are daunting.
Kevin and I had our own log cabin for the two nights we spent “in the bush,” and despite it being July, a small wood fire at night felt pretty nice.
The other guests this weekend included a former aero-acrobatics pilot, and long time friend of Jim. He also happened to have a friend with a helicopter who owed him a favor, and so got a ride back to town Saturday morning.
Kevin and I appreciated the entire day spent off the motorcycles, out of the moto gear, and enjoying the beautiful scenery. While we’re excited to go on with the rest of our trip, it’s not hard to imagine spending the summer there, reading by the lake and helping with the endless effort of living in this remote outpost. Again, thank you Kathy, Glenn, Jim, and Marion, this was a very special opportunity for us, and we very much enjoyed our visit, and our time in Whitehorse.