So I stand corrected - when we bought the property on the highway, there was nothing on it - we (ok probably not me as I was about 2) along with my aunt, had to put in everything - including a well for water and all.
So why did we choose this place essentially in the middle of nowhere to start a tourist-driven business? Because of the spectacular hotsprings across the road - Liard River Hotsprings
. These are the second largest hotsprings in Canada - despite living across the road most of my life, I didn't know this until just now! The first pool and boardwalk was built by the U.S. Army in 1942 - I am guessing this is the same time that they were building the Alaska Highway - connecting Alaska to the rest of the states (after Pearl Harbor, they feared a Japanese invasion of Alaska). There are two pools - the Alpha pool (in the picture) which has always been the most popular, and the Beta pool, farther on up the boardwalk. Although both pools were always open when I lived there, the Beta pool has been closed due to a snail on the Red Listed species list. Something else I just learnt!!
The hot springs were a huge part of my childhood. We were there all the time - summer and winter. I remember getting all bundled up in our snowsuits and heading out to the springs. There was some degree of strategy to getting changed to go in/out of the pool as it was freezing... literally like as cold as -50 some years. When I got older I was so annoyed when they put a steel door handle on the changing room... didn't anyone know flesh sticks to cold metal?!!
We used to roll in the snowbanks and jump back into the hot water - or sit under overhanging tree branches and have someone shake off the snow over our heads. My dad created the -50 below club - he sewed fur loincloths for a group of men who for us, and himself, and they posed out in the snow at the springs....
There were numerous upgrades and improvements to the pool over the years - but the best one was when a tree fell over one end of the pool - the cooler, slightly deeper end. This tree soon became a destination - a place to play volleyball, a climbing challenge, a jumping spot. It's funny how the best improvement came from a free through the course of nature.
The Old Cabin
I had a bit of a different childhood. I grew up at Mile 497 of the Alaska Highway - a place about halfway between two towns - Watson Lake (Yukon) 3 hours to the north and Fort Nelson 4 hours to the south. We started out living in the Old Cabin (on the left) which my parents had built several kilometers out in the woods, away from the highway. I don't really remember a whole lot about this place. I only lived here for a year - I think there was a fire? - and we bought the cafe out on the highway. I remember this place not as it looks in that picture, but in a state of disrepair - parts of the roof fell in and people eventually started taking logs for firewood.
I grew up working - I was seven years old when I first started helping out with cleaning the rooms - I would get $1 per bed I made. I had a really hard time getting the pillowcases onto the pillows - for me it was a huge struggle and the pillows were piratically bigger than I was. When I got older I took on the task of doing the laundry. I learnt how to fold sheets on my own - something again quite challenging when you are a little girl - it was one of my proudest accomplishments. After my stint being the laundry girl, I was given the task of cleaning the RV park - raking the grass, organizing the rocks around the fire pit, picking up garbage, restocking the outhouses and cleaning the bathrooms. The only time I ever refused to do any task was when my mom once told me I had to dig through the bathroom garbage to find paper towel I could reuse to clean the floor.... I still think that's just gross.
When I was 12, I started waitressing. I loved waitressing - maybe not the mornings when mom would come bang on my door at 6am to get me to cover a shift for someone who had failed to turn up to work. But I loved the work. I loved the busy-ness of it - running around like crazy was incredibly fun for me. And the tips! I'm sure they weren't anything compared to say what a girl working in Cactus Club makes, but to me, it felt like a fortune. I waitressed every summer until we sold the lodge in 2003.... and I haven't been back since.
It feels crazy to me that those days that feel like yesterday are long gone. I have a serious itch pulling me back in that direction....