Whether it’s paddling down the Yukon River or biking to Alaska, Hannah Harms finds plenty to do in Whitehorse.
She’s spent the last eight years calling the Yukon capital home and returned to her hometown of Elmira recently for a three-week visit with her husband, Dan, a born and bred Yukoner.
“I call myself a statistic because I went up for a summer and then didn’t leave. I went up for a summer after doing a year of travelling and I met a girl from up there; she was super passionate and really excited about Whitehorse and I was kind of intrigued by who is excited about a city,” Harms said.
She said once she got up there she understood the hype.
“The people, the place, the culture, it’s a unique spot that’s got everyone from granola cruncher hippies to redneck Yukon guys,” Harms said.
She works as a groundskeeper for the Yukon government.
Most people there work in mining, tourism or for the government, she says with a laugh.
When she hears about the winter back home she’s often thankful she’s doing snow removal in the Yukon and not Ontario. She says they get a lot of snow up there but it’s more spread out instead of a heavy snowstorm all at once.
Like most Yukoners they spend a lot of time enjoying the outdoors. They’re involved with their church’s youth, taking them on trips to go snowmobiling and skating.
“In the afternoon we often go paddling down the Yukon River and end up at a little island we call Sandy Island and we have an annual bike relay that we’re a part of that goes from Haines Junction to Haines, Alaska. That’s a pretty awesome annual activity we do,” she said.
Her husband’s family is into hunting and she went along on a moose hunting trip last fall. This trip stands out as a highlight of her time in the Yukon.
“We all had to stop skinning this moose for about five minutes to look up because the northern lights were the most spectacular northern lights I’ve ever seen. That was a pretty spectacular moment and event. We were in the middle of nowhere and not a soul to be seen,” she said.
Harms previously worked in a coffee shop for a few years in Whitehorse and she’s seen all sorts of characters come through. The city of nearly 30,000 is known for having a variety of great coffee spots.
“We have just as many coffee shops as we do people. You’ve got everything from the average Joe coffee shop to the fancy Alpine Bakery coffee shop that’s got everything vegan or dairy-free. Everybody’s got their own place they like to go to, and we’ve got ours,” she said.
A few things do stick out that she misses about living in Elmira. One is the Kitchener Blues Festival which just wrapped up last weekend. Another is being able to drive 20 minutes and be in a whole different place. The third thing she misses is so perfectly local, it has to be mentioned.
“My husband and I would probably say the lack of maple syrup,” she says with a laugh.
They’ve made good use of their vacation over the past three weeks. They went to the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market and filled their backpacks with summer sausage from Kitchen Kuttings. They took a trip to Wasaga Beach and Dan got burnt to a crisp because he’s not used to the hot sun.
Heading to the movie theatre was a must do and of course a trip to Canada’s Wonderland.
The trip home was particularly special because her brother, Josh, was also home from China. It was the first time the whole family, including parents Bruce and Marj Weber, had been together in five years.
“They brought us up to travel and go where we want and feel we want to be – that’s where it’s taken us.”
She and Dan don’t have any plans to move to Ontario any time soon but she says they’ll always be back to visit.
She recommends anyone who’s given the chance to live in northern Canada to give it a try.
“You’ll be pretty sure in the first month or so if you enjoy it. If you have an open mind you can see it in the summertime in the beautifulness and in the wintertime the frigid cold, and just enjoy the outdoors. If you like to get out and don’t want to have to drive very far you can live in Whitehorse and drive 10 minutes and be in the middle of nowhere,” she said.
And most northern folks would love for more people to visit, while a select few would like them to stay because they like Whitehorse nice and small, just the way it is.
“We all want you to have a piece of it and love it as much as we do. But it’s nice to come home and realize this is just as beautiful, just in a different way,” she said.