It has been a beautiful mid-summer day and the clear sky promises and equally pleasant evening. Seven young people and I are camped along the river several days out of Whitehorse. The canoes are pulled up on shore, the evening chores are done and we’re all reposed around a blazing late evening campfire.
“Tonight we’re camped 100 miles from everywhere,” I announce.
“What do you mean?” asks one.
“Well,” I reply. “If we continue north from here we would have to travel at least a hundred and forty miles to reach any sign of civilization. If we head south it would be well over one hundred miles before we’re back in Whitehorse. Towards the east or west the wilderness distance is almost immeasurable. We’ve reached a point of no return.”
Things turn quiet as each of them ponders the significance of this tidbit of information. Individually they gaze into the dancing flames and glowing coals of the fire. The crackling campfire, the rolling river and the surrounding wilderness provide a wonderful venue for private thoughts and reflection.
“No phones,” begins one.
“No TV,” remarks another.
“No cars, no traffic and no noise,” says a third.
A soft female voice begins a well-known song and within moments a number of voices join in.
“A hundred miles, a hundred miles, a hundred miles, a hundred miles, you can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles.”
One of the boys picks up a guitar and gently strokes the strings in accompaniment.
Lord, I’m one, Lord, I’m two, Lord, I’m three, Lord, I’m four, Lord, I’m five hundred miles away from home.
From the top of a large spruce tree, a raven suddenly ads its guttural, rasping voice to the song and draws a laugh but the tune lingers on and a few soft voices now plaintively sing the last verse.
Not a shirt on my back, not a penny to my name. Lord, I can’t go back home this-a way. This-a way, this-a way, this-a way, this-a way, Lord, I can’t go back home this-a way.
The melody comes to an end and the group falls quiet. Even the raven does not again interrupt. Each of us remains still and deep in thought of what exactly this place and this distance means and the magical minutes carry on for a time.
“Oh good!” someone finally ventures. “That means we’ll be out here for at least another three days. I don’t really want to go home just yet.”
The evening lingers but the magic of the one hundred miles is gone. Soon the campfire is down to a few red-ribbed embers. The magic of that evening will stay with us forever.