Winter in Awesomeland

As the season comes to an end for the family so does the adventure

by Trish Drinkle

A mother and her three kids walking with a dog through the snow.
We are a strong family, stronger now because we were blessed to enjoy a winter up here in Awesomeland. Brook Evans photo

The winter was milder than we had expected. Snowfalls were few and far between, but each time a snowflake fell, our entire family rejoiced. Awesomeland was spectacular during the snowfalls. As the branches sagged from the weight of the fresh snow, the laughter of children could be heard echoing amongst them.

The children seemed completely in their element in the forest surrounding Awesomeland. They made snowboard and ski runs all around the property, finally mastering the feel of fresh powder.  They were far too accustomed to groomed runs, so the feel of fresh snow was odd to them at first. 

We became a part of our surroundings, completely at home with all that was around us. Leo and Brook, my oldest children, seemed to have more than their fair share of battles, as teenagers will.  It was a simple fix for their bickering.

“Children, would you like to go out for a shred?” Instantly, their frustration would turn to excitement as they threw on their winter clothes in mere seconds. They’d return home a few hours later, happy and exhausted with stories that would fill our evening.

Stories—that was another huge development of our communication skills up the mountain. We took the time to listen to each other. It could be stories from their school day or their basketball practice. It was a gift to take the time to listen.

I found my time incredibly rushed. I wanted so much to be home to enjoy Awesomeland, but my job seemed to eat up any spare moments of time. I envied my children and husband’s time at the property. I had quite the commute to work each morning—45 minutes each way. It wasn’t horrible, but combine that with early nightfall, and the need to fulfil typical mom duties, and you have a mother who hardly sees her family at night.  I would arrive home in time to make supper, do a quick tidy and spend about two hours of quality time—if I was lucky. My husband is an early-to-bed kind of person, so if the children’s basketball kept me in town past seven o’clock, I’d be lucky to spend an hour with him in the evening. I was slowly becoming burnt out. 

Good experiences and bad ones

My job description was quite an interesting one. Some days I took customers on demo rides so they could try out snowmobiles and find the one best suited for them.

One particular day, my husband was with me. The scream of an ambulance rushed past us and in an instant I was certain that it was for my children. Call it spidey senses, or a mother’s intuition, I knew it was for my babies. Sure enough, I received the call at work. Tatum was on her way by ambulance to the Nelson Hospital. Every mother’s worst nightmare had come true.

I raced to the hospital and patiently waited. Ambulances arrived, but they did not hold my precious daughter. I scoured the parking lot, until I noticed an ambulance approaching. It was hers. As they unloaded her on the stretcher, my sweetie smiled at me and asked how my day was. The size of the goose egg on her forehead was alarming. She was peaceful and afraid that she had worried me. That is Tatum, the sweetest little girl on the planet.

Our friend Star, who was the momma bear driving the kids up the mountain, accompanied her to the hospital. Star was in her own pain as well, but as mother bears do, she was putting my daughter’s needs above her own. Apparently a woman, who is well known to the police and the community as reckless and irresponsible, had plowed into them on the road. Star, being the momma bear that she is, pretty much did what I would have done—and all I have to say is the reckless woman is lucky to be standing.

We take parenting very seriously, as does the rest of Ymir. While we were at the hospital, Ymir became the soft place to land for my children at home. Jay Collie, our friend and fireman on the scene, kept checking on the kids up the mountain, to make sure they were OK. Leo had everything under control: a fire going, supper made and movies in so they could relax and absorb what had taken place. The kids wanted to go back up the mountain, despite all the people around them insisting they stay with them. They felt safe up at Awesomeland and just wanted to be home.

Tatum was happy and, although she had a humungous goose egg, was feeling quite all right. She too just wanted to be home. We convinced the doctor to let us head home, but we agreed to watch her for the next hour or so for signs of potential danger. 

Jay met us at the staging area and helped us get Tatum up the mountain. I never did totally relax until I saw the glow of our home against the surrounding forest. There was our home. Safe at last.

That moment in the Wildhorse will forever stay with us. We are a part of that community and will always be—no matter where the wind blows us. The wind can be cold and cruel sometimes, as it is in our life right now. What do you do when life takes you away from the path you thought you were destined to follow? How do you let go of your dream, when you are living it? Faith, I suppose.

Reaching a turning point

As the winter went on, it became more and more clear to us. I simply did not make enough money to support our family. My husband’s immigration application seemed to be at a standstill. Years of hoping produced absolutely nothing. Though we fill out the appropriate paperwork and pay the required fees, it drags on. No more did I have the feeling that our financial struggles were going to come to an end soon. There was no end in sight with immigration. I had to make a decision. We had to make a decision. Money was needed to get us back to where we needed to be.

My children are phenomenal and probably the most humble kids on the planet. They saw the struggle we were under, and did everything in their power to make life easier. That, in itself, made me feel as though I was failing. My stress as an adult was being transferred onto them. I had to make a change and, wow, did I ever. 

I decided that, although snowmobiling was a big part of my life, it wasn’t the be-all and end-all of our existence. Being on the cover of a magazine or in a movie meant nothing compared to fresh fruit and vegetables available for the kids to enjoy any time they wished. I went looking for work, understanding full well that my sponsored snowmobile would be leaving me.

I applied at local lumberyards close to home. After doing the math, the amount of money I had spent on gas each day greatly lessened my take-home income. I would have been better off earning far less without the drive. Living within the city of Nelson wasn’t in reach at all. It was far too expensive. 

Opportunity comes knocking

Pretty much at my most humble point in life, I braced myself for change—but I didn’t expect change to crash down like a tsunami. Within days, my life was transforming. A wonderful friend and businessman from Alberta heard that I was looking for work at a lumber mill. He reached out and suggested that I work for him. At first, I dismissed the thought. How could I relocate the children away from here? Their friends and our home was deeply embedded in all of our hearts. But then the offer of a lifetime emerged.

Complete security for our entire family—the only catch was, we’d have to move away—move away from Awesomeland. Talking as a family, we knew it was a good offer. The kids were ready for the easy button, and you can bet your life I was. How do you let go of your dream? Awesomeland was literally a dream since I was young. How do I let go of this life? The answer is short, but sweet. The answer is faith. Although I’ve spent many hours sobbing like a baby, I know this is our path. I have faith that this is our path. I’ve cried with many of our friends here, but they all say the same thing: “You’ll be back.”

I do believe this. We need to take this opportunity to better our life and we will be back, and have the means to enjoy this land as we wanted. Simply being here isn’t enough. We need to be able to have the security to fully enjoy our time here. We will be back—perhaps not in this exact location, but we’ll come back to the place that mended all of our hearts and solidified our hearts as one. We are a strong family, stronger now because we were blessed to enjoy a winter up here in Awesomeland.

A dozen things our family has learned:

  1. A 100-pound propane tank lasts infinitely longer than 20-pound tanks, giving you a wonderful source of hot water for this hot water-on-demand setup. We’re going on five months of usage now compared to a 20-pound tank every week and a half.
  2. Creatures go bump in the night. That’s OK. Wolves pass through, and only once did I get the heebie-jeebies coming home when my bag of chicken accidentally bumped my tether causing the sled to shut off when I knew something was watching me. A pack of good dogs keep creatures at bay, so no matter how remote, life is safe and good.
  3. The sound of a bar-sized fridge is surprisingly loud when you aren’t used to any noise at all.
  4. You can never watch the entire first season of Duck Dynasty too many times—and our snowmobile friend here in Ymir, Lenny, strongly resembles Phil.
  5. Hairdos don’t matter all that much in life. Beauty comes in the form of helmet hair too. On the same note, a hair straightener uses more power to heat up than a washing machine. Go figure!
  6. Going snowshoeing at night during a full moon is incredibly romantic.
  7. Having a warm bubble bath by the light of an indoor kerosene heater is better than all the spa experiences I’ve ever had. Especially if you can hear the kids singing and playing guitars in the background.
  8. Snowmobiling out your back door is an incredible luxury, especially if your tracks are the only ones you ever see for an entire season. Can you say spoiled?
  9. Living without luxuries sometimes makes you open your eyes to all the natural and simple ways to have fun. Snowshoes, crafts, guitars, violins and dorky animals can be the greatest sources of entertainment on the planet.
  10. Life is a heck of a lot easier when you let it simply be easy. We don’t need all the fancy in life, really. Simple meals and simple fun mean an easier way to live. Peace of mind is worth all the tea in China.
  11. Chihuahuas are a tough little breed of dog. Our little Chupacabra proved this. We’d call her Chupi of the Wilderness, for she’d disappear with the big dogs, sometimes even leading them into their day of adventure in the forest. I’m not sure how big she thinks she is, but it is certainly bigger than the three pounds of grrr she is in person.
  12. Hanging as a family in one room each night is the best way to get to know and enjoy each other. No matter what type of technology our new home has, we all agree—one room family time at night must stay. 

Awesomeland advice

To the next people who live in Awesomeland, please love it. Everyone here has, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the magic of this property will only allow those with the most pure of intentions to reside here. You must love winter and you must have a strong will to survive up here. Digging snowflakes isn’t enough to ensure you make it up here, for at some point you may be digging up water lines and pooping in an outhouse. You need to be tough and to be able to laugh at yourself.

The next chapter

We’re moving our family to Northern Alberta, transitioning into our next Awesomeland. As I mourn the loss of our dream property, the words, “home is where your family is” keep resonating in my mind. We will have Awesomeland again—it’s how we roll, as a family, in constant search for adventure. 

If you are interested in purchasing Awesomeland email Jeff. Good luck! Stay tuned—as we return to my childhood stomping grounds, I have a feeling that, amidst the northern lights and the warm summer lakes, our epic adventures will continue.

Much love,
Trish and family

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