Kluane B&B host offers warmth in the wilds

NORTH ALASKA HIGHWAY April 1 may have rendered a few fools, but Cecile Sias at Silver City wasn’t one of them.

NORTH ALASKA HIGHWAY

April 1 may have rendered a few fools, but Cecile Sias at Silver City wasn’t one of them.

She was hosting a quilters’ retreat at Kluane Bed and Breakfast on the shores of Kluane Lake.

Sias is a hospitable, wide-smiling, belly-laughing kind of gal who loves people — a vital prerequisite for her kind of business.

She hustles from the main guesthouse past her four sleeping cabins.

“Just finishing the bathrooms,” she calls across the sunny yard as she strides toward her house.

She worked hard on her parents’ farm at Leoville, Saskatchewan, as she was growing up, Sias says. The bed-and-breakfast business also demands hard work and ties a person down, she adds.

“Definitely the farm was where I learned how to work hard,” she says and smiles. “I always wanted to get away from that, and here I am.”

Challenges other than the hard work include road-weary travellers, whom Sias describes as “sometimes a little grumpy.”

“But I’m patient because I know they’ll feel better after food and sleep. I tell them that, and it’s usually true.”

Sias’ girlhood desire to be a nurse became diverted into other domains of caring and service, such as her B and B and motherhood.

She has spent her adult life employed as childcare worker, health-centre clerk, mine camp cook and interpreter at Sheep Mountain.

Sias came to the Yukon in 1967 for one year to work as a childcare worker at Coudert Residence (later Yukon Hall) in Whitehorse.

Then she met her husband, Doug, and is still here.

In 1999, she assumed the bed and breakfast from her in-laws, Frank and Josie, who opened the business in 1990.

“That’s what I was really wanting to do,” says Sias.

Now a grandmother, Sias values family life and caters to family guests. Every Christmas the same small knot of families from Whitehorse descend on Kluane B and B for their festivities.

“There’re a lot of places to run and explore and ride bikes here in summer, and lots of toboggan slides and ski trails in winter,” says Sias.

“And this past Christmas they all skated on the snow-less ice.”

Sias stands still for a moment, absorbing the stunning view of Sheep Mountain heaving skyward from the sunlit lake. Then she elaborates on how her wilderness surroundings help to rejuvenate her.

“I get busy with work and forget what’s out there. Then at four o’clock in the afternoon guests arrive, get out of their cars, and exclaim, ‘Oh my God, am I in heaven!’”

Sias beams, animated now, and says, “I think, wow, Cecile, this is what it’s all about. It gives me energy to … to clean another bathroom.”

The serene wilderness with homey comforts is what makes Kluane Bed and Breakfast an ideal retreat and wellness venue.

Sias plans to promote that aspect, citing groups and individuals who have come here and have experienced the calming effects.

And the million-dollar view is included in the price.

 “I really like having families and I love when people have weddings here.” Sias continues.

She describes how several couples have exchanged their vows on the lakeshore and then hosted their dinner and party in the main guesthouse.

Back in the kitchen of her cozy log home, Sias says that her house is separate from the bed-and-breakfast business.

Everyone has more privacy this way, without losing the hominess, she says.

The main two-bedroom guesthouse contains an immaculate, well-equipped kitchen where Sias cooks breakfast, and where guests may cook for themselves.

She points out that she could not offer this option if the guesthouse were part of her home.

In the summer, Kluane Bed and Breakfast also offers for rent a new, self-contained, two-bedroom chalet with a loft.

Groups, such as the Threadbearers quilting group from Haines Junction, often rent the whole facility (excluding the chalet). They bring their own food, or arrange catering service.

This is the Threadbearers’ seventh consecutive year of retreating to Kluane Bed and Breakfast, April and September.

“Cecile’s great — warm and welcoming,” says quilter Marguerite Heming. “She lets us reorganize the whole common room, visits us, but doesn’t hover.”

On the April 1 weekend the quilters had certainly re-arranged the common room — with cutting tables, ironing boards and 16 sewing machines.

“If they rent the whole facility, they can have as many people as they want — RVs, tents, whatever,” says Sias. “We’ll supply extra barbeques and things.”

By prior arrangement Sias can offer some meals as well as breakfast.

Kluane Bed and Breakfast maintains a website at www.kluanecabins.ca or can be contacted by phone (867) 841-4250 or e-mail: kluanecabins@yt.sympatico.ca

However, Sias intends to keep her guest premises technology free. (An emergency telephone is available.)

“Technology doesn’t fit with all this wilderness; it’s a place to get away from all that,” she says.

Kluane Bed and Breakfast’s approach is 58 kilometres northwest of Haines Junction at kilometre 1693 on the Alaska Highway.

Follow the easy four-kilometre drive off the highway through Silver City ghost town.

What advice can Sias offer other bed and breakfast owners?

“You have to know that you love people. That’s what will sustain you through the work and being tied down.”

 Elaine Hurlburt is a freelance writer who lives in Haines Junction.

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