alaska lost in haze of bygone days

If you want to measure how far Yukon society has advanced in the last couple of years, drive 90 minutes to Skagway, Alaska, and order an omelet.

If you want to measure how far Yukon society has advanced in the last couple of years, drive 90 minutes to Skagway, Alaska, and order an omelet.

If you’re lucky, the eggs and sausage will be fine. Good even.

But the air? That will probably be thick, stale and difficult to breathe.

It’s amazing how even a single cigarette in a large cafe can pollute the place, ruining your meal.

In Alaska, smoking in public eateries remains socially acceptable.

For those of us who now live in slightly more enlightened communities, sitting in a hazy restaurant breathing someone else’s carcinogenic fumes seems barbaric.

Yet, that was the case here just a few years ago.

When you’re given the right to eat and socialize in a smoke-free environment, when that becomes the norm, you often forget how pleasant it is.

A trip to Skagway can remind you how awful things used to be. And how far we’ve progressed in the Yukon. (Richard Mostyn)

A remarkable rescue

The story of Dave Layzell’s rescue is remarkable for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s not often that somebody who’s gone missing in the Yukon bush for 21 days is available for interviews after he’s found.

Second, it’s not often that somebody who’s lost in the bush keeps their cool as well as Layzell did.

Of course, the two are related. Layzell’s good sense enabled the interviews.

Rather than risk a 15-kilometre, or so, hike out to find help, Layzell stuck with his truck.

Hiking down a dirt road doesn’t sound that arduous, but it would have required fording a swift-running creek several times. That would have been dangerous.

Realizing that, Layzell stuck with his vehicle, rationed his food and fuel and, eventually, boiled creek water to sustain himself.

Reasoning his wife Judy would report him missing when she returned from a southern trip, he hunkered down and waited. And waited. And waited.

It can’t be easy to stay rational under such circumstances. Hunger, isolation, heavy rains and the cold can make a guy do strange things.

But Layzell, known for his optimism and good cheer, managed the task. It didn’t hurt that he was once a wilderness survival teacher.

Those skills saved his life.

Perhaps we can all learn a little about survival from Layzell.

Always pack a little extra food, stick with your vehicle and stay positive.

Sounds simple. But there are countless examples that suggest it isn’t.

Which, unfortunately, is another reason why Layzell’s rescue is so remarkable.

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