In Ecuador, Robertson Bales and Suzanne Picot hung a ceramic sign on their adobe wall — Dunroamin’ House.
But they weren’t done roaming.
“I knew I’d find this dunroamin’ house,” said Picot, standing on the balcony of their new Crag Lake guest cabin.
“But suddenly the possibility that it might not be in the Yukon or Victoria (BC), made me nervous.”
The pair met in Victoria, where Bales was attending photo school.
Both had previously lived in the territory and recognized one another.
Six years later, after a marriage in Bali, adventures in Indonesia and time in Ecuador working as a writer/photographer team, Bales and Picot returned to the territory for a break.
That’s when Bales discovered the place at Crag Lake.
The deal went through the night before the couple left for Colombia.
“It would be six months until we got to spend the first night in the house,” said Picot.
After getting kicked out of Colombia for “suspicious” NGO work, they returned north.
“We came back the perfect picture of post-traumatic stress,” she said.
“We’d been living out of a suitcase and didn’t have a home.”
Now, years later, the duo are opening their home to weary travellers, calling it the Dunroamin’ Retreat.
A pine-needle-covered path meanders under a faded globe toward the new guest cabin.
The smooth-wood staircase is framed by a pair of mismatched newel posts. One was discovered at the Carcross dump, the other travelled from the farmhouse where Bales grew up.
A colourful quilt lies upstairs on the fluffy bed.
Picot made it from over 6,000 clothing labels.
Although it took years to make, she’s not worried about it getting soiled.
“It’s a very personalized thing, this retreat,” said Picot, pointing out a pulley system off the porch.
In the morning, hot strawberry rhubarb muffins hang waiting for the guests out of reach of squirrels.
Couples book for a three-day experience that includes hikes, sushi by the sauna, stories around the fire pit and a workshop of their choice.
Wolf Willow Cottages offers woodwork; Jeanne Baker teaches glass, Bales offers photography and Picot teaches travellers journal making.
“I like the idea of people coming here and making something to take away,” said Picot.
“Imbuing it with the energy of this place.”
In her studio, Picot opened old suitcases full of fabric and paper.
“I’m a bit of a pack rat,” she said with a grin.
“I was married in this,” she added, holding up a dark print fabric from Bali.
The journals are covered in the cloth, and stamps and intriguing bits of paper can be added.
“It’s sort of like scrap-booking,” she said.
Picot used to run the Dunroamin’ Curiosity Shop and still has plenty of treasures lying around.
On the walls of the guest cabin there’s a pair of old wood skates from Holland, hand-painted Guatemalan hangings and a pile of travel books, including Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go.
“Everything’s for sale,” said Picot.
“If you like the plate you’re served on, you can buy it.”
The idea came from a café Picot visited in Holland.
“I have a number of stashes,” she said.
“And this is the stash I am willing to share.
“The three-day retreat should allow people to try on an alternative reality,” said Picot.
“I would like people to be able to think about what it would be like to live on the side of a mountain in the Yukon in a creative community of like-minded people.
“They get to try on a different lifestyle for three days, and who knows where it will lead.”
Down by the lake, there’s an old, white enamel bathtub on a pile of rocks.
Under the rocks there’s a stove that heats the water.
“It’s a Yukon hot tub,” said Picot, sitting in the empty bath.
Further down the shore, there’s a dilapidated tree house.
The pair plans to fix it up for guests and build an arch in the woods to accommodate weddings.
“It’s a work in progress,” said Picot.
Although they have a business and a mortgage, Picot and Bales still yearn to travel.
“It’s an odd contradiction, the travel and the dunroamin’,” said Picot.
“But life is a dichotomy and you can’t get too comfy.”