Northern Ontario greeted us, treated us and then defeated us, until we fell asleep to the echoes of a local police officer repeating angrily “Ladies, what on earth are you doing here?l”. I argued with him relentlessly about the severity of three beautiful young Toronto girls lost and locked out of their beloved yurt fantasy alongside Pancake Bay. Meanwhile, my two exhausted partners in crime lingered frantically behind.
Rewind a moment though. To moments ago when ol’ fishermen taught us how to cast a line as the sun set over Lake Huron. Shannon hauled the line out into the depths of the sunset hauling in everything but a good salmon. Apparently Mark’s daughter caught all the good ones just a few months past her 15th birthday.
All that fishin’ got us hungry, but it being thanksgiving Monday and all everything from that small town that bred North America’s first female Mayor to Sault Ste Marie was closed-lights out and locked down. As we cruised through a quiet and dark heritage corner of Sault Ste Marie, we excitedly approached the only other living specimen we could find –the taxi driver in the far right lane. Shannon yelled, in a sultry yet aggressive voice “Hey, can you recommend a restaurant around here, anything open?” He thought, said it was the beginning of his shift and he wasn’t sure, but maybe, he nodded, tapped his chin, “maybe, that ol’ West Café beside the casino is open. Yea, check that out, West Café”. In the back of the rental car, Ashley called the West Café to confirm, “Um, Hello, hi, are you open… now?” A boisterous voice erupted on the other line “Open until 2am on Christmas Eve sweetie, see ya soon”. We pulled in hesitantly.
“Do you have anything gluten free?” She laughed, smirked and shot me the kind of glare that could defuse any defenses I could have mustered up. I felt like a true “citidiot” as my father says. She pointed at the menu, frowned. “You like salad?” I noticed the skull tattoo dripping down her right arm and awkwardly asked about the 24-hour breakfast. “What about the Mexican omelet, what’s the ‘special sauce?” She pulled the menu from my hand, read it intensively, and mumbled “salsa” before declaring my order to the grey haired stump fella holding down the kitchen. Three minutes later, an omelet filled with canned beef chili and boiled potatoes rolled out in front of me. When I didn’t finish it all, the chef came out to scold me like a mother at a thanksgiving dinner. It was time pay our dues and move on.
So off we went. And yurthunters 2014 began.
Yirgins (Yurt Virgins, in case you didn’t get that).
We drove up and down the unlit trans-canada highway for nearly an hour before pulling into side road after side road hoping to uncover the secret forest within which our dear yurt lived. The absence of street lights and signs led us on a wild goose chase from motel to cul-de-sac to abandoned woods before we finally pulled over and got serious. “What are we going to do, we can’t keep driving up and down these roads all night. We have to ask someone” urged Jordana. The three of us gazed at the gathering of rugged looking hunters and their Ford trucks beside us, momentarily considering asking them for help. Instead, Shannon yelled “Get out of here” and within milliseconds Jordana was whipping onto the highway and down another dirt road that ran in circles with homes that had been put to bed hours ago. While we all started to get worked up at the failing yurt hunt and getting tired and hungry and cold and even a bit frightened by the hunters across the road, we decided to give up. Driving onward we began to curl around the bend of the wooded area only to be welcomed by the shrieks of one another as a strange wandering man meandered slowly, step by step into the woods. We drove so fast and so far until we finally landed upon something that looked like it might be the ranger’s office.
We sat anxiously outside the rangers office. “I’ll just go yell for help” I declared before toppling dramatically out of the eco-efficient car and stopping short before a sign that read “Electrical security enabled, do not enter”. I thought the sign fascinating and decided to test its theory, wandering confidently past the supposed electrical fence and yelling “Hello….park rangers? Is anybody here? Help!!! We need a key to our yurt!” Shannon followed cautiously behind, peering into each of the buildings while I wailed powerfully against the longhouse that looked like it would be the sleeping house for off-duty park “wardens”.
In the corner of my eye I caught the glimpse of a flashing light behind me. The police had arrived. Shannon and I threw our hands in the air like two kids that had been rescued from an avalanche and ran towards the officer, while Jordana sat calmly in the front seat of our getaway car. Talking faster than a mile a minute, Shannon tried to explain what was going on.
“We drove all the way here, for ten hours, just to get to our yurt, then we couldn’t find it and when we did it was locked and we called everyone and no one answered and we are scared and alone…” she started to tear up like a true damsel in distress “and…and…and, we are scared!!!!”
“What are you scared of?” he chuckles. It was a fair question, we weren’t really sure ourselves. We defaulted to “The hunters!!!” and we all screamed simultaneously.
“Follow me girls” the officer demanded, shaking his head, before hopping in his police truck and driving across the street to the actual provincial park office.
A poor old man opens his door. Its 11pm here in the North-Country and there before him stands a cop and three beautiful lost young girls. Peering into his home, which uncomfortably resembles a 1960s public school with vinyl chairs, beige smoke stained walls and the smell of booze wafting from the ceiling fans, he calls for “Shea” and disappears like fog in the night. The sound of Jeopardy reruns echo in the background as the officer scolds us and young fella grabs the key to our yurt.
As he unlocks the door to our frigidly cold bedroom for the night. With extreme ease, he slides the door open and we have arrived.
It’s nothing like the Mongolian yurts I had seen in the Baby documentary my big sister made me watch. Plastered with a green and white tarp and consumed by two sets of bunk-beds, four patio chairs, a mini fridge, a failed heating system and a small colony of spiders of other inconspicuous bugs of all shapes and sizes, this was not the dreamy heat-preserving, healing communal space we had fantasized about. I certainly did not feel its acclaimed aphrodisiac ’ ness rolling through my shivering and now rain soaked veins. Nonetheless, it was beautiful and we made it into our perfect little home for the night.
But apparently, its rounded shape and crowned ribbed roof creates the kind of dreams we dream about in the city. So we decided to go to sleep and see where the yurt-hunt would take us.