scorecardI live in a remote northern community of 90 people and drive 10 hours to get groceries and run errands
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I live in a remote northern community of 90 people and drive 10 hours to get groceries and run errands

Hilary Messer-Barrow   

I live in a remote northern community of 90 people and drive 10 hours to get groceries and run errands
LifeThelife5 min read
  • I do a 10-hour round trip from our remote community in Canada to the nearest city to run errands.
  • We go to appointments and stock up on two months' worth of groceries when we drive to the city.

About four years ago, I moved from Vancouver to Beaver Creek, a community of approximately 90 residents in remote Yukon, Canada.

After moving from a city to a remote area in northern Canada, I realized normal tasks like getting groceries can be a huge undertaking. So, my husband and I made a solid routine for running errands that we've stuck to ever since.

Every six to eight weeks, my husband, our dog, Chilli, and I drive 300 miles from the remote northern community of 90 residents where we live to Whitehorse, Yukon, to buy groceries and attend appointments. Overall, the round-trip drive is about 600 miles and takes about 10 hours.

During seasons when we get only four hours of sunlight and extremely cold temperatures, we stay overnight in Whitehorse.

On one recent trip, we tried to be as efficient as possible as we worked through darkness and extremely cold temperatures. Here's what it was like.

I got up early and began my day by warming up my truck

Since we crammed two months' worth of appointments, shopping, and errands into our trip to Whitehorse, we got started early. On this particular day, the sun didn't rise until noon and it was -40 degrees Fahrenheit.

With the cold, we had to plug in the truck in and get it running or there was no way it would start. This kind of cold is hard on vehicles so it's important that we let the truck warm before we head out.

While the truck warmed up, I got dressed to walk with Chilli

I bundled Chilli up in booties, a thermal layer, and a jacket and I wore more layers than I could count along with a thick parka. I also wore a face covering, a toque, snow pants, and winter boots.

Because of the cold, our morning walk wasn't as long as it normally is. Still, the truck was ready to go when we returned.

Once we started driving, I noticed that trucks and cars across town were warming up. Not turning your car off while you run into a store or have lunch is normal here when it's extremely cold.

Our first stop of the day was the hospital for routine blood work

The community we live in has a small health center staffed with a nurse and a receptionist.

Though a doctor visits our small community two days a month, we have to travel to Whitehorse for specialist appointments or procedures like X-rays, ultrasounds, and certain blood tests.

After my blood work, it was time to grab food for Chilli

Once we arrived at the vet's office, my husband loaded over 100 pounds of dog food (enough for about three months) into the back of the truck.

We like to have ample on hand in case we're not able to complete our trip in good time. Planning for contingencies is a huge part of living in a remote community.

We also made a quick stop at the pet-supply store for treats and a few new toys for Chilli.

My husband and I split up to run the next few errands on our list

While my husband picked up a new saw, fuel for the chainsaw, and a waffle maker at the hardware store, I went to the hair salon.

It had been three months since my last visit to the salon so my roots were in desperate need of attention. As my hair stylist applied color, she said she'll be away the next time we're in town and I lamented that I'll have to go three months again before I'll see her. She curled my hair and I walked away feeling refreshed and generally a whole lot better about myself.

After my hair appointment, I took a cold, quick walk to pick up new wool socks, a gift for a friend, and some candles. Meanwhile, my husband and Chilli braved the cold for another short walk. We always bring Chilli on our trips to town, so we make sure the time is also enjoyable for him.

After we reconvened at the truck, we went to our favorite natural-food store for some specialty items

We went grocery shopping last since it required the most coordination and organization. Our grocery list was long because we needed enough to last us nearly two months, including any special events, birthdays, holidays, or get-togethers we'll have during that time.

We made our way through the aisles, checking items off our list and taking note when something wasn't in stock. If we have to make a substitution, we visit another grocery store in town. Our cart was so full that other shoppers asked why we were purchasing so many groceries.

We began sorting ingredients into bins and coolers as the cashier scanned them

We brought reusable bags, canvas totes, and three coolers – two small and one big. We packed frozen foods into the totes because they'd be OK in the -40 degree weather and put produce and dairy products into the coolers so that they didn't freeze.

Next was the hard part — loading the truck. This required spatial skills and teamwork. We didn't want anything shifting during a 300-mile drive home but wanted snacks and dog food, emergency supplies, and extra clothing accessible just in case.

Loading the truck felt like a game of Tetris. We hoisted the bins and coolers into the bed of the truck and my husband ducked under the canopy to arrange everything perfectly. Once the truck was packed, we gave Chilli one last short walk, filled our tank with gas, and hit the road.

When we drove home, we were prepared for emergencies

We brought emergency gear with us because of the extreme cold, lack of light, and distance we have to drive. We took a satellite communication device, warm clothes, food, water, and car-repair equipment.

We also always let a friend know when we're leaving Whitehorse and at what time we expect to be home.

I made sure to stay alert on our drive

The drive required us both to be constantly alert. As the light disappears, it's not always easy to see where the road ends and the frozen ground begins.

We didn't anticipate anything to happen on our drive but the only way to enjoy the stunning views is to know that we've prioritized safety.

The day still wasn't over when we arrived home

We were exhausted after a long, incredible drive but we still had to unload what we got in Whitehorse and put it all away, my least favorite part of the trip.

We hauled everything into the house through the dark and restocked the large pantry, crammed the fridge, and loaded the freezer. Some things had to be split into smaller packaging or emptied into containers to prevent spoilage or waste.

By the time we finished, we were ready for a big salad full of delicious fresh vegetables that will be a distant memory by our next grocery trip.