Caribou disappearing in the snow, 100 swans taking off from a frozen lake and the reflecting sunset over on a lake mark a few of the highlights of nature from 30 years living off the grid for Chris Czajkowski.
These very beautiful and moving sights are even more intense when she’s alone.
“I would think ‘I’m the only one seeing this, it’s especially for me,’” she says, adding they’re “just magical experiences.”
Her newest, and 11th, book is primarily a review of 30-plus years of remote wilderness living spanning her time at Lonesome Lake and Nuk Tessli, but the book also includes chapters on growing up in England and backpacking for a decade around the world.
Czajkowski tends to get up at 4 or 5 and go to bed at 8 p.m.
“When I’ve had visitors, they’re always amazed when I throw them out at 8,” she says.
“So in that respect, I guess my life is a bit different.”
She has a regular landline phone and satellite internet, which is the only way to have internet where she’s living now – three-and-a-half hours from Williams Lake. “I really have a hard time deciding whether it’s been one big vacation or just constant work,,” she says.
She didn’t take any survival skills courses but grew up in a very rural area and her parents had no money so they made everything, which she says could be kind of a survival skill. Nature in England isn’t exactly tooth and claw like over here, but as she travelled, she always enjoyed nature and just got into wilder and wilder places as she moved around,
“I didn’t do a lot of completely being alone. I wasn’t alone for more than just one day, then it grew to a number of days in New Zealand, up to 10 days alone and I just kind of learned as I went along, I did learn what a wonderful experience it was to have nobody around for several days,” she says.
Being out in remote areas alone wasn’t scary either. “Not really, I have been scared. You meet a bear face to face and think ‘ohmygod what am I going to do?’ I’ve been charged by a bear but it eventually ran away, and I’ve always been frightened by the weather turned very bad and I’ve been in situations.
“I’m a heck of a lot more frightened driving on the freeway,” she says.
She does guiding for a living but not for hunting or fishing. “I’m just a tree hugger and flower sniffer and birds [watcher] and I’m interested in that side of nature photography and all that.”
But life alone off the grid still can be stressful, but she won’t be moving into town, ever, she says. “There’s all kind of stress. I have to work at not being overstressed actually, If I leave here, it’s going to be in a box. I couldn’t live in a town or city,” she says.
The farthest away from a town or city she’s lived was a difficult trek getting to town in winter. “Nuk Tessli was the most difficult to get out in the winter, because it would be take me four days to snowshoe out,” she says. “Planes are not always available in winter, in summer there’s always a float plane if you really want one, if you can afford it,”
For those who are interested in living away from civilization as she has, she says there’s nothing better, “[But I would] not recommend it to too many because it would get too crowded out here,” she laughs.
“I’m amazed how people have written to me and said they were dithering about making a decision or not going to make a decision, not necessarily living in the wilderness, and said after reading my book, they have the courage to do that. I wasn’t’ looking for that. It’s very gratifying to think people get that out of my books,” she says.
Chris Czajkowski talks about, and shows slides of, her life at a free presentation 7 p.m. Oct. 19 in the Ed Curell Reading Lounge at the Terrace Public Library. Her 11th book And the River Still Sings: A Wilderness Dweller’s Journey will be available for purchase. Refreshments provided.