‘Sometimes I see things and I almost cry of joy’
It’s 3,266 kilometres from the Prospect Point Café in Vancouver’s Stanley Park to the Eagle Plains Lodge, according to Google Maps.
Photo by AinslIe Cruickshank
TREASURING THE SECLUSION – Gaétan Doyon (left) and Lorne Raymond Munro say the unparalleled isolation of the Eagle Plains Lodge is a coveted benefit to their jobs.
EAGLE PLAINS – It’s 3,266 kilometres from the Prospect Point Café in Vancouver’s Stanley Park to the Eagle Plains Lodge, according to Google Maps.
That’s how far chef Lorne Raymond Munro travelled when he decided for the fifth time in his 40-year cooking career that he needed to leave city life behind.
“I like the seclusion,” he told the Star last week, sitting in the Eagle Plains dining room.
“It’s nice for a change, to get away from the city. You’re close to a city anyway – five hours away, there’s Dawson.”
Although with a population of fewer than 2,000, most would agree Dawson City doesn’t quite count as a metropolis.
But, Munro doesn’t mind the isolation, even after a year and a half.
“I have my Internet, and my 40-inch colour TV, wireless head phones and all that. I have a full stereo system basically in my room, so I have everything I need. And there’s always the bar,” he said.
“I go out occasionally, but I’m not much for going out in the winter. I go out in the summer,” he added.
Munro’s not an avid outdoorsman, but he more than appreciates the stunning landscape. This time of year, the northern lights in the area are especially spectacular, he said.
Gaétan Doyon moved more recently to Eagle Plains, up from Dawson, where he’d worked at the Drunken Goat.
Doyon covers the breakfast shift in the kitchen and is the lodge’s resident baker – a trade he picked up in Victoria, where he worked at an organic bakery for 12 years.
Like Munro, Doyon seems quite content to stay at the highway lodge for the conceivable future.
“I needed a change. Dawson’s a beautiful place but there’s a lot of gossip. People are really nice to you, but when you turn your back, there’s all kinds of stories that come out, and I got tired of it,” Doyon said.
“It’s pretty isolated here,” he said. “But, I love this place.
“You wouldn’t believe the scenery in here sometimes ... in the morning, when the sun comes out and it gets clear, it’s unbelievable. Sometimes I see things and I almost cry of joy.”
Working in such a remote locale has its challenges, though.
“You have to be able to do pretty much everything. You’ve got to be able to do cash register, you’ve got to be able to do front desk, serve beer at the bar,” said Munro.
“We do have a waitress four months out of the year and then I go, ‘Thank God I don’t have to use the cash register anymore for four months.’”
During the two-odd months when the Dempster is closed during freeze-up and spring break-up, food deliveries to Eagle Plains all but stop.
Munro said they are starting to stock up now for May.
Perishable items are delivered to Dawson City during those eight weeks.
However, it means someone from the lodge has to go pick them up, or rely on the generosity of any highway crews or truck drivers who happen to come up their way.
“What really impresses me are the products we get in here; it’s actually pretty good. Even better than what I saw in Dawson itself,” said Doyon.
“Even the meat, it’s pretty good-quality meat. And it’s fun as a cook to have good product like that so you can come out with good stuff.”
“That’s one thing you can tell your readers: you’ll always get a good meal up here,” Munro added.
(That’s something this reporter can attest to, having enjoyed a tasty turkey dinner on the evening of
Feb. 12, and a hearty breakfast sandwich with hash the following morning.)
Wednesday’s Star included a special Centrepiece on maintaining the Dempster Highway.