People of the Wild is a blog series profiling residents of British Columbia who have one thing in common: their love for exploring the BC wild. This week we’re featuring Chris Czajkowski, a published author and modern pioneer. Chris sought solitude in the vast expanses of remote wilderness, but continues to share her experiences and knowledge with visitors. She epitomizes the British Columbian spirit of adaptation, resilience, and active connection to the natural environment.
How did you come to BC?
I came to BC looking at maps. I’m from Britain originally and I travelled around the world for a decade before I got to Canada. I chose BC because I love the mountains and that’s what it looked like on the map, that it was mountainous. Then I got a job as a cow milker for a couple years, this was in 1979, but I didn’t like where I was. It was too crowded because I had never lived in a town or a city. So I looked at a map and found a road going west of Williams Lake through the Chilcotins and then managed to find a place where you had to walk in to build a cabin. Then I looked to the map and found another place that I thought I was going to like better. It was on a lake, a high altitude lake and that was also a walk in situation or fly in with a float plane, one or the other. It took a day and a half minimum to walk in. Then I started building cabins. Because it was on Crown Land it had to be a commercial reason, so I created a small tourism business.
Is that Nuk Tessli?
Nuk Tessli, yes. I was completely alone there. I had help hauling logs for the first cabin I built but when I got to Nuk Tessli there was virtually no sign of human habitation. There was nothing, no trails. And I just started building. The first two cabins I built completely alone with no help whatsoever. And then with the third one I did have a bit of help.
Has that been in your blood your whole life, the desire to live in a remote area? What was the inspiration for this lifestyle?
I don’t know because to me it seemed like a very logical thing to do because I could make things and I enjoyed nature and so why not? And yet people keep asking me why do I do this or why have I done this. There isn’t really an answer because I can’t really understand it and it’s difficult to explain. I know why, at least I have some idea for why people live in cities. There’s more security, people like having plumbing, running water, and all those facilities and cell phones and things like that. Also a lot of people prefer more company than I ever did. But beyond that, why do people do most things? Presumably because there’s some enjoyment and some advantages. For me the advantages are I really like to be alone and I go quite squirrelly if I have people around all the time. Which might seem an odd choice to be in the tourism business but on the other hand I have a lot of alone time up there.
Could you describe the environment at Nuk Tessli?
Nuk Tessli is so different from Nimpo Lake and you can’t really compare it to the Chilcotin Mountains. The trees, plants, and birds are all different, and the high altitude. For instance, right now it’s the end of April and the ice and snow is still solid out there. The lake won’t go out until the end of May or even sometimes as late as mid-June. You’re dealing with a very long winter up there. It’s quite violent in many ways. West winds come off the mountains and very often gale, even hurricane force gusts come off the mountains. I wasn’t expecting that when I went there but I certainly learned to live with it. And that’s why I called Nuk Tessli because it means “west winds”.
What is it that makes you proud to call BC home?
I think it is the space. I grew up in Britain, although it was in a small village in a very rural area so I didn’t have too many people in close quarters. As soon as I hit a large country, which happened to be Uganda, I knew immediately that space is what I wanted. I live not very far from Nuk Tessli now, but I like the idea that if I go north of here I’ve got a couple of little bush roads and nothing for three hundred kilometers until you hit some more bush roads. And if you go south of here it’s four hundred to five hundred kilometers of really just nothing there. East and west of course there is Highway 20 so you’ve got a few little tiny settlements. It’s this idea of having space around. The fact it happens to be mountainous space with interesting nature and wildlife, that’s a double bonus.
How does BC’s nature/wilderness inspire you?
Of course I’ve been writing books, and I’ve now got eleven published all about my life there in the wilderness. I do painting as well. It just inspires me to go from day to day. I’m just looking out the window and there’s birds feeding at the feeder and a squirrel raiding it. I look out on a pond and I’m watching the migrant birds and to me that’s just wonderful, to be able to do that. Sure there are birds in the city like sparrows and such, but I just could not live in the city. I just can’t stand the constant noise and the constant awareness of everybody around me and of course the stink of all the vehicles and things like that.
In your current location, it must be beautiful to watch the night sky.
Yes, I even sleep in a bay window that I built that has a skylight so I can just lie there and watch what’s going on.
Describe your perfect day in BC.
Well the perfect time of day for me is the morning. Often it’s not so windy, right now the wind is blowing like crazy, which I find almost annoying at times because it’s just so noisy. In the mornings, especially this time of year, you can just sit out there. I’m up before the sun no matter what time of year it is. I like to do that. If the sun is up or even if it’s getting daylight before I get out of bed then I feel that I’ve slept in and I’m missing the day. So I get up early and then sometimes the mornings are absolutely fantastic. Right now the birds are coming back and you sit out on the deck and hear the birds singing and it just feels so wonderful. Of course I have to do things like dishes like everybody else and all of those mundane things but at least I can do them in my own time. I don’t know how to describe the day really. It’s always been the same, even as a kid, it’s always the morning that I loved so much.
When you are immersed in nature it can be easy to become a morning person.
I don’t know, I think some people have a hard time of it. I know at Nuk Tessli one of the things I used to do was drag people out of bed so they could canoe around to a particular point on the lake which was a spectacular place to watch the sunrise. Some of them just couldn’t do it and some of them were all kinds of grumpy until we got there and I produced the services of coffee. Then everything was ok. They always agreed afterwards that it was indeed spectacular.
What would be the one place or experience that you would recommend a new visitor to BC not miss this summer?
My favourite thing to do and suggest would be to go to Nuk Tessli. That would really give them an experience of something different. You have to get in there by float plane and it’s also even just getting to where the float plane leaves from can be quite an adventure in itself, as it’s not that easy of a place to get to. But on the other hand people obviously do. You can either fly to Anahim Lake and be taken by van to where the float plane takes off, or they can drive the nine hours from Vancouver and then take the float plane. That would be a really great experience because you’re away from roads and you have this most beautiful location of a three mile long lake with mountains that aren’t really known very well, the head of the lake, and trails all over. I don’t own the tourism business anymore but the man who does own it is a wonderful guy who has guided in the Himalayas and all over the world and he’s a very good guide.
Any last words of advice?
Don’t have too short a holiday. People come to BC for a week and expect to see a dozen different things, but firstly distances are huge and travelling itself takes time, and secondly, to enjoy nature you need time to connect because that’s the only way to really appreciate it.
Follow along with Chris’ insights from the wilderness here.
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