Our Wilderness Homestead Revisited

A MOTHER contributor writes about her and her daughter's experiences when they revisit their wilderness homestead in British Columbia.

| October/November 2003

A MOTHER contributor and her daughter revisit their wilderness homestead in British Columbia.

Our Wilderness Homestead Revisited

Between 1991 and 1996, Deanna Kawatski wrote regularly for MOTHER EARTH NEWS, sharing her homesteading wisdom and experiences. Deanna spent almost 15 years as a self-described "wilderness mother," in British Columbia, living in a log cabin inaccessible by road and 120 miles from the nearest town. Deanna and her husband, Jay, lived without electricity, grew their own food and even delivered their first child, Natalia, by themselves. When Jay and Deanna separated, Deanna and their two children moved to a more populous part of British Columbia. Last August, she and Natalia made a trip north to visit their former home. — MOTHER

Why am I going? What can I possibly achieve by visiting the wilderness homestead my children and I left 10 years ago?

To get there, my daughter, Natalia, and I endure a 22-hour bus marathon from Shuswap Lake to Kitwanga, the northernmost Greyhound bus stop in northwestern British Columbia. Natalia was born and lived her first 12 years north of Kitwanga, in the woods to which we now travel.

Natalia isn't only visiting our past; she's also staking a claim for her future. She intends to spend regular intervals living in her childhood home. Since our departure, a decade ago, a series of renters have drifted through our old homestead, but it has been empty for more than a year. Now it is August and the height of bear season. We have no idea what we will find when we hike in.

We catch a ride the remaining 120 miles north of Kitwanga and are dropped off at an old logging site. Grabbing my gear and hopping from the truck, I scarcely recognize my surroundings. Time has healed the old clear-cut wound, and a profusion of birch, poplar, alder and pine trees populate what I remember as a moonscape.

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