Terry Milos grew up “basking in the warm weather” of Florida and swimming in the ocean. As idyllic as this lifestyle was, her heart was restless and her imagination captivated by the rugged lifestyle of the early settlers.
“Although I longed for a pioneer lifestyle from an early age, I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would eventually live in a small cozy cabin in the bush in the southern Yukon and have an opportunity for so many wonderful northern adventures.”
These words are in her opening page of Milos’ book, North of Familiar. It is a story of a woman’s adventure in the Canadian wilderness with snapshots of history woven in.
“I wasn’t keeping a diary,” says Milos in a phone interview from Arizona. “All of my stories, my adventures were all from memory. It’s vivid in my mind.”
It all began when she was in college. Milos was into the hippie movement, she wanted to live off the land and then she fell in love with Stan, who asked her to move to Canada with him. They had known each other for a month.
“I said, ‘Wow. I’d love to.’”
They were married in 1974, packed up a 1954 Ford pickup and were on their way to a new life in the Canadian wilderness. They made their way to Peace River, Alta. It was nice but the bog-land wasn’t the wilderness they had envisioned.
“So we were ecstatic when we stumbled upon a TV program publicizing the new Atlin Provincial Park in B.C. The film of the park showed the most stunningly beautiful land we had ever seen in our lives. It was like a fairytale…” writes Milos.
The living conditions were more akin to the pioneer stories that had captured her imagination years ago. Much of their food was grown or caught. Laundry days consisted of hauling water and using a toilet plunger to agitate the water. There was no indoor plumbing.
Milos didn’t mind these hardships and loved falling asleep to the sound of howling wolves. But she didn’t like seeing them when she was going to the outhouse at night.
North of Familiar is filled with stories of challenge, adventure, survival, triumphs, and tears. That lifestyle is only possible when a person is able to adapt to the situation. Milos is a vegetarian, but that isn’t feasible up north where wild meat is a staple, and sometimes even a vegetarian is happy to eat lynx stew at a New Year’s celebration.
Milos has lived in several other communities, working as a teacher, and raising her two boys. She now lives part-time in Arizona and Sicamous. Her days of camping outside in -30 C are done, but the North is always in her heart.
“My soul was filled with the incredible vastness of the wilderness, its raw beauty, its power and gentleness, the endless gifts it had to offer.”
Milos will read from her book at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2 at the Salmon Arm library. Copies of North of Familiar will be available for sale.