Skoki main lodge.

Reading in the main lodge at Skoki.

I’m sitting in Skoki Lodge reading a book. The lodge itself must hold many, many stories as the log building is over 80 years old. The story I’m reading I found on the Skoki bookshelf and it’s called Every trail has a story: Heritage Travel in Canada by Bob Henderson. One chapter is about women who bucked their traditional roles in the early 1900s and took to the trails. Mary T. S. Schäffer is one of them and she explored the Skoki area as well as other remote Alberta regions.

Mary, a Philadelphia Quaker woman, took on the Rockies on horseback. She photographed and painted the people she met in what remains today, isolated and hard places to get. Some of the art she produced and treasures she bought along the trail are found at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff.

Another hard-core adventurer was Lillian Ailling. Lillian was a Russian woman who came to North America. She didn’t like it here and started walking home to Russia. She hiked from New York to the Yukon in 1927 trying to get home. Once in Dawson, Lillian worked as a server until the spring. That’s when she took a boat she repaired and headed down the Yukon River and out to the Bering Sea. Did she land in Russia? Maybe. One story says she arrived in the fall of 1930. Another says something different.

Australian author Cassandra Pybus tried to trace Lillian’s story to Russia but hit a wall. She later got

Skoki Lodge.

Skoki Lodge.

help through a man who had once met Lillian. He got in touch with Cassandra and told her Lillian got married and settled in Dawson.

Which ending do you like best?

It thanks to authors like Henderson and Pybus that I even know there was a story, and thus have an ending to choose. Just think of all the people who have done amazing things and we’ll never know about them.