Born in England on August 5, 1947 and raised in the north of England, Christine Helena Czajkowski (pronounced Tchaikovsky, like the composer) has lived and worked in Uganda, New Zealand, the South Pacific and South America, spending twelve years backpacking around the world before coming to Canada in 1979 as a cow milker. Three years later she headed into the mountains of the Central Coast Range to build a cabin on private property surrounded by the Tweedsmuir Provincial Park. Access was by foot and canoe and often required an overnight camp. While there she began writing for the public by sending letters to Peter Gzowski's Morningside program on CBC Radio. These letters became the basis for her book, Cabin at Singing River. After four years she moved to a much higher location, on the dry side of the Central Coast Range, where she has built three more cabins, two by herself.

Czajkowski's wilderness and cabin-building experiences have been documented in a series of books that include Diary of a Wilderness Dweller, Nuk Tessli: Life of a Wilderness Dweller and Snowshoes and Spotted Dick: Letters from a Wilderness Dweller. In the latter she describes building her fourth cabin in the wilderness with hand tools, two chainsaws, an Alaskan Mill and some helpful friends. One of her helpers was Nick Berwain, a quiet, literary young German who was eager to gain some log-building experience. Berwain corresponds with Czajkowski after his return home. In letters to Berwain, Czajkowski details how she breaks trails by snowshoe with her two pack dogs, encounters grizzly bears, builds a custom stone oven and learns how to use it to bake bread -- and to make spotted dick, a traditional English steamed pudding. Food and building supplies were flown in and Czajkowski must hike more than 30 kilometres to the nearest road to lead guiding trips and to attend craft fairs and book promotions to supplement her income.

Czajkowski has described her wilderness adventures at Lonesome Lake in Tweedsmuir Park, east of Bella Coola, 480 kilometres north of Vancouver, an area first made famous by Ralph Edwards [see entry] whose conservation work with trumpeter swans was the subject for several books. Written from the point of view of Lonesome, the first dog to accompany her into the wilderness, Chris Czajkowsi's Lonesome: Memoirs of a Wilderness Dog is an attempt to observe the world through her long-suffering canine companion who she named after Lonesome Lake. "I got my human when she was already fully grown, which was a relief," Lonesome narrates, with occasional cynicism and disdain. "I'm not a dog to seek adventure and would have been far happier in an orderly, suburban garden with kids to play with and nice, safe walks in the park," she muses. Mostly humourous, Wilderness Dog ends on a touching note as Lonesome, too old to withstand the rigours of her spartan life with her human Chris, is billoted with a kind friend at Schoolhouse Creek who must ultimately take the infirm animal into the bushes, carrying with him his rifle... The wry memoir entirely from a dog's point of view spent several weeks atop the BC Bestseller List. "The snow plastered itself over my face," Lonesome recalls, woefully, "until only my eyes were uncovered. The more I tried to rub my face clean, the more the snow stuck to it. My human seemed to find this hilarious. She would obscure the front of her head with a device called a camera and transfix me with its great black piercing eye. There would be a click, and her face would appear again, grinning unsympathetically."

An accomplished botanist, watercolour artist and photographer, Czajkowski operates the Nuk Tessli Alpine Experience, a small, ecotourism, wilderness adventure business that she manages via her website and her Nimpo Lake mailing address. The only access to her home is by float plane or by foot. She lives about a day-and-a-half's walk (at human speed) from the nearest road, or four days' walk depending on the weather, at an altitude of 5,000 feet, about 40 miles away from her first cabin that was destroyed by fire in July of 2004 during the Lonesome Lake Fire. She subsequently recalled that fire, from the moment lightning struck until she was ordered to evacuate, in a collection of stories about her dogs and nature, Wildfire in the Wilderness (Harbour 2006). Her follow-up, A Mountain Year: Nature Diary of a Wilderness Dweller, is her diary of 2005 supplemented by her own paintings and sketches, concentrating on Central B.C. wildlife.

Czajkowski's A Wilderness Dweller's Cookbook is not just a collection of recipes; it is an account of how a wilderness dweller'-in a non-growing climate 20 km from a road, 60 km from a store and 250 km from a town large enough to have a supermarket'-feeds herself and the clients of her wilderness adventure business.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
And the River Still Sings: A Wilderness Dweller's Journey

BOOKS:

Harry: A Wilderness Dog Saga (Harbour 2017) $22.95 978-1-55017-809-8
And the River Still Sings: A Wilderness Dweller's Journey (Caitlin Press 2014) $21.95 978-1-927575-50-5
Ginty's Ghost: A Wilderness Dweller's Dream (Harbour, 2012) $21.95 978-1-55017-575-2
A Wilderness Dweller's Cookbook: The Best Bread in the World and Other Recipes (Harbour, 2010).
A Mountain Year: Nature Diary of a Wilderness Dweller (Harbour 2008).
Wildfire in the Wilderness (Harbour, 2006).
Lonesome: Memoirs of a Wilderness Dog (Touchwood Editions, 2004; 2014).
Snowshoes and Spotted Dick: Letters from a Wilderness Dweller (Harbour Publishing, 2003)
Nuk Tessli: The Life of a Wilderness Dweller (Orca Books, 1998).
Diary of a Wilderness Dweller (Orca Books, 1996; reissued by Harbour Publishing 2005).
Cabin at Singing River (Camden House, 1991; reissued by Raincoast Books, 2001).
To Stalk the Oomingmak: An Artist's Arctic Journal (Aquarelle Publishing, 1990).

[BCBW 2017] "Outdoors" "Women"