After a non-stop, 1200 mile drive from Seattle all the way to the Northern Canadian Rockies, I arrived at Liard Hotsprings late at night and exhausted. At 11pm the western sky was still pink from the midnight sun. Once my sleeping bag was zipped up I hibernated like a bear. The next morning was sunny and warm, a perfect late Spring day, and I was content to relax and be still for a few days. With coffee in hand and flip-flops on my feet I sauntered down a long boardwalk through the marshes and Taiga forest and emerged into the hole in the woods that’s home to mystic and therapeutic waters known as Liard Hotsprings. For a couple of hours I was the only person there.
Except for summer tourist season it’s not uncommon to have the pool all to yourself, or share it with just one or two other people. Conversation among visitors at this magical place runs the gamut from small-talk to intimate, depending on the mood, the weather, the time of year. It’s a serene, relatively wild, and modestly developed mineral spring that’s remote enough to keep the riffraff out. Liard is also a place that fosters introspection. It’s also a bit of a vortex for chance encounters. Future partners, ex-wives, soul-mates, long lost friends – they all seem to find each other there.
This was the backdrop when I first met Tony Ciprani. As all savvy northern travelers do, he stopped for a soak, too. Besides being a handsome and healthy looking man, one of the first things I noticed about Tony was a huge scar across his chest. I was curious but this isn’t the sort of thing you ask strangers about. After a few minutes of small talk I started to gain some insight into Tony’s life. A couple of days later I met him at his home in Whitehorse and heard the longer version of his amazing story. He’s a true survivor with an incredible past that goes far beyond the pictures and words I’ve crafted here.