No Set Plans
After a season of sled related events, I was really looking forward to a sled trip with no set agenda. A trip with some buddies to a nice Lodge totally away from everything. I’m definitely not complaining because I absolutely love every second of everything snowmobile related, but I was looking for a trip without a set agenda, a trip where we would simply take each day and see how it unfolds. That’s exactly what we planned for this trip to Snowy Cabin Adventures.
We wanted an all-inclusive style Lodge. The Lodge had to be close to the major riding areas. Grub had to be delicious and no stop on seconds….we decided on Snowy Cabin Adventures operated by Edgar and Gaye Randell, okay that was the easy part. Our time frame for this trip was the last weekend of March 2014. Snow conditions were still ideal with a base of 10 plus feet still down.
The plan was to drive across the island on a Thursday, Jamie and Jordan Swyers arrived much earlier than the rest of us. In fact, we didn’t leave St. John’s until late in the afternoon. This meant we would be arriving late to the Lodge. Snowy Cabin is located at the 34 KM mark on Taylor’s Brook Road (Hampden Hwy – White Bay). Terry from Taylor’s Brook Cabins manages the parking at the staging area and he keeps an eye on your vehicles/gear while you’re away. He also manages the Rental Sleds that are located there – Rob Clarke Motorsports.
When we arrived, a light flurry had begun. I said to my Brother John, “I bet it’s snowing hard in by the Lodge”. Once Dave Power got his rental sled from Rob Clarke Motorsports geared up, we were off. The ride into the 24 KM mark was straight forward. However, the next 10 KMs presented us with a wall of snow. My Brother John was on the lead and had to stop several times to orientate himself with the trail. I knew the trail pretty good so even though I was towing a heavy sleigh I motored ahead and broke the trail.
We finally arrived around 2:00 AM safe and sound. Edgar and Gaye had gone to bed but Jamie and Jordan were still up to greet us. Weeks before, I had asked Gaye to have a few snacks ready for us for when we arrived. As Gaye said, “Not a problem, I’ll have some warm fix’ens ready for you guys”. Holy snap…what a spread she had prepared. We all enjoyed the spread, had some nips, told a few tales and hit the bunk probably too late, but we didn’t have an agenda. The only set time frame would be breakfast time…after that, the day would unfold itself.
The next morning, our host ensured we had full bellies and a trail snack. Like a good Lodge owner, Edgar asked what our plan was, to be safe, just in case we didn’t return. This far in the backcountry your cell phone isn’t going to work, maybe for taking picture and using the wifi at the Lodge for Facebook updates, but in an emergency, your cell phone will be useless. That’s why, all last season and this season, I’ve been carrying a satellite phone from Global Star. Trust me, it’s the ultimate for any backcountry rider and you’ll see what I’m talking about later. The monthly pay-plans are just as good as or better than your typical cell plan.
Like a bunch of kids getting ready to play in the snow, we were geared up and ready for the day. I laugh with my brother about our “getting stuck” challenge. We Goldsworthy brothers don’t mind throwing down a challenge between each other. I predicted John would be stuck five times to my one…but at the end of the day, we wipe the score card clean.
At this point, with no discussed ride plan, I told Edgar we were going to go across the lower barren from the Lodge, which is a short cut to get to Matty’s pond and hit that country looking for spots to get stuck. I didn’t expect to cover a lot of ground on this day. This would be our first day out and we just wanted to blow off some steam, hit a few lips and I wanted to see how many stucks Brother John could rack up.
At the end of day one, we had feasted on a buffet of powder snow and this was the end of March. The entire group had scored on the stuck tally and Brother John was on pace with my prediction that I had made the night before. However, I was leading the pack with wipeouts. Everyone agreed day one was a blast. Getting back to the Lodge, the place was full of the beautiful smells of the supper Gaye was cooking. We feasted, told tales and actually talked about the ride plan for the next day. I had wanted to get the gang over to a section we call The Fingers. Albert Clarke finished out the night with a few tunes on the camp guitar. Young Jordan, who proved to be quite the Maverick on a sled, had gained the riding respect of the old farts in our group. I knew Jordan was a ripper. I had rode with him for about 3-4 years and I’ve seen him progress from a good rider to someone to keep an eye on because he can flick the sled around and he’s absolutely into sledding.
For day two, we did have two main things on the agenda. Visit The Fingers and do a traditional cook up in the woods. The Fingers is this unique cut line section on the side of a hill en route to Parson’s Pond Gorge. There are a dozen cut lines approximately 75 feet wide going up a slope. Some are like bunny slopes and some are challenging, like a ski hill for that matter. After about two hours of relentless attacks on these slopes, we were ready to move on.
After we did a quick visit to the main lookout point for Parson’s Pond Gorge (North of the Park), we found a nice spot for a cook up. With a good base down, we lit a fire and cooked up one awesome feed of salt fish, homemade bread and of course beans. The fish was great; however, the backcountry perked coffee was incredible. Alex, John and I had two cups each. By now it was getting late, so we made our way back to the Lodge.
Day three was about getting into the Park (Gros Morne National Park) and following the corridor up to the lookout area, Western Brook Pond Gorge. Some of our group hadn’t been there, so we had to tick that one off their bucket list. The day was just incredible, blue bird skies and no wind, real spring like conditions for Newfoundland.
Some of our group would be departing today, so they tagged along until noon and headed back to the Lodge. The rest of us decided to eat up as much of this day as possible. We side-hilled, climbed and pounded whatever we could find, things were going great…until on one of my descents I noticed my rear wheel, spacer and then everything start flying out of the back of my rails. Apparently the rear tension assembly totally came off. We were lucky to find the bigger parts, but the tension bolt and big spacer was gone. This is not the type of thing you want happening in the backcountry.
Earlier I mentioned about the Global Star Satellite phone I had been using all winter. Well, this was one situation where I was so glad we had it. It gave our group the ability to call the Lodge to inform Edgar that we could be late and that we might need a rescue sleigh. We got to that point where we had to go on “the look”. I had a big washer in my CFR handlebar bag but we needed a replacement bolt. Brother John went back to ask another group at the Gorge lookout if they had anything. Wow! Just our luck, a guy had a tickle truck of stuff there. He had a bolt that would fit however it was too long. But we did have a nut so Dave Power suggested we use the nut and create a set screw. The combination worked and we joked that BRP would be asking us about this fix (there was actually a recall on this part). We decided that it was in the best interest of the group to head back to the Lodge because we didn’t want to be stuck this far in the country with a broken sled. So we headed back. The fix had held up fine.
Upon arrival, Edgar had joked with us that he was all geared up for a recovery mission. We told him about our backcountry fix. The salty skipper approved and I think it helped shed some of the town stink off of us. All jokes aside, that day reminded me why you pack safety gear, a few extra nuts/bolts, tie-straps and black tape.
So as our trip came to a close, Brother John and I lost track of the stuck tally, everyone gave Snowy Cabin (Edgar & Gaye) top marks and we wished we didn’t have to leave. This particular group is made up of all different characters. We only ride together once a year but its funny how we pick up on conversations from the previous year like it was yesterday. I’m looking forward to our 2015 trip. Brother John’s stuck ratio might be down to a four to one.