Into The Thick – Hodges Hill Tree Zone
I’m always planning. Whether it’s my next sled adventure, something business related for some sort of project, whatever! I’m always wondering what I can do next. At the end of March (2015), we had finished up our last scheduled Sledcore Ride Clinic and that evening, while resting up at the Deer Lake Holiday Inn Express, I started thinking about the drive back across the Island that we had to tackle that next day. This drive is roughly seven hours to get back to the east coast and I easily convince myself it’s worth it by thinking about the sledding we do in the zones of the West Coast of Newfoundland. However, this time I had planned to leave Deer Lake earlier than normal. I wanted to break the drive up by ripping in one of the province’s best tree zones, the Hodges Hill tree zone.
The Hodges Hill tree zone (the Zone) is located 20 KM west of Grand Falls-Windsor. On this particular day, we had permission from Paul Rose to use his parking lot as our staging area. Paul operates Riverfront Chalets, the best situated accommodation provider for exploring this zone. My driving buddy was Jordan Swyers. Jordan had joined Jonathan Anstey, Paul Rose and myself in this zone the previous season. At that time, the zone challenged Jordan to his limits. I recall Jonathan Anstey saying to Jordan…”this is how you get better”. Jonathan was so right. In fact, Jordan was now a year older, bigger and stronger. He had also just finished a detailed Sledcore Ride Clinic where he got to practice his technical riding skills. I was curious how he’d handle the tree zone this time.
Jordan and I had arranged to meet Tom Caines around 11 AM on this late March Sunday. We were surprised with a blast of late March snow; not much fun for driving,. By the time we reached the Riverfront Chalets parking lot, there was a good six inches down. I said to Tom, “bet there’s even more inside”. We unloaded the sleds, fuelled up and ripped off. The ride into the base of the zone is approximately 20 minutes. The ride in is not a straight line and this route has mislead more than one seasoned rider in search of this tree zone. As Tom and I suspected, the further we got into the country, the deeper the snow. This was crazy! April was just around the corner and we had almost a foot of fresh snow.
Leading up to the tree zone entrance you find a number of cut-overs that are a great warm-up. The ascent to the top section might seem like victory for some and I’m sure many have turned back at this point thinking they’ve exhausted the potential of the area. Almost as a secret entrance, you simply pop off this higher elevation pond, through a section of well-spaced timbers and you find the tree zone entrance. I’m purposely keeping the description of the zone somewhat vague because I personally think folks have to earn the right to find and enjoy it.
We had first tracks that day. Within the tree zone, we had almost a foot of fresh snow on top of an ample base. Within the first 200 foot before you start to descent into the valley, we had worked our way back and forth the hillside no less than six times each. Three of us took different routes with each pass. The first section had looked like an army of riders had attacked it. We moved further along the hillside and started to work our way down into the valley. The slope, spacing of timbers and ample snow base make this tree zone one of my favourite zones in the province.
We occupied ourselves for the next two hours. Throughout the time, Tom Caines took the time to capture some great pictures of both Jordan and I. Tom has never disappointed with his photography abilities and the fresh snow helped finish the pictures. Jordan held his own and his improved technical riding ability was evident on this day. However, he did win the “best stuck” prize for the day. Since this ride in the tree zone, I have mentioned to many about how we broke up the normally long drive back across the Island. With some folks, you immediately see the cogs turning. However, some others are surely thinking “that’s nuts”.
This winter, I hope to spend more time in this tree zone. Paul Rose was recently telling me about some routes he had done last spring that will get my adrenaline pumping. If you’re thinking about getting out to this zone, or even trying to find it, your first step will be booking a chalet at Paul’s place, Riverfront Chalet. Remember, once you get to the top of that cut-over, don’t give up…the entrance to the tree zone is close. I’m not giving away any more detail than that but trust me, it’s worth the search.