Kirby’s Marvelous Adventure
March 2015. We are about to embark on our annual adventure to the Great Northern Peninsula. The cast of characters includes Blair Thistle, Chris Holloway, Andrew Bell, Dave Brown, myself and our gracious host Kirby Biggin. Travelers will be coming from all directions and arriving at Kirby’s camp on Raft Pond located just outside of Hawkes Bay, Kirby’s hometown. The itinerary includes stops at the, the “Danny Corcoran Lodge” – Great Harbour Deep, “Tuckamore Lodge” – Main Brook, Bough Wiffen Lodge – Cloud River and a return trip to Raft Pond.
Our first night would be spent at Kirby’s camp on Raft Pond. We recollected moments from last year’s adventure and shared in the excitement of what was to become of this trip. Master guide Kirby was quizzed on his intentions to ensure extended navigational stops were avoided on this year’s journey. That is another story in itself and can best summed up in the words of our guide “it’s not the destination but the adventure that makes the trip”. Kirby Biggin circa March 2015.
Day 1 – Destination Danny Corcoran Lodge – Great Harbour Deep.
If you were to close your eyes and create the optimal conditions for a day on the snow, this was it. What a day. Clear blue skies, plenty of snow with a good crust and no wind. Chris did not even get stuck on this day, but that would soon change. The excitement is brewing as we all scurry about making ready for the journey. Great Harbor Deep is located approximately eighty (80) KMs south east of Hawke’s Bay. Our day was spent hill climbing and boondocking along the way whilst being showered by sunshine.
One of the more notable stops along the way was a visit to “Danny’s Tree”. This is the tree where famed Newfoundland Ranger Danny Corcoran was found while on a solo expedition across the Northern Peninsula in his quest to protect the resident caribou population from poachers. On his journey, the young ranger became lost and suffered severely from frostbite and starvation. As a popular and well-respected ranger in the Peninsula’s coastal communities, a large-scale rescue effort was mounted to find Corcoran. Hampered by adverse weather conditions, Corcoran was not found until 17 days after first becoming lost. Danny died shortly after being found at the age of 22. His life is the subject of local lore and was immortalized in the book, “Will Anyone Search for Danny?” by Earl Pilgrim.
We arrived in Harbour Deep no worst for ware. We enjoyed the hospitality of the crew at the Danny Corcoran Lodge including a fabulous meal. The cook’s efforts were not in vain. The cultivated palate of “Sir Eats A lot” was satisfied and all hands went to bed happy.
Day 2 – Destination Tuckamore Lodge – Main Brook.
Main Brook is located approximately one hundred (100) KMs to the north of Great Harbour Deep. Conditions were overcast but the travelling was good. This is the part where Chris decided to make the trip interesting. On every turn he was bottom up. We all marvelled at his choice of paths along the way. If there was a way to get stuck he found it. With every known accessory available to the adventurous snowmobiler strapped to his Yamaha XTX, he was classed in the heavy weight division. Correspondingly, his agility was challenged. By days end we were all rendered finding ourselves continually having to upright his machine and/or pulling on a ski to get him back on track. Drinks were on Chris that night. We arrived at the Tuckamore Lodge ready for the usual feast afforded by Barb Genge and her staff. We enjoyed a night of fun and frolic at the lodge including a therapeutic visit to the hot tub to sooth the sore backs resulting from Chris’s escapades throughout the day.
Day 3 – Bough Wiffen Lodge – Cloud River
Cloud River is located approximately fifty (50) KMs south west of Main Brook. The closest community is Roddickton. Based on the fact that the journey would be short, we decided to take the scenic route enjoy every drift and hill along the way. Thankfully, Chris decided to stick to our trail and give us all a break for the day. Conditions were great. We managed to find a number of steep inclines along the way. Although we tried, we could not convince our rookie participant to go vertical. Dave decided stick to level ground and enjoy the sights and sounds while we attempted to get closer to God. Many hill climbing observers that do not participate in the sport believe the challenge is in the vertical ascent. I feel the greater challenge is associated the return trip. The feeling one gets having to launch off a cornice atop of a mountain some 500-800 meters above sea level can be quite unnerving. Hitting the throttle to clear a cornice leaves the operator in mid-air with an unobstructed view of the valley below. The airtime is quickly followed by a landing in a decline position. I guess it could be compared to hand gliding. What a feeling. All hands enjoyed the exciting ride to Bough Wiffen. Norm and Marsha Pilgrim greet us on our arrival and proved to be wonderful hosts for our night. Norm operates the lodge for a fall moose, bear and caribou hunt and caters to the snowmobile community in the winter. Norm is the son of the author Earl Pilgrim noted above.
Day 4 – Return trip to Raft Pond Hawke’s Bay
The return trip is to Raft Pond is approximately sixty (60) KMs to the south west of Cloud River. Snow conditions were, once again, perfect with a forecast calling for a lot of accumulation towards the end of the day and into tomorrow. All hands are on deck and off we go to enjoy an amazing ride down the Cloud River. Snow conditions were highlighted with plenty of powder on our journey. The initial stages along Cloud River were as good as you could imagine. Plenty of snow and drifts to add colour to the ride. We happened upon a site of a recent avalanche. A hillside was littered in large chunks of snow that had once been the cornice atop of the mountain. Imagine destroying a building that resides atop of a mountain and littering the hillside below with chunks of debris. Based on the coverage area, one would not want to find themselves in such a place while the event is occurring.
The journey along the Torrent River heading into Hawke’s Bay was incredible. The conditions were powder covered and untouched. We travelled for miles on the river while trading the lead position. We arrived at Raft pond as the snow was falling. Big fluffy flakes and lots of them. Tomorrow would be a treat.
Day 5 – Raft Pond
What a mess of snow. Approximately fifty (50 CMs) had fallen before we were able to make a midday run. Kirby, Andrew and myself decided to enjoy the powder and we were not disappointed. Imagine travelling in snow that is up to your headlight. Tracks are spinning and engines are thirsty. Powder riding at its finest. We traversed many woods roads in the area and found ourselves stuck on numerous occasions. Ditch banging with that amount of powder was amazing. Imagine hitting drift and landing in 4-5 feet of powder. Ever look out the window on an aircraft and see miles of big fluffy clouds? That was similar to the view we enjoyed on that day. Andrew also had the pleasure of looking at my tail light for the better part of the day. What a treat.
We arrived back at the camp after dark. Beat to a rag, but what a day. What a trip. Looking forward to this year’s adventure.