Great Harbour Deep (part 1) – The Bucket List Destination
By Rob Clarke
A couple years ago, mid-February I got a group together to plan a trip to Great Harbour Deep (GHD). This was my first time guiding a group to GHD and preparation was needed. I’ve been there a couple times and had the GPS track. I’m very comfortable with exploring the backcountry and trekking into unchartered territory, but this trip was different.
First off, we had a few people in the group with only a few backcountry rides under their belts, newbies as we would call them. Not that there is anything wrong with this, in fact I encourage anyone who hasn’t experienced backcountry riding to do just so. But let me warn you to come with an open mind. You will get stuck, you will roll the snowmobile, and you will be exhausted by days end. This is a promise I can almost certainly guarantee. But with practice, a little skill learning, and a good guide you will be exploring the backcountry with ease.
Back to the GHD trip. Our group as I mentioned had a variety of skill levels from beginners to seasoned backcountry riders. This made for a diverse group and one I was comfortable leading across the Long Range Mountains and onto Great Harbour Deep. We had our accommodations booked at the only place with the lights still on in GHD, the Danny Corcoran Lodge owned and operated by Bob and Linda Pittman. Bob and Linda are the only residents who still call GHD home, well for the winter months at least. Danny Corcoran Lodge is usually open from February to April depending on the snow and ice conditions.
The day of the trip. A bluebird day with a little wind, nothing to concern ourselves with. All loaded up and headed out for Taylor’s Brook Accommodations where we will start our adventure. Everyone unloaded their sleds and waited for instructions. Every time I guide a new group, experienced or not I always have a short discussion about safety, and rules to follow while guiding in unknown areas.
- #1– always keep an eye on the person behind you (If you lose sight of the person behind you STOP).
- #2– If one person in the group stops we all STOP! (if you need to stop, just put up your hand to warn the person behind you).
- #3– if you lose sight of the person ahead of you STOP! (if everyone follows the rules eventually we will all stop and your guide can trek back to find why the person stopped behind you).
- #4– Never leave the group to look for anyone (Always stay on your guides tracks, he/she will use this track to search for anyone who is missing from the group).
- #5– Do not go exploring on your own, stay with the group.
- #6– Always follow the tracks of your guide, do not go off boondocking (This is very rugged terrain, full of faults, creeks, rivers, tree wells, and steep drops over 30+ feet. Your guide will lead the group through this terrain and follow the safest route to avoid any dangers).
After everyone is briefed and understand the rules and the reasons for them we start our adventure. Leaving the parking lot around 8:30 AM, we follow the NLSF trail system into the Main River Waterway Provincial park / Canadian Heritage River. A true wilderness experience, this river flows from Four Ponds high in the Long Range Mountains all the way to White Bay and the community of Sop’s Arm some 57 KMs later. The views from Kruger Bridge are breathtaking, as are many areas along the groomed trail. Continue following the groomed trail, stopping at various photo ops we find ourselves at the entrance to Jackson’s Arm and the Cat Arm reservoir road. After traveling almost 60 KMs, we stop here for a break and to check on everyone and their cargo.
The Cat Arm reservoir road is also groomed, maintained by Hydro this is an extremely scenic section of trail overlooking White Bay and on a clear day the ability to see all the way across to the Baie Verte peninsula. This section is a crowd pleaser but be careful, it has some very steep drop offs, ones you won’t be walking out of. Our group kept on track and we were making great time. The winds were picking up but nothing to be concerned about. Sun was still shining with no clouds in site and nothing in the forecast for a few days. We continued onto the Cat Arm Power generating station and one of the most spectacular view points on the entire trip. From here we head inland to the Cat Arm Reservoir.
The trek inland begins to bring the reality of ruggedness and just how barren the Long Range Mountains actually are. Riding the trail and continually climbing in altitude it becomes quite relevant the drastic difference the winds and weather can make on visibility with nothing around to protect you. This section of trail rides over top of some rather high points on the mountain, with views even farther than from the coastal points on the trail earlier in the day. The only issue here is trying to stand up. The bit of wind we had at Taylor’s Brook Accommodations is now playing havoc on our adventure. Picking up the loose snow on the hill tops and creating almost clouds our visibility has greatly reduced.
We make it to the hunting lodge alongside the Cat Arm reservoir where we stop for a snack and discuss the weather. This trip being my first time guiding to GHD I chose to ask a fellow guide Dike Oxford to accompany me as a backup in the tail of our group. This way he can keep an eye the back end while I keep an eye on the terrain ahead. Having a backup guide is a pure relief when taking newbies into terrain like the Long Range Mountains. Especially on a day like this is turning out to be. The skies are still blue overhead but to the North West there seems to be a storm front moving in, although all the forecasts didn’t call for any precipitation for a few days.
As the storm front looked far enough away and we only had about 30kms of barren landscape to cover before we were in the protected trail section on the Little Harbor Deep River it was agreed upon within the group and Dike that we take our time and navigate across the Snowy Gulch keeping a very close distance between machines. As we did have a couple newbies in our group they were obviously my biggest concern, one being a client of mine from St. Johns and the other being my 18-year-old daughter Mackenzie. It was our decision they stay directly behind me as I can keep a closer eye on them if the weather happen to get worse on the open country. Behind them were three friends of mine followed by Dike. Normally I only take a backup guide when I have 8 or more people to guide in a group, but being a first-time trip for me I decided it best to have backup. Boy am I glad I decided to take a backup guide.
See how things go for the group and how they handle a few surprises along the way (Part 2).
To learn more about Rob and his tours, checkout http://www.RobClarkeMotorsports.com