The Annual Trip to World Pond
Family, Friends and Big Snow.
Any sled getaway is reason to celebrate, but this trip was extra special. Since my brother Andrew and I moved from our hometown of Port Rexton, it has become a winter tradition to spend a weekend at our family cabin at World Pond, on the Bonavista Peninsula. These trips are always filled with a relaxing balance of sledding, friends, food and laughs. I can’t help but feel extra thankful and nostalgic as I reflect back on the 2014 version of the World Pond sled trip. Perhaps you can relate?
The last weekend of February is a double birthday time for our family. This year Dad was turning 75 and I was moving well into my fourth decade. Mom and Dad still live in Port Rexton and with a solid covering of snow, there was little doubt as to where and when our double birthday celebrations would be located. World Pond here we come! Andrew and his Bro-in-law Ted Power travelled out to our hometown early Friday and with Dads help got the cabin ready for action. This included shoveling out the door and a path to the generator shed, lighting a fire in the woodstove and lugging buckets of water. Our cabin had not seen much activity over the past decade but quickly comes to life when called into action. Rod Senior, Scott Kelly and I punched a workday and finally looked St. John’s in the rear-view mirror before dark. After a three hour truck ride and 20 minutes on the sleds we parked alongside the cabin by 9:30. Five men in their forties and a 75 year old enjoyed the cabin energy — the birthday party had begun!
Saturday morning came a little too quickly. A big feed of bacon and eggs combined with the anticipation about our full day riding helped restore energy levels. Snow conditions were awesome! There was at least three feet of soft snow. Big drifts. No rocks or stumps to smack. The World Pond trip, like most, has always been a great balance of riding and after ride recreation. It was time to ride.
Over the past ten years of riding with Andrew and the Sledworthy Magazine project, I have had the opportunity to ride many different sleds. On this weekend I was matched with my absolute favorite machine. The Polaris RMK Pro 800 with a155 inch track and 2.5 inch paddle. The throttle response on this machine is instantaneous and it’s easy to feel the 150 hp at all throttle ranges. At a dry weight of only 417 pounds and ski stance of 39 inches, this sled matches my body size and riding style perfectly. I am a lightweight rider (under 180 pounds and that’s with my pockets full of wet snow). The nimbleness of the machine is appreciated as soon as you take it off the trail. The sled responds quickly to body language, be it a counter steer lean in during a side hill or simply carving a circle through a pile of powder. Thankfully, the snow conditions on this trip matched the sled perfectly.
Around 10:00 AM, the five of us were outside and ready to burn some gas. We had no fixed agenda for the day. Our general plan was to head northwest towards Bonavista Bay then circle back to the high country in the middle of the peninsula and make it back to the cabin in time for a scoff. After about 30 minutes of riding, we stopped to pull Brother Andrew out of a tangly drift in the thick woods. This was a lucky stop because it allowed Leon Cooper from Port Rexton a chance to catch up with our group. The local network of trails and forest access roads have changed greatly in the past 10 years and Leon knows this new network well. We were glad to have him join us and show the key spots to explore. Some highlights of the day included drift busting on the many ponds, tackling the newly cut trail to get up Lockston Hill, and riding 18 inches of fresh powder on the old railway bed and transmission lines of the peninsula. It was west coast snow conditions on the Bonavista Peninsula.
The weather had turned messy by late afternoon and we were driving through blowing snow and ice pellets. We were completely satisfied with our ride and decided to head back to the cabin for our 5:00 Happy Hour as planned. Dad had passed on our full day of riding and opted for the role of camp cook. A full Jiggs Dinner complete with peas pudding and a ten pound beef roast was on his menu. Nobody even noticed the absence of a few turrs or a sea duck which usually has a spot in the roaster. It was a feast for the kings and we felt like royalty as we yarned about our adventure.
We were delighted that Dad decided to stay at the cabin for both nights. An accomplished sledder and outdoorsman, we prodded him to share a few stories of snowmobiling across the interior of Newfoundland. These trips took place in the 1980’s before GPS navigation, cell phones, rider forward chassis or racing shocks. As an example, on their first big trip Dad and his buddies left from Terra Nova Lake and sledded west to Kippenkat and Jubilee Lakes, then south to the Head of the Bay and on to St Albans. They were a bunch of middle aged family men who travelled on long-track Tundras and pulled a slide complete with canvas tent and woodstove. Yes, they tented in March! Over the past few years, Dad has physically slowed, but he continues to be a great lover of the outdoors and a good time with the boys. Safe to say, we all have great respect for this man.
Sunday morning was truly gold medal worthy. It was the last day of the Sochi Olympics and the Canadian Men’s Hockey team were playing for gold as we ate breakfast. Canada took early control of the game and we shifted focus back to our winter paradise. Keep it simple was the morning mantra. Head to the northeast and loop through many of the ponds and open country we rode as teens. We only had a few hours before breaking camp and driving back to the real world. The pace of the morning was more of Dad’s thing and he decided to ride with us. He owns a Skidoo GTX 550 fan but doesn’t enjoy the ride. Instead of the newer platform, I watched him bounce around on the 10-year-old 500 Touring SLE and it made my own back ache. His reply to “How are you doing?” was a plain and simple “There’s no way to keep up with you fellows.” Regardless of age and choice of ride, he had a good point. It was time for our golden highlight of the morning — a campfire and lunch in the woods. It really is those simple moments in our lives that can make us feel like champions.
Sled getaways are priceless for many reasons – blue sky and white landscape, a cabin in the woods, great grub, good health, lots of laughs and smiles. The greatest sled gift of all is the chance to share these moments with family and friends. As you prepare for another season, take some time to reflect back on the special moments you have spent sledding. I wish you the best of memory making during the 2015 sled season. Ride safe. Save the socialables for post ride fun.