First Big Trip to Western Newfoundland
By Jordan Swyers
It feels like only yesterday. Knowing I would be trying out a brand new sled and riding through territory that I had only dream of made that day feel like eternity. When I got out of school the long drive began. Dad and I were headed for the west coast of Newfoundland. This was my first trip out there and I was extremely excited.
We reached the staging area (B&R cabins) and unloaded my dad’s sled. This was when I was introduced to my ride for the trip, a 2013 Polaris Assault Switchback 800. Now my excitement was through the roof. As we were packing our gear on the sleds a few more people in a group arrived and we headed off to The Backlands Lodge. The Backlands Lodge is located 15 miles from the B&R parking lot. We arrived quite late and it wasn’t long before I was asleep.
The next day the real fun began. We followed the groomed trails for a while towards Western Brook gorge until lunch time. Bordering the valley where we ate lunch there was a mountain that many of more experienced riders had been playing around on for quite a while. It was quite intimidating to me, because I had never been around mountains that big before, but I decided I’d have to try it for myself. I headed straight for it and began to climb. The feeling was amazing, feeling the breeze as the skis touched the blue sky. I played around for another few minutes and then rushed to catch the other riders who had moved on because of the lack of challenge that this mountain provided.
We continued on to the Western Brook Pond Gorge (Gros Morne), occasionally heading off course to play. When we got to the Gorge, we took some pictures and headed over to a nearby mountain. It wasn’t long before Andrew got stuck near the top. Shortly after he was zipping around again, for a few minutes anyway. I turned my head to talk to Dad for a second and when I looked back at the hill again a rider-less sled was rolling down. “There he goes again” was what I said to Dad. However, this time, the antics lead to a broken handle bar. It was really neat to see a real backcountry fix-up. An old shovel handle and duct tape were enough to support the broken handlebar on the throttle side for the ride back.
When we got back to the lodge we had a great feed. The food was wonderful. To other people the food may have been not much of a deal, but when you grow up eating food that’s dried out and burned all the time it is a big deal. Sorry Mom, but the crew at the Backlands is way better at cooking than you.
Day 2 – we ventured off the beaten path, and I learned some important things. One of those things is the importance of planning a route down a mountain before you climb it. Luckily, I did not learn this lesson the hard way, unlike John who weaved his way through trees up a steep mountain only to realize he had nowhere to go. With help from Andrew and a lot of shoveling they managed to create a ledge, get the sled turned around and back down the hill safely. Like the day before we could not make it back to the lodge without any incidents. Leaking coolant led to a tow job. This sled was finished for the trip, but as luck would have it, a friend of ours was coming over that night and had enough room to bring over an extra sled. My good old 600 Legend.
Day 3 began with gassing up and a few parking lot repairs on the Legend caused by a run in with a cliff hidden under a slight layer of powder a few days before (this was damage I had caused). We followed a series of paths for a long time to Parsons Pond Gorge. After a quick stop at the Gorge we started heading back. A steep mountain was our next stop. Andrew Tilley put my old sled in places it never was before. High marking and hill climbing on a Legend, I can’t say that’s something you see every day. Like many of the stops, Meadow Rider (Glen Boyles) and I sat and watched as sleds fly left, right, up, and down across a nearly vertical wall of snow. We hit the groomed trails and continued back. We got to the path to the lodge before we realized over half of our group was missing. We waited about a half hour before they finally caught up. I later found out that a sled that we had passed had caught on fire and burned. If I was only a minute slower I would have witnessed this crazy incident.The next morning came too soon. Back home, back to school I had to go. The trip was done, but dreams of future trips soon filled my head and I’m still counting down the days until my next Western Newfoundland trip.
This article first printed in the Nov 2013 Edition of Sledworthy Magazine and was reposted with the permission of the publisher (Focused Publications).
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