By Everett Butt
Well once again, the spring and summer seasons have come and gone, and as much as most outdoor enthusiasts like to take advantage of what it has to offer, whether it be boating, atv-ing or just hiking and travelling around to take in some of the beautiful sights of this great Island of ours, the thoughts of winter are now taking its place in our minds. For all who enjoy snowmobiling as I do, there is a certain kind of excitement and longing to get dressed up and firing up the snowmobile in anticipation of yet another great winter on the trails. Snowmobiling is a very popular and enjoyable winter activity in this area (Springdale, NL) and in most parts of Newfoundland and Labrador for certain.
I drove by my local snowmobile dealer this week and saw a couple of fellows loading a new snow machine on a trailer in preparation for the coming winter. Not difficult to see on a daily basis already, trucks heading to a service centre to get the machines all serviced and ready to hit the trails as soon as the snow arrives. The places to ride are numerous and with the addition in recent years of groomed trails, it’s not a matter of ‘where’ we can ride, but ‘when’. Whether it is during a beautiful sunny winter day or under a blanket of darkness where all is still and peaceful as our lights cast shadows while we cruise over the snow.
Night riding is great for those who find themselves in a busy work week during the daytime, as a lot of us do and there is always some exploring to enjoy while riding in the vast winter playground Mother Nature provides for us. There have been many times in the past few winters when a group of us have left after dark and headed out for an evening of riding, usually on a groomed trail or certainly a well travelled local trail. The highlight of any outdoor adventure whether in the daylight or the dark, has to be a mug-up over an open fire and in more recent years we usually end up at a warm up shelter where there is always a nice warm fire waiting for us and a wood stove to cook on and have a cup of hot tea, usually with candles providing the light. It is not uncommon to meet up with a group of other riders who are also out for an evening run and join them for a lunch and a chat. Some of the best trips we have been part of in recent winters have lasted all day and into the night and after 12 hours on the go in the fresh air, getting home at 8 or 9 PM makes for a great night’s sleep to say the least.
We have left on many nights at a designated place here in town (Springdale, NL) and did a night excursion to King’s Point or to the Baie Verte Junction, winding our way through the trees on a moonlit trail where the spirit of winter seems to come alive, and arriving at our destination an hour or so later. We often gather in a restaurant, maybe a dozen of us, to have a lunch and a few laughs before heading back home, encountering a moose or two along the way. For some reason they are never too fussy about giving us the right of way on a nice hard packed trail at night. We just have to wait until they decide we can proceed on our journey. There is nothing like an evening on the trails and to stop along the way just to chat and see the beauty of the countryside covered in a blanket of new snow. Under a full moon, one soon realizes that this is indeed a snowmobiler’s paradise and right in your own backyard so to speak. The thing about living in a rural area is that in a matter of a few minutes, you can escape to the back country and away from the everyday hustle and bustle, to a peaceful spot underneath a clear starry sky with full moon lighting up the landscape, or a snowy night with some fresh powder on the ground.
There has always been a concern about safety while riding after dark and yes, safety must always come first with any type of riding, both day and night. The new snowmobiles today have many safety features with much better lighting and better reflective markings as do the clothing we wear so that we are visible at all times to each other and any oncoming riders, especially at night. It is always best to travel in a group, not only is it safer, but much more fun too, rather than riding alone after dark and it is advisable to stay on the beaten trails or the groomed trails which are clearly marked for the safety and enjoyment of all riders. Groomed trails are provided to us for our comfort and should be appreciated and supported by those who ride them.
So during the upcoming winter, let’s all get out and take advantage of the sport of snowmobiling, whether it be during the day or at night, make the best of what a lot of people refer to as a ‘long’ old winter that just seems to drag on. Why not invite a friend or two or make it a family event and many of you will agree that winter can be much fun after all.
This article was first featured in the Jan 2014 edition of Sledworthy Magazine.