Snowmobile trip to Nain

I’ve been wanting to go to Nain for as long as I’ve lived in Labrador, and finally took the time to do it. It’s a beautiful trip, with amazing scenery, and completely different from anywhere else you’re likely to go. We avoided groomed trails, for the most part, but if you wanted to take the trail it would be a fairly straightforward trip to do.

Out trip would take us from central Labrador up to the northernmost community on the coast of Labrador and back, passing through every community on the north coast along the way.

As we were taking a cross country route to the coast, we made some ‘boggan type sleighs that would work better in deep snow. We had food for several days, 160lts of gas, sleeping bags, a tent with a wood stove, and all the other necessary gear to get us through whatever we might run into.

Doing some last minute prep the night before

We took the groomed trail to the end of Grand Lake Road, and then the portage down to Grand Lake.

From there we ran up the Naskaupi River to the portage and began the trek overland to Nipishish.

The Naskaupi River valley on the right, the Red Wine on the left.

As you get closer to Nipishish the terrain is littered with massive boulders, glacial deposits, dropped haphazardly as the glaciers melted.

Eventually we crest a hill and see Nipishish off in the distance.

Just after noon we arrived at a friends cabin where we’d be spending the night.

We put a fire on, had some lunch, dropped the sleighs, and went to scout the upcoming trail.

From the top of the lake we had some bush-whacking to do, following rivers, brooks and lakes, working our way through forests and burns, to break out on Witch-doctor Lake, which would put us back on a beaten trail. So our plan was to break some of the trail with no sleighs in tow to make the following day a little easier.

Once we got past the brooks, we figured we were through the worst of it and headed back to camp for supper and a few drinks. Just under 250kms on the sleds. Not bad for the first day.

The next morning we wake up to a beautiful sunrise.

By the time breakfast was cooked, dishes were cleaned, firewood was cut and the sleds all packed and ready to go, it was later than we’d hoped, but whatever, it promised to be a beautiful day.

Didn’t take long before we got past our tracks from yesterday and had to drop the sleighs to beat a trail through the woods.

The most challenging spot was getting up over a steep, treed hill, but we found our way through and were rewarded with a view of the valley we just came up through.

Getting the sleighs up that hill was not so easy though. We unhooked them, got a sled up to the top of the hill and then towed them up.

Up and over and ready to continue on

Most of this route was pretty straightforward though, across lakes and burns that made for easy navigating and easy travelling.

Guy finally managed to shoot a bird in Labrador

Coming on to Ghost Lake

About half way across Ghost Lake we started seeing snowmobile tracks. People from Postville out bird hunting, most likely. That gave us something to follow to the groomed trail, but it didn’t mean we wouldn’t have any stucks along the way

Eventually we break out on Micmac Lake, which is the upper end of Kaipakok Bay. We were thinking we’d continue on to Hopedale, but we had access to a cabin here, and as it was already 5pm, we decided to spend the night. Guy put supper on while I went to get a load of firewood, and we settled in for a relaxing evening.

The next morning we rose early as we had plans to do lots of kilometers. Tidied up, loaded up, and we were on our way.

There’s a tickle between Micmac Lake and the bay.

The school in Postville

Lots of sled dogs on the coast

Once you leave Kaipakok Bay there’s no doubt that you’re on the coast. Nothing but sea ice and a few portages from here on up.

Coming into Hopedale

Sled dogs

My sleigh was having troubles on the rough sea ice, and it didn’t take long before my hitch broke. We dragged it into Hopedale and in no time found someone who was able to help us out, welding a new hitch on.

That wasn’t the end of my sleigh troubles, though. No sooner did we get back under way, and my sleigh just exploded. The twisting and pounding of the sea ice pulled the bolts out through the plywood sides, and my gear was spread over the ice behind me.

We loaded up the gear and made our way back over to Allen’s place.

We intended to leave it at Allen’s and make our way to Nain for the night, stopping to fix the sleigh the following day. But when we returned, Allen had some mesh welded on the sleigh for us, so all we had to do was strap our gear on and get on our way! Above and beyond!

In Hopedale we met up with three guys who were heading to Nain to do a ski trip to the Torngats, so we decided to ride along with them. Good thing, because the hitch on their ski-doo was falling off, so leaving Natuashish I hooked on to their giant komatik and hauled it the rest of the way to Nain. What a difference from hauling our little boggans, though in fairness, their komatik didn’t explode.

The area around Natuashish is simply stunning. Lots of mountains, trees, rock outcrops, just beautiful.

During one rest stop the guys offered me a snack of frozen, raw, seal liver. I had to try it, but I have to admit, it’s not something I’d want to eat on a regular basis. Or at all, really. Definitely an acquired taste. But I regret not getting any pictures of me trying it.

Something else I got to do this trip is cross the floating bridge over the Voisey’s Bay Mine shipping channel. It was kind of anti-climactic, as the channel hadn’t been used in awhile, so we could’ve easily rode across the ice rather than the bridge.

We pulled into Nain well after dark, but the town was a bee-hive of activity, with snowmobiles going everywhere. It’s a town of 1200 people and in the winter time the roads aren’t plowed, so snowmobiles are the main mode of transportation.

Our longest day so far, we settled in for the night in a rather dingy and very over-priced hotel, with plans for an early rise in the morning.

Leaving Nain

Photos simply don’t do justice to the sunrise on the north coast.

The location of the abandoned community of Davis Inlet, not far from Natuashish.

We made good time back down to Hopedale and picked up my now repaired sleigh. Loaded that up and continued south towards Makkovik.

We buzzed through Makkovik, stopping for nothing but gas, as we still had a long ways to go. We wanted our last day of the trip to be an easy one, which meant we had to make it to Rigolet for the night, or stop a couple of hours before dark to camp. We decided to press on, despite grey skies, increasing winds, low snow conditions, and some rough and rocky ground.

This was the worst part of the trip, no doubt. Nothing really challenging, just the ever present risk of striking a rock, and slow going, making for a very long day. After dark the winds really started to pick up, and we were very anxious to get into Rigolet. Finally, we hit a well used route with fresh tracks, so we know we were getting close. A little after ten we rolled into town, found someone out on their front step having a smoke, and asked them for their phone to call the motel. A little over 500kms and 16 hours and we were ready for bed.

Rigolet in the morning

On the trail leaving Rigolet

We took the trail home from Rigolet, and it was the best I’ve ever seen it. Smooth and firm, and we made it back to Goose in just over 3 hours.

 

Over 1400kms in 5 days. Beauty of a trip that just makes me anxious for the next one.

 

 

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