Fall bike trip

Last fall I did a whirlwind tour to pick up my new to me V-Strom. Flew down to the island and then put on 1200kms in two days coming back to Goose Bay. Luckily, the weather cooperated.

Picked up the bike at my buddies where it was waiting and rode into town for tires.
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The forecast was calling for sun, but it took some time for the morning fog to burn off.

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Couple of hours later, new meat, skid plate and crash bars mounted, heading north…

Overlooking Corner Brook
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Gros Morne National Park
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Rocky Harbour
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On the “beach” in Hawks Bay
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Spent the night in St. Barbe and caught the ferry next morning…

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It was a beautiful sunrise
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Calm as could be waiting for the ferry, but blowing a gale in Labrador. Weird.

Well, this is Blanc Sablon, actually…
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Red Bay
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Stopped for fish and chips at Whaler’s Restaurant in Red Bay on the last day they’re open for the season. Then hit the dirt…
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I did some calculations on fuel mileage, and figured that I should be good to make the 400 kms from Port Hope to Goose Bay, so I decided against picking up a gas can and trucked on for home. Made it too, I’m glad to say, though I was a little worried and spent the last 130kms or so riding at 90kph in order to conserve gas.
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Paradise River
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The Churchill
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The Strom was awesome coming across Labrador. It’s no dirt-bike, but it handles dirt hwy’s much better than my KLR did. And on the pavement it’s spectacular. Looking forward to many more great trips on the ‘Strom.

Border Beacon

Last big trip of the year!

The plan was to drive to Churchill Falls, meeting a friend driving from Lab City, after which we’d ride north to Border Beacon. The history of Border Beacon is pretty interesting, and if you’d like to read a little about it, check out this article.

The drive to Churchill Falls is 3 hours, so in order to meet Matt at 6am as planned, I was out of bed at 2am and on the road by 3. With a quick stop at Tim’s I was on my way.

Matt had it a little tougher. The drive from Lab City is a little shorter, but he had to finish getting ready after work, and ended up not sleeping at all before hitting the road. He still managed to show up around 7. We drove up to the dyke outside of town and were ready to hit the trail around 8.

The thermometer in the truck was showing -20C at 8am. Colder than I was expecting for the 17th of April, but the sun was shining, and it promised to be a beautiful day.

The first part of the trip was Orma Lake road, which skirts the east side of the Smallwood Reservoir, allowing for access to the various dykes that diverted water to the Churchill River.

This was my first time up Orma Lake road in the winter time, though I had been here before on my KLR. The road seems just as long on sled.

About 150kms up the road I find Matt’s sleigh just sitting in the trail.

The pin keeping the tongue attached to the sled had come off. Luckily Matt’s idea of travelling “light” meant he still had two spares, so in no time we were off again.

Stopped for a short break at a cabin

Looking over the Kanairiktok river valley

Despite getting away fairly early, the day was getting away from us, and we had a long ways to go.

After pulling an all-nighter, Matt was having trouble staying awake on the sled, so he took a short cat-nap

While he was sleeping, I kept myself busy taking more pictures

Underway again, trying to get to Border Beacon before the sun was completely gone

We pulled in just after dark, around, 9pm, picked out a cabin in decent shape, got a fire going and made supper. After our long day we both got a good night’s sleep in a very cozy cabin.

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The next morning we were up early, but by the time we made breakfast, cleaned up the cabin and repacked our gear, it was pushing 11:00 before we were underway. We had a different route planned for the way back, and we had no idea how long it would take us, so we upped the pace a little.

Matt getting a drink of water

Running down a lake, trying to make time, I found the limits of my sleigh. It normally flies straight and true, but doing 95kph on untracked snow it flipped over and spewed the contents of the cooler all over the snow.

Time to slow down just a little I guess.

A little while later Matt spotted something out on a lake we were skirting the edge of. We went out for a look. Tracks in the snow were evidence of a battle that had taken place, and the evidence of who lost was all too clear.

Nature is harsh, but for me it was good to see evidence of caribou. I’ve yet to see a live one in Labrador.

I’m sure the wolves weren’t far away, probably watching us from the trees, but we never caught a glimpse of them.

Back in the saddle

We ran a long section of river that would’ve been better on hockey skates, and it had me wishing studs. Luckily we were able to just zip across most places and get to the snow along the edge.

Getting close to the Kanairiktok again

And on the river

We had talked about going down the river from here to where we had originally crossed, but looking at the GPS and the steep walls of the river, we knew if would be tough travelling, so we continued south cross-country.

We finally get back to the reservoir, and do a bit of hunting for an our or so.

It was getting late, and we had a decision to make. Just head for the cabin and have a relaxing evening, or go back to the place we crossed the Kanairiktok so we could explore down river. Common sense said to go to the cabin, but our sense of curiosity led us back down to the river.

The Kanairitok is a huge river, measuring 322km in length and extending from near the Quebec border, north of the Smallwood reservoir to the Atlantic coast.

It’s a shame we got there so late in the day as the light was fading. The scenery was spectacular, and I look forward to getting back there again and traveling more of it.

In addition to the fantastic scenery, we saw bald eagles and a black bear. We followed the bear tracks for about 10 kms down the river until finally we came up on him.

As we got closer, he ran up the side of a hill, and sat there watching us as we watched him.

Finally we turned back and made our way up the river. We knew we wouldn’t make it back to camp before dark, but getting off the river proved to be a challenge. It’s a massive hill, and my sled got stuck twice trying to get up over it. The second time was near the top, so we unhooked the sleigh, bungeed my sled up, and than hauled my sleigh up with rope. We finally made it to camp around 11pm.

We were up the next morning by 8, with plans to get on the go earlier than the day before, but between cooking breakfast, cleaning up, cleaning all the birds we had shot the day before and fixing Matt’s sleigh, it was almost 2pm by the time we pulled out of camp.

Not far down the road we did some more hunting. There were birds everywhere. We could easily have filled our bag limits, but neither of us wanted that many birds. As it was, we had plenty.

From there we decided to take the reservoir back to the truck rather than the road. It was beautiful going.

The reservoir surprised us both. We were expecting just a massive lake, but it’s full of channels, open water, islands and peninsulas. At about 50km from the trucks we decided to try and portage overland. We ended up finding a trappers trail that led us to the other side, and we just had one last bay to cross to finish our ride.

Almost there

One last look at the lake before driving away

680 kms over three days of fantastic riding.

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.

 

 

Lunch at Sabi Lake

Here’s some pics from a recent trip up Waddy’s, just cruising around looking for birds, with a stop for lunch and a cup’o tea

Sunrise on Lake Melville

North West River, between Grand Lake and Little Lake

Coming up Grand Lake

Making my way up Waddy’s, with Grand Lake down below

Lots of snow

Picking my way through an old burn

This looks like a nice spot for a lunch

Water on the boil!

Cruising around the open country

Coming back down to Grand Lake

About a 200km day out in some pristine Labrador wilderness. So easy to escape the crowds and get out where there’s not a track to be seen.

Overnight trip to Cartwright

Finally, after years of wanting to go, I had a chance this year to go to Cartwright on snowmobile. It was a beautiful trip, I have to say.

As time was an issue, I took a very direct route down, and an even more direct route back. Straight up the lake, just about 300kms, door to door.The surprising part of that is that pretty much 200kms of that is actually on Lake Melville. It’s one big lake, there’s no doubt, and when you’re riding up the middle of it, it feels like it will never end.

Here’s a few pics…

Stopped for a quick rest at Mulligan Point

And for another break at a portage on Back Bay

217kms showing when we finally get off the lake

Breaking out on the Atlantic

 

After a great night in Cartwright, it was up early and head back home. Normally I prefer to take an alternate route on the way back, but with time constraints, this time I was happy to have a beaten path to follow, and the only time I got off my tracks was to cut down on some distance. Was still a great ride back though.

Leaving Cartwright at daybreak

Cruising up the coast

Coming out of a portage on Lake Melville

Just about home. That’s Sheshatshui and North West River off in the distance.

This is a pretty easy trip to do. There are a few spots to worry about on the lake, but they’re easy enough to avoid. Other than a lack of shelter in the case of emergency, and the distance you’d be from help in the case something went wrong, it would be a great trip to do on a fast cruiser that you could really open up on the lake. Would make for a nice fast trip. Oh well, the next time I do it, I imagine it’ll be on my wide-track once again. But I think I’ll take a bit more time, do a bit more exploring and stop along the way for a shore lunch.

Newfiebullet’s epic spring vacation, 2011

This is a trip from April, 2011, when I was living in Newfoundland.

I left from Stephenville and went to Roddickton, on the northern peninsula and back.

All packed up and ready to go. The Nytro was a nice trail sled, and pretty good at getting around off-trail, but it had a few limitations as an adventure-tourer. A 27 liter gas capacity and very limited luggage carrying abilities chief among them. But, with some creative use of tie-down straps and bungees, I made do.

I rode the first 50 or so kms by myself, and met up with Mike and Wade at Mike’s place on George’s Lake. From there, we were going to make our way to Reidville to meet up with Carl, and then up to Carls cabin on Taylor’s Brook Road where we planned to spend the first night.

We were taking the back way there, trying to avoid the heavy traffic areas close to Corner Brook, and we were rewarded with good trail conditions, zero people, and a small herd of caribou.

After we met up with Carl, we went for lunch at Hampton Road Junction, and then headed up to his cabin.

Stopped at a Western Sno-riders warm-up shelter.

The cabin, early in the morning

Getting loaded up

All suited up and ready to go

After leaving the cabin on Taylor’s Brook road is when the adventure begin. We went cross country over to Hawkes Bay. There’s a marked route and a warm up shelter on the way, but no groomed trail, and not really any snowmobile tracks. This is some of the more remote country on the island.

An outfitters camp on a lake. Obviously it’s intended more for summer use than winter

Stopping for a snack

It was a cold and windy day for April.

Taking another break in the shelter of some trees

Arrived at the motel in Hawkes Bay

The next day we continue north, with plans to head cross country to Roddickton

Crossing the barrens, Carl struck a rock and ripped his a-arm clean off the sled. He limped back to Hawkes Bay, where he arranged for someone to  come pick him up, and we continued on without him, this time taking the marked trail.

Great trails heading across the peninsula

The next day we left Roddickton planning to go cross country back to Taylor’s Brook.

Going across Canada Bay, the first time I was ever riding on salt water

Going up the Cloud River was one of the most beautiful rides I’ve ever been on.

The weather started to turn, and we were having trouble finding our way across a large valley, so we turned around and headed back to Roddickton for another night.

The next day, we took the trail back to Hawkes Bay, but this time stayed at a friends cabin for the evening.

Spring conditions were really starting to set in, and there were numerous open brooks on the trail

When we got to the cabin for the night, we decided to try a little ice fishing out on the pond before settling in for the evening. Never caught anything worth keeping, but we had a good time

Back at the cabin, we had supper, played some cards, drank some beer, and got some rest in prep for a long day all the way back to George’s Lake

Carl had his sled fixed, and rode up from Reidville to meet us on Taylor’s Brook Road

Skirting the boundary of Gros Morne. We really should’ve made the detour into see Western Brook Gorge, but we were running short of time

Grand Lake in the background. Grand Lake never freezes enough to travel, and it’s a major obstacle when travelling on the island.

Back at George’s Lake just in time for sunset

And this was our route over the 6 days of riding. Well, 7 for me, if you count the last 50kms I did back to Stephenville the next morning as a day.

All told, it was 1550kms of great riding with good friends.

Spring 2016 Seal Hunt

Reading some anti-seal hunting posts on facebook lately got me thinking about a day spent on the ice last spring, so I decided to do a short write up on it.

We left from North West River in the morning, headed east on Lake Melville looking for seal. The forecast was calling for showers, but luckily the rain mostly held off for the day.

We had guns with us, but the preferred method of hunting is “darting”, standing above a hole with a harpoon, and when a seal comes into sight, you thrust the harpoon into the seal and haul it up. The harpoon is pretty deadly, but a quick crack on the skull ensures the seal is dead, as their skulls are extremely fragile.

About a half an hour out we started seeing sign and stopped for a look.

This is a breathe hole, where the seal can come up for air, but not come out of the water.

Here you can see where they had a house over the winter. The houses collapse in the spring when the snow starts melting, and that’s when you can finally find seals on the ice

We spot a seal off in the distance, and think about taking a shot

Another group of hunters out on the ice

Success for one of the hunters

Waiting patiently at a hole.

First seal of the day for our group

Heading off looking for more seals

Stopped for another try

What a gorgeous day out on the ice

Another one! Got this one through a breath hole, so the hole in the ice had to be opened up to haul the seal onto the ice.

We later came across a pup who had lost his hole. Isn’t he cute?

We tried to herd him back to the hole, but he was determined to keep going in his direction, so I picked him up to put him back in the water.

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Time to call it a day, I guess, so we start heading back to the trucks

Was a fabulous day out on the ice. Can’t wait to get out again this coming spring.