I knew it was going to be a great weekend of snowmobiling, because regardless of the weather or the snow conditions, I was going on a trip with my son, Kelly, and two grandsons, Steven and Scott.
Despite the fact that they brought along all their gadgets, like the iPod, smart-phone and laptop computer, the bottom line was they were going to be exploring backcountry they had not seen before.
I had driven from Leduc, Alberta, to Cranbrook, B.C., the day before. I had set up a meeting with Kerry Shellborn and some of the staff at Koocanusa Publications, mainly just to say hello and talk them into coming sledding with me for the afternoon. Kerry, Phil and Garth were not hard to convince. We had a quick lunch, loaded the sleds and headed for the Lumberton trails. The trails were wide, smooth and very well groomed.
Obviously there had been a lot of time and effort put into keeping the trail in top shape. We took the cabin cutoff trail and our first stop was at the club cabin. I had been there before and must say this is one of the best appointed club cabins I have seen. It is super clean, has sleeping room for 12, a large fully stocked kitchen and dining area and large living room area. It also has a generator and all the comforts of home. Above the wood stove, there are hooks to hang and dry wet clothes.
From here we took the McNeil Lake Trail. The higher up we went, the deeper the snow got. As the weather was a bit warm, the snow was sticky, so it didn’t take too long before some of our group became stuck. We got them going and struck off on an unmarked trail that went even higher. We wound upwards through the trees toward the blue sky above us.
It didn’t take too long before another couple of sleds were stuck. We pulled them out and returned to the cabin, then set off to explore another trail called Ridgeway.
This beautiful trail winds up the side of a valley. The scenery was gorgeous, but as we neared the top of the ridge a snowstorm blew in and we could hardly see. We got to a place where the trail went around a very steep slope and up to the top of the ridge. Phil had to show off and climb almost straight to the top instead of going around. Not to be outdone, I tried to do the same.
My first attempt ended with me getting stuck and falling off partway up. I’m going to blame it on the fact Phil is much younger and more agile that I am and my goggles were fogged up. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. My second attempt was successful. After this we made our way back to the trucks and down the hill.
Thanks to Kerry, Phil and Garth for taking time to go sledding on a Friday afternoon. It was a great day with many laughs and good memories. Also many thanks for loaning the sleds for my son and grandsons to use. Very much appreciated.
Another special trip
Kelly and the boys arrived Friday evening and were excited to get going the next morning. This trip was special because Steven and Scott had not sledded a lot, and this was their first trip to the mountains.
We headed out of town, first stopping to pick up a trail pass. For any mountain sledders this is an important stop, because the money helps pay for running the groomer.
Again we headed up toward McNeil Lake and this time took the trail directly to the lake. The boys had a ball, learning to manoeuvre their machines between the trees without getting stuck. It was a real treat to see them improve with every turn. Soon they were standing up and laying from side to side just like veteran sledders.
Up near McNeil Lake I was making a turn when I heard a “clunk” and came to a sudden stop. A quick check of the front of the sled showed I had bent the right stabilizer rod when I hit a small stump just below the surface of the snow. I looked on the side and saw the force of the blow had severely bent the right trailing arm. In fact, the right ski was about six inches back from the left one. The steering was OK, so I made my way back to the main trail.
I didn’t want to spoil the boys’ sledding trip, so my son and I cut a five-foot section of dead tree, tipped the sled on its side and proceeded to pound the trailing arm as straight as we could. It worked great. We played for the rest of that day and all of the next. We toured up the Ridgeway Trail, back to the cabin and took the cutoff over toward Cooper Lake. Now, I have tried twice to get to Cooper Lake, with no success. This time, however, we made it.
Hitting the fresh powder
We found several open areas along the way that just had to be tracked up. We took great pleasure in weaving around the small spruce trees, taking care not to damage the young growth. At Cooper Lake we enjoyed the view and had a snack. We didn’t go out on the lake because there were dark spots on the snow and someone had warned us there might be water underneath.
By the time we got back to town we were looking forward to relaxing in the hot pool. We had checked in at the Super 8, because as well as a good free breakfast, they have a pool and hot tub.
It had snowed a fair bit overnight and we were the first ones at the trail the next morning—it was fun pushing snow and trying to stay on the road without seeing the edges. Once in the trees the trip was easier. This time we took Rob’s Way and headed to the cutblocks along Ryder Road. We played in lots of fresh powder, again dodging the new growth of trees.
I hadn’t been to Lumberton for several years and I was amazed at how much the trees had grown. They were very small and fully buried the last time I was here. Now they are five to eight feet above the snow cover. It’s good to see reforestation is working, but it raises heck with the play areas for sledders. Still, the trail system at Lumberton is outstanding. There are so many places to go, many of which are untouched or covered by fresh snowfall. The beauty of the area just makes you want to come back. Up on some of the high slopes I could see for miles down the valleys.
I would look at the cutblocks far away and just wonder and plot as to how I could get there and track up the freshly fallen snow. Needless to say, our trip to Cranbrook was memorable for many reasons, not the least of which was a great time with my family. We are already looking forward to next year.