About the time Porcupine Plain's mascot, Quilly Willy, starts getting real chilly, you’ll find Leayon Rodgers warming up his 1997 700 Ski-Doo Mach Z. The ice begins to cling to the branches, temperatures dip and Greenwater Lake Provincial Park has had its first light dusting of white. That’s the call to Rodgers, a member of the Porcupine Trail Blasters snowmobile club, and his fellow groomers to get to work putting up the signs and checking over the trail system.
“This year we’ve got a lot more water on the trails—even some beaver dams,” said Rodgers.
The club, which Rodgers has been a member of since its inception and its president for seven years, celebrates its 20th anniversary this fall.
It would be pretty hard for Rodgers to ignore the snowmobile trails; the 100-plus miles of trail go right past his back alley. In fact, maintaining and grooming the trails connecting Porcupine Plain with other communities like Hudson Bay, Kelvington and Lintlaw is something Rodgers really looks forward to. Snowmobiling is a way of life in this prairie region during the long winter months. With Porcupine Plain at the centre of the trail network, the trails play a key role in keeping small communities in the region connected on a recreational level and beyond.
A day the whole family will remember
When I asked Rodgers to tell me about his best day ever sledding, he said there have been far too many best days to pick just one—but he recalled a personal favourite.
“As a family, we did the whole 100 miles of trail in a day during February school break one year,” he said.
Rodgers and his wife and three daughters—who were then ages six, seven and eight—and a couple of friends spent the entire day travelling the full 100 miles of trail.
The sun, which they see a lot of during the Saskatchewan winter, was out in fine form, casting shadows and playing light games with ice crystals. The air was a crisp and a cool -10— “just perfect for snowmobiling,” said Rodgers—as they headed out around 9 that morning.
“I remember we had a musher-style sleigh I pulled behind with the food cooler and supplies,” he added.
Rodgers said the trail includes both open farmland and treed trails.
“About 65 miles of the 100-mile route is in the bush on existing logging roads,” said Rodgers.
He described one spot in particular, high up off Big Valley Lake in an area known as Cougar Canyon, where the trail is just wide enough for grooming equipment.
“One false move and you have about a 150-foot dropoff,” he said.
But this didn’t faze the three youngest snowmobilers one bit; Rodgers said they took it all in stride.
Three warming shelters along the way—one an old provincial picnic site that the club has refurbished for snowmobilers' use—divide up the route.
“You’re never more than about 40 minutes from a warming site,” said Rodgers.
The day ended long after the winter shadows fell, after the sun went down, after a satisfying meal up at Greenwater Lake. The crew arrived back home close to 10 p.m. after a 13-hour round trip filled with great memories.