Our Labrador Adventure

23 April, 2016 15 comments Leave a comment

When I look out my windows and see green grass and spring flowers blooming, it's hard to believe just a month ago we were enjoying wintry wilderness scenery in Labrador.

We made the long journey there for some quality snowmobiling, along with our long-time friends Rick and Nancy. The 3,500 km round trip took us along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River past Montreal and Quebec City, to Baie-Comeau. From there, we headed north through the rugged hills of eastern Quebec and finally over the border into Labrador City.

The route along the St. Lawrence included a free ferry across the Saguenay River. Shown below is Nancy with my husband John, standing on the ferry, beside the truck and snowmobile trailer.

Saguenay River Ferry

We had a good view of ice floes on the Saguenay River, where it enters the St. Lawrence.

Ice Fkoes on the Saguenay River

After a long day of travel, including through an evening snowstorm, we stopped for the night at a motel in Baie-Comeau. The next day the skies had cleared and we headed north 585 km on the rugged road to Labrador.

 Quebec Hwy 389 to Labrador City

Ten years ago, the last time we ventured up this road, it was mostly gravel and quite scary. This time, it was mostly paved but still challenging in parts because it is twisty, narrow, very hilly, and sometimes muddy.

Quebec Hwy 389 to Labrador City

 We barely made it up one of the toughest hills, shown above. Despite freezing temperatures, the sunshine had melted the top inch of gravel on the south face, making for poor traction going up. But everybody held their breath and we made it over the top.

We passed by the massive Manic Cinq dam (shown below) and stopped for lunch at the small restaurant/gas station nearby.

Quebec's Manic Cinq Dam

Freezing temperatures, combined with patches of wet gravel, coated the truck and trailer with some very interesting ice formations, especially on the wheel hubs:

Mud icicles   Mud icicles

The ice was hard like concrete inside the wheel wells, but we managed to kick it off so the wheels could move freely. I saw a truck driver using a large sledgehammer to knock the ice off the sides of his flatbed trailer.

Mud icicles

Mud icicles

Late afternoon found us still heading north through the Canadian Shield on drier roads, towards Labrador.

Quebec Hwy 389 to Labrador City

Finally we reached the provincial border and stopped for photos.

Welcome to Labrador

John and I are pictured below.

 Karen and John reach Labrador

Labrador City is only 15 km past the border, and we pulled in about 7 pm. We stayed at the Two Seasons motel. They named it after the only two seasons they have this far north - Winter and Last Winter. Haha.

There was a fair amount of snow in Lab City. Here is the view out of the second story window in our room.

View from our second story window in Labrador City.

We enjoyed three days of snowmobiling in sunshine and temperatures in the minus 20's Celsius, for the most part. The second morning it was minus 44 with the wind chill, so we visited the mall and had a hot lunch at our motel prior to setting out on the trails. Pictured below are Nancy, Rick, and John.

Snowmobiling near Labrador City

Tree cover is more sparse in Labrador than we are used to in Ontario, and this means there is lots of space for trails.

Snowmobile trail near Labrador City

Typically the trails are 20 to 30 feet wide and very smooth.

Wide snowmobile trail near Labrador City

Due to the extreme cold of Labrador winters, the snowmobile clubs have built warm up huts at regular intervals along the trails. They were a welcome sight for sure. One is pictured below.

 Warm up hut on snowmobile trail near Labrador City.

The huts are outfitted inside with benches to sit on as well as a wood stove, and free wood, kindling, kerosene, and matches to start a fire. Shown below are our friends inside a cosy hut. The racks are for drying and warming up clothing around the stove.

Many local people ride without the full snowmobiling gear we are used to, and helmets are not mandatory in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We often saw people snowmobiling in fur trapper hats, goggles, and mittens, so I am sure their faces get really cold. Full face helmets are so much warmer and we were glad to have them.

Interior of warm up hut, near Labrador City.

This was our first trip using our new Arctic Cat snowmobile, shown below with John and I. It has two gas tanks and can travel up to 500 km between fill ups. We also found the suspension to be very comfortable, compared to our 11 year old Skidoo, and I loved having a heated seat and handlebars. Our helmet visors are also heated electrically, so they don't frost up from our breath.

John and Karen snowmobiling near Labrador City     John and Karen snowmobiling near Labrador City

From our two previous winter trips to Labrador City, we knew to stay on trails, as the un-groomed snow is very powdery, like flour or white sugar. John stepped off the trail to demonstrate this to our friends, and immediately sank up to his torso. His boot had not reached bottom yet, so he had to lay back onto the snow to roll onto the trail.

John sunk in powder snow near Labrador City

All too soon, it was time to head back to Ontario. The weather was colder on the trip out, as shown by the photos below. The first one was taken on the trip into Labrador.

View of open river from the road to Labrador City

Below is the same view four days later, silvered with frozen mist.

Open river near Labrador City

We thoroughly enjoyed our week away. If you ever get the chance, it's worth the trek to Labrador to take advantage of their world class snowmobile trails. March or April is the best time to go - good snow conditions, less cold weather, and more sunshine!

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  1. Michael May 14, 2016

    Sometimes it can go down to -50c in western Labrador then add a windchill to that. It’s really a shame that the entire highway of 389 and Trans Labrador Highway still isn’t 100% paved. Canadians deserve better than that especially with as high as taxes are.

  2. ron shortreed May 02, 2016

    Thanks for sharing. Traveled your same route on my wing in June of 1992. Rode to Goose Bay with a friend and then took the ferry to Lewisporte on the rock,and then home through the states. Sure enjoyed your trip ,will have to try this .thanks again . your friends .Marg & Ron S. Luv your pictures.

  3. Diane Lackie April 27, 2016

    Glad you had a great trip;some flowers would now look good though. D.L.

  4. Lesa Robertson April 27, 2016

    Minus 44 – are you kidding? That’s what I call hibernation weather – time to stay indoors and paint. Seriously I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about your winter adventures.

  5. Joy kennedy April 27, 2016

    Thanks Karen. What a lovely trip. You must have a lot of new snow scenes to paint now.
    Love to you and John.Joy

  6. Mary Ellen April 26, 2016

    Thanks for the tour. Who wouldn’t want to go to Labrador after seeing these fabulous pics.

  7. Janet Love April 26, 2016

    Thank you so much for your photos and commentary. I am unable to travel so viewing and hearing about other’s trips is a joy.I’m sure we will see examples of how your trip inspired you for another project in watercolour. Take care Janet

  8. Vikki MacPherson April 26, 2016

    Wow! Looks like a very cold, yet beautiful place. Thanks Karen, for sharing your travelling tales and pictures.

  9. Tracey April 26, 2016

    Looks so beautiful! It’s definitely a trip we want to take.

    In stark contrast, I just came back from a writer’s conference held in Las Vegas. For the first time, we experienced the desert and it was more striking than I imagined.

    It would be interesting to put our photos of the landscapes surrounding Vegas next yours. :-)

  10. Anne Paré April 26, 2016

    Beautiful Karen, thank you for sharing!

  11. Pauline April 26, 2016

    Hi Karen, looks like you had a fabulous trip. I wanted to thank you for recommending me as a portrait artist yet again!

  12. Margo April 26, 2016

    lovely photo’s and great experience. thanks for sharing

  13. Ken Gadsden April 26, 2016

    Great tour. Thank you for sharing

  14. maxine ball April 26, 2016

    love o read of your adventures and your pics are great

  15. Richard Gauder April 26, 2016

    That was a fun read! Happy you have heated seats and handlebars now!