Our Labrador Adventure
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.
We had a good view of ice floes on the Saguenay River, where it enters the St. Lawrence.
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.
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.
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.
Freezing temperatures, combined with patches of wet gravel, coated the truck and trailer with some very interesting ice formations, especially on the wheel hubs:
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.
Late afternoon found us still heading north through the Canadian Shield on drier roads, towards Labrador.
Finally we reached the provincial border and stopped for photos.
John and I are pictured below.
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.
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.
Tree cover is more sparse in Labrador than we are used to in Ontario, and this means there is lots of space for trails.
Typically the trails are 20 to 30 feet wide and very smooth.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Below is the same view four days later, silvered with frozen mist.
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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