February 22-28, 2018 20th Annual Cabin Trip: (121 Photos)
121. As already mentioned on the main page, 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the annual winter trip to the Sooley Cabin near Whitbourne, NL. Over the course of 20 years we've seen a lot of changes, the cabin has been renovated, it now has power which is an upgrade from the old Kubota generator, we went from riding one Argo towed to the cabin by myself to most of the crew bringing quite a fleet of ATV's and Snowmobiles. I actually have VHS footage of the first trip in 1998 that I plan to have digitized soon to add to the website.
120. I left town a few hours earlier than the rest of the crew, my first stop was the Gun Club where I had to make a quick repair to our new (2015) generator.
119. Control wires in the key switch/relay box had rubbed against the PVC box, a couple wires shorted on the bolts attaching the box to the generator causing the fuel override relay to power up. The first step was to tape up the damages wires individually with quality 3M electrical tape.
118. Next each section of harness was wrapped in TESA tape to keep it snug and add a layer of abrasion resistance.
117. Finally split loom was installed to provide yet another layer of abrasion resistance to the control wires and hopefully prevent the problem from re-occurring.
116. With my volunteer work complete it was back on the highway west to Whitbourne and on to the Sooley family cabin.
115. First on the to do list was to get the woodstoves lit and get some heat in the building.
114. Next I unloaded the truck and project Foreman and went for a quick exploratory rip before heading down to the pond to survey the ice.
113. There was 6" of ice on this section of pond last weekend which is the minimum recommended thickness for an ATV according to the coast guard ice safety sheet found online. Checking today I found 7" + on the small cove by Sooley's cabin, a promising sign for this week's activities.
111. Earlier in the week I made this ice measuring tool. I cut off a cheap measuring tape and attached it with stainless screws to a piece of 1/2" square poplar trim and installed a 3" stainless bolt at the zero mark. The bolt hooks to the bottom edge of the ice to gain an accurate measurement, I let it overhang on two sides to allow for left and right handed use. I also made markings on the stick for weight loads vs. ice thickness following the Coast Guard guide.
110. I also picked up a can of survey tape to clearly mark my findings on the ice for the crew to see clearly. My cordless drill adaptor made quick work of drilling dozens of test holes across the ice to safely identify dangerous areas of thin ice.
109. A little after 6pm Ronnie finally made it to the cabin with two studded out YZ250 dirt bikes in the bed. Janes and Maffer followed shortly thereafter.
108. You can read more about Ronnie's winter dirt bike preparations on the Projects in the Shed page.
107. After an awesome feed of BBQ hamburgers where Ronnie nearly blew up the barbeque, we settled in for the evening with a few beverages.
105. Friday morning after a feed of bacon and eggs Ronnie, A.J., Maffer, Janes and I headed up the pond on foot with my cordless drill ice auger, measuring tool and survey paint in hand to survey ice thickness on the whole pond. It should be noted that we know this pond very well having had many trips up and down over the last 20 years. Many of these trips were early winter and late winter trips alike so we know where the ice freezes last and opens early - which could be the dangerous thin spots this year. We drilled dozens and dozens of holes all over the pond and found 7-10" of solid hard ice meaning that we shouldn't have trouble safely riding our machines on the pond.
104. Two problem areas with only 4-5" of ice near the shoals were identifies and marked as areas to stay away from.
103. We actually drilled so many holes that we had to send AJ back to the cabin for the 2nd battery for my Milwaukee M18 Fuel drill.
101. By the time we were through surveying the ice Sooley and Kim arrived to join in on the activities.
99. After a snack and coffee break we headed back out and installed some clear markers around the problem areas surveyed that morning to make sure none of the crew ventured out on thin ice, we didn't want to mark the 20th anniversary trip by being on the news! Boughs were drilled (and eventually froze) into the ice to clearly mark areas to stay away from.
97. With our day's important work complete we enjoyed the rest of the afternoon under sunny skies with an ATV run and ice fishing. Since we only tested Sooley's pond we didn't venture out onto any other waterways, particularly High Waters which has a lot of unknown currents and unexpected thin ice. In past years with ample ice it hasn't been an issue, but this year with bare minimum ice we didn't push our luck.
96. Fortunately the new Nalcor transmission line and service road provided lots of new opportunities to ride which worked out very well this year.
92. The glare ice was an absolute riot to ride on and provided perfect conditions for Ronnie & AJ's studded dirt bikes and Maffer's studded Can Am Outlander ATV.
90. Later in the afternoon Sooley fired up (literally lol) one of the Norwegian fire logs in our top of the pond clearing. This one was made from Juniper and although it eventually burned, it didn't light as easy as the spruce logs last weekend.
86. Friday evening Lester arrived in the 1998 Chev Silverado (project coming soon to the Projects in the Shed page) with his 2015 Honda 420AT ATV in the bed.
85. Friday's supper menu was BBQ steaks with all the trimmings.
84. Saturday morning Maffer got to work making kick ass omelettes for the crew. This oven baked omelette is easy to prepare and a great way to quickly feed a large crew. Once cooked grated cheese is spread on half the omelette and then it's folded over and served.
81. Overnight Friday and most of the day Saturday saw overcast skies and not heavy but steady snowfall throughout the day which quickly added up to 10cm or more of fresh snow.
77. We were certainly glad to have clearly marked the areas of thin ice with boughs as they were still clearly visible with the fresh fallen snow.
75. The remnants of yesterday's juniper Norwegian fire log.
73. A.J. pretty well had wheelies down pat which at first frustrated the hell out of his father, but throughout the day with some son - father coaching Ronnie was getting the hang of it! These guys will be wheelie-ing past highway traffic on Northern Pond Road in no time!
71. Back at the cabin Sooley found an old expired hand flare which he figured would not work, surprisingly it fired so he put it to good use as a fire starter. Of course, never light a flare particularly in the country or near water unless you are in immediate need of assistance.
68. Saturday afternoon Sooley, Maffer and I got to work repairing the benches at our top of the pond fire pit clearing. The old benches were put there about 15 years ago and were well worn and completely rotted out.
66. After taking down a couple nuisance trees we installed the first of the new logs forming a wood stand to keep campfire fuel off the ground and dry.
65. The previous two benches were completely replaced with four sections of double log benches utilising existing trees and a couple large Juniper chucks to form a nice semi circle with way more seating than before.
64. Just as we lit a fire to burn off some of the old crap we cut down Bill and Jessica arrived. Although not able to stay up for the night they stayed for supper and to take in the evening's activities.
60. For supper Lester brought a beautiful beef tenderloin which Janes put in the oven on a low heat for most of the afternoon. Broccoli, potato and an awesome gravy rounded out this absolutely outstanding meal!
59. After supper we headed back up the pond for a fire in our newly rebuilt fire clearing where stories and tall tales were shared among awesome friends.
53. With the temperature dropping Saturday's fresh snow was sticking to the machines turning project Foreman into a fossil fuel burning snowball!
51. Sunday morning arrived and with it cold temps but beautiful clear sunny skies. After a late breakfast of bacon, sausages, and scrambled eggs we suited up for a day in the woods.
50. Rip up the pond on project Foreman. At the top of the pond I actually ran out of gas spinning circles, so a quick switch to reserve and a run back to the shed for fuel got me back riding in short order.
48. Lester, AJ, Ronnie, Sooley and Maffer.
47. Same with Sooley swapped for me.
46. After weeks of trash talk of who's studded bike would be faster Ronnie and Maffer finally lined up for the big race. Maffer took the lead out of the hole and held it to the end of the track but not by much!
44. Ronnie, A.J. Janes and Kim had to head back to town Sunday afternoon which left just Sooley, Maffer, Lester and I for the remainder of the day.
43. Not wanting to waste a moment of the beautiful sunny skies we headed back to the pond to burn some gas on the bikes while Sooley finished up ice fishing, particularly looking for the bag of trout that fell off the skidoo. Lester and I had a blast spinning long loops across the snow covered glare ice, speeding up then cutting the bars while keeping the gas held WFO!
40. Supper Sunday consisted of Maffer's awesome homemade turkey soup. After supper Lester packed up and headed back to town for a family commitment leaving just the 3 remaining original crew from the 1998 inaugural trip, Me, Maffer and Sooley.
39. With significant snow in the forecast for Monday night/Tuesday I regretted my decision to not take my Skidoo with me Thursday so Maffer, Sooley and I hopped in the truck and ran back to town to pick up my sled. Even though riding conditions would still not be great I could at least burn last year's gas out of the machine!
37. After returning to the cabin we took advantage of the perfectly still (but freezing cold -15 Canadian) night and went out for a late night ATV ride with the electronic coyote caller. We made a number of setups along the pole line and actually found some fresh tracks afterwards coming towards the caller!
35. For breakfast Monday morning we took the easy route and headed to Monty's Place in Whitbourne to take advantage of the breakfast special and enjoy a quick break from cooking and washing dishes.
34. Returning to the cabin we decided to pass away the day in the woods working on our ATV trail originally started over 10 years ago. Sooley French and I trimmed back the grown in first section of trail this past May 24th weekend, so we continued the work clearing deadfalls to the end of the trail near the old shanty clearing.
30. My trusty old $100 Princess Auto rebuilt Poulan Chainsaw actually ran surprisingly well making quick work of deadfalls along the trail then moving on to new trail cutting in the afternoon.
26. Bike run on new section of trail. The new hill is a bit of a beast and required winching to make it back up. We'll have to make some further repairs later when the snow melts.
25. Other than Sooley popping a tire on the box cart coming in the trail, the day went remarkably well re-opening the trail to the shanty clearing and then creating about 500 yards of new trail.
23. Monday evening's supper consisted of BBQ steak and Maffer's awesome Haloumi grilling cheese which was a first for me but definitely not my last time trying it!
22. As forecast, Tuesday morning arrived with about 10-15cm of fresh fallen snow which meant I'd finally get to burn some gas in Project REV. I made a couple quick runs up the pond Monday but there was no snow for travelling the pole line.
21. Even with the new snow, conditions were far from ideal but the windblown sections were few and the rest just barely sufficiently covered. Most years I wouldn't even bother taking the sled but with such mild weather all winter I decided to take advantage of what we had. So unfortunately there wont be any water skipping, jumping, or hill climbing footage on this trip which sucks but we cant control the weather.
20. This area of High Waters is usually a roadblock when the river opens the ice near the old ATV power line trail on the right hand side. Now the new Nalcor transmission line and service road provides a permanent bypass around this formerly very tangly section of trail.
19. High Waters looks frozen but with unpredictable currents and therefore thin ice I didn't bother riding these great waterways, especially by myself. We will have to wait for next year and hopefully a properly cold winter to create safe ice.
16. REV rip up the pond.
14. This little gully alongside Sooley's pond is also a favourite for water skipping in years past, this year it's completely un-rideable as there is no where safe to run out after the river with this year's sketchy ice.
13. With fresh fallen snow on the ground we got out the blade and mounted it on Sooley's trusty Honda Fourtrax 300 and got to work clearing the driveway.
11. With the driveway cleared we decided to tackle fixing the tire on the box trailer. The sidewall of the old tire was torn open so repairing or patching was out of the question. With a correct size replacement tire on a wrong size rim we set about changing over tires old school by breaking down the bead with a 2x4 & bottle jack and using tire irons to swap tires.
10. It was definitely a PITA job and not something to tackle everyday, but it passed away the afternoon and got the box trailer all fixed up for zero dollars.
9. The final supper of our trip was a Moose roast I kept especially for this excursion from my Ferryland moose hunt in October. I put it in the oven on a low heat all day and it literally fell apart as we sliced it. The roast was paired with mashed potato, mashed turnip, carrots and gravy.
8. After supper Sooley and I made a Tim Horton's run to Whitbourne then piddled around the garage for the evening installing a new chain on Maffer's saw and doing a little repair work and planning out the rebuild of the wood hauling cart which lost a wheel & hub during last winter's annual cabin trip.
6. Wednesday morning brought overcast skies but milder temperatures as we took a few last runs up the pond before cleaning the cabin and packing the trucks for the run home.
1. Our 20th annual winter trip came to a close and we were all pretty damn happy with the trip. Undoubtedly we picked the best weekend as cold temps made the pond safe which was not the case in the weeks leading up to the trip nor this coming weekend. As always the trip was made from great friends both making & remembering great memories from the last 20 years and that's what really makes it a truly awesome adventure.
Copyright © 2011 Michael Smith