Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Road or track?

Today I decided to get out of the house with a friend. We had a destination in mind (more on that later) and having missed a more logical turn, we decided a side road would do as well.
The town of Iqaluit is a bit more spread out than you might imagine, but you can get pretty much anywhere if you know the handful of main roads and take one or two turns off of those. Now, from what I've heard, up until this year, only "Ring Road" was paved, everything else was gravel. No big deal, most of the year everything is covered with ice and snow, making a nice hard pack of the road, as anyone from similar climates is familiar with. But that same packed snow blends with the snow at the side of the road, the only indication of some roads being the tracks on the ground, and the mounds of cleared snow beside it. And... well... there are probably more snowmobiles than cars in town. So in amongst the roads, there are many snowmobile tracks, and signs warning snowmobiles off the few sidewalks. I made the mistake of trying to walk on a freshly broken snowmobile track once, and ended up in snow up to my knees. The powdery snow here doesn't hold much weight unless it's WELL packed down.
So back to my outing. We turned onto a back road, that appeared to split in a number of places, and took the turn that looked like it went in the right direction. There are a few crucial mistakes that we made at that point. 1. Taking a road that wasn't well marked 2. Taking a road that we had never been on before 3. Not dressing for the weather, because "we were going to be in the car or a building the whole time" (neither of us had on long johns, snow pants, winter boots, scarves or any of those very-crucial-to-below-30-weather-items) 4. Not looking at WHAT tracks had packed down that particular road. 5. Taking that particular road in a large, 4-wheel-drive vehicle. Because, you see, even a 4-wheel drive is not invincible, especially when the track isn't wide or strong enough to support it. It's actually surprising we got as far as we did down the road!

Once well and truly stuck, I got out to take a look at the damage. We were crooked into the soft snow on the driver's side, right up to the frame in places. At minimum we needed a shovel, and trying to get out going forwards would be the worst choice, as the track wouldn't support a vehicle that size going slow. And the back wheel looked like it was going to be the harder one to get out. So we went into the big store beside us that had some payphones. While there, we ran into friends of the woman I was out with, who agreed to lend a hand, and we talked the store manager into letting us borrow a shovel and even sent one of his employees out to help. Much shoveling followed.
To the light of the setting sun.
My toes froze. Then someone offered a truck to help pull us out. The 1/2 ton truck went down only as far as they trusted the trail, carefully staying on the well-packed areas. By the time they were securing the chains, the cold was getting painful, and I went to join someone else in a warm vehicle, to thaw. The 1/2 ton truck got it a ways out of the snow, only to get stuck again. So some scrap wood was used for traction and a big delivery truck was now able to get close enough to pull it.
Finally, it was out! With the truck out, it was time to go for some hot chocolate before continuing to our destination. We really needed to thaw out from the inside. I've been wrapped in a blanket since getting home. I'm still cold. Teaches me for going out without proper winter gear.
And I learned the difference between a road and a snowmobile track is a crucial one!
But I still enjoyed my time out!

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