Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Winter Road 2011

Overall, the 2011 Winter Road from Red Lake to Sandy Lake was a successful trip.  Although, every winter road has various unique problems and challenges.  This year uncertainties of ice thickness was a main concern.  Like most of the Midwest, NW Ontario received record amounts of snow in December.  The massive amount of snow combined with mild temperatures throughout December and January lead to slow developing ice.

Our original plan was to begin travels on the 31st of January to NW Ontario.  However, as of January 28th vehicles had not ventured forth on the ice highway towards Sandy Lake. In previous years, the road was opened around January 15th.  With a sigh of relief, Dad received a phone call from Sandy Lake Seaplane on January 29th indicating several 4x4 half tons had completed the run.  Two days later Dad and I arrived in Vermilion Bay ready to load the trucks with our supplies. On HWY 502 in transit to Vermilion Bay from the States, we managed to chase down a small bull moose that was unwilling to depart the smooth highway into the deep snow.  Dad was practically bumping the heels of the moose while I was scrambling for the camera in the passenger seat.

On Feb 1st, Dad, Ed Carson and myself ventured into Dryden and loaded our three trucks with approximately 4000 pounds of lumber, 5 new 4-stroke Yamaha engines bound for West Lake, and various other supplies.  Two miles west of Dryden the Dodge Ram 2500 started coughing, sputtering and jerking.  We begged the local Dodge dealer for an emergency appointment and after a quick diagnosis it was determined the truck needed a coil and wiring.  Even more amazingly the part was flown in the very next day. Looking back, we were fortunate the truck didn't break down in the middle of nowhere on the ice highway.   

After our brief set back, we departed Vermilion Bay on the 3rd at 4:30 am towards Sandy Lake.  A brief stop in Red Lake for a hearty breakfast the the infamous Lakeview restaurant and we were on our way.  The first trip to Sandy Lake was rather uneventful.  Two moose and 19 chickens were spotted along the journey. It was noticeable that very little traffic had traveled the road thus far. The snow was packed well and had very few ruts.  We encountered only two vehicles during the 10 hour drive.  Arriving to Sandy Lake around dinner time we were flattered with a moose roast prepared for us.  

The following day we unloaded the vehicles and fueled up.  Not surprisingly, the gas station was only open two hours that day. At 3:00 am on the 5th, we departed Sandy Lake ventured back to Red in vehicles stocked with empty propane bottles.  Driving the road during the evening hours is optimal because oncoming traffic is visible along with the moguls in the road.  

After watching an amazing Superbowl and cheering the Packers until my throat was raw, we ventured back along the winter highway.  The final two legs of the trip were fairly non eventful. We witnessed helicopter flying over various parts of the winter road utilizing sonar imagery to record ice thickness.  According to several sources, ice was reported 22 inches at the thinnest spots.  As a rule of thumb, semi's and fuel tankers will begin traveling the highway at 20-24 inches of ice.  During our final trip back from Sandy we encountered 6 fuel tankers heading northbound.

For a neat Google Interactive map of our latest winter road journey click here.

A couple of numbers from the 2011 winter road:
  • $8.65- the current price for a gallon of gas in Sandy Lake.
  • 21-number of grouse spotted along our travels
  • 1424-kilometers (882 miles) driven on the winter road
  • 41-number of hours it took to drive the 1424 kilometers 
  • 21-average mph along the winter road
  • 10650-the we weight of goods transported along the winter highway.  Current price is $1 per pound to ship via air.
  • 4-moose spotted 
  • 3-average number of stops per cup of coffee consumed.  
  • -33-average morning temperature in Celsius (-27 F) in Sandy Lake. The wind chill our last day at Sandy was a bone chilling -44 Celsius (-47 F)  

1 comment:

  1. would love to make a trip on the winter road after I retire