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Sunday, 26 July 2015

Eldon Gallant, Part 3, Snowmobile Journey from Goose Bay, Labrador to St. Augustine, Québec

Thursday March 30th, we visited the Goose Bay airport and around town. While in Goose Bay we stayed with Baxter McKay and his wife Kaye, they were very nice people. We also met with Lee Parsons over a caribou supper cooked Labrador style, it was a wonderful meal.

                                    Eldon in Goose Bay

Friday March 31st, we brought the snowmobiles to the garage to be checked. We were very busy that day picking up the food, gasoline and other supplies at we would need for the trip back. That night Clayton and I met with Henry Rich and his wife to exchange stories, before the evening was over Henry Rich and Lee Parsons decided to accompany us back as far as the Kenamu River via the Travespine River, a shorter route back to Henry Rich's cabin. We appreciated this very much, this would save us some time and allow us to see more.

Saturday April 1st, 8:30 a.m. we were ready to leave Goose Bay accompanied by Lee Parsons and Henry Rich. It was a cloudy day and shortly after leaving it began to snow. By 10:00 it was snowing very heavily making it impossible for us to follow the tracks that Henry Rich had made the previous week on the Travespine River, this really slowed us down. The snow was also very deep on this river and we were continuously getting stuck. At 2:30 p.m. we arrived at Marshland between Travespine River and Kenamu River, Lee Parsons and Henry Rich were now ready to turn around and head back to Goose Bay. Clayton, Terry and myself continued our way home, hoping to reach Henry Rich's cabin by the end of the day. It was still snowing very heavily at 8:30 p.m. when we arrived at the cabin. The day was a long and hard one and we were now ready to settle down for the night.

                  Clayton Pilgrim and Lee Parsons

Sunday April 2nd, there was light snow still falling and approximately 15 inches of new snow had fallen. At 11:00 a.m. we decided to leave even though we were still unable to find the track we had made a few days before.

                   Lee Parsons off trail in deep snow

We traveled very slowly today, and after we left Little Drunken River to travel over the hills we worked fairly hard. At 5:30 p.m. we stopped to set-up camp 5 miles beyond Little Drunken River, it was the same place we had camped on the way over. We had now taken 2 days to travel less distance than we had travelled in one day on the way over. We knew that if we were to continue at this rate, it would take us 22 days to get home.

                         Hills around Little Drunken River

Monday April 3rd, we were ready to leave camp at 8:30 that morning, it was a sunny and milder day. We were traveling faster today, by 10:30 a.m. we arrived at Day River. There was a lot less snow in this area so we were able to follow our track that we made on the way over. At 12:00 a.m. we arrived at Clayton's Pond, picked up our gasoline and supplies we left there for our way back.

We left Clayton's Pond at 1:30 p.m., today seemed to be the best traveling weather of the entire trip. At 4:30 p.m. we had to stop at Mountie Pond to pick up the rest of our gasoline, and at 6 p.m. we arrived to Francis Pond, where we set-up camp for the night, things were going a whole lot better now, the distance we travelled today had taken us five and a half days on the way over.

Tuesday April 4th, it was a cloudy and very mild day. We left Francis Pond at 8:45 a.m., hoping to reach the falls of Little N. W. River by the end of the day. We traveled very slowly through wooded areas, continuously sinking deep in the snow due to very mild weather. At 4:00 p.m. that evening it began to rain, by 6:30 p.m. we stopped for the night, we were now about 8 miles from the falls.

Wednesday April 5th, the weather wasn't very nice, it was a misty rainy day. We were ready to leave camp at 8:00 a.m., if everything turns out as planned we should reach home today. We arrived at the falls at 10:00 a.m., and by 11:30 we were at Partridge Gulf, where Garry Lessard has his cabin. We borrowed 10 gallons of gasoline from there, knowing that we would need more gas than usual to get home because of the rain. It was raining heavily now making it very difficult to haul our supplies. We left Partridge Gulch, traveling at a good rate despite the rain. At 7:00 p.m. we arrived in St. Augustine, feeling rather content to finally be home, and having successfully accomplished this snowmobile journey.

                               Garry Lessard's Cabin

If we were to do this over again, there are a few things that we have learned from this trip that could make things a lot easier. Here are a few hints that could prove to be helpful:

1.  A longtrack snowmobile would travel faster and easier over deep soft snow compared to an Elan, the smallest snowmobile that Bombardier manufactures.

2.   Be sure not to take any unnecessary supplies, such as tools and spare parts, this will make your load heavier and slow you down. It will also make you work harder when you have to go uphill.

3.   Four people might make things easier, on many occasions two people could go on and prepare a trail for the following day, while the other two would stay behind and set-up camp for the night.

I hope to have the opportunity to make this trip again, to be able to take my wife Eleanor and my son Pete with me so that they could see and enjoy the experience, that they have heard me talk about so often.

Notes by Marie Smith:  it is obvious how much joy Eldon took from this experience. His desire to share the experience with his wife and son are testimony to his love of the adventure. Also, his detailed account of the journey shows his level of interest in the experience. In the struggle against nature in the Québec/Labrador wilderness, Eldon was in his element, using his physical strength and ingenuity to overcome all obstacles. Planning and forethought were essential as well as adapting to conditions that presented themselves. Eldon enjoyed the physical struggle against the elements, immersing himself in the experience.

With the snow machines and the availability of the global positioning system, imagine how much easier this journey would be today. Eldon's journey on a small Elan, using charts and compass, was more difficult for certain.

He was an interesting man. I wish I had met him.

Thank you to Eleanor Bursey Gallant for allowing me to put Eldon's journal on the blog.

Rest in peace, Eldon...

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