Nature Column #9704--St. John Valley Times--Week of Feb.12. 1997



Every year the trail crews for the Can-Am dog sled races face different challenges. Two years ago it was thick ice bending large trees. Last year it was a blanket of sticky snow that laid down alders, birches and some other trees to form a closed canopy over many parts of the trail. This year, so far, the main problem has been snowstorms which keep turning into rain. Work has been delayed, not only by rainy weekends, but also by weekends which were much too cold. However, the weekend of Feb.1 was fine for trail work.

We had nine snowmobiles that started from a field in Wallagrass to pack the trail as far as Isie Lake. With 36" (sometimes more) of dry powdery snow on the ground it proved to be quite a challenge. There was not too much trouble in the fields, but when we reached Pooler's Run to cross Martin Brook, the trail got rougher. After the passage of a few snowmobiles, the trail was like a trench in the snow. Our snowmobile, with Stan driving and me riding, tipped over a few times as we tried to widen the trail by riding halfway up the banks. I fell off several times and felt like I was swimming in the deep snow when I tried to get up! The lead snowmobile at that point was Larry Guimond's. He saw a big moose on the trail. The moose got off the trail, but returned to it, and Larry stopped a few times so as not to push the moose too hard.

Some of the crew had been as far as Carter Brook the week before, fixed the bridge over Martin Brook, and, of course, packed the trail somewhat. The snow since then had made it pretty soft again. The real trouble came when we entered the Gilmore Hill part of the trail. Larry and Dana Pinette were the lead snowmobiles most of the time, and when they stopped to let the engines cool, the fronts of the machines were buried--no sign of the skis and not much of the front hood showing. In order to fill the holes in the Gilmore Brook bridge, Larry cut evergreens. Then the rest of the crew made short work of moving them to the bridge, spreading a tarp, and covering the whole thing with snow. Dennis Cyr, Russ Levesque, Dave Potter, Randy Pinkham, George Pooler, and Lucas Guimond were the other members of our group. It sure was nice to have a large crew.

Then we started up hill and the real challenge began. The snowmobiles in front got stuck frequently, but there were lots of hands to push them. Finally, progress slowed so much that we helped half of the group turn around to go down and come around from the other end of the trail. Larry snowshoed a bit ahead of the machines. George Pooler trudged up quite a bit of the hill on his snowshoes. When they stopped for lunch, I borrowed Dennis's snowshoes and began climbing. I didn't get quite to the top, thinking the other group would surely be coming down.

Then I heard machines, but they were the ones I was in front of. They came up the hill a lot faster and more easily than I had! The snowshoe track really helped. When the snow stopped the leader again, Lucas and I finished snowshoeing to the top. We made it down the other side with little trouble, and met the others out on a somewhat packed trail. The arduous work was done, though we had a few stuck machines going back down Gilmore Hill.

Gale L. Flagg

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