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01-02-09, 07:40 PM #1
A Christmas Adventure *WARNING* Long (And contains Adult Language)
It was a crisp and kind of clear morning on Dec 24th. My brother Dave, our friend Jason, and myself all had the same day off for the first time this winter. So we all got up first thing in the morning and met at Jason's place to head out snowmachining. The temperature wasn't too too cold, about -10 and by the time we had made the 130 mile drive north to Petersville, it had warmed up to around 0. We found our spot, unloaded the sleds and headed out on our day of fun in the snow.
There was about 3 feet of snow on the ground and conditions were near perfect. We reached the trail head, marked by the presence of a bar perfectly situated so that only people that were driving snow machines could stop to drink lol. We rode West for about an hour and then stopped at the top of a ridge for a short break. The landscape was breathtaking and the silence was awesome. Out to our West we could see a storm was moving in and the mountains were becoming obscured. This wasn't surprising at all as the weather forecast had called for snow starting in the evening. We were okay since it was still only 1130 and we'd be back at the truck by sunset in another 3 hours. Jason was walking around and suddenly the snow broke away and he fell on his ass in a little hole that had been covered by a snow drift. He laughed and pulled himself out, and then we got back on the sledsand continued West to finish what was supposedly a loop trail. Along the way we played around on some of the hills and then stopped on a frozen river to eat lunch. Lunch consisted of burritos that had been cooked in Jason's hot dog cooker, an enclosed tin tray inside the engine compartment of his snow machine.
By this time it was about 1230, and surprisingly, snow was beginning to fall. Weather forecasts in this area of the state aren't exactly precise, so we figured that the storm just was hitting a little early. It still wasn't cause for concern, our best estimate put us a little over halfway through the loop so we were still somewhat on time, we would just have to stop playing around and pick up the pace. Dave and I had never been on this trail, but Jason had a couple times and was familiar with it. After about another 45 minutes or so we came to a sign along the trail that pointed ahead and said "Katmai Lodge 30 miles." Jason, who was in the lead, stopped and waited for us to catch up. "Guys," he said. "We musta taken a wrong turn, this is nowhere where we're supposed to be." After a short conference, we decided that we had missed a turn along the way. Our best bet considering the now steadily falling snow, was to turn around and just backtrack. It would put us behind by at most an hour, but it beat trying to find where we should have gone. So we turned around, picked up speed even more, and headed back the way we came. During the last leg of the trip, my face mask had frozen and it was nearly impossible to see through it. Jason exchanged helmets with me giving me his brand new helmet and goggles and told me he didn't need the face shield since he had glasses on.
We made good time, keeping the speed around 45-50, and the trail was easy to follow. After about an hour and a half we made it to The Ridge where we had originally stopped that morning. The snow was coming down steadily and the wind was whipping pretty good on the open and exposed ridge. Visibility was around half a mile and the trail suddenly stopped. With the snow and the wind, the trail had been completely obscured. The low visibility made it impossible to locate any landmarks either, so we spread out a bit and slowly made our way along the ridge. We were able to finally locate the trail on the East end of the Ridge. It was pretty sheltered at this spot and the trail was again easy to follow. We went for about 30 minutes until we again came to a wide open area and the trail disappeared. Again we spread out and Dave found the trail to the south of us. After about 45 minutes of riding, we came to the top of a hill and realized we were again on the Ridge. Somehow we had managed to go in a complete circle and headed in the opposite direction. We all had about a half a tank of fuel, so we weren't in too bad of shape, but we had just wasted a good hour of daylight, which was now just about gone, and we had made absolutely no progress. So we turned around again and fortunately found a fork in the trail where we had headed South instead of continuing East. We made good progress feeling confident that we knew where we were and upped the speed a bit. After a good hour and a half, I was thinking that we were just about to the trail head, when Dave, who was in the lead, stopped his sled. "Well, it looks like we're back on the Ridge," he told us when we caught up to him. "No fucking way!" Jason yelled, "No fucking way!" Dave pointed to a large rock outcropping. "That was on our left when we headed out this morning, right?" I agreed with him and Jason nodded. Dave continued, "Its on our left again that means we're headed back West. Right up there is where we stopped for our break." We approached the spot and sure enough, we found the hole that Jason had fallen into. "Fuck!" he yelled, "we've gone in a another fucking circle!" Dave calmed him down and told him just to take the lead, we'd go as slow as we could, and mark every flag every fork in the trail and make absolutely certain that we did not circle around again.
Jason took the lead, every flag we came to that marked the trail, we placed fir branches in the path to show we had already been there. We made progress slowly but surely, confident this time that we were headed in the right direction. We made our way across an open area and saw fresh wolf tracks larger then my hand. The tracks had been barely filled in and could not have been any more then ten minutes old. It didn't make us nervous, wolves are everywhere up here and we had a gun with us. But it was pretty neat to know that somewhere in the darkness a lone wolf was nearby lol. Anyways we were making our way down a hill, Jason was in the lead, Dave was behind him, and I was riding toiletpaper. Jason was frustrated and raced on ahead and as we were going dowen the hill, I hit an unexpected hump in the trail. I don't know how I missed it, it being 4 feet high, but it caught me off guard and I momentarily lost my grip on the right handle bar. I grabbed for it afraid that I would fall off the sled, and my reflex was to squeeze the shit out of it and not let go. Instead of just the handle bar though, I had latched onto the throttle and goosed the engine and was suddenly launched into the air. The last thing I saw from 15 feet up as I was falling off the machine, was the sled landing on top of Dave! I then slammed into the ground hitting with my head and left shoulder, so hard that the front of the helmet cracked and the bill came off. The impact stunned me and my first thought was that everything was peaceful and I was content to lay there for ever. My second thought was "Holy shit, I just killed my brother." I got to my feet as quickly as I could and saw Dave about 5 yards down the trail, running up the hill towards me. "What on earth just happened, were you trying to pass me on a hill?" I explained what happened and asked if he was alright. Fortunately, he had been standing when the sled hit him and he just somersaulted over the front of his machine. Other then a back ache, he said he was fine. We walked up to where my sled was lying on its side. All of the anti-freeze had leaked out and thengine cowling had cracked. We flipped it over and saw that the ignition switch had been sheared completely off. Meanwhile, Jason had made his way back and told us that the trail had come to an abrupt end and on top of having to now fix the sled, we also had to again find the right trail. The sled took about 20 minutes to get back running. we filled the coolant tank with a bottle of water, and hot-wired the sled to get it running.
We again back tracked and again tried to find where we had gone wrong. We found another fork, marked it and continued what we hoped was the right direction. We travelled for over an hour and found ourselves in an open area, again starting to circle around to the South. By this time, we all had less then a quarter tank of fuel and we were so utterly disoriented by the snow that it felt like we were swimming in a pool of gray, opache sludge, with no sight of shore in any direction. We stopped the sleds and shut them off. JDave said, "There's no point in continuing. We're just going in circles, wasting fuel, and we've got no idea where we are or where we're headed. I say we just find a sheltered spot to hunker down for the night and just wait for the snow to stop. Hopefully in the morning when it clears, we'll have enough fuel to make it out." We all agreed, we were prepared to stay over night, even though it would be uncomfortable, at least we would survive it. Jason asked if we were back in range of the cell towers. I turned my phone on and saw that I had two bars of service. Jason got excited, "Call the bar and ask them to fire a couple shots. If we hear it, we'll know we're close and we can get a sense of where we are!" I tried making a call, but even with the two bars, every connection failed. Dave had the same luck when he tried. By now it was well after 6, and Dave and I had told our wives that the latest we'd be home would be 7. Jason spoke up, "I say we give it 5 more minutes. If we don't find our way out in that time, then we'll bed down." We reluctantly agreed, got back on our sleds, and made our way down the trail again. Suddenly, we saw lights up ahead, and we broke out into the clearing only 50 yards from the bar! Three times we had come within a mile of the bar, but because of being disoriented by the weather conditions, we had had continued to veer of in the opposite direction we were supposed to.
We made it to the truck at 6:30p, sore, exhausted, and nearly out of fuel, but for being lost in the Alaskan wilderness for 5 hours, no worse for the wear. Lesson learned: It is hard to take a dump at 5 below in snow up to your waist. Hope ya'll weren't bored, and I did warn you that it would be long lol...RIP Sarah Noll~11-8-87 to 4-17-08
01-02-09, 07:58 PM #2
That's a great story, glad it ended well!Pleasing nobody, one person at a time.
That which does not kill me, better start fucking running.
If I lived every day like it was my last, the body count would be staggering.
I intend to go in harm's way. -John Paul Jones
Hunt the wolf, and bring light to the dark places that others fear to go. LT COL Dave Grossman
01-02-09, 08:02 PM #3
01-02-09, 08:08 PM #4
01-02-09, 08:23 PM #5
Thief. I want those five minutes of my life back.
01-02-09, 08:38 PM #6
01-02-09, 08:42 PM #7
Ohh, I'm jealous. Bummer about the banged up machines, glad they were the only casualties.
That wolf's probably still wandering around thinking "I know I smelled burritos somewhere"
01-02-09, 08:58 PM #8
RIP Sarah Noll~11-8-87 to 4-17-08
01-02-09, 09:46 PM #9
You almost had to change your screen name from Ace to Ice.SI VIS PACEM PARA BELLUM-Ex-Sheriff Martin Howe to Will Kane in "High Noon"
"It's a great life. You risk your skin catching killers and the juries turn them loose so they can come back and shoot at you again. If your honest , your poor your whole life. And , In the end , you wind up dying all alone on some dirty street. For what? For nothing. For a tin star."
Far from being a handicap to command, compassion is the measure of it. For unless one values the lives of his soldiers and is tormented by their ordeals , he is unfit to command.
-General Omar Bradley, United States Army
01-02-09, 10:48 PM #10
That is some snow adventure in the Snowy cold wilderness, Glad you guys found your way out. I can not imagine how cold it would have been spending the night out there.
01-02-09, 10:48 PM #11
I'm jealous. You guys are doing all the cool things now that I'm gone.He who has the money, signs the cheques.
He who signs the cheques, makes the rules.
He who makes the rules, has the power.
He who has the power, has the money.
01-03-09, 08:22 AM #12
Wow, glad you made it out okay!
01-03-09, 08:52 AM #13
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