Eating ‘Crow Pie’

“November first! About time we skied the Mount Mac Trail”

“I’ve heard it’s in great shape.”

“Well, it snowed a lot last night … What about doing the Dog Trail, instead?”

“Come on … we’ve got snow tires. Let’s go!”

In a frenzy of early-season desire to ski the beautiful looped trail, way up the Mount McIntyre Road, I set off with my partner, Lisa, and two close friends in our RAV 4.

Up past the gravel pit, we flew, around the tight corner by the old mine – the crux, I figured – with no problem. Everyone rarin’ to go! Up the next few bends, snow a little deeper, I seem to need first gear to make even gentle grades.

But other vehicle tracks stretch ahead. If they can make it, so can I! A straight, flat section and I gun it and we start to fishtail: “Take it easy, Kate.”

I slow and we reach the overflow, the other section that gives me the willies. There are wheel ruts in the foot-deep slush. Sure enough, the car’s wheels find them, sink, then spin futilely.

We try with the shovel, try with the chains, get the chains tangled around the axle. People are getting cold. We sit in the car, warm up with the heater, give up pushing and call BCAA – they can’t fathom where we are.

But a local towing company rep says he’ll “pull something together” for us tomorrow. Relieved, we lock up, then ski and hitchhike home. Nice, fluffy snow!

Next day, the big towing companies don’t want to look at us. They’re making easy money pulling people out of highway ditches in a blizzard. One brave soul tries to help us and goes off the road in a whiteout at the gravel pit. A tow truck is not the answer.

“Let’s call the ski club … We’ll offer to pay them whatever it takes to get the grooming machine up there.”

Lisa makes the call and finds she has to eat crow on my behalf. No, the ski club can’t help; in fact, some skiers have already complained about us. The road is closed; didn’t we read their Website? (Undercurrent: what idiots! … yes, well.)

[A glimmer of hope] “Harris Cox grooms trails for the Klondike Snowmobile Association. Call him! Harris loves to help people. He’ll figure something out.”

(Lisa makes the arrangements.)

But Harris’s machine is at the shop and won’t start. Another day goes by. It’s my turn to beg an afternoon off work. I go to Harris’s place and the machine turns out to be a snowmobile.

I had imagined a Pisten Bully or at least a twin-track. But he’s confident it can do the trick. Except it still won’t start. Irate calls to the shop, lengthy admiration of Harris’s cluttered workshop, half-built model boats, intricate “Jesus Loves You” scrollwork … projects aplenty!

Finally he decides we’ll have to use his other sled, which means he needs me to drive him, in my borrowed vehicle, to his mother’s place on the other side of town.

[Not a happy situation for a retired trucker] “That was a stop sign … people drive too fast here. You didn’t signal!”

My defensive reaction, tempered with trying to be polite to our erstwhile white knight, is not your typical defensive driving. Anyway, we make it there safely and the snow machine starts.

Slowly, because of the skimmer full of safety gear, we ride up the mountain. The car’s just as we left it, except under another 20 centimetres of fresh snow. Harris easily untangles the errant chain, hooks up the snowmobile and signals for me to start the car. It won’t start; dead battery.

No doors left open, we’re not that stupid (well, maybe we are). On the way down, Harris gives heck to kids riding an ATV. These trails are closed to wheeled vehicles starting Nov. 1. I choke down more crow.

By now, it’s Nov. 5, a day to remember. Canadian Tire sells me its sturdiest battery and off we go again. The battery works.

The snowmobile drags the car out of the ruts, then down, half off the road into the swamp. Okay … what can we do now? By this time, Harris and I are buddies, partners in problem solving.

“Let’s try the come-along! Two come-alongs, two straps, a big stretch … we just reach the one mature tree. Crank, crank, crank. The car judders. It’s coming up, then snap! The car settles again. A strap has ripped.

We sled back down the road. In the incommunicado, white-noised world of the snowmobile passenger, I reflect on one friend’s ironic comment: “You’ll have to get a helicopter.”

I used to be a park ranger. I’ve hooked all manner of things to the underbelly of helicopters. But to pay for it myself, aiyeee! Harris, pragmatic and well-connected, is also thinking of lifting the vehicle, but with an excavator.

That evening, we ride up together for a third time and watch his friend Dale as his Kubota struggles up the road, big balloon tires spinning and catching alternately. It makes it – just.

My role is to crawl into the sideways car and hold the steering wheel. The heavy steel bucket swings dangerously close to the car’s thin metal skin, but a dent would be the least of my worries at this point.

The car’s frame shudders and creaks as the whole front end lifts and is deposited on the road. Dale repeats his performance at the back end, then shovels clear a patch of road, jumps in the car and executes a neat three-point turn. Easy.

“No speedin’,” says Harris. “We’ll be right behind you if you get stuck.”

And so they were. Dale gave me a senior’s discount – my first ever – because he figured I was old enough to have learned my lesson. Harris extracted a promise that I would write and try to get an article published – this one – whose moral would be (repeat after me): Listen to your gut feelings. And don’t let the enthusiasm of the group lead to bad decisions.

Unfortunately, my gut had been decidedly silent on Nov. 1. No, I can’t say group enthusiasm was to blame. Crow pie, all mine to swallow! Harris and Dale, “Thank you!”

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