Challenges met during annual club ride
For the past couple of years, the annual club ride for the Ely Igloo Snowmobile Club has been to trailer up to Crane Lake, ride up to Lac La Croix to the pictographs, have lunch and come back. It sounds like a simple trip and usually goes off without a hitch, but there’s always some last minute problem and/or disaster to make it interesting. My group decided to head up Friday night, stay in Orr and then get to Crane Lake at a leisurely pace. This might have happened except for two problems. The first was trying to get a seven wire vehicle plug to talk to a six wire trailer plug. The second was the Canadian government.The first problem seemed like a simple one to solve but turned into a disaster. There is a special adapter that allows the two sets of wires to talk to each other but, of course, that adapter could not be found in Ely at 10 minutes before five o’clock on Friday night. That left me with two spaghetti ends of wire and two plugs to make heads or tails out of. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. Never did everything work right so finally we decided to go with what did work and hope for the best.The second problem required a quick trip to Fort Francis Saturday morning. In order to snowmobile into Canada in our area, you need a Remote Area Border Crossing (RABC) permit. With this permit you don’t have to clear customs to enter Canada. A member of our party, Steve, thought his RABC was good to go for the Saturday trip. But he had a birthday on Tuesday. RABC permits expire on your birthday. So Steve filled out all the forms and sent them with Roger to Fort Francis on Thursday. Roger took the forms up to the immigration window at the Customs Office at Fort Francis. He was told that the permit applicant must appear in person to get the permit. Then he was told the application could also be done through the mail. You have to think about that one. The Canadian government will allow you to send the application in via mail but it cannot be hand-delivered. Steve and I were told the same thing Saturday morning. I just bit my tongue. With paperwork in hand, we made it to Crane Lake and began unloading sleds before our next problem popped up. I should have put two and two together but that didn’t happen. Driving from Orr to Crane Lake there was a steady stream of trucks pulling trailers loaded with snowmobiles - all leaving Crane Lake. I thought it was strange but it didn’t click, even when the beer lights were off in the bar windows.It seems Crane Lake had been without power since 1:30 a.m. That meant no power to run gas pumps and therefore no gas for snowmobiles.We decided there was enough fuel in our tanks to get to Campbell’s up on Lac La Croix. If not, I had an extra 2.5 gallons in a spare tank behind my seat. With the wind whipping around us, our group of 12 left from in front of Voyagaire Lodge and headed across Crane to Mukooda and from there to Sandpoint. We passed Canadian Customs and were nearing Dawson Portage when we met a former Igloo Club officer coming off of Lac La Croix.It seems Dan had tried to fish in the gusting winds and nearly become a wind casualty when his one-man fish house gathered in enough air to send him down the ice, fishing pole over tea kettle. That was enough of that for Dan as he did not plan kite-flying via portable fish house to be part of his afternoon entertainment. After gassing up at Campbell’s we made our way down La Croix, avoiding the known bad ice spots and the visible pressure ridges. The views were spectacular and the lake was in good shape with no open water. We arrived at Picture Rocks a short time later and tiptoed across the bare, slippery ice to look at artwork done many moons ago. The wind kept us from staying long but luckily we found a nice bay out of the wind just around the corner where we could set up for lunch. Firewood was quickly gathered and a Coleman stove came to life, all the tools we needed for Polish, brats, hot dogs and beans - a feast for sure with Oreo cookies for dessert. The sun even came out for a time to warm things up. The two youngest members of our group scaled the rock ledges while the rest enjoyed the camaraderie. There were some test rides on the different models of snowmobiles present. For the record there were three from Polaris, two Ski-Doos and seven Arctic Cats. No Yamahas made the trip.Before we left, all the wrappers were either burned in the fire or packed back out. The extra firewood was stacked on shore for the next party to use. We headed back across Lac La Croix after stopping in front of Bottle Portage with the sun making its way back down in the southwest. The winds were still whipping up what little loose snow there was on the lakes, but we paid little attention to it. We only made one “club ride” this year and there was just a dozen on the trip but for those who went it was a memorable event. As the time comes to put the machines away for the year, that day will be another one to pull out and think back on. The winter of 2003-2004 was certainly a good one for snowmobilers. Let’s hope 2004-2005 is even better.