The logistics of living in the Chilcotin ARK change from year to year, season to season. This spring is no different. So, two weeks ago when I decided to make a ” Run” to Anahim Lake and points beyond, I had an unexpected spring adventure .
As part of the trip, I planned to attend a meeting in Tatla Lake then visit some friends, stay over a couple of nights and come home later in the week. It was that time of the spring when the snow in the valley was gone, so the skidoo had been put away until next winter. But the road was still too soft to drive a vehicle over it because of frost boils, snow patches at higher elevations, and soft spots caused by high water tables. So I chose the ATV for travelling the ten miles from our home to the logging road where our vehicle had been parked all winter.
The meeting at Tatla Lake was scheduled for 8 am, so working backwards, I had to leave home at 5 am. It takes about an hour to get to the vehicle, another half an hour to Anahim Lake and them roughly one and a half hours to reach the library at Tatla Lake. This schedule meant I could travel at a moderate pace, and if all went well, I would have fifteen to twenty minutes to spare.
When I got up at 4, it was raining heavily. Decision time. Well, I figured it wasn’t minus 20, with blowing snow, so even though I might get a little wet, sitting on the ATV for an hour wouldn’t be a problem. Fortified with a couple of mugs of hot tea, slices of homemade bread slathered with peanut butter and honey complete with hugs from Rosemary, I ventured out into the morning gloom.
I was cheerily dressed in yellow rain pants, light green felt packs, dark green rain jacket, black gauntlet mitts and a huge brown leather cowboy hat sporting a patch of rattlesnake skin sewn onto the front. I was ready.
At first all was well, with the windshield deflecting most of the rain, but the back eddy caused some to swirl toward my face. The brim of the hat, when tilted just so, caught most of that, leaving just a little bit left to hit me in the face, splattering over my glasses. But I could still see well enough to stay on the road, steering a steady course into the wilderness.
After about fifteen minutes and a gain in elevation of about three hundred feet, the rain changed abruptly to snow. Slushy and wet mixed with little hailstones, but no doubt about it, late winter had returned.
ATVs don’t have windshield wipers. Nor do my glasses. For a little while I could see enough through the gray white mist to steer, but I had to take off my glasses. My vision is good enough to keep things on the road, but the edges were a little fuzzy. The real problem was that the windshield started to collect snow to the point where it became an opaque white screen, blocking my view entirely. Leaning over to the side so I could see didn’t work as the full force of the snow hit me squarely in the face, causing things to come to a halt.
Eventually, I developed a strategy where I used my right hand on the right handlebar which allowed me to steer albeit rather awkwardly as I had work the throttle with the same hand. I was then able to use my left hand as a wiper to clear the snow from the top of the windshield, giving me a small window to see where the road was. It must have been a strange sight to see me crabbing along, half crouched over the seat with my arm swinging back and forth like some demented dog wagging his tail.
Finally I was up into the clearcuts nearing the end of journey feeling rather smug as I chugged along with thoughts of a warm car followed by a hot coffee in town warming my brain.
Then the ATV died. It sounded like a balloon whose neck had been let go, sputtering noisily for a second before the silence descended. I tried the starter a couple of times, but I could tell this was not going to work. No life at all.
So here I am at six fifteen in the morning, eight miles from home, sitting on a dead ATV with a tree-bending wind blowing hard and two inches of new snow covering six inches of old snow on the road and more coming down. The only thing to do was to start walking out to the vehicle. Not too far really, on a good day. But at this time in the early morning, carrying a wide cooler with my clothes, out-going mail and kit, breaking through the crust with each step, trudging into a blizzard, the snow and sleet stinging my face as it was driven horizontally into my line of travel, I began to wonder just what I was doing here anyway.
I finally reached the car, wet and chilled, but overall things were fine. The sweetest sound you will ever hear at a time like this is not the soft cooing of a voluptuous lover or the emotional notes of a delicate aria. No, the greatest sound in the whole world is the grinding of the starter followed by an explosion of noise as the vehicle’s engine jumps to life.
Thank you Lord for a good battery.
The rest of the trip was uneventful, the meeting went well and I had a good visit with friends. In the end I was able to fix the problem with the ATV and it now runs smoothly, at least until the next time something else breaks.
It is part of the karma when you live in the wilderness that machines will always break down when you need them the most. I suppose this is part of the soul experience I chose in this manifestation.