A New Year’s Outing

To start off 2023 I was able to sneak out for a micro adventure on New Year’s Day after getting the kids to bed. I loaded up the Sequoia with the usual tools/recovery gear, but took a minimalist approach to the camping equipment, only packing what one would fit into a backpack. The plan was to get in some miles of night wheeling and maybe a small moonlit hike before bed. We always keep an array of dry kindling in the roof pod in the event a quick campfire is needed – the fire would be optional tonight with limited time for exploring. I was secretly hoping to get stuck in the deep snow to try out some new recovery gear, mainly our new 12,000 lb winch, but in the end there was not much drama and the gear was not required.

Hitting the road later in the evening made for a quick commute to the hills and my forest road of choice for this outing. Once on dirt the packed snow appeared, and the first few miles were plowed to a mining area adjacent to the main road. Air temperatures were hovering near zero according to the in-car display, and a quick test of the hardness of the snow was in order. I gently turned the wheel and plunged the passenger side tires into the snow bank… Success! They were fairly soft, and it shouldn’t be too difficult to carry on beyond the plowed portion of the road. Pretty soon the Sequoia was chugging along in 4wd-high through pre-existing tire ruts on the unplowed road.

It was coming up to midnight and I hadn’t passed any other trucks since the beginning of the road. I reached the 20km mark after several hours of slow and careful driving, with a few attempts going up the snow-covered spur roads. As the temperature dropped, the top layer of snow was crusting over, with sugar snow underneath, and finally ice down on the road surface. This type of snow made for slow and difficult travel anywhere outside of the well-trodden main road and its packed tire ruts. I tried to explore one of the main secondary roads in the area leading to another road network, but was disappointed to find a crossover-type SUV blocking most of the road. The occupants appeared to have setup their camp in the trees next to the SUV – I guess they weren’t expecting to see any late-night explorers roll through the area. Ideally this type of parking is avoided so as not to block the road for others, however it’s quite possible that the SUV was incapable of driving out of the snow ruts to park properly… So with no choice I carried on up the main road.

Fog had rolled in, and the idea of a moonlit walk before bed was slowly fading as an option. The snow was deeper than expected, and merely stepping on it caused me to sink through the crust and post-hole everywhere I walked. Rather than lighting a fire, I opted to crawl into bed and dig through a few more chapters of Wings Of The North, a novel about flying bush planes in the Nahanni area of the Northwest Territories. A large flat spot off the main road made for a perfect location for the night.

With all the lights out, I looked up in awe of the fog and night sky and spent a few minutes in the cold taking it all in.

Overnight there was no sound, except for the slight trickle of a creek barely flowing nearby. It was a peaceful sleep, and there wasn’t even a visit from the sasquatch that are storied to reside in the area!

The morning sunrise through the fog brought a view with colours that didn’t seem real. I didn’t have to get out of my sleeping bag to snap a photo which doesn’t do it justice.

After another hour of rest, it was time to get up and take in some more scenery. Not one truck had gone by in the night, despite being camped beside the main FSR. With limited time on this micro-adventure, I began driving back downhill in view of the rising sun and patches of blue sky.

The snow was even harder in the morning, as it crusted over with the cooler temps. Most of the existing tire ruts were made by smaller track-width trucks or jeeps, and the Sequoia felt like a bobsled bouncing from side-to-side, sometimes jumping out of the ruts and getting pulled toward the ditch or road edge! This eye opening experience was a substitute for morning coffee as I neglected to pack any along!

A few more side-roads were explored in the daylight, but similar to the previous night my progress was made slow by the snow conditions and steep trails. I had already aired down a significant amount and felt it wasn’t worth it to drop down to snow-wheeling pressures that would cripple my speed once back on the main FSR.

I had enough fun for one morning and drove back down to the highway. On the way out I passed several trucks heading up with firewood and some setting up for shooting/plinking. Some brave souls were even out on quads in the deep snow. In one spot a nicely equipped Tundra was parked roadside and the driver gave me a thumbs-up as I passed – a rarity in the Sequoia compared to the daily waves and thumbs received when we were daily driving our SAS’d 2nd gen 4Runnner around, hah!

I made it home by lunch hour, thus wrapping up a peaceful night in the bush and a great start to 2023. I never did get stuck enough to pull cable or test out my new gear, so next time I’ll have to be more purposeful in my pursuit of trouble!