A funny thing happened on the way to Heart’s Delight

Paul
Paul Smith
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The Christmas season is over and some of us may be feeling just a tad bit down in the doldrums.

Warm summer evenings are a long ways off, and the family barbecue is tucked securely away in the shed, protected from winter’s wrath by board and shingle, along with the deck furniture and patio lights. There’s a long, cold dreary winter ahead, and way too much couch time — that is, if you don’t find some way to embrace the snowy season’s chilling beauty.

There’s tons of stuff to do in winter. You just have to dress for the cold and get active. There’s no bad weather, just bad gear. Buy yourself some wool underwear, fleece, maybe a down jacket, and allow that big round dent to recover gracefully from your chesterfield.

You might choose to defy winter, spit right in Jack Frost’s ice face, so to speak. I think that’s the sentiment among the crowd who ski in bathing suits and chainsaw out swimming pools on frozen lakes to take a winter dip.

I saw some Scandinavians partaking of such madness last week on TV, while I was working on my own personal loveseat dent. That’s a bit much for me. The Swedes and Finns, not to mention the Norwegians, are a pretty hardcore outdoor kind of people.

The Russians don’t mind the cold either; both Napoleon and Hitler learned that lesson the hard way.

For my part, I don’t mind breaking out the barbecue for a January grilling session, but when it comes to fun at the local pond, I’ll stick to swimming in summer and skating in winter. No doubt, in the coming weeks I’ll be writing about lots of sensible and sometimes not quite so sane things to do in winter. For now, I’ll tell you about what’s most fresh in my mind.

Yesterday, we did our fourth annual Heart’s Delight ATV run. For four consecutive years now, a bunch of us have been getting together on the first weekend of the new year and driving our ATVs from Spaniard’s Bay to Heart’s Delight and back again, a journey of about 70 kilometres or so.

It isn’t a race, endurance spectacle or anything like that. We will not be shoving aside Cain’s Quest or the Iditarod as top world-class events. The momentum-gaining Heart’s Delight Run is just a chance for some good old Newfoundland boys to get outside and welcome in a fresh winter season.

This year, we had eight quads and two side-by-sides for a total of 10 machines and 12 people. Nobody came home hungry. Food is a big priority.

Winter is a spectacular time for ATV riding — the best, in my view. A bit of snow smoothens out otherwise bumpy trails and cold weather just makes hot tea, fruitcake and moose sausage so much tastier. And the scenery in winter, especially after a fresh snowfall, is the finest on the planet. We were blessed again this year with a brand new blanket of snow for the run. It snowed the night before and the sun came out around mid-morning. You can’t ask for better than that.

In a hole

I said it’s a rather tame ride, and for the most part it is. That said, I came pretty close this year to partaking in one of those Scandinavian ice baths, albeit with all my woollies intact.

Robert, Matt and I were riding along early in the morning to meet up with the others. I was in the middle of the pack following Robert, when he decided to take one of his infamous shortcuts off the main trail. I foolishly followed.

The route took us over a significantly deep waterhole, which I surely did not know at the time, but have committed it to memory for future reference. We hadn’t much frost, but there was just enough ice for Robert to make it across. He had almost broken through and turned to wave me back. At least that’s his story.

Anyway, it was too late; my machine went through the damaged ice and plopped unceremoniously down into a couple of feet of muddy, mucky water. Steam hissed all around me as cold water hit my labouring hot engine. My feet were submerged on the foot pegs. but at least the water didn’t go over my boots. I didn’t fancy finishing the all-day run with wet feet.

The bottom was solid so I made an attempt to drive forward either through the ice or ride back up onto it. The ice was too thick to ride through, but not strong enough to climb back up on.

The heavy machine would crawl its way up and break down through again.

Frustrated, I shifted to reverse and made a desperate and reckless backwards run to hopefully extricate myself from the mess. One back wheel ran up on a clay hump and I came precariously close to flipping over into the icy mess.

My Arctic Cat balanced at a very steep angle with me perched on one side. Matt and Robert were now laughing their hearts out, not a bit concerned about me getting a dunking. But they came to my rescue and I got out of the waterhole cozy and dry on my second reverse attempt.

There were no further incidents for this year’s run other than one flat tire which we fixed with a plug and a 12-volt pump. It always pays to be prepared, although I did not have a spare shifting of clothes.

A little more aggression on the throttle, or the slightest delay in hopping to one side, and I would have been drying out my clothes over the day’s first campfire. I have done just that on other occasions and I would not have gone home early.

Hungry for game

The food for the day definitely had a moosey theme. There were moose sausages in a variety of flavours ranging from hot Italian to secret wild game recipes.

My buddy Robert Richards makes his own and is getting pretty damn good at it. Moose sausage and tinned beans are an outdoor staple in this neck of the woods.

Another buddy of mine, Paul Barrett, originally hailing from Hearts’ Delight, is an outdoor chef extraordinaire.

First he seared, in coconut oil, thinly sliced moose strips, red onion rings and freshly cut garlic, all seasoned with a tantalizing mixture of herbs and spices. It was a spectacular appetizer and received rave reviews from each and every rider.

He followed up with a fry of ground moose meat and peppers, again flavoured up with various exotic sauces and spice blends. This course was served right out of the cast iron pan using crackers to scoop up the delicious treat. There were no leftovers.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of planning or money to enjoy winter. Get together with friends or family and do something. There’s more to winter than sitting on the sofa watching television and movies.

Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and

wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at flyfishtherock@hotmail.com.

Organizations: Arctic Cat

Geographic location: Iditarod, Newfoundland

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