Today I took a trip by snowmachine with Anthony. He’s housesitting, and there were two snowmachines available for us to use. One was a Polaris Snow King 700 and the other was a Arctic Cat 600. I drove the Polaris for the first half of our trip, and then we switched about halfway.
Remember those other pictures of Snake Lake that I’ve taken? Well, it took us about ten minutes at the most to reach the place where I took most of those pictures, and that’s including driving the snowmachines TO Snake Lake Road. I think I’m going to have to drag Samara along on the next snowmachine outing.
Anthony and I parked at the outlook.
We took a few pictures up there.
As we were sitting there, admiring the view, Anthony exclaimed, “Look, a moose!” And indeed, there was a moose down in the woods.
It’s right there in the center. It’s at least 600 yards away, I’d say. If you click on the picture, you may be able to see it a little better. That was full zoom on my camera. But hey, that’s my first big Alaskan game sighting.
After the break, we got back on the trail and zoomed on down to Snake Lake. Yes, the actual lake. Here we are, parked on it.
The lake itself is frozen, and probably have five feet of snow on top of it. It was also very flat, and made for some very nice views of the surrounding mountains.
Here’s Anthony with the two machines on Snake Lake.
His hands were very cold at this point. The hand warming grips on the Polaris work much better than the ones on the Arctic Cat, which he had been riding. So we switched at this point. The Arctic Cat is a much lighter machine with better handling and speed. That’s probably why the rest of the trip was so interesting, but more on that in a minute.
We took off back up the mountain, with Anthony on point. Within moments, though, I passed him and took off like a bat out of hell. He was having trouble keeping up on the larger machine, I think. It was fun.
Once we got back to the top of the mountain, we took a side trail that branches off before the first lookout. There were some good jumps in that area. We got to the top of the next hill and turned around to take them again.
After Anthony gave me the thumbs up and took off, I followed him down to the jump. I caught about two or three feet of air, came off the snowmachine and landed in the snow on my left side. I really hit my arm fairly hard, and was worried that I’d broken or brusied something at first. But I recovered after a minute. I think I may have scared the crap out of Anthony, though. That’ll teach me to slow it down on a machine that I can regularly drive 40 mph over snow, with speeds as high as 50 or 60 in bursts.
We went back to the top of the hill and I took a picture of Anthony OFF his snowmachine. The snow was pretty deep.
Then Anthony took some action shots as I went down the hill, made a turnaround and then zoomed back up.
After that excitement, we followed some trails around. Anthony was in the lead on the heavier Polaris, and he pulled it to a little cove of trees where there was probably a small pond when the snow wasn’t covering everything.
We took a break for a few minutes, and then when Anthony tried to make a turnaround, breaking trail through the deep snow, he got stuck. The front of the machine was up in the air, but the rear of the machine was dug deep down. The tracks on the rear that drive the machine just dig into the loose powder.
I was thankful that I’d packed my snowshoes. They made it much easier to walk around, break some trail for the machine and dig it out.
As we were digging the machine out, we realized that the drive belt was shredding. We popped open the front of the machine, and the drive belt was toast. Thankfully, there’s a spare belt right on top of the belt guard. It took us a while to get the belt on–it wasn’t easy. But once it was on, we got the machine up out of the drift and moving. I told Anthony once it got going to get it back up on the trail and then wait for me.
After he took off, I started my machine and tried to follow his trail. Instead I veered off into the powder and rolled the machine onto its side. Yeah, it sucked. I called Anthony back, and he came back around on our now-broken trail on the Polaris. We rolled the machine back, pulled it out of the powder and I drove it up to the trail. Then, as Anthony was trying to follow ME out, he got stuck again.
So then we dug him out and headed back off on the trails. We got back onto Snake Lake Road and took some trail that went back off the other side. We only made it a little ways before Anthony decided to break trail again. Well, let me tell you, that heavy Polaris just wasn’t having it. He got stuck again. We were both fairly exhausted from pulling machines out of the deep, loose powder. (We’re talking about five feet of snow above the ground.) Once we dug him out this time, we decided to call it a day.
I would say it was a successful trip, since both machines and both riders arrived back at the house without injury or damage. We probably both learned a few lessons about snowmaching as well.
This is the sort of adventure that Alaska offers, and I’m happy to be taking advantage of it.