Yesterday I went to Nimpo Lake to do a mail and water run, and on to Anahim Lake to try and interview a first-nations woman who lives on the reserve. I wanted to interview her for my upcoming book: Ginty’s Ghost. She has no phone and I have made three trips so far to try and find her, with no luck. Yesterday was the same: she was supposed to be working at the band office but seemed to have stepped out. It is an hour’s drive each way to Anahim so I guess her interview will either happen in the future or not, depending on fate. For now, the book will go ahead without her.
I should not have gone yesterday but I also wanted to catch the post office, for the results of another interview for the book, when it was open. But the previous night had been gloomy and warm; although there had been a skiff of snow, there was not even a frost. The three miles of bush road that takes me to Highway 20 was very soft.
The van is all-wheel-drive and can pull itself out of almost anything. But on the way back, going down a slight slope, the back end suddenly flew sideways and the van jammed itself into the snow bank and slewed right across the road.
I tried to drive both foreward and back but the wheels just spun. I still had the axe in the van, and ropes and a comalong, but I had taken out the shovel as it was so cumbersome. I could chop frozen mud and ice away from the wheels with the axe but it was no fun kneeling in the ice and mud so I could drag the loose stuff away with my bare hands, particularly as the vehicle was sitting in a puddle.
I was about a mile from home. The road is used on occasion by hunters, snowmobilers, mushroom pickers, and a man who owns property several miles further along. (The road forks about half a mile before my place.) But no one (else!) would be stupid enough to be driving along it at this time of year. I nearest neighbours who could have pulled the vehicle out were at least a half-hour’s drive away. And the man who has the towing business in Nimpo Lake was away – and he would not have been cheap.
I could do one of several things. I could walk home and bring back a shovel. I could walk home and hope that it froze overnight and I could drive out more easily. Problem there would be that, if it froze, any digging I might have to do would be tougher. The third option was to wait until spring.
I had a box of groceries that would have to be brought home. It would not be damaged by freezing if left in the van overnight, but, perversely, it would overheat if left there for the afternoon. It was too heavy to carry easily; it would be better to fetch a backpack. If I was going to bring a backpack, I might as well bring the shovel.
Even walking was not easy. Because the ground was still frozen underneath, the top couple of inches was very slick.
But the sun had started to shine and the day was invigorating. I brought back the shovel, dug around a bit, tried to drive again, but the van still would not budge.
So now I took the ropes and comalong, and floundered through the snow to a suitable tree.
The comalong was lent to me to build my first cabin about 25 years ago and I have never returned it! (With the owners’ permission.) I set it up and cranked the rope tight. Then I went back to the van and switched on the motor so I could put the transmission into neutral. The comalong would not shift the van if the gear shift was in park.
Then I cranked the rope as tight as I possibly could. Back to the van, put it in reverse – and out it popped. The rear end jammed into the other snowbank, but after a bit of digging at the front I thought I could do a tiny 5-point turn to head the van in the right direction.
And so it proved. I got home without further mishap. I don’t plan on driving anywhere for another 2 weeks so with luck the road will be in a bit better shape by then.