Sunday, May 10, 2009

Signs of spring

I am fortunate to live across the street from Great Slave Lake. The comings and goings on Yellowknife Bay keep me entertained: float planes taking off and landing winter and summer; snow machines, dog teams, skiers in winter; kayaks, canoes and motor boats in summer.

Last night something odd caught my eye. Looked like a dog team was coming across from the far shore, except the order was wrong – the sled appeared to be in the lead, with the dogs following behind. I whipped out my binocs, and it turned out to be a snow machine pulling a komatik (wooden sled topped with a frame and white canvas liner) and two smaller toboggans. The little caravan zigzagged across the lake in front of me, then took a sharp left and headed down the shore. The ice along the shoreline is melting, so the driver would need to find a spot to cross onto land.

Moments later, another little entourage appeared across the bay. This time it was an all-terrain vehicle pulling another komatik and a toboggan, with a dog running beside. Someone was standing on the back of the komatik. The komatik rider and the driver of the ATV kept turning to check on the dog, a shaggy, medium-sized ginger-coloured mutt. They stopped; the komatik person grabbed the dog and placed it in the second toboggan. As they were starting off, the dog (who clearly considered the intervention unnecessary) jumped out. They continued for a couple minutes, then stopped again. Dog was placed in the toboggan once again. This time the second person rode on the back of the toboggan to make sure the dog stayed put. Dogs are so happy to be out in the spring air they often don’t feel their own limitations. With any luck, the poor beast hasn’t strained any muscles or cut its pads on the ice.

My guess is that these people were hauling in their stuff from their winter camp. It’s not unusual for northerners to set up a wall tent out in the wilds during the winter and use it as a base for winter activities. These are not your usual camping tents – they sit on wooden platforms and have wooden frames covered with canvas. A little wood stove will keep a wall tent surprisingly warm.

We’re now firmly in the in-between season. Although I still see para-sailors out on the ice, they don’t have much time left. The countdown to boating season has begun.

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