Friday, 7 February 2014

Northbound in the Cessna 180

After patiently waiting all winter, we finally made our first trip to Kapikik. After a long few months of -30°Celsius weather with windchills of -40°Celsius, we had a window of time where the weather was forecasted to be around -17°to -25°C and sunny! Dad packed down a runway on Edward Lake, packed the Cessna with food and supplies, and last Friday morning he and I took off northbound. The flight was beautiful. The sun was shining and the ride was very smooth. At 3,000 ft, the temperature was cold, at -25°C. I was very thankful for the goose-down snow suit that my Grandma had given me this winter. Even though it was cold in the plane, I was toasty warm! 

After about an hour and 20 minutes, we were flying over the cabin on Kapikik Lake. Everything looked great from up in the air. There didn’t appear to be too much snow on the roof, and the cabin was still in one piece! It was hard to tell from the air how much snow there really was on the ground and lake. We assumed there would be significantly more than at home, which would be a lot! We circled once and then landed. It was a smooth landing, but the snow drifts made for a bumpy taxi towards the shore. We circled around on the snow a couple of times in front of the cabin to get an idea of how deep the snow was, check for slush, and to make a trail that we could park on. The plane seemed to be making it’s way around okay so we decided to take our chances and park. We parked the plane a ways out from the cabin where the snow wasn’t quite as deep. 

I jumped out of the plane and sunk down to about mid-thigh. Snowshoes were going to be essential for the walk to the cabin. We got the snowshoes and sleigh out out of the plane and started loading our things. Dad made the first trail and I followed. Aside from the deep snow, everything looked like it had kept really well over the winter. One thing that we couldn’t help but notice was the lack of animal tracks! There were no bird tracks, no wolf tracks, no caribou tracks, not even any mouse tracks! I guess the burnt landscape and the deep snow doesn't make for very favourable conditions for animals to live in the winter time.

I started to shovel off the deck while Dad finished unloading the plane. He was much better on the snowshoes than I was! Once that was done, Dad started a fire inside and then went under the cabin with the propane heater to warm up the generator. He got the generator going and brought the propane heater inside to warm up the cabin. We kept the generator running the entire three days that we were there and it only used about 6 gallons of gas! It worked perfectly for keeping all of our power tools going, lights on, etc. 

The snowmobile, however was another story. It didn’t work out so great. Dad managed to get it running, so he started out towards the airplane. Our plan was to pack down a runway so that it would freeze by Sunday when we planned to leave. He managed to get it onto the snowshoe trail, but about halfway to the plane, the machine slipped off the trail and into the fresh snow. We really got an idea then just how deep the snow was. Needless to say, the machine is still sitting there in the snow. We put some wood blocks under it so that it wouldn't freeze in, but I don’t think it will be going anywhere for a while! 

We cleaned everything up and got everything organized inside the cabin so that we could start working. Dad tarped off one room to use as a bathroom, put a bucket in there, and well, we don't have to talk about that... 

It wasn’t long before Dad was measuring the front wall, facing the lake and cutting the first piece of tongue and groove pine. Our main focus for the trip was getting the cabin shoveled out, organized, and putting up as much pine on the walls as possible. Before we knew it, we were half-way up the first wall. Dad showed me how to work with the tongue and groove, how to measure our pieces, use the air nailer, and cut the boards to size. It didn't take me long to figure out what I was doing. Once we got a system down, I think we made a pretty good team! Day one went great, we nearly finished the entire front-facing wall. The generator ran great, the propane heater we brought was fantastic, and everything was coming together nicely! 

Around 5:00 p.m. we cleaned up our work area and made our beds. When that was done, we sat by the fire, each with a beer, and admired our work. Dad made a great dinner of chicken and potatoes and it didn’t take long for the dark to set in and we were lights out. I didn’t know I could fall asleep so early! We kept the fire going and shut off the propane heater. Although the cabin was insulated, it's a very large space to heat. By 10:00 p.m. we both woke up shivering. The fire had gone out and it was nearing zero degrees Celsius. I got out of bed and started the propane heater and the fire. We both slept in 3 layers of clothes with a couple blankets and sleeping bags each. It got very warm in the cabin after the heater ran for a while… almost too warm to sleep, but we managed to fall asleep anyways... Until the propane ran out! We thought we were cold before… it was freezing in there now! Not to mention I had cracked a couple of windows because I was worried about oxygen. Dad found a part bottle of propane which was enough to get us through until morning. 

By the time we woke up, that part bottle had also run out. We got a fire going and found another part bottle of propane. As we were warming up by the fire, drinking our coffee, Dad tells me that we have one full bottle of propane left. He says that we must save this bottle in case the electric heater doesn’t work to warm up the plane when we go to leave the next day. So, what I understood was that we had one more full day and night, with only the wood stove to keep us warm. 

In a little bit of a panic, we put our heads together and came up with a plan. The fire would be enough to keep us warm while working during the day, as long as we kept putting wood in it. As for night time... we could use our little “Buddy Heater” which only takes a small amount of propane, but only heats a very small space. Or we would need to sleep where the heat was - high up. We began to construct a bed in the rafters, which was seeming like our best option. I tried out the bed, which was comfortable and most definitely warm, but without any safety railings I felt like I could roll off in the night. Also, being so close to the ceiling made me feel claustrophobic. I told Dad this and he didn’t even want to try it out. It was time to put our thinking caps on again. 

As the sun was rising across the lake, Dad set out to the fish house. I didn’t ask what he was doing. I was so wrapped up in the beauty of the sunrise, standing out on the deck taking pictures. Dad popped his head out of the fish house. “I found three full bottles of propane!!” “We are laughing now - let’s crank up that heater!”. Thank goodness! 

We began putting up the tongue and groove and within no time we finished off the front facing wall. We really had a system down now and managed to finish 3 more walls after that! It was a gorgeous day. The sun shining through the windows was almost enough to keep us warm. The view was breathtaking. I took a break to step outside and admire our surroundings. There truly is beauty to be found at that place, even through all of the burnt trees. 

We started to clean up around 5:00 p.m. again and poured a couple of drinks. We then decided to move the remaining pine to the finished section of the cabin, along with the make-shift kitchen and the groceries. We were all set to start on the biggest wall in the morning. Dad made dinner again. Pork chops and beans this time… it was actually pretty good! We went to bed early again, pretty much right when it turned dark. This time, however, we kept the propane heater going all night and didn’t worry about the fire at all. It stayed nice and warm in the cabin all night. 

We meant to wake up at 5:30 a.m., but I guess we were so comfortable that we slept until 6:30 a.m., giving us a later start to our already short work day. We drank our coffee quickly and had a little something to eat. As it began to get lighter out, we noticed that it was snowing lightly and was very cloudy. The wind was picking up quickly as well. We weren’t sure if we’d be able to fly home today due to the wind and low visibility. We started working with hopes that it would clear up in a few hours. 

Dad went out and plugged the electric heater in to warm up the plane engine. We set a timer for two hours, as by this time it should be warm enough to start. In the meantime, we got quite a bit done on the wall and cleaned up the cabin nicely. I finished packing things up while Dad went to start the plane. He came back a minute later and told me that the heater didn’t work at all. It had been blowing cold air for the last two hours. Dad said to me that this is going to be a big set back for us. He told me to suit up because he was going to need lots of help! 

We took a tarp down to the plane and our propane heater from the cabin. We made a big tent over the front end of the plane and put snow along the edges to hold it down. Once it was all sealed up, we started the heater inside of the tent, underneath the plane. Within minutes, the airplane was defrosting and there was water dripping from it. This was a very good sign. It wasn’t long until the plane was warm enough to take the tarp off and start it. It started with no problem - what a relief! We waited in the cabin for about 20 minutes, grabbed the rest of our things, and then got into the airplane. Since we didn’t have a runway packed down, we had our fingers crossed that we'd be able to get moving. Dad dug out the skis and luckily, that was enough to get the plane going. 

It was still windy, but the visibility was better and the flight was actually pretty smooth. We flew over Shabumeni and Grace and took some pictures. We also flew right over a caribou that had recently been killed by a wolf. The wolf wasn’t around anymore, but there were sure lots of birds. We flew over the winter road on Birch Lake and got a good look at it. In the next couple of months, we will be taking another trip to Kapikik using the winter road, so it was good to get an idea of what we’d be facing. All in all, we had a very productive and fun trip, without too many hitches. We are really looking forward to our next trip. It’s great to see some progress with the cabin. It is going to be beautiful!

Until next time,


1 comment:

  1. Awesome Meagan! Can't wait to see the runway on Edwards. Chris and I are trying to make it up in March. Tell Mom n Dad hello and I'll call before we come up!