It is nine o’clock in the morning on a bright, beautiful, cloudless day in the middle of February. The temperature is about minus 30. As the day wears on it will warm up to minus 25 and then dip down again by evening. I am packing up my snowmachine for a ride out on the land for the day. It is a working day and I am going out to gather firewood for our home. Although we have enough wood to last several weeks, gathering more using a snowmachine, when time is available, is always a good idea.
I am driving out to a place that my brother in law Clarence Shisheesh spotted earlier in the week. He is with me on this run. I hitch up a toboggan that is more like a large wooden box to my Safari 377 Bombardier snowmachine. I load the sled with a container of extra gasoline for the day and wrap a chainsaw and an axe with an old worn out sleeping bag. I pack everything into the sled and tie them all down with some rope. Before I leave, mom calls me back into the house to remind me to take a thermos of hot tea with some bannock that she has packaged into an old canvas back pack.
It is a short ride over to meet Clarence. He is ready and waiting with his own snowmobile and sled. We head out early to take advantage of the day. At this time of year, the sun rises at about eight in the morning and sets on the horizon by five.
We ride out of the community and down the steep bank of the river and onto the river ice. We head west and drive on well travelled trails along the river. We travel for an hour in the cold weather. The cold is bearable as we are dressed in layers of clothes and snowmobile pants and parkas. When we finally reach our destination I can see that the trip was worthwhile. This find of prime firewood is very satisfying. It is a forest of tall trees that were burnt in a fire the previous summer. These still standing dead trees are dry and just perfect for firewood. It is good to be able to take advantage of what nature has provided us rather than having to cut living trees from the land.
We unhitch our snowmachines and begin the task of building a trail to access the forest. We wade into the snow to look for a good spot to ride our snowmachines. Once we establish our trail we use the snowmachines to plow through the deep snow. The first pass is difficult and the snowmobiles frequently sink into the snow and get stuck. We work an hour until finally we finish a path circling the forest to the best trees that we have marked to take home. The trees are brought down as close as possible to the trail to save us time and work. Once the trees are down they are cut into fire log lengths. We bring the snowmobiles and sleds around and load both toboggans to the top with logs for the first trip home. We cut more logs and pile them for a second run later in the day and for future trips.
Before packing up for the ride home we sit down for a quick drink of hot tea and some bannock. We are tired from the work we have completed. We sit on our log piles and pass a thermos cup of hot tea between each other. The tall trees stand over us and the long charred branches that remain stretch out over our heads. In the distance, a healthy growth of pines show their green branches which are iced in layers of snow. There is a cold silence when we stop talking to simply listen. Once in a while a hearty crow caws in the forest and the sound travels for miles reverberating in wilderness.
The weather does not affect us as much while we are working but as we sit resting, the cold begins to seep through our layers of clothing. With our energy renewed we bundle up and start our snowmachines. We head down our new trail to the river for the trip back home. It is good to know that the logs we are carrying will provide our families with warmth from the wood stoves for weeks to come. The best part is that we did not have to take any living trees for this purpose.