ECR and Terra-Treks exploration of Central Labrador, June 1999
A trip to where the road ends... and then a little past that.
3 - Mokami Trail (Northwest River and beyond)
Day 4. We were finally going to see what was at the end of the road. Maybe we could continue to drive for days, maybe it just ended in a forest or bog, I had no idea other than what the topo maps could show me. None of the research I did gave me any real information about this section of the trek. We headed north out of HVGB for North West River (that is a town name). North West River is about 20 minutes outside of HVGB.
A proper bridge exists to North West River and there is one gas pump and a few things of interest, as usual in Labrador the scenery is fantastic.
North West River is an Indian settlement so there are quite a few interesting places and things to see, but keep your US tourist attitudes at home, this place is quite reserved and you do get a feeling strangers are kept at arms length, so be polite and don't take anything for granted.
North West River is also the home of the famous Hudson Bay Company. Founded in 1670 they set up and supplied early expeditions throughout the northern wilderness areas. You get a feeling of connection with these early explores and have to remind yourself just how easy we have it in our Land-Rovers as we took a minute to take photos in front of the famous building. Can you imagine what travel in this remote area would have been like in 1670!? Think about it next time you go on an off road trip of expedition, because if your vehicle breaks down and you don't have the supplies to fix it, you'll find out just how rough it was as you walk out. Be prepared.
As you leave North West River you'll come across one of the better views I've seen yet. Ask the locals for directions to "Sunday Hill". They have made a road up to the top and set up a mini-park for taking in the amazing view. The view looks out in almost all directions and overlooks the distant Mealey Mountains to the south. You need to go see it... the photo doesn't do it any justice. Even in mid-June we could still see snow covered mountains and ice falls.
Our group took another moment for the "we were here" picture. Seen here from L to R are:
Ian, Alan, Jason, Ed Bear, Mike, Bill, and Bill Burtis (Angela behind camera)
If you take the trip to Northwest River, this is about where your day will end unless you either hire a plane, or are driving a modified 4x4. The road up to Sunday Hill is about a quarter of a mile from the end of the road... so this is were the fun begins. Checking our directions from the top of Sunday Hill yielded 2 small trails that headed northeast.
We did some quick scout trips and the western most trail turned out to be a dead end just out of site, but the Mokami Trail opens up into Labrador's vast interior. Keep in mind when you are thinking about this trip that once you leave North West River the next town is over 150 miles away on the coast... if you could make it there through the sand, mud, and bogs.
The trail head was not that inviting and it tried to shorten our trip even in the first few feet. At the entrance we were door deep in mud and water, but it was passable and all made the first few sections no problem. Water and mud are not usually a problem for Rover, but Labrador had a surprise in store for us.
Yes, that's right... bottomless bog. It doesn't matter how much equipment you brought or how well you set up your Rover, the only important thing now is winch cable... and lots of it. Bill's D90 SW with its 4.6 V8, lockers and all the other tricks were no match for this goo.
We pulled him back and did a few other attempts at this section hoping to open it up a little, but it was no use. It was time to back track already and find a way around. Fortunately the back track was not that long and we found what looked to be solid ground to the east of the bog, so we recovered Bill's 90 and headed out.
Now when the guys from ECR say "no trail" you know that we mean it, but in Labrador it takes on a completely different meaning. We aren't talking about driving on left over logging roads or dirt tracks... we mean NO TRIAL, in the middle of nowhere. This means picking your way through the wilderness and finding the fastest drivable way to get back to the trail, past the bog section if possible. Fortunately we were able to find a way past the bog and back to the trail. Labrador has some great terrain. In just a few miles you can go from bog to sand to firm forest ground, so this trail kept us on our toes.
Once back on the trail (if you can call it that) would made some pretty good time. Occasionally the last vehicle would fall prey to the ground getting soft after 4 other Rovers had passed over it and swallow up a Rover. Here ECR 3 passes though a small bog section while Jason's Range Rover waits for the trail to be clear. We had to make sure that we were all in winch distance of each other as the small tress in this part of Labrador were not good for winch anchors. A bogged vehicle would simply winch the trees out of the ground. We were definitely on the "buddy" system as anyone on a vehicle dependent expedition should be.
Jason's Range Rover being the heaviest of the group fell through a few of the bog traps. In this instance he used ECR 3 as an anchor point to recover the Range Rover. Quick recovery and we were back on our way.
Periodic sandy sections would come up, known as "eskers" these are glacial deposits. As the glaciers receded and melted, they left ground up bits of debris in the form of sand in long strands throughout Labrador.
You wouldn't expect to see beach style sand in the Labrador interior... but its there.
These sandy sections also offered some interesting tracks (not Rover tracks, but animal tracks). We found everything from moose and bear to wolf and fox tracks in these sandy sections.
Various sections of mud and stumps made going pretty slow, but we were still making progress and going deeper and deeper into Labrador. The above "action sequence" shows you what we were up against in an easy section of the trail. Just after this section of trail we ran into a bog section with no way around without cutting trees for days. We kept our tread lightly thoughts in mind as we all proceeded just as far as we could up the trail before we were all stuck in the bog's grip. During the final section the bog was so bad that if you slowed or stopped your Rover you could watch the bog start to swallow your vehicle. You could watch it slowly sink up to its frame where it would settle in and be stuck up to the frame in bog. After a looking at the trail ahead on foot we came to the conclusion that this was all we were prepared to do. Without cutting our way around, and without more supplies the remainder of the trail would have to wait for another expedition.
So our team gathered for the end of the road photo on Ed's D90 because he made it the farthest down the trail. With his 90 stuck up to the frame in the bog we took this photo and then winched everything back onto solid ground and headed back the way we came.
So where does the road end? The road ends just outside of North West River on the other side of Sunday Hill in Labrador, but we were well past that, somewhere between North West River and Postville on the coast, and for that moment we were as far North and East as you can drive in North America without putting your Rover on a boat and shipping it somewhere. We were also the furthest North and East in North America that any Land Rover has ever been before. Achieving our goal feels good, but having to turn around always leaves me wanting more, and wondering what was "just around that corner". Maybe you'll set up your own expedition and tell me, or maybe we'll have to go back and try it in the winter when the bogs are frozen.
Want to come?
1 -Back to: Start of Trek to Labrador City
2- Back to: Labrador City to Happy Valley/ Goose Bay
4 -HVGB to end of trek
East Coast Rover Co.
21 Tolman Road
Warren, ME 04864
Back to the Tableof Contents