Snowmobilers blazing trails on old mining roads

It’s too bad you couldn’t come last night ‘cause we really ripped around the trails, Tim Grenon said as we sat down for breakfast…

It’s too bad you couldn’t come last night ‘cause we really ripped around the trails, Tim Grenon said as we sat down for breakfast last week.

Before the News sent me to Dawson for four days, Grenon and I planned an evening of trail blazing on an overgrown road that his club, the Dawson Sled Dawgs, are clearing for the snowmobile season.

Scheduling became a problem and after sharing our disappointment about my absence on the ATV tour — Grenon relishes any chance he gets to hit the trails — we settled for a meal at the Downtown Hotel to discuss the reclamation project.

“We have roads everywhere in this country from mining and we’re trying to open them up,” said Grenon, Sled Dawgs president.

“We have an incredible trail system here that we’d like to brush out and map.”

The non-profit club is clearing a 32-kilometre trail outside of Dawson thanks to a grant from Yukon Energy and the territory’s Community Development Fund, which donated $2,000 and $18,800 respectively.

“The money’s great, but overwhelming,” said Grenon. “In the end we’ll have a lot to show for it, but we got a lot of work to do.”

The 93-member club has spent the summer clearing the trail of brush, putting up signs and staking kilometre markers. It’s a lot of work for members — more than they planned for — but once winter hits, it’ll be worth it, said Grenon.

“We’re all avid snowmobilers,” he said. “We love it. And the more trails we have, the better winter we have.”

Years of disuse have left the old trail covered in brush. The resilient willows pose a particular problem for volunteers preparing the trail.

Four different trails originally were marked for work this summer, but the club quickly realized only one would be finished in the winter, said Sled Dawgs treasure, Vikki Loewen, who joined Grenon at the hotel for the meeting.

The Caulder Creek Trail near Eldorado Creek will take snowmobilers and cross-country skiers up and down steep hills, through rough terrain and down winding paths into deep valleys.

“It’s different routes, different scenery,” said Loewen. “The trails are there, so you might as well use them. And no matter how many times you see the country, it’s amazing.”

Reclamation is ongoing because the club will maintain old trails and open new ones next year. Grenon “could do a trail a year for the rest of his life, and there’d still be more to clear,” he said.

“It’ll continue on. There’s so much country here. The work is endless, truly endless.”

Opening up new trails will give locals more recreational options because they could also be used in the summer by hikers, horseback riders and ATVers, said Loewen, who has two boys eager to test the trails.

“I found growing up here, there wasn’t a lot to do,” she said. “There’s things that can be done now, you just need to take the initiative to go ahead and find them. (The trails) are for the family, not just adults.”

The Sled Dawgs raise most of their own money through fundraisers like a slide-and-ride where, after kids come down a hill on their sleds, club members haul them back up with their snowmobiles.

Members also host Alaskan snowmobilers during the Dawson Poker Run. The new trails will show the Alaskans different parts of the Dawson area, said Loewen, and more variety keeps them coming back.

New trails will keep things fresh for the avid snowmobilers hoping to kill time in a slow winter season.

“I love tearing around on a sled. It’s better than coming into town and sitting in the bar,” said Grenon. “When you get out there, you have a lot of fun.”