Frosty nights on the Trans Taiga late October

zzz150

Adventurer
It has been a while since i created a trip report on this forum, for a little warm up have a look at my last trip report here;


Completing the Trans Taiga has been on my list of things to do for a long time. I am really glad to have finally made it happen. The fact that it turned into a winter trip made it even more special and exciting.

It was cold, humid and windy, this certainly made it more interesting. I am not a stranger to winter camping but I really didn’t prepare for this properly even though i knew this was a possibility. The coldest temp my truck displayed was -10C but the humid winds sure made it feel colder at times.

What I didn’t bring... my pricey and fantastic Western Mountaineering sleeping bag to add to my sleeping system, my winter hiking boots, a winter jacket, winter blend stove fuel...
 

zzz150

Adventurer
I got on the road around 7pm with the hopes of getting close to Matagami, I ended up about 100km south of that at 1:30am and found a dead end on some newer logging roads after a little bit of exploring. There was a bit of snow to be found before I went to bed but not much and not everywhere. By time I woke up at after a short 6hr sleep at 9am there was a fresh 5inches of snow!

There have been many vehicles since the F150 from the last trip report including a Tacoma TRD Off-road, a 4Runner a JK, a JKU and a Gladiator Overland. All had great positives and some negatives. The new truck is a 2020 Colorado ZR2 Diesel. It is stock other than the Falken Wildpeak AT3W 255/80r17's (33x10.5) and the Leer 180 cap. The mellow wheeling I have done with it has been great so far, the front and rear selectable lockers are so nice, the suspension in this truck really is impressive off and on road with the 3.5 inches of extra width over a standard Colorado and the Multimatic DSSV shocks.

As you see in the photos I have three 5gallon gas cans with me, yes.... I put Diesel in them.... I brought what I had, this Diesel thing is new to me! The fuel consumption is really great on this little truck. I could have done the entire trip without extra fuel, even with all the the idling the truck did during the evenings. From Mirage Outfitters to the Caniapiscau reservoir and back it is apparently about 625km. Here you see the range indicate a little more than that, this pic was from after the TT at the fuel stop on the James bay hwy.

With the constant snow and snowy conditions I kept the truck in AWD mode, I really liked this feature for this type of travel over using straight 4wd that my other vehicles had. I sensed the slipping sometimes then it just seamlessly worked and provided great traction. I figure I was in this mode for at least 2500km during this trip. My other vehicles would have used more fuel in 4wd than this truck did in AWD.

The sleeping setup was pretty simple, took the fuel cans out then put down layer one, for me this was a Nike exercise mat and for the dog this was an entrance carpet from home, layer two for me was the same MEC brand winter rated inflatable sleeping pad from the last trip report (this thing has been so awesome) and for the dog was a Thermarest winter rated foam pad. My sleeping bag for this trip was a Chinook synthetic -5C barrel bag with a really old MEC fleece bag liner, the dog used my even older and very loved Chinook +2C down bag to keep warm. The bed in this truck is a little short for this setup at barely 6ft. My sleeping pad is longer than the bed, I am 5 foot 8 inches and felt a bit cramped with a full sized pillow which was the same fancy pillow from the last trip. The new catalytic heater is not as powerful as my old one, it was certainly better than nothing but I miss the old Coleman I had used for over a decade in winter conditions.
 

Attachments

Last edited:

Recommended books for Overlanding

Road Fever (Vintage Departures)
by Tim Cahill
From $7.99
Motorcycle Messengers: Tales from the Road by Writers who...
by Lois Pryce, Mark Richardson, Carla King, Sam Manic...
From $9.99
Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
by Laurence Gonzales
From $9.99

zzz150

Adventurer
Day 2 was good, got on the road and filled up fuel in Matagami then on was on my way along the James Bay Hwy. The conditions varied throughout the day from wet pavement to snow covered fluff to slick packed snow. Travel wasn't as fast as it would be in non winter conditions. We finally made it to the Trains Taiga Rd at around 8:45 pm and began looking for a place to camp. The campgrounds were all indicated to be closed along the James Bay Rd and the Trans Taiga, not due to Covid but because of the season and the grounds not being maintained for winter.
 

Attachments

zzz150

Adventurer
After checking a few spots along the TT I finally settled on spending the night at the Robert Bourassa reservoir campground a few km off of the road. Had a great dinner that included asparagus with a mix of ground beef and pulled pork on a bun with cheese and spinach, it looked way to good to put down and take a picture of the completed product.

I was glad to have brought along a few fire logs to make getting the fire going easy in the event wood was low or wet. The 1st two nights I barely had any real wood, I was only able to find small scraps to add to the fire logs. This is had to change and the next day I packed up and setup the bed to collect some firewood. Finding firewood is a challenge up in this area, I finally found a burned area on high ground with some standing dead trees.

By the time I finally got to Mirage fuel up it was about 5:15. When asked where I was headed I said Caniapiscau, the guy looked at me and said 'you know we are supposed to get snow overnight right?' I grabbed a quick burger and coffee then got back on the road by just before 6:00 with the idea that I could probably get close to Brisay for the night.
 

Attachments

zzz150

Adventurer
It was dark not long after leaving Mirage, it snowed off and on, there was less traffic from this point. During the day I had seen mainly work trucks and transports. The one benefit of driving in the dark on this road was being aware when somebody was coming around one of the many tight blind corners. I didn't take many pictures between Mirage and Brisay.

Once closer to Brisay the road was recently plowed, some sections seemed to be completely unmaintained but near the many hydro plants there was some snow removal. A left turn at this sign brought me to the bottom side of the damn. At this point I it was 9:45pm, I had to decide if I wanted to take the chance of not getting to Caniapiscau if there was significant snow overnight as once I drove over the damn road got smaller and it was not maintained. I decided to try it and see how it went. There were constant changes in conditions from snowy to clear to nearly white out. By the time I saw the 1st Caniapiscau reservoir access sign there was about 5 inches of snow. Once at the reservoir I stopped beside the water, had a quick beer to celebrate arrival at the goal point while I decided if I should stay or go back to Brisay where there was road maintenance if it did snow heavily overnight. I putted around the roads at the reservoir for a few minutes and was feeling nervous about the potential of getting stuck out there and the consequences that could accompany that so I decided to make the drive back to Brisay. As for photos there were none taken at the end of the road other than the one of my gauge cluster. With the larger tires this is about 6% lower than actual for total distance and the fuel consumption would be about 6% less than what is showing, really great considering the conditions. These shots give a bit of an idea of what the conditions were like, not bad but not looking promising. I made it back to Brisay by around 2:00am, it was really cold, windy and damp, perfect! So I decided to grab a beer and a jumbo bag of beef jerky to share with the dog, and slept in the front seat, it was not the most comfortable sleep I have ever had but I was just too tired and cold after nearly 15hrs on the road that day. I covered over 700km worth of snow covered gravel this day and enjoyed every minute of it!
 

Attachments

Last edited:

zzz150

Adventurer
After waking up cold a couple times and turning the truck on to warm up I finally slept until 8:15am and got a better view of my surroundings. I was expecting to wake up to more fresh snow but it didn't snow where I spent the night, there wasn't much snow there at all. I made my way down to the water below the hydro generation station and had some Happy Yak Shepherds Pie for breakfast, I have really been liking this stuff. When I parked at the water there was a bald eagle on a post that had been built there, the eagle didn't hang out for a photo.

There was a cool surprise lookout spot above Brisay that I hadn't seen anything about before seeing the belvedere sign and heading up to see what I might find.

Even though I made it to the goal there was a slight feeling of disappointment because I didn't actually see anything at the end due to the darkness, I thought about going back since I had 60L of extra Diesel with me at that point but decided I might as well be grateful to have made it and make the safest choice and head back onto the TT. Timing worked out well in the sense that what I drove in the dark the day before I would get to see during the daylight on the way out.
 

Attachments

Last edited:

zzz150

Adventurer
On the way back out from the goal I felt more relaxed since the weather wasn't dumping much snow, this allowed me to finally take more time to get out and stretch my legs and wander where I could, pretty sure my dog really needed this also as patient as he is.

It was pretty awesome when a Caribou presented itself on the road! My understanding was that their migration patterns had changed and the weren't seen in this area anymore. When I stopped at Mirage on the way out and mentioned this to the guy working it really seemed to get his attention. On the way in he had mentioned that it had been a few years since people were coming up to hunt Caribou other than local Cree.

Driving up to the bottom of this reservoir was amazing. Another shot of the lookout that is shown in the 1st post but this time on the way out. Had a quick early dinner/late 2nd lunch up there.

There was a fair amount of traffic when I went down from the lookout meal to the TT, it appeared that I arrived at the road during at the end of a shift as there were 6 trucks with workers that that heading down the next turn.
 

Attachments

Last edited:

zzz150

Adventurer
I eventually made my way back to the Robert Bourassa campground and stayed in the same spot as on the way, nobody else had made any tracks down the road. It was time to finally have a nice big warm fire!! It was a comfortable relaxing and enjoyable night, I spent some time freezing down at the lake but it was nice to sit and enjoy the crashing waves and be able to wander the couple hundred metres back to the fire and repeat a few times. Turns out these little what I think were gray jay birds will steal your bacon. Another TT standard sign photo, this time on the way out. Since the conditions were better today I felt the time was available for a side trip! There were again really varied conditions along the road into Wemindji, the big open spots that were susceptible to a lot of winds were really slippery with ice. I stopped for a quick late lunch at the coast, it was really windy so instead of hot food I had extra spicy salsa on naan bread with cheese to heat myself in a different way. From there I made my way back to the James Bay road by dark and kept heading south, I had hoped to get to Lac Rodayer for the night. Again the conditions were constantly changing, I stopped to fill up at the Relais 381, it was pretty busy this time. I skipped the food this round and went for a red bull and got going again.
 

Attachments

zzz150

Adventurer
I made it to Lac Rodayer, there was quite a bit more snow there than on the way up, probably 8-9 inches. There were no other tracks in the fresh snow when I arrived, I couldn't help putting the truck into off-road mode and turning off the traction control and doing a little victory lap! I spent a few minutes packing the campsite snow down with the truck, made for a nice spot, I turned the truck sideways to block the wind as best as possible and got another nice warm fire going and enjoyed my last night beyond Matagami. The beach here is really nice, made for a perfect water walk after breakfast. When I got back on the highway it was finally clear pavement that allowed normal highway driving speeds without worry. The rest of the James Bay rd was uneventful but beautiful and peaceful. I am really happy to have finally completed this trip!!!
 

Attachments

Last edited:

zzz150

Adventurer
The truck now has just over 15000km on it. I am very happy with it so far and at this point would certainly recommend it to people considering it. There are of course things that aren't perfect with the diesel, it is slow in the mid range area but I can live with that. There is a tuner that bumps the HP by around 60 that would be nice, but I also like my warranty peace of mind. I will be adding an add a leaf and swapping the front coils to firm up the ride and gain a massive 1 inch of ride height sometime before next summer. Because my truck had the midnight package I still have the factory lights that were on the light bar along with the wiring, at some point I will install these lights behind the front grill. I gave the truck its very first hand wax a week after returning home :)

For this trip, if not in a vehicle that can comfortably get over 700km on a tank extra fuel is probably pretty important to have since the conditions aren't regular highway conditions. The road didn't feel as remote as described online, with all of the hydro generation there were facilities and occasional related traffic. The lookouts should not be missed if travelling this road. When available firewood is spotted, grab it! It looks like it is available everywhere but the terrain is very misleading with soggy damp grounds that are not for walking in/on.

If It was a month earlier and I had a few extra days I would have explored more of the off-shoot roads and most likely would have backpacked in somewhere for total remoteness for a night.

If heading up to this area beyond Canadian thanksgiving be prepared for winter!! I have done a lot of fall and winter camping, I was prepared for a cold fall event so I wasn't in too bad of shape for the conditions, but the items mentioned earlier would have made for a more comfortable trip. Winter camping just takes more effort, energy and time to enjoy, and I did enjoy it very much!

There is potential for another James Bay trip this winter on the Ontario side.... Ice roads :) Time will tell!

I recommend the Trans Taiga to anybody thinking of doing it!!!!!!
 
Last edited:

Recommended books for Overlanding

Dreaming of Jupiter
by Ted Simon
From $16.83
Road Fever (Vintage Departures)
by Tim Cahill
From $7.99

Arjan

Paperwork Specialist
Nice to see a standard vehicle do it job.

Interesting vehicle - pity in the EU those are not around much..

Thanks !
 

zzz150

Adventurer
Nice to see a standard vehicle do it job.

Interesting vehicle - pity in the EU those are not around much..

Thanks !
It is a really cool little truck straight out of the Factory!! GM offers their performance front level kit and there are some good leaf spring options when needed.
 
Top