Safety paramount in cold weather

The cold snap we’ve been experiencing over the past week here in Sunset Country has included some wicked temperatures that are not fun for anyone.
I probably would have hung out in the house and stayed warm through all of this, but I had some guiding commitments so I’ve been spending plenty of time out in the cold.
While I was out fishing on Lake of the Woods on Saturday evening, I had an experience that could have been disastrous for a Manitoba couple.
I had picked up a friend from Iowa at the Winnipeg airport on Saturday morning and made it back to Kenora in time to head out on the ice to catch the last couple hours of the walleye bite. We got out to a spot where I knew we likely would get some action, set up the portable shack, and turned on the heater before we even dropped a line.
I didn’t really want to spend a bunch of time outside drilling holes and experimenting with new spots because it was minus-28 C.
We fished for a while and caught a few, so that was good. There was a snowmachine trail nearby and a few sleds ripped by us when we first got out, but for the last hour of daylight, it was totally quiet out there.
Just as the sun sank below the trees, I noticed a snowmobile about a mile away coming towards us. I didn’t really think anything of it and just kept fishing.
A short while later, I realized the snowmachine never ended up coming by us. It was starting to get dark and I looked out to where I saw the sled last.
I could just barely make out the snowmachine on the ice without its light on and two people walking away from it.
Now before I go any further, I should mention that we were about eight miles from Clearwater Bay, in a remote part of the lake where there was a good chance nobody else was going to drive until the next day.
I quickly packed up my gear and left my friend from Iowa in the shack while I jumped on my snowmachine and raced over to the people walking. It was a young man in his 30s and a woman around the same age. They explained that their snowmachine had died and that they intended to walk to Clearwater Bay, adding “it’s not very far, right?”
Luckily, I saw these people and was able to give them a ride to Clearwater, where they were picked up by the guy’s father, who had a cabin in the area.
There was absolutely no way these people could have walked the eight miles to the nearest road from where they had broken down in the super cold temperatures they faced that night.
Upon speaking to them, I realized they made some serious mistakes that could have been very costly. They did have a cellphone, which the fella had used to call his father to tell him he had broken down. He then told him he was walking to Clearwater Bay.
The problem with this was he did not know where he was and they did not have another snowmachine available to pick them up (not that it would have mattered because they didn’t know where they were anyway).
They did not have any matches or a lighter with them, either. As cold as it was, it was not windy out and a fire on shore would have been the best bet for staying warm until the next morning—or at least until somebody found them.
There were a bunch of things wrong with this picture beyond them not knowing where they were and not having any fire. They should not have been out in the middle of nowhere on a joyride in the conditions we had. The girl was not dressed for the wicked temperatures and was noticeably very cold when I dropped them off.
Finally, walking aimlessly in the dark was not a wise choice.
Had I not been there to pick them up, they should have walked up to shore and started a fire. Anyone who came by on the snowmachine trail would have seen their broken sled, noticed the fire, and could have helped.
If you take part in outdoor activities in the winter, you know how tough the conditions are on all our toys. Always make sure you tell people where you’re going, and make sure you have matches and a lighter with you—and store them in a ziploc bag to keep them dry no matter what conditions you face.
If the conditions are really bad, cold, or blizzard-like, and chances are good that other people are not going to be out there, make sure you know where you’re going and don’t take any chances.
We live in a beautiful part of the world, but we have some extremely harsh conditions during this part of the year so always be careful!

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