High in the Mackenzie Mountains, we spent two nights in the same camp. It was a hard, but necessary, decision to make.

We had been on this adventure less than a few hours when I wrecked my winch. Winding it in without tension quickly formed a bird’s nest of heavy steel cable. Our trailers were also looking a little worse for the wear. Rated to 2,000 pounds, I figured they could take all Canol could throw at them. I was sorely mistaken. Only a few days in and the rubber bins were bending, the axel welds were coming apart and the dump truck-like release in the hitch was completely broken.

We’d need two days at the same camp just to manage these repairs.

Fixing the winch took the better part of the day. I snapped a cheap P.O.S. wrench in the process and almost had to abandon the whole job. I found a workaround and learned a lesson about trying to save money on tools. These tools–or the lack of them–after all, could make or break the trip.

Burning up so much time, we gave the trailers less attention. We shifted some weight, made a few adjustments at the hitch and hoped for the best.

High in this mountain country vegetation was sparse. We passed dwarf willows, which seemed a favorite hideout for ptarmigan and ground squirrel. The upland birds out of season, we settled on the ground dwellers. More than once we stopped the quads, loaded the shotgun, and stalked off into the bush in search of a better dinner.

Funny enough, that old oil pipe that litters the side of the Canol Trail is what made the meal. Two squirrels, scared by the noise of our ATVs, raced into the pipe for cover. I turned to Mike: “Time for an old fashion smoke out!”

In a few minutes I had a small fire burning on one end. Mike camped out on the other with the 12-gauge. We ate those squirrels pan-fried and spit-roasted. It felt like some kind of reward for fixing all our busted and broken gear.