The storm passed by morning, our twelfth of the trip, leaving the high mountains frosted with snow. During the whiteout we had descended into the wide valley of the Carcajou, and the road now followed the river’s course, winding over broad alluvial fans that spilled down from high alpine streams. By late afternoon we were climbing again, ascending a winding series of switchbacks that rose two thousand four hundred feet (730 m) up to the Plains of Abraham. The high tableland was a cold and treeless world. Soon after we arrived snow began to fall, and winter-like conditions set in. We set up our tent amidst the crumbling frame of an old ‘caboose,’ one of a hundred and fifty rolling barracks that had been hauled behind bulldozers, following pipeline construction teams as them moved across the land. As snow continued to accumulate our plans to spend the night faded. With only light summer sleeping bags, our sleep would be cold and fitful at best. Instead we decided to continue on. One beauty of summer travel in the north is the fact that the sun never sets. So off into the snow and mist we set, heading towards a cabin which lay on the far side of the plateau. Occasional breaks in the clouds revealed sheer cliffs dropping away from the roadside, and offered glorious views of the valley below. Hours later we arrived at the ruins, broke away a barrier of icicles that had formed around the door, and settled in.
A twisting, rocky drainage descended from the high Plains of Abraham towards the valley of the Little Keele. A scattering of graders, caterpillars, jeeps, and oil drums marked the confluence. The pumphouse and Quonsets had been set deeper in the woods, as the Little Keele was prone to flooding. Army engineers once observed its waters rise by thirteen feet in the space of three hours following a heavy rain, and similar events had erased nearly ever trace of road from the gravel plains downstream. Sections of rusty pipeline could occasionally be seen poking out from rubble wash, twisted and bent. Several of these had been commandeered by families of noisy ground squirrels, and their piping calls echoed from within. A few listing telephone poles poked up from behind scraggily bushes, remnants of a line that once paralleled the road. Long strands of copper wire hung from clear glass insulators on the cross bars.
It was not until hours later that we picked up any signs of the road once again. Easily visible from a distance, ascending the flanks of a bordering mountain we found the trail clogged by horrendously thick