As you may have seen on the Ontario ATV Event calendar, rides and rallies don’t start in spring anymore, they run all year round. Traditionally my ATVs have been put away in the fall, and I anxiously wait for spring to come, then wait for the trails to dry up enough to avoid damage. This year I was determined to get some riding in during the cold winter months.
Luckily an OFATV club not far from me was hosting a ride near Owen Sound on a groomed ATV trail. The Dufferin Grey ATV Club had been out earlier in the week clearing the lunch and parking area, and grooming the trails as was evident on their Facebook Page.
With the event on Family Day weekend I thought it would be fitting if I brought my daughter Paige along. She loves to ride her ATV, and she just turned 12 in January making her old enough to ride OFATV trails as long as they don’t include roads. We loaded our ATV’s, grabbed some hot dogs, and donned our warmest outdoor clothing. Finding the event was easy with the newly released 2013 Mid Ontario ATV Trail Guide, giving us detailed mapping all the way to the parking area.
When we arrived we turned around in the parking area that the club had plowed for the event and quickly unloaded our machines. Several other families had youth riders with them, so Paige felt right at home. We headed off down a short trail to a clearing where the club volunteers had set up a fire, propane heater, and nearby portable washroom. The fire was warm, and I was quickly offered a fresh hot coffee. We spoke with a few club members about the trails, and the efforts put in to clearing and grooming, some were asking if this trail should be open all winter, instead of just for events.
Paige and I decided to follow the club’s directions and head out on our own before the big group embarked, assuming that it would be difficult to get lost on a groomed loop trail. Upon entering the forest I quickly turned on my Drift Innovation helmet Cam as I was astounded with the beauty of the snow covered trees. For this event I was riding a new 700 Arctic Cat compliments of Bayou Park Marine in Cumberland Beach.
As we meandered through the forest my eyes were wide, the snow was so bright, and the sky was so incredibly blue, then the next minute you are in a dark forest, what a thrill. The groomed trail was surprisingly easy to ride on, I began in two wheel drive so I could judge how difficult it would be for Paige on her 1994 Polaris 250 trail Boss. I did get hung up at one point, but engaging the four wheel drive got me out quick enough, Paige however needed a tug to get through. As it turns out this was the only spot we had any problems on the trail, and what would an ATV ride be without getting stuck? I can tell you, pushing and towing in the snow is a lot cleaner than in the mud, and there was no chance of getting cold.
We didn’t want to stop, but the warm fire was beckoning, and we figured we better get back to the group. When we returned to the clearing the group had grown to more than 35 riders, including a group all the way from Niagara Falls, members of the Quad Niagara ATV Club. Paige had some hot chocolate and I took some time to say hello to some old friends, and meet a few new ones. Before long we were off again as a group, encountering even more trails, and more breathtaking sights.
Later in the afternoon we all stopped for lunch, once again congregating around the fire and heater, with everyone barbequing hotdogs, and hamburgers. Everyone was having such a great time, many like us, first timers in the snow, amazed at how much fun it was, and how pretty the trails were. Dufferin Grey Club members were receiving lots of praise and thanks for their efforts, and we all hoped to return for the same event next year.
After lunch several other groups went out riding on various trails, as the day went on the trails did become deep, and a few folks got stuck, allowing for the true nature of ATVers to come out, “Leave no one behind”. At one point there was a group of about 15 riders helping each other get through a section of trail that had become very deep and soft, what a blast.
Paige and I had a great day with friends, and can’t wait for the next event, winter riding is definitely something every ATVer should try out, I heard many say that day that they enjoyed it more than summer riding.
Arctic Cat was kind enough to supply a demonstration ATV to us folks at Go Riding for the season. I picked the unit up in the late fall, and in the dark. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later that I had the opportunity to get it out as I was busy, and didn’t want to get it all dirty as warm weather stayed late this year.
What a gem. This bold red shiny machine sure stood out on the snow. I was quite surprised at how the machine handled the snow. Arctic Cats are inherently lighter than other ATVs, and this is a huge advantage in the snow. The machine was able to get up on top of the snow when others seemed to be digging their way through.
Winter is a beautiful time of year ... I am not saying I like the cold, but embracing each season along with the changes to Ontario’s landscapes never allows you to get tired of it. Finally having the time to get out for a tour, and after some colder weather had hardened the snow, I was truly able to get out into the winter wonderland that we live in.
You can see so far in the winter without the leaves on the trees blocking your view, and the snow covered branches are a sight to see. Small streams are no longer muddy but crystal clear as they babble along the ice-lined staggering paths they choose. Wildlife catches your eye, even in the distance against the white background, like the rafter of turkeys that grabbed my attention just as I turned a corner into a snow covered field.
The highlight of my trip was certainly the moment I began ascending a hill carved in the rock just when a gust of wind dislodged some of the snow from the branches above. Huge snowflakes the size of golf balls floated down around me like magic.
After a few stops to gaze out over the valley to the south from the lookout, and to the east over the mill pond far below, I headed back. Every minute of my journey was feeding my soul and lifting my spirits.
Ontario is right out our backyards (literally in my case); all we need to do is get out there and enjoy it.
Many OFATV clubs now offer winter riding; some in the east have groomed trails designed for ATVs with wheels (no tracks required). If you don’t have your own ATV why not call Redline Outdoors and book a guided tour, or a rental, their ATV tours run all year long.
Each year the Nation Valley ATV Club hosts the Annual Winter Rally in Winchester, Ontario. The 2012 event is slated for Saturday March 3rd. This is a great event to attend, even if you are new to winter riding. The club keeps the entire trail system groomed so well you don’t even need your four wheel drive. The winter season can be particularly fun for those two wheel drive ATVs, as the trails are very smooth, and there is not much mud to get stuck in.
The cost to participate is $20 or $15 with a bag of gently used clothing to be donated to Ye Old Bargain Shop. OFATV membership or day pass is required for this event and are available on site from one of the clubs membership coordinators. Lunch is included and provided by the Winchester Fire Department.
Several great prizes are available from Kimpex, including a windshield, plow, and handle bar muffs.
Partnerships bring benefits.
This rings true with the announcement that five townships in the South Western section of Ontario have all passed bylaws in favour of ATVs in their regions. This great news provides a significant boost to the Dufferin Grey ATV Club (DGATV) trail system. Specifically, Dufferin County has passed a bylaw in favour of ATVs in Melancthon Township, and Grey County has passed a bylaw for ATVs in South Grey, Grey Highlands, West Grey, Chatsworth and Georgian Bluffs Township. In respect to these bylaws, DGATV has developed trails involving five of these townships for ATV enthusiasts to enjoy.
Open from May 1st until November 30th annually, the trunk of the DGATV trail is the 83kms of the CP trail that runs from Dundalk to Chatsworth offering a fantastic ride through the beautiful area of Grey County. Along this trunk there are three branches that will lead you onto three different types and lengths of trail riding options. The most southern trail is 80kms in and around Melancthon and Southgate Township. This very interesting ride leaves the town of Dundalk and includes the unique wind turbines found around the town of Shelburne; bring your camera on this one, there will be some breathtaking views!
Another option runs approximately 120kms in length through the scenic Beaver Valley, Eugenia and Ceylon areas. This main trail was developed first and is known as the Beaver Valley trail. The most northern trail is known as the Chatsworth trail. It is approximately 85kms in length and tours through the far area of Chatsworth Township.
For something different, the Hoath Head ATV trail is located on 500 acres of private land near Rockford, and contains numerous trails that you can ride and enjoy during an entire day. Keeping it interesting, one trail is marked as a high level of difficulty for the very experienced riders with the remainder of the trails being very family oriented. Plan a picnic and bring the family to this private location. This trail also stays open during the winter months for a truly Canadian ATV experience.
When visiting, the DGATV trail system can be reached by their parking lot on Road 120 west just south of Markdale. You can enter onto the CP trail and go either direction to travel through the beautiful Beaver Valley just beside the Talisman Ski Hills. Tour Old Baldy scenic lookout and visit the Emporium in Eugenia before touring on to Ceylon and visiting the Old Country Store. You can also park in Eugenia at the Top O’ The Rock restaurant on Sunday and Monday at the Magee’s Gas Bar on Highway 4 just east of Flesherton or at Chapman’s parking lot on county Road 12 west of Markdale to complete this trail.
The ATV season doesn’t have to end when the snow flies. Although most riders think of the sport as a summer activity, ATVs were built to be operated all year long. Aside from deep fresh snow, an ATV will get you just about anywhere you want to go in winter, and if deep snow is your thing, then a set of ATV tracks may be in your future.
As with summer riding, an ATV can get you places that nothing else will, and the sights and sounds are just as breathtaking, if not moreso. Winter is a beautiful time of year, and Ontario is one of the best places on earth to enjoy it.
Frozen lakes, ice-lined rivers, and snow covered trees are just the back drop for your trip. With the leaves off the trees there is so much more to see, and so much farther that one can gaze.
For the more adventurous, several ATV clubs in the OFATV have winter trails just for ATVs. The clubs diligently groom the trails to keep the drifts down and provide a safe and smooth ride for all manner of ATV, no tracks required.
Some may already be flirting with the thought of summer months. Sipping on drinks, enjoying warm rays by the pool or at the beach. However, let's not forget that some of the best riding to be had in Northeastern Ontario happens between February and mid-March. Where the weather is mild and easy on your machine, the trails are well groomed and our local accommodations are more than happy to see you walk through the door. Below is a quick list and map preview on some top snowmobile tours available within Northeastern Ontario. Let's get you riding in the north.
These aren't snowshoes...snowshoes are those big, clunky, wooden tennis racquet thingies you strap to your feet.
That's a common reaction we get when people see today's modern version of snowshoes, all sleek and shiny and metallic looking. Strapping them on gives a whole new perspective for anyone who is familiar with using the traditional harnesses made of lamp wick. It's more akin to stepping into a snowboard binding or buckling up a ski boot with its ratcheting, quick-release straps and buckles.
But it's these modern materials and designs that make them much easier to use, so easy a child can do it. In fact, some kids are naturals and often assist their parents in figuring out how to put them on. It's because they are so easy to use that today's light weight, high tech shoes have caught on in such a big way. That's really great news because there is no better activity to get the whole family outdoors and enjoying the winter.
Picture yourself hitting the trails as the sun peeks through a fresh sugary dusting of snow on the trees, it's magical. There is so much amazing stuff to see in winter, you can't help but realize it has a unique beauty and a solace all its own.
If you are looking for something new to do this winter, why not give snowshoeing a try? It's easy, fun and a great form of exercise too, a quintessential Canadian experience.
Find fun snowshoe adventures in Ontario at ontariooutdoor.com
In my last blog, These Aren't Your Granddad's Snowshoes, we talked a bit about how modern designs and materials have made it easier for you to try snowshoeing. In this edition we are going to talk about one of the reasons why you should go snowshoeing.
In the backcountry normally we encourage people to stick to well established trails. By following this most basic Leave No Trace principal we can all do our part to lessen our impact on the environment.
However, the winter snow combined with a pair of snowshoes opens up great opportunity to throw some caution to the wind and get off the trails. With a good base of snow for protection, you can spend more of your time enjoying all that fresh powder and less time worrying about damaging the delicate ecosystem below. Getting off the beaten path opens up a whole new world and can give you a glimpse of some incredible vistas you may not have seen from the trail.
Want to get in touch with your hunter-gatherer past? Try your hand at tracking. It is a skill that was crucial to the survival of our ancestors and it's easy peasy on snowshoes. White-tail deer, snowshoe hare, and fox are all very common and easy to identify tracks you might find.
Why not strap on the snowshoes and get off the beaten path on your next adventure. It's just one of the many reasons to love snowshoeing.
Find fun snowshoeing adventures in Ontario at ontariooutdoor.com.
Winter may soon be coming to an end, but early spring is the perfect time to hit the cross country ski trails! Warm sunny days and and smoothe wet snow trails are perfect conditions for a day of exercise in Northeastern Ontario!