Although the drive from Sault St. Marie is one of the most scenic drives in Ontario, as Highway 17 hugs the eastern shore of Lake Superior, we chose the complete package, including lodging, meals, tour guide, and a lift on the Algoma Central Railway to our origination. Many other packages were available, but we wanted to experience everything Algoma had to offer.
We drove to Searchmount, roughly half an hour north of the Soo, and unloaded our machines and gear at the railway station. Our ATVs were loaded on a baggage car, and we were seated for our trip.
As we headed north, farther and farther away from civilization, we quickly realized that this train trip itself was to be one of the highlights of the entire holiday. One of the most breathtaking, scenic train tours in Ontario, we were travelling the same route as the world renowned Agawa Canyon Tour Train.
Out our window, the view constantly changed: one minute a peacefully isolated lake, the next a panoramic view all the way to the sleeping giant, Lake Superior. If we weren't staring at the rolling hills and valleys, we had sheer rock faces a few feet from the train; what an endeavor it must have been to build this railway. The Agawa Canyon was the highlight of the ride: with its majestic mountains and tall waterfalls, what a rare sight to see.
Our rail destination was Hawk Junction, where we unloaded and met our guide Willy. A local resident of Wawa and owner of Bristol Off Road Tours and the Bristol Motel, Willy grew up in the area and knows every trail and back road. Willy took us to all sorts of hidden locations, Josephine, an abandoned iron mine, a few ghost towns, an even a circa-1900s cemetery you woudn't have found without a guide.
Willy knew just where to go, and we could see him inspecting animal tracks every now and then. At one point he waved us up and pointed to fresh bear tracks: "Keep your eyes peeled! There is a bear up ahead, these are fresh tracks," he said. Sure enough, around the next bend we spotted a mother bear and three cubs.
Our tour of almost 200 km ended at Willy's camp, a huge peice of property in the middle of nowhere, with quite a collection of buildings. The main building slept 12 and had a dining area built for at least 30. He told us tales of groups of 30 or more touring and staying, and many other stories of local lore.
I would recomend this experience to anyone, whether new to the sport, or a seasoned ATVer. There is so much to see in this area, and a guide is the only way to get the full experience. Call Willy and book your trip of a lifetime!