Back in 2008 when I first started riding, the landscape of the internet was a much different place. YouTube was a popular video hosting site, but so were Google Videos, Vimeo, and LiveLeak. On a whim, I decided to upload a video to YouTube of myself riding my ATV (a home-built dune buggy) and getting it stuck in some bushes.
The quality was cringeworthy, but by standards of the day, the point-and-shoot camera video was half-decent, and unlike some at the time, it even had sound!! Much to my surprise, people were actually watching my video, by the thousands—I was an internet celebrity! (Well, at least in my mind.)
I needed more video content, so I sought out new places to ride. I joined my local ATV club, Renfrew County ATV Club (RCATV), creating videos of our club rides. As my ATVs were upgraded for more rugged terrain, my video equipment escalated as well. GoPRO HERO HD, then HERO 3 followed by 4 and 5. Next came a drone and then a DSLR for better zoom and b-roll shots. When I hit the trails, the camera gear was rolling!
In 2018 at the RCATV B101 OR BUST ATV event that we regularly attend, I was pleasantly surprised to bump into another couple out enjoying the trails while running around with a GoPRO camera capturing the action. Kyle and Cassandra Mainville of Mainville ATV and Outdoors were new to the RCATV club, and had just recently created their own YouTube channel. A friendship slowly formed over the next year, and come 2019, we found ourselves back at the B101 event talking ATVs, camera equipment, and of course, our YouTube channels!
Capturing high-quality video and photos out on the trails during a large group run is a difficult and often frustrating ordeal. Unpacking all the gear, setting up the shot, and positioning that camera takes time, and when you're in a large group, people seem to be in a rush to get rolling on their machines. Being likeminded when it comes to video, the Mainvilles shared the same frustration.
"Hey, why don't we plan a trip with just the four of us someday, so we can take it slow and get all the cool shots we want without the pressure of the crowd?"
"You're talking my language now, buddy!"
The seed was planted in our minds, and when plans fell through for the Canada Day long weekend, we quickly found ourselves making arrangements for what would turn out to be an unforgettable adventure! Now, if you ask me where to find the best trails, I always answer with the Pakkottina system of RCATV and the Voyageur Multi-use Trail System (VMUTS) in Mattawa. VMUTS has a notoriously difficult trail called the #666, and knowing the Mainvilles were up for a challenge, I suggested we head north and check it out!
The ride north west on Highway 17 always marks the start of an adventure. Whether it's photographing rock crawlers in the summer heat, Mukwa Adventures in the fall for an ATV retreat, or camping as a child with my grandparents, Highway 17 has become a road that I treasure. It's an escape from the hustle and bustle of the big cities. It's a quiet and leisurely ride, full of beautiful vistas and big wide open skies.
Camp Conewango, on the north shore of Lake Talon, just a 30-minute drive west of Mattawa, was our home away from home for the Canada Day long weekend. The Mainvilles managed to book the cozy little Cedar Cottage on super short notice—great work, guys! No roughing it this weekend! Private beach, screened in porch, BBQ, full kitchen, and hot showers... now this is the life, eh? And to sweeten the deal even more, Camp Conewango is situated perfectly right beside the VMUTS ATV trail system, so you can just hop on your ATVs and ride. The VMUTS ATV trail system is now part of the large Ontario Federation of ATV Clubs (OFATV). If you don't have your trail pass yet, no worries: day passes are available for purchase at the camp lodge.
We had very ambitious goals for the first day of riding: the abandoned Purdy Mica Mine, the Birds Eye lookout, and the #666 trail! One of the features I love most about VMUTS is the winding trails that follow the power lines. It's not very often you have a clear line of sight for any amount of distance on a bush trail. For a brief moment, I can pretend I'm a rally car racer or out in the dunes of Baja, with nothing but the screaming motor behind me and the checkered flag waiting for me just around the next bend. What a rush! The trail weaves in and out of the open section of the power lines as steep cliffs are bypassed with trails to the left and right, creating plenty of “S” curves perfect for capturing amazing photographs.
We found the Mica Mine just in time for our lunch break. You'll know you're getting close to the location when you see the trail begin to sparkle with what looks like broken glass all over the trail. Fear not! You're driving on the shiny mica tailings of the mine that have been used to build up the trail. As you approach, the mouth of the mine greets you with a welcome breath of ice-cold air. Make sure you pack a flashlight, as you'll want to explore the various lines that break off from the main mine shaft. And if you're looking for a souvenir, make sure you wander down the hill on the south side of the trail and keep your eyes open for beautiful sheets of mica!
Luck was not on our side at the Birds Eye lookout. Just as we parked our machines and the Mainvilles started to get out the drone gear, the forecast of a 30% chance of thunderstorms quickly jumped to 100% guaranteed! Oh well, next time I guess!
Rain usually means the end of outdoor fun, but we had mud on our mind as we rounded the corner and turned down onto the infamous #666 trail, and the rain just meant more fun for us! Our ATVs consist of a homebuilt “RZR-inspired” SxS and a 2014 Polaris ACE with some pretty decent mud tires. We don't specifically go out looking for a mud hole, but we never back down from a challenge!
The Mainvilles, on the other hand, have purpose-built mud machines featuring lift kits, snorkels, and tires with lugs that could scoop half a yard of dirt with each throw. Mud is their home turf. If this is your type of ATV adventure, I highly recommend you head over to their YouTube channel and check out all their crazy adventures. And while you're there, give us a Like as well! The rain was coming down in buckets as we pushed forward down the trail, so sadly we couldn't take out any of the big DSLR cameras for action pics. However, the GoPRO video shows just how rough this trail really is and why it has earned its name!
Finally we were back after a long day of exhausting ATV trail riding. Dirty, sore, soaking wet. But we were “glamping” this weekend, and nothing lifts your spirits like a hot shower and a warm campfire with friends.
The goal for our second day of riding was two-fold: The Redbridge Lookout and some sweet ATV action shots! The sun was shining bright as we hunted for spots to setup our camera gear to capture the action. It wasn't long before we found a perfect mud hole. Motorsports action photography is one of our specialities at GLASSGLOWZ Media, and it never gets old seeing the expression on our subjects face when they see the photos and videos we crank out. We had a great mentor help us along the way, and we're so thankful for the support and opportunities Shelby Mahon, aka @themotorheadmaiden, has given us over the years.
I've been to a few lookouts in Ontario over the years, but nothing even comes close to the view you'll experience at the Redbridge lookout! Hills covered in dense trees out to the horizon line in every direction. Huge skies with birds of prey circling in the distance. It's a place where you can sit and marvel at the beauty and simplicity of nature, completely uninterrupted by any manmade structures. If you're brave enough (or a bit crazy like me), you can drive your ATV down to the lower plateau and capture an amazing photo to immortalize the moment.
It was a first for us working in collaboration with another YouTube couple, creating video content that we shared with each other. It was fun to see how other people worked, and we both walked away learning something new that we could bring to our channels. Mattawa was a perfect backdrop, and I'm certain we'll be back again. After all, our subscribers expect fresh content, so I guess we gotta keep riding those ATVs!