Editor’s note: After taking all the right steps to organize an ATV group trip to ride the trails around Elliot Lake, Dave Baker and company find that no matter how much preparation is made, there is always going to be something to keep you on your toes. The question is: was it worth it?
Like children waiting for Christmas morning, for almost a year we had been anticipating our ATV trip to Elliot Lake! One little snag reared it' head prior to our departure: my ATV was not running at 100%! I didn't want to be the wet blanket that messed up everyone else’s trip by having ATV problems all weekend, but as luck would have it, Loiselle Sports out of Embrun, Ontario came to the rescue, giving me a 2015 Can-am Outlander Max XT to test out for the weekend!
The members of the group departing from my area had already gotten together on Friday night to load up all the ATVs and Side-by-Sides and as much gear as we could ahead of time, so bright and early Saturday morning we threw in the last-minute items and the coolers for our adventure and hit the road.
Slowly but surely, as the day wore on, we would be meeting up with the rest of the convoy, and we would all be together by the time we hit our destination. This year we had familiar faces from the Nation Valley ATV Club on board, as well as some new faces joining us from the Renfrew County ATV Club, whom we had met at the Missing Link Geocache ATV Poker Run earlier in the spring.
We gathered our first vehicle in Kemptville, and grabbed our last one in Sudbury as we all met up in the parking lot of Royal Distributing – a must-stop for ATVers. We killed an hour or two in Royal Distributing before hitting Subway for a late lunch, and then back on the road to do the last leg towards our destination. In Massey, we fueled up, and grabbed some ice and last minutes odds and ends, before we headed 79 km north on the 810 to the Ritchie Falls Resort on the shores of the Sables River.
The 810 started out paved for about 2 km, then became tar-and-chip and quite windy for the next 40 km or so. There are some beautiful water crossings with narrow one-lane bridges over roaring rapids beneath. At the 40-km mark, we came to the first sign letting us know we were on the right track to get to Ritchie Falls Resort. The last 40 km of the 810 was wide gravel road with many logging roads shooting off of it.
Upon arriving, we were greeted at the main lodge by Matthew Owl, proprietor of Ritchie Falls Resort. A couple on vacation from Wisconsin were occupying Cabin #2; otherwise, we were given full access to the entire resort, and Matthew let us check out the cabins and choose which we would like to stay in. All of the cabins were very nice, but it took us about 30 seconds to decide that the Old Lodge was the cabin for us. It was a rustic, hunting-style cabin, which could comfortably sleep 16 people. It had a large table in the center of the room for banquet style eating, surrounded by bunk beds. The kitchen was setup with a giant gas stove, with six burners and a full-sized griddle! This was right up our alley. The Old Lodge had a lot of character, and you can just imagine all of the hunting and fishing stories that were had and retold in this cabin!
We unloaded our gear into the cabin and got the bikes unloaded and ready for tomorrow, made arrangements with Matthew for a guided tour in the morning and set out to explore Ritchie Falls Resort.
We checked out the hydro-electric station they had powering the facility, and the boat launch on the Upper Ritchie Lake. However, after a long day on the road, we soon settled in for the evening. Relaxing on the porch overlooking the Sables River, we told our own ATV stories into the night.
Bright and early in the morning, we took full advantage of that giant industrial cook stove, and made quick work of cooking up some breakfast before gearing up and hitting the main lodge to meet up with Matthew for 9 am. I was anxious to try out the brand new Can-Am Outlander Max!
Matthew led us along some logging roads, before veering off onto some of Ritchie Falls Resorts personal trails, leading us towards the Elliot Lake ATV Club trails. At 11 we parted ways with Matthew when we came back out onto a logging road, with directions to keep heading South on the main trail until we ended up at the Elliot Lake ATV Club’s trail system.
With GPS on we headed off, aiming for our destination. We toured beautiful logging roads. The trail narrowed in places before opening up into a full-blown gravel road. We stopped for a banquet sized trail-side lunch catered by our friends from Renfrew County ATV Club – they know how to pack a lunch!
Unfortunately, we missed a turn along the way, and it took us a little longer to make it to the Elliot Lake ATV Club’s trail system than we intended, but we made it to the City of Elliot Lake via the trail system as intended… eventually. Some would call this getting lost, but in the ATV community, we call this “exploring new trails.”
As we entered the City of Elliot Lake, we stopped at the Mining Monument & Miners Memorial Park. It was quite the monument to behold! From here we followed the trail to the gas station to fuel up, before heading to the Elliot Lake Welcome Centre to purchase our weekend passes for the trail-system, and pick up our Elliot Lake ATV Club trail maps.
With map in hand, we hit the trails, and hit the trails hard. We had travelled a long distance to check these out, and it was time to capitalize. We swung by the Elliot Lake ATV clubhouse, it is a quaint little setup. Suffice it to say we were a little envious.
The trails were well marked, and well maintained. The map was very well done, with all of the co-ordinates listed and all of the trail-markers coinciding with the map, making the trail system very easy to navigate. There were rivers and lakes around every corner. This would be a fisherman’s paradise, and we did see many anglers fishing from shores or out in their boats throughout the day.
We decided to try the Whiskey Lake Loop, as we had a brainwave that we would find a better route back to Ritchie Falls resort out that way. The trail was fantastic, and Whiskey Lake was spectacular; however, a new route to Ritchie Falls was not found.
The day was wearing on, so we headed back to town. We fueled up and hit McDonalds for a supper of champions and decided on the safe choice of heading back the way we came to our resort.
The first day on the trails was a big one, by the time we made it back to the Old Lodge, we had put 350 km on the ATVs. Proof that we were definitely enjoying the trails!
The big 350 km really took a toll on us, so we didn’t jump out of bed to hit the trails quite as early on day two. We took a much more leisurely pace, relaxing for the morning and spending some time washing up ourselves and the bikes in the early afternoon. Then we went out for a local tour of the trails the Ritchie Falls Resort staff use on a daily basis in their bear baiting routes. Matthew set us up with his personal GPS, and set a path for us to take to see some of the sights the area had to offer. We set off in the opposite direction we had gone the day previous and followed Matthew’s GPS track along beautiful bush trails, taking in several lakes along the way and having a much more moderate day of only 80 km.
Upon returning that evening, we had a swim in the Upper Ritchie Lake before having a feast of lasagna. That evening we pored over the map of Elliot Lake and our GPSs to determine where we had gone wrong on day one, as we planned to hit the Elliot Lake ATV Club’s trail system again tomorrow to take in some of the sights we had neglected on the first trip through!
Bright and early we hit the trail on our third day of adventuring, we took a different route and discovered other trails. I wouldn’t go so far as to say we found the correct route this time around, but we did find our way to the Elliot Lake ATV Club trail system once again.
This time we headed out to the Fire Tower Lookout and Ranger Heritage Centre. From the Fire Tower Lookout you can see out over the village of Elliot Lake, what a beautiful view.
We spent a good amount of time at the Lookout, and exploring more of the trail system before we ventured into town once more to enjoy a McFlurry at the McDonald's. We took our time heading back to Ritchie Falls Resort, checking out some of the trails we had bypassed on the previous trip. I took advantage and tested out the Can-Am Outlander Max XT from Loiselle Sports on some of the wetter trails – to make sure it got a good test. By the time we returned to the resort for cheeseburgers, we had racked up another 240 km on the quads!
Alas, all good things must come to an end, and after supper we loaded up our quads ready to depart in the morning for the long ride home.
After many kilometres on the trail we were really starting to feel it, and we didn’t depart quite as early as we had planned in the morning, but we did hit the road early. On the way back down Highway 17, we had to check out Kate’s Kountry Kitchen Truck Stop & Restaurant. It had come highly recommended by our friends at the Renfrew County ATV Club. Halfway between Sudbury and North Bay, in the small town of Warren, Kate’s was definitely a diamond in the rough. Word on the street is the pies were legendary at this establishment. Being a truck stop, there was ample parking, and the interior was cozy. Servers were friendly, and didn’t mind a bit of ribbing from us ATVers.
Though it was still early, and most people were enjoying breakfast, we were able to order from the lunch menu and I had my staple of a club sandwich with poutine. I was not disappointed. Pie was not really on our approved diet, but we had to give it a go…you know, because of the hype. There was no hype in this pie, the legend was true: by far one of the greatest slices of coconut cream pie I had sank my teeth into in a very long time.
Staying at Ritchie Falls Resort and taking in the trails Elliot Lake had to offer was definitely worth the drive. Our hosts were fantastic, and the staff were great. Even after putting so many kilometers on in one weekend, there was a lot more to see that we didn’t have time to take in. Elliot Lake is definitely on the list to check out again at a later date!