Conditions in the “Party Sound” area—that is, the Parry Sound Snowmobile District—had been reduced to glare ice, bare patches, and open water since late February. Then I got the text: a group of local buddies wanted one last sledding adventure before winter ended. With winter almost over, we'd have to look to Northern Ontario.
It was great to get the invite, and so nice to tag along instead of planning the trip!
Our Home in the North
My friends Luke, Steve, and Jason had just returned to snowmobiling this year and have been thoroughly enjoying it. They weren’t hoping for record-setting mileage days, they just wanted to enjoy some time spent exploring on and off trail, seeing new scenery, and testing their skills and machines. It’s not always about miles ridden, it can be about those hours spent riding. Having visited last year, we all agreed that Horwood Lake Lodge would be the perfect spot for our group.
We arrived on a Monday morning and met some other guests. The other groups ranged from long distances riders who rode in from Wawa, to a group from Waterdown who had been out cutting their own trails to enter new untouched riding areas—which the owner, Mike Brazeau, really appreciated. Everyone was in a great mood and happy to be there.
Our buddy, Jamie Blake hauled us and our sleds up. He and his wife Tracy own Blake’s Memories of Muskoka and avidly promote snowmobiling. He and Mike had some great conversations and compared notes. Mike’s a great conversationalist, with an interesting background—how he came to run Horwood Lake Lodge is an excellent story itself.
Monday: Off to a good start
Horwood Lake is huge—13,000 acres and over 100 miles of shoreline—and offers some great scenery: bays with windblown-in powder, some jumps, and large areas to play in and explore. For a couple of the boys, it was a great place to learn the characteristics of their new machines that were well beyond their "Olympic" days. The experienced riders pointed out hazards to watch out for and some fun little jumps for the newbies to safely play on.
After our first tasty lunch, we hopped on the private trails and did some bush bashing. Mike isn’t grooming his trails, but the main trail was quite smooth, natural, and lots of fun. Without inhibition, we followed random single-track trails whenever we wanted to explore. We found a few areas to get off trail, bust some catwalks, carve some untouched powder, and even ride some untouched lakes. For the newer riders, this was a great time to learn without any pressure having to deal with lots of other snowmobiles.
Tuesday: Exploring the Beauty of the area
The road into Horwood Lake Lodge doubles as a snowmobile trail with banked corners. At the end of the road we crossed Highway 101 and immediately entered the OFSC trail at the C101D. The trails were flat and beautiful—and, best of all, we had them all to ourselves.
From there, we headed towards Timmins and soon came upon a trailside teepee that must have been built by the local snowmobile club. We stopped there and lit a small fire inside to comfortably eat our provided bagged lunch. Then we basked in the sun and played on the lake next to it.
The trail was freshly groomed and in tip-top condition, so we just had to ride it for a while. A benefit to these areas is that there are off-trail areas to ride and, some fresh “cooling snow” for those of us that should have installed scratchers. We came to a hydro line cut and decided to follow it for a while. It crossed the Kamiskotia River, so we toured on the river for a bit and saw some amazing scenery. Although we hadn’t ridden many miles, we'd been out for many hours and decided we’d better get back in time for dinner—some amazing pork chops.
After a deeply satisfying meal, we stepped outside into the night. We toured out on the lake and came back talking about the stars. The lack of city lights really allows you to see the expanse of stars. Being on a point on the lake gives Horwood Lake Lodge an epic view as well. Many shooting stars were wished upon.
Back inside, the cards and chips came out and we had ourselves a little bit of a poker game. What happens during poker at Horwood, stays at Horwood. It was a great night unwinding and we all spent a lot of it laughing.
Wednesday: A Day Off
For us, this was a vacation, not a time to ride mass amounts of miles. This meant time away from running businesses, getting kids to and from school and activities, the daily grind. Thanks to Tuesday night poker, we spent Wednesday hanging out and relaxing around the lodge.
After naps (mine with the dogs) we lit the fire in Horwood's “party” teepee and had some great talks. It was a nice, relaxing, educational, no stress day. Something more people should take advantage of.
Thursday: The Perfect end to the season
Every day we were at Horwood we had sun. The temperature ranged from -18°C at night to -6°C during the day. Perfect weather for our purposes.
As it was our last day, the boys wanted to explore more of the lake and take some pictures of the ice layers. In the spring Horwood Lake is drained approximately 14’ to accommodate for the melt and run-off, which happens while there is formed ice. So be aware that the shoreline ice may include hazards like crevices, jagged edges, and logs etc.
Like the private trails, the lake is so vast that there is always an opportunity to go where others haven’t. We travelled south on the lake, turned right, and headed up the west arm of the lake. It turns out that arm is 14 miles long. We found untouched back bays full of powder, some ice-heaves, islands to jump and climb, and even a little step-up.
With a 4.5-hour drive home ahead of us, we returned to the lodge and packed up. We said our goodbyes (more “see you again!” and “I can’t wait until next time!” really) and headed out. The drive home was full of memories, laughs and many new inside jokes.
A huge thanks to Mike, Janna, and Louanne at Horwood Lake Lodge for the warm hospitality, great home-cooked meals, conversation, and laughs. As of this writing, there is still snow at Horwood and further north. If you can take advantage and go ride I highly recommend it. Warm sunny spring riding is amazing and times like these are valuable! If you can’t make it up for one last round in the snow, it’s time to talk about a fishing or ATV weekend at Horwood Lake Lodge!