Ontario snowmobilers are a lucky bunch with 30,000 kilometres of trails reaching every corner of the province and dozens of mapped and marked loops to chose from; we’re like kids in a candy store. If you were to ask all these happy sledders to pick one Ontario touring classic I believe the answer, more often than not, would be the perennial crowd-pleaser, the R.A.P tour.
What is the RAP Tour?
So what makes The RAP tour (which by the way stands for Ride Around the Park) a classic? Is it its central location in the province? The many access points along its length? The plentiful accommodations? Or perhaps it’s because it’s known as the grandaddy of all Ontario loops. All good and valid reasons but I think it’s because of the P in the RAP which stands for park, and the park it refers to is Algonquin Provincial Park, a grandaddy in its own right. A place that exudes visions of wilderness and adventure that rubs off on anything associated with it. It was in Algonquin Park where I first heard of the RAP tour, long before I'd ever sat on a snowmobile. I remember thinking to myself, “Man, that’s cool”. Years later when I first pointed a sled down a trail I quickly moved the RAP tour to my ‘someday’ list of things I must do.
Powassan, February 25, 2015, welcome to someday.
Damn it’s cold, the -30 ºC air temp turns any moisture exhausted from body or sled into thick clouds of mist. Today’s destination is Pembroke, 300 km northeast from here. It’s never a bad time to start a sled adventure; that said starting on a Monday morning, we quickly learn that the groomer needs some time to erase the bump fest residue from the weekend traffic so the first couple of hours of bouncing along feel more like work than pleasure. Turning east along the top of Algonquin Park it’s a different world, freshly groomed and first tracks for hours. A perfect day, long straights, sweeping curves and bridges over rushing waters all in the company of sunshine and blue sky. We park the sleds by the front doors and drop our bags in a swanky room at the Holiday Inn Express in Pembroke. Roughing it? I don't think so.
Nothing like some rail trail time at -30 ºC to shake off the morning cobwebs. Day two is all about Ontario's Highlands. The forest thickens and the trail narrows as we twist and turn among towering white pines. Lunch is at Spectacle Lake Lodge, its sun filled dining room over looking the lake is spectacular. Motorized equipment is not permitted in the interior of Algonquin Park with the exception of, yes, snowmobiles. They are restricted to a single trail in the southern end of the park. Traversing the wilds of Algonquin is an experience that makes you feel special all over. We pull in to our nightly accommodations under the glow of headlights. Night number two is at Spring Lake Resort, comfortable rooms and fabulous home cooking.
The day starts off with brushing snow off the sleds. Might sound like an annoyance but nobody minds, it’s a hint of things to come. Ok I'll just say it, today is the best day of riding in my snowmobiling life. The trails hugging the west boundaries of Algonquin Park are absolutely spectacular. It might have something to do with the fact that the snow is waist deep or that we got fresh snow over night, maybe it’s because we're the first traffic since the groomer, or perhaps it’s due to the shining sun, blue sky and good company. The fact is it’s all of the above, what a triumphant end to a amazing trip.
With years worth of trail makers along its 900-kilometre length, the RAP tour is an easy follow and can be done in three days. That’s three days if you favour time in the saddle but I suggest four or five days if you fancy yourself an explorer. No matter the trip duration, this is one cool ride, a classic you could say.