Collections of stories and anecdotes of ATVing in Canada by Andrew Ryeland of 




- Andrew Ryeland 

Can’t see the forest for the trees? 

  This is a time-honoured expression that is usually spoken figuratively not literally.  However, in the context of All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) matters it is used in both manners … frequently!


  The Parry Sound area was settled over 150 years ago and along with that influx of Europeans came homesteads, farming, logging and … trails.  Many families put down their roots in adjacent acreages but considerable distances from each other.  Reliance on family for the menial tasks of the day such as barn raisings and home construction meant that a reliable trail system had to be built that could be used year round.  Our pioneer families also used these conveyances to gather for celebrations like baptisms, Christmas, weddings and the like.

Discovering these trails today continues to be a major delight of ATVers.  Its astounding to us to see the sides of these heritage trails stacked with stones to prevent erosion and how on earth courses were plotted through very dense bush that came out precisely at the neighbour’s doorstep.  They must have had really good GPS devices back in the late 1800’s!  But wait …  the reality of their trail building is a bit sad … they couldn’t see the forest cause there were NO trees!

  In the area around Haines Lake in Seguin Township, history books indicate that logging began very shortly after the Haines family arrived from Ireland.  Acre after acre was plundered and raped, fuelled by the voracious appetite of the lumber companies of the day and their sidekicks the banks.  Virgin stands of pine were levelled and you could see for miles.  Hence the accurate courses of the family trail networks.

Some 150 years later we have great stands of deciduous forests that rim our lakes and coif our hilltops but the coniferous period trails are still here if you know where to look.

  In most cases these trails were built to take a constant pounding of horse hoofs and narrow wagon wheels.  The trail bed had to be sloped for drainage and composed of material that could withstand the impact of many pounds per square inch delivered by the draught animals.  An ATV or snowmobile by comparison has a very light footprint but also provides a similar benefit to the transportation of old.  Whether walking, jogging, mountain bike riding or motorized vehicle discovering, a trail is not much good if you can’t find it.  Without constant use they disappear and all their history with them.

  Bear Claw Tours - ATV paradise


    Justifiable concerns have been raised by those opposed to any sort of motorized trail use through our natural environment.  As in all matters, perspective and fact should weigh in the argument.  As an organized ATV club the Parry Sound ATV District Club (PSATV) is vitally concerned with maintaining the natural beauty of our riding area.  By using heritage trails we are contributing to the increased awareness of our history and reminding people of our ancestors pride in the “pre-plunder” days.  Vistas only seen by the logging pirates of old are just now re-appearing and you don’t have to be fit enough to hike 30K for the privilege.

  Perhaps the commerce of ATVs raises an eyebrow or two about the true intent of trail use in Parry Sound and may jade this column (the author operates an ATV touring business in Parry Sound – Bear Claw Tours Inc.) but the independent comments from ATV tour customers from Europe attest to the magnificence we locals don’t always see.

  Opening up forgotten almost secret passages brings a sense of excitement and adventure not found in many other pursuits.  The next time you are tempted to dismiss ATVs as another encroachment on nature take a look at “the forest” not just “the trees”.