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




- Andrew Ryeland  

Parry Sound North Star October 11, 2002


  Last week a group of 11 avid ATVers left Parry Sound at the crack of dawn to try our hand at an ATV camping expedition.  After carefully reviewing the options for our adventure we decided that we would head towards Timmins and try our luck on the multitude of backcountry trails there.  This was truly a dynamic outing.  We had prepared ourselves with all manner of supplies; warm clothes, food, extra gasoline, GPS, water, waterproof containers galore, tents and enough bungee cords to stretch from Parry Sound to Timmins I’m sure!

  We were not disappointed!  After a mid trip review we settled on staging our voyage from the Vagabond Restaurant on Highway 144, just west of Gogama.  A tip from an OPP officer about maps lead us to the MNR office in Gogama and before long we had our first day’s route planned.

  Now you have to appreciate that there are no formal ATV trails in the area we set out to conquer and the adage “if you don’t know where you are going any trail will get you there” was both our mindset and our biggest challenge.  Several of us had snowmobiled some of the route the previous winter, but landmarks trail variations differ vastly from the frozen paths to the early fall ground we were navigating.  However, undaunted by the lack of signage and assisted by the ATV’s mighty land crossing prowess we ventured on!  Numerous times we were assisted by local folk that couldn’t believe we weren’t hunters and only were out to ATV.

  We climbed a mountain to a radio tower about 2 hours from our departure that offered a magnificent view of fall colours spiked by countless deep green spruce tress. SWEET!  We could see no sign of habitation in any direction, precisely what we searching for.  After our hilltop experience we journeyed on and came across a camping area at Hazen Lake, tailor made for our purposes.  On its rock shore we set up our tents, lit a sizeable campfire and spent the evening recounting the exploits of our crazy quest.  Later that evening the north wind reminded us of how crazy we were.  Temperatures dipped to minus 5 Celsius and we sought the comfort of toques and thick sleeping bags. 

  The discomfort of the cold night was soon erased by the spectacular sunrise over Cold ATVing ... is there another way?Hazen Lake.  A scarlet and purple sky and the promise of brilliant sunshine mixed with our hot coffee to produce a potent elixir… we were alive!  Timmins ho!  Following snowmobile trail maps we determined that we could reach our destination by tracking the hydro line that drove due north not far from our present location.  Heavy-duty math was employed to calculate the fuel required to make it to the next gas station.  Unfortunately by the time we resorted to the algebra necessary for our calculations we discovered we passed the point of no return several kilometres ago.  Apollo 13 at least had radio contact for insight; we only had each other and rough remembrances of gas stations somewhere along the trail.  A niggling feeling that the winter fuel stops were across a lake crept into our psyche but we forged ahead.  The hydro line trail was made for the 4-wheel surefootedness of an ATV.  Rocky outcrops, boulders and steep cliffs delighted our trusty steeds and tested our tie down capabilities to the max.  Bouncing 4 wheelers and bulky loads are like magnets when you try and join them together at the same poles.  A loose saddle conjures up much the same image.  After several hours of riding we finally hit the outskirts of Timmins 150Somewhere on the trail from Gogama to Timmins. kilometres from our jump off spot in Gogama.  Most of our ATVs were running on fumes but we managed to penetrate the city core and the welcome sight of a Canadian Tire gas bar.  At this point all of us would have welcomed a stay in a roadside motel but the local Timmins constabulary advised against venturing down their roads and so we left town like a band of outlaws … but we had gas!

  Tired, dusty and in need of shelter we returned to a spot we had passed earlier and had mused that it might be just right for our tent city.  Much to our dismay all the shoreline was taken up with private residences, but we did receive an offer to camp on one such lot.  The people we met along the way were outstanding in their willingness to see our adventure succeed. We thanked our newfound friend for the offer but once we discovered that there was no place for a campfire we travelled on.  In short time we pulled off the main trail to a sandy depression that offered ample firewood and protection from the wind.  The peculiar dugout shape of our camping spot afforded a very comfortable and warm sanctuary.  A fire was lit, water was boiled and all manner of snacks and refreshments lifted our spirits once again.  And then … the Aurora Borealis!!  We were blown away with the light show that literally surrounded us to the north, west and east and shooting streamers up to the heavens themselves. 

  Friday’s early morning rise allowed us to pack up our camp and head out on our final leg just before the rain hit.  Most of our journey back to Gogama was accompanied by that wonderful precipitation just slightly warmer than snow, but we were all attired for this eventuality and it actually added to our adventure.  Having travelled the same route only a day earlier we avoided the miscue of wrong turns and our timing and anticipation of sights to come was unencumbered by the worry of getting lost.  Nearing the end of our journey we were satisfied that this kind of expedition was worth repeating and plans for next year filled our conversation in the trucks on the way back home.  Moreover, we only wished that we could achieve the same outback experience much closer to home.

Armed with many lessons learned, we plan to share details of our expedition with other Parry Sound ATV District club members in hopes that others will see the value in getting “MILES FROM NOWHERE” too.