Nearing the end of the riding season here in Ontario, I was looking for one more ride, something new and fun. So for some reason, I decided an overnight camping trip would be a good idea, one last adventure to end off the season. Well, it was October 26th and the temperature outside was dropping rapidly, most people would think, "who wants to sleep outside right now?". Apparently, I did, and I was gonna bring my cousin Nic with me, me on my CRF230 and him on his TTR225. But where in Ontario do you take two green plated bikes for an 'Adventure Ride'? Well, the Park to Park Trail is a 200Km trail network that stretches from Killbear Provincial Park to Algonquin Provincial Park, a great concept right? Maybe not.
We decided to ride from Parry Sound to Kearney, a 100km journey over a full day. We would then camp with our hammocks on the Crown Land just outside Algonquin Park. We drove to Perry Sound and had booked a motel room for Friday night, we would be up early Saturday morning and ride the trail all the way there for a campfire and a snooze. Saturday morning rolled around much quicker than I would have liked, and we had slept in. We skipped breakfast and made our way to the trailhead to load up the bikes with a couple sets of Nelson Rigg Dual Sports Saddle Bags.
It wasn't long before we were on the trail, with all our camping gear tied down we set out on our adventure. As I was cruising down the trail I got this overwhelming feeling of happiness, everyone who rides knows what I'm talking about. There are lakes and trees on either side of me, nothing but fall colours in sight, and I realized how amazing this country is, and how much land is out there ready to explore. We then came to a closed section of the trail, not a big deal, just a 2km road stretch to find the next trail. That 2km road stretch turned into an hour-long detour trying to find the trail and looking for a collapsible crosscut saw that had shaken loose from the back of my bike. Finally back to where we left the trail to take another look at the map and we were on our way. The terrain matched the description, "Scenic rail trail with the occasional puddle", swerving around the water-filled divots, we slowly made our way along the trail.
By this time, the cold had already made its way through my summer riding gloves and I had switched to my winter mittens. Warm and dry, I was quite content with the trip until I pull up to what was less of a puddle and more of a small pond. Heres a tip, don't try and tiptoe slowly around puddles on a motorcycle, you are going to tip in. It wasn't so bad though, my one foot was a little damp but I managed to keep the rest of my body dry. Pushing onwards, we hoped the puddles would dissipate and we'd be left with a nice dry rail trail again, not the case. Points along a trail are deceiving and everything you've passed seems to become a blur. Plowing through puddles that grew deeper and deeper as we continued, we grew damper and more and more fed up. We were holding on to that hope that it would get drier, that the trail would clear up. Well, it did, a flat, dry, sandy rail trail with mild whoops, exactly what we came for. There were bridges over the rivers and we even passed a warm-up hut accompanied by a nasty washed out section.
It was already somewhere around 3 in the afternoon, knowing that Kearney was still a long ways away we kept trucking. It wasn't long before shit hit the fan, we stumbled across what looked to be a fairly long, wide and deep 'water crossing'. When most say water crossing they're usually referring to a shallow stream crossing the trail, but this was more like a small lake. Nic walked carefully along the edge prodding in with a stick, "It's deep in the middle, stick to the edge and you'll be fine!" he said, he always made me go first. I put it in first and was creeping my way along the edge, it was going dandy until the "ground" (more like a sludgy mud) beneath my front wheel had turned into water, my front end just dropped vigourously. I'm talking about 3 feet of water, I was up to my waist in cold Muskoka swamp in the middle of nowhere in October. Naturally, the water was freezing, but I was more worried about my pride and joy, my 2004 CRF230F that was drowning beneath me. Nic trudged in to help me haul the sunken maiden from the pond. Now both soaked, the CRF on one side and the TTR on the other, it seemed we were in a pickle.
My exhaust, my airbox, both filled with water. I turned over the engine a few times and about a litre of water came out my exhaust, we then tipped the bike on its side to let the airbox drain. With a dead battery and a dampened sense of adventure, we attempted to start my bike. Anyone ever tried to bump start a drowned bike, in wet boots and pants, on wet sand? Let me tell you it was not a pleasant experience. I know what you're thinking, why would you run a bike with water probably in the crankcase? Well, I had no other choice really, besides it's a 230, nothing kills these beasts. So we looked at the map and devised a plan, Nic was going to ride back to the nearest road and take it all the way to the other side where I would meet him. All went as planned but we had a long journey ahead of us, we decided to forget the trail and take the road. 80km later we had made it, not really sure if we were on crown land or not, we were fed up of being cold and decide to pitch camp.
Hammocks were set up, dinner was eaten, it was almost time to call it a night. My pants were dry from the wind smacking my legs for the past hour and a half, but my extra clothes were soaked from my saddlebags bathing in the swamp. So I left the clothes I had on, luckily my extra socks and my coat were still mostly dry. I climbed into my hammock thinking that the night was over, just sleep, get up, eat, and make our way back to Parry Sound. Well, the night was definitely not over, did I mention that my sleeping bag's zipper was missing? So, it was around 2 am when the wind came gusting up my back, I could not sleep so instead of laying there miserable, I decided to get up. I slid on my shoes, ducked out from under my hammock's tarp, just to find that it had snowed. With not much else to do, I began gathering wood for a fire. The wood on the ground was covered in snow so I resorted to snapping twigs off of dead trees.
Shortly after, Nic was up too, a stream of cold water had made its way into his hammock to give him a rude awakening. Ready to light the fire, we found our fire starting paper covered in snow. Nothing a little propane couldn't fix, a quick drizzle, a spark and it burst into flames instantly. The fire was made to keep us warm, but we spent the time getting little, dry, twigs to keep it going, we eventually gave up, they were burning too quickly. We were thirsty and hungry, so we took a short walk down the road to a river close by, and started pumping. We then whipped up some Kraft dinner to fill the void in our stomachs. It was watery and dissatisfying, but I ate it anyway. Tired and cold we decided it was best to start walking, we walked down the road for half an hour, turned around and walked back, hoping we'd see the sun peek over the horizon. It didn't. Feeling exhausted, it didn't feel like a good idea to get back on the road, so we hit the hammocks one more time to try and get some rest.
I woke around 9 am, I slept surprisingly well and was ready to go home. I was completely done with this trip, I wanted to be on my way home already, unfortunately, I was not. It was another 120km back to the car, we were low on gas and it was freezing rain. Wonderful. I slipped on my soaked riding boots and my toes started to go numb, I had no real gloves and knew it was going to be a long journey. The nearest open gas station was 35 km away, both bikes already on reserve, we weren't too sure we were gonna make it. We once again, pushed on, the road seemed to go on forever, Nic's bike sputtering on the downhills when his gas would slosh forwards away from his petcock. Eventually, we arrived in Novar, Ontario, one of the smallest towns I had ever been to with the main attraction being a Foodland with a gas bar, but that's all we needed, some food from the deli, some 91 octane and we were reluctant to leave but set off onto the backroads of Muskoka. My fingers and toes were completely frozen and I thought to myself "I don't think I've been this cold for this amount of time before in my life".
The kilometres dragged on and on, when we finally arrived in Orrville, we popped into the general store for a quick pack of beer nuts. This ended up being half an hour of drinking hot chocolate and talking to the woman who owned it (and eating maple beer nuts of course), recounting to her our adventure so far, waiting for the feeling in my hands to come back. We were 26 kilometres away from Perry Sound, just a hop skip and a jump. It went quickly, soon enough I was back on that first section of the trail again, trying hard to focus on that beautiful scenery, but could not ignore that cold pain sensation my body was experiencing.
I would like to say that as the trip came to an end I was having mixed feelings, but the truth is I just wanted to get into the car and turn the heat up. Would I do this trip again? No. Definitely not in the fall. If I could go back and choose to not go on this trip, would I? Absolutely not. It was an experience, although I was cursing myself throughout the catastrophe, it was an awesome trip. The lesson I learned is this: don't ride the park to park trail on a dirtbike (or motorcycle), especially in the fall. Also if you pass by something that says "Some sections of the trail may require a motorized vehicle or a BOAT to cross." don't ignore it, don't assume you'll be fine. I learned the hard way they have that on their website for a reason.
Manitoulin Island is a beautiful place to ride, unfortunately, the entire thing is privately owned, this means as dirt riders we are stuck to the roads, which means we are driving an unregistered vehicle illegally or on trails we are trespassing on private property. Riding gravel roads is a good time, some fun wide open stretches, although my almost stock CRF230F falls flat on its face at high rpm, it is still fun to push the limits on this little bike. Luckily we did find snowmobile trails that did not have any no trespassing signs posted, how can we know it's trespassing without a sign, right? Manitoulin has a lot of rocky terrain, much like what you see around Muskoka and along highway 400, just a little more flat. If you look hard enough you'll find trails consisting of flat rock and patches of sand and clumps of grass, great for faster riding. If you want the more technical stuff, it is not a hard task to find some rocky hills (although they won't be too long), all you need to do is ride in a ditch for about a kilometre and you're almost guaranteed to hit something.
I would not call this a destination for off-road riders, dual-sport riders, on the other hand, would love this, dirt road after dirt road. The scenery is amazing and you will likely enjoy just cruising through the countryside and maybe finding some rougher road allowances. In our case we have bikes that are not even green plated as of our time on the island, we weren't worried about getting stopped though, whenever we saw anybody we just wave at them, not that the residents know the difference of a plated bike, but everyone seemed to respond with a friendly wave.
After searching google maps' satellite view, we went to check out what looked like a trail, we end up at a "no exit" road with a fairly wide, but bumpy, trail going straight back into the woods. Following this rail fence all the way back until a fork in the trail, with a cottage and no trespassing signs on our left, we gladly took a right, the direction of a major road we were looking to get to. Being fairly new to trail riding, and having never been on the trail before we proceeded quickly but cautiously. Zipping along the packed ATV trail with hunting stands passing by on our left and the same rail fence on our right, we figured we were right on the property line of two lots. Suddenly the packed dirt turned to cracked uneven rocks, working hard not to let my tire slip into a deep crevasse, I hit a steep hill, with some pretty tall rock steps. Not to worry the one thing the 230 can do reasonably well is low-end torque, trying hard to pop up that front tire and jump the ledges. A few more hills like this and we popped out on the road that connected us to our cousin's cottage on the other side of Lake Manitou. Not only was it the road we wanted, but the snowmobile trail we were on continued alongside this road, perfect. Fearing a gas shortage we turned the other way and made our way to the closest gas station.
A couple days later we decide to take that awesome trail once more and pay a visit to the other side of the lake, we made our way through the same section as before without any problems, finally, we popped out on the road and were ready to test the new section. A variety of technical, rocky and flat, open trail, it was a lot of fun. We made it there without any problems, cooled off in the lake and chilled there for a few hours. Ready to make the trek back, we fire up the bikes as I turn my bike around I feel it break traction, didn't think much of it cause I was on the grass making a sharp pivot. Every turn I made after that I could feel my tire slipping. Finally, I recognized my tire was flat, we stopped and looked at it but we couldn't do much considering we had no tools or anything to fix this. The only option was to ride home on it, going slow as not to destroy my tire (although it is toast but I'm too cheap to replace it) and save my rim. Instead of 25 minutes, it took closer to an hour and 15 minutes.
This is where it comes to mind that maybe an Emergency/Repair Kit wouldn't be such a bad idea, not only can we avoid unnecessarily long trips in the future but changing a tire on the side of the road might even be a fun experience/story to tell. We quickly hopped on Fortnine (formerly the Canadian Motorcycle Co.) and started adding things to the cart, referencing the Fortnine youtube channel and Frickin Jim as well, both of whose opinions we trust. Our Kit now consists of:
1 80/100/21 STI Heavy Duty Tube
1 100/100/18 STI Heavy Duty Tube
1 Stop and Go, Patch Kit
3 Tire spoons we already owned
1 handheld air pump we already owned
1 Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight Watertight Kit 0.3
And we didn't have a small bag or a small container so, for the time being, we threw a litre of conventional oil in there, which will probably be reduced to 500mls or less.
Tubes obviously as a backup, patch kit was cheap and is extra insurance. Spoons to actually make a tube change possible, pump to pump it up although it will take a while. Med Kit in case of an emergency on the trail, and Oil for topping up the bike if need be, or lubing a chain, or some cables, possibilities are endless.
watch part of this Manitoulin Dirt Biking Adventure Below