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.