Country Girl, City Boy, ATV Camping Heaven

A camping trip to a top-secret location lets a local ATV expert show a city slicker how it's done.

Camping. That’s all I need to hear, all I need to know, and I am 100% in. So when I was chatting with Evan Simpson, a good friend of mine from my days at Wilfred Laurier University, and the topic of camping came up, I was instantly convincing him what a great idea it would be.

We made plans to take four days off work and head out to my favourite remote camping location in Northern Ontario. No, I’m not going to tell you how to get there, or even what the lake is called. All you need to know is that there are literally thousands of places like it in Ontario – all you need to do is explore and find your own little slice of paradise.

This is by far one of my most favourite views in the world.

Plans were simple: we would load the ATVs up Monday, head in to the bush for four days, and come out on Thursday.  But here’s the twist. Evan has never driven an ATV before, and proudly calls himself a “city boy” straight out of Mississauga. Although he had experience camping and canoeing at summer camp as a child, it’s certainly been a few years since he was asked to start a fire from scratch or put up a tent. So it was planned that I would do most of the work setting up, tending the fire, cooking, etc., and thankfully that’s exactly how I like to camp. I took a friend a few years ago who also wasn’t very, um, camping-savvy, and I loved getting the chance to test my own skills.

Here's a quick camping hack for shucking corn! Simply cut the top off and pull the sides like a banana, and you’ve got a perfectly de-haired cob of corn!

Before we headed out, I gave Evan a quick tutorial on driving an ATV. Our driveway really wouldn’t prepare him for what lay ahead, but luckily ATVs are very steady and have a fairly easy learning curve. This trip begins with a half-hour ATV ride through the back roads of Northern Ontario, a perfect opportunity for Evan to hone his skills before the real adventure begins.

The next stage of the trip is a 6-km ATV ride through some of the most rugged Ontario wilderness you can imagine. Mudholes that literally swallow ATVs are scattered throughout the trail, the Canadian Shield makes for some tough 75 to 80-degree rocky hill climbs, and the number of stream, river, and pond crossings can make for a rather wet and muddy adventure. With the ATVs loaded with gear and my favourite little green trailer packed with all of our essentials (and a few over-the-top accessories) we headed off in to the wilderness. Much to my surprise and relief, Evan handled it like a pro. He stayed close enough to see where it was safe to go and to watch how I got over, through and around obstacles constantly.  

Terrain varies widely from Canadian Shield to marsh swampland. Either way, Sambuca is happy pulling trees out of the water or sniffing out places where bears were flipping over rocks in search of grubs to eat! 

Once we arrived at the lake, it was time to set up the campsite. This is where the ATVs really come in handy! The trailer, emptied of gear, was used to collect firewood, the front racks of the ATVs became our tables, and the AC adapter (present on most new ATVs) was great for charging electronics and blowing up the air mattresses! I’m not one to normally bring electronics camping in the first place, but Evan could not be away from his emails due to work restrictions and his dedication to his job. That being said, someone was forced to forgo emails for a few days after taking his iPhone for a swim on Tuesday!

The ATVs came in handy for everything!

One of my favourite parts about camping is the food. I cook all of my meals 100% by campfire, even when it’s raining out. I enjoy the challenge of fire preparation and maintenance, as well as the delicious smoky flavor that comes with open flames. For this trip we added a little “city boy” flair to the meal plan. Armed with guacamole, fresh vegetables, turkey burgers, back bacon, chicken breasts and chicken burgers, I sure wasn’t going to feel guilty about what I ate. We also enjoyed the mandatory standard bonfire dessert of s’mores and, always into trying new things, we attempted roasting Oreos in a sandwich maker and they turned out absolutely mouthwatering! Sorry there’s no photos, we devoured them before it was even a thought!

We enjoyed steak, baked potatoes and fresh corn on Tuesday night, and Wednesday night was filled with delicious roasted potatoes, grilled vegetables and chicken breasts smothered in my favourite BBQ sauce.

During the day we spent our time doing our own things. Evan, not having had a holiday in 18 months, was only interested in relaxing, reading his book and enjoying a cold pop while sprawled out on the ground or nestled into the seat of my ATV. In the exact opposite manner, I was solely interested in adventure. My partner in crime, Sambuca (my dog, not the alcohol), traipsed around the forest following game trails and exploring the water's edge around this massive little lake (oxymoron, I know, but it is a very fitting description).

For the first time in the 15+ years I have been camping here, I finally got to go out in a canoe and explore the lake. With four big islands on the lake, there was so much to discover. Plus there is wildlife galore in this remote area! Within the first two hours there, we spotted a doe and her fawn swimming across the far end of the lake. Sambuca and I also thoroughly enjoyed the fishing, even though I never caught anything big enough to eat.

The canoe ride was a great way to see parts of the lake I had never had the chance to see before!
Sambuca loves fishing even more than I do!

Although we had to deal with rainstorms throughout the trip, we stayed reasonably dry, ate some amazing food, took in beautiful scenery, and both got exactly what we wanted. Camping is about getting away, connecting to the wilderness around us, and getting some much-needed relaxation, whether that be hiking and exploring, or napping and reading. Either way, nothing beats camping if you ask me, and I know Evan enjoyed the trip… and his book!

About Shelby Mahon

Growing up snowmobiling in Northern Ontario has been a defining aspect of Shelby's life. She is now the owner of Backcountry Motorsports Media and travels across North America photographing and documenting motorsports events and tourism destinations. Check out her Facebook, Instagram and website for more info.

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