Discovering New Trails In Ontario's Highlands

An ATV event for charity mixes chance, camaraderie... and a lot of burgers.

Most people look forward to the first Saturday in May as a time to see the flowers blooming after April's showers. But ATVers have something quite different on our minds: the annual pilgrimage to the Morning Mist Resort for the Missing Link Snowmobile Club's Annual Geocache Poker Run!

The Nation Valley ATV Club never misses this ride, and this year they dragged along some members from the ATV Club of Eastern Ontario and Ottawa Valley ATV Club. The new recruits to the ride certainly were not disappointed!

Same as last year, we headed up on Thursday night to get an extra day of riding up in the Stonecliffe area. You can never get enough trail riding! New recruits for this ride means a new group of people to initiate into the infamous Tree Top Burger at the Tree Top Restaurant along Highway 17, in Chalk River, Ontario.

The Tree Top Restaurant is like having dinner with old friends; everyone is welcomed with open arms at this truck-stop style restaurant. The large parking lot, long hours, and quick service make it a great stop along the way. Unfortunately, our new recruits were too shy to take the plunge and order the Tree-Top Burger, so one of our seasoned veterans had to show them how it was done.

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Fuelled up with some great eats, we ventured up the highway a little bit further. I pointed out the Morning Mist Resort before we pulled into my hunt camp, unloaded and settled in for the night. There was tough talk about which brand of bike was best, and who would get stuck tomorrow. I think we all dreamed of not getting stuck.

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On our trip up, we noticed we had some issues with a trailer tire, but on the highway and in the dark, there wasn’t much we could do about it. In the light of day, we determined the brake assembly and bearing had failed on us (we wondered what that burning smell was), but with a bit of ingenuity and cursing, we were able to find high ground (for cell service) and get word to others coming up the following day to bring some spare parts and grease. With peace of mind knowing we should be able to make it home on Sunday, we hit the trails to get some kilometres in. 

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We made our usual trip to Dingley Lake, to show some of the newcomers that diamond in the rough (see last year’s story), and to sign the journal to let them know that we were back again. At the conclusion of last year’s ride, we were told by people in the know that if you went to the closed Bissett Creek Graphite Mine, there was a route to be found that would take you back out by the Grant Creek Hunt Camp, which would bring us back out to the trail that would lead us to the starting point of the rally. Uncharted trails? A new route to get to the Morning Mist Resort? Challenge accepted!

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The graphite mine itself is not all that exciting to behold: all that remains are a few boarded-up buildings, some equipment that's too large to relocate, and of course, some piles of graphite. However, the chance to find a new trail that would create a new loop to enjoy was worth the trip.

With GPS in hand, and a general idea of which direction we needed to go, we set out to find the Grant Creek Hunt Camp, and our new route. After a few dead-ends, a few wrong turns, and of course, directions from some random ATVers, we eventually found the route and a new trail was imprinted to memory for future rides (and to GPS of course)! The route also led us to another crossing of the Grant Creek that previously had not been in our repertoire! 

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The trails were quite dusty on Friday, so on the way back to camp, we stopped by one of the sets of waterfalls found on the Bissett Creek to wash up and relax for a bit before heading back to camp for some burgers and campfire.

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Saturday morning, we were up and at ’em, hitting the trail to get to the Morning Mist and register for the Missing Link ATV Geocache Poker run. One missed turn meant crossing the Grant Creek again before we intended to, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing! The Missing Link Snowmobile Club were in grand form as usual, with a great selection of prizes, coffee, and breakfast treats for participants as they registered for the grand adventure.

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The Missing Link Snowmobile club hosts this ride every year to raise revenue from the ATVers who, during the summer months, reap the rewards of the trail clearing done in the winter! Hosted out of the Morning Mist Resort in Stonecliffe, Ontario, this event keeps everyone on their toes as there is no set route to take, simply seven GPS co-ordinates to locate poker chips at!  

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Lunch was provided high up on the hydro-line, where volunteers had BBQ’d hot dogs, bottled water, and chips for a donation.  Volunteers were also selling 50/50 tickets with a chance to double your luck by spinning the wheel!  

This year, we thought we were clever, as some of the GPS coordinates seemed familiar to us, and we thought we had this one in the bag. Man, were we wrong! However, that made it an even better adventure, humbling us in the process!  

The trails were well marked and beautiful, and while out navigating this ride, OFATV members from District 1 made some new friends with one of their neighbouring clubs out of the Eastern Ontario Trails Alliance – The Renfrew County ATV Club!

Back at the Morning Mist, volunteers put on a magnificent spread of potluck entrées, burgers, hot dogs, and french fries. Poker hands were tallied up, and our very own Paul Foley won Second Best Poker Hand!

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191 people attended the ride this year, the highest attendance to date! 230 burgers were cooked up for dinner, and 40 lbs of fries! If the Missing Link Snowmobile club keeps up this great work, they’ll have even more people to feed next year!

It was a great ride, good times were had by all. Looking forward to joining up with the Renfrew ATV Club again for some more rides! 

About Dave Baker

An avid outdoors enthusiast, Dave is active in hunting, fishing, trapping and ATVing. He has been involved with the Nation Valley ATV Club since its inception, and is a past president of the Ontario Federations of ATV Clubs.

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