A winter ride for a great cause

A fantastic winter ATV trail, great people, and a worthy cause make for an unforgettable day.

The best part of this sport of ATVing has to be the people you meet. Recently I made the trip to Eastern Ontario for the first annual Nation Valley ATV Club Ride For Dad. Bruce, a fellow ATV rider and I headed out on Friday afternoon, just in time to beat the rush hour traffic as we crossed the top of Toronto. We spent the trip exchanging great stories of ATVing, ATV clubs, family, and work.

Half way through our trip we detoured from the highway into Trenton to Tomasso’s, an Italian restaurant perched on the bank of the Trent  Severn Waterway. Our meals were over-the-top fantastic, and we enjoyed the break from the highway. Following dinner we carried on to the McIntosh Inn in Morrisburg, a quaint community on the shore of the St. Lawrence, our home for the weekend.

With the Inn being minutes from the trail, we arrived bright and early for the event, but we were certainly not the first; the parking area, situated in the fairgrounds in South Mountain, was already filling up with trucks and trailers.  By the time we were registered, there were more than 250 ATVs waiting to hit the trails. Before we left, the organizers had a few things to say, and some guest speakers to address us.

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Paul Mayotte speaks to the crowd about surviving prostate cancer and getting checked.

Paul Mayotte spoke from the heart about his brush with prostate cancer, and subsequent recovery. He hoped that events such as these would raise awareness, and more importantly, get men talking about their prostate, and being sure to get themselves a Prostate-Specific Antegen (PSA) test.

Byron Smith, National Ride Captain for the Ride For Dad also addressed the crowd. Byron has been involved since the foundation’s inception 13 years ago, starting with Motorcycles and now involving snowmobiles, watercraft and of course ATVs in more than 30 cities across Canada.

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Brad Marsh, former NHL player for the Ottawa Senators, joined the ride to support the cause.

I had with me two ATVs: my Polaris Sportsman 550 XP provided by the folks at Central Ontario Powersports in Barrie, and a 700 Arctic Cat provided by Bayou Park Marine in Cumberland Beach. What made the Arctic Cat truly unique was the SnoCobra skis on the front. Designed and built in Wisconsin, these skis may just be the future of winter ATV riding, allowing the front of the ATV to stay on top of the snow seemingly no matter how deep it gets. Hearing that James, a rider who travelled all the way from Niagara Falls, had a breakdown before getting his ATV off the trailer, my decision of what to ride was made: I had a test rider for the SnoCobras!

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One of many test rides on the SnoCobras in the deep snow before we embarked.

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The Quad Niagara gang, a tight-knit bunch of dedicated riders.

James did not come alone; in fact, 22 riders made the cross-province trek from the Quad Niagara ATV Club, bringing with them over $5,000 in pledges. Other riders came from Chatham, Barrie, and all across the Ottawa Valley.

As the riders began to hit the trails, the anticipation rose as we travelled down some roadways first, then our first snow trail experience. Club volunteers had been out every day for the past week, and through the night as the weekend approached, grooming the deep snow-covered trails. The hard-packed trails were a blast to ride on, and the previous night’s snowfall had created some nice little drifts to break through. The pace was fairly fast, averaging 40 km/h, making the snow drifts come right over the front rack at times, and making me grateful for my warm Ckoko snowmobile clothing. The ride had everything you want from an ATV trail, nice straight sections to open it up, and twisty turny parts in dense forest where you felt like you were on a slalom course.

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Groomed snow trails are perfect for ATVing.

I caught up with Brad Marsh, a former NHL player for 15 years on both the Toronto Maple Leafs and later the Ottawa Senators, now president of the Ottawa Senators Alumni Association, at the trail side lunch stop mid-way through the ride.  Brad and his son Erik were having a great time; having never ridden an ATV before, they were quite challenged by the winter trails. Loving the snow banks and sharp turns, Brad was certainly glad he attended the event and was happy to have supported the cause.

Following our barbeque lunch stop our group headed out for the afternoon’s ride back on what our guides told us would be “more challenging” trails than the morning. We were not disappointed; some sections were tight in the trees, while others had us driving through water and ice. At one point, my front wheel wandered just a little too far off the groomed trail, and in an instant I was stuck. I jumped off and sank almost to my waist in the snow, but with a few pushes I was back on track.  Both in morning and in the afternoon, the club had warming stations set up with bonfires lit to warm us all up, providing a great chance to get to know some more ATVers.

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Warming up by the fire, and meeting new people, what a great crowd.

The trail was just over 100 km long (map), and most of it was in the bush, making for a whole day's ATV experience. After many hours of riding, and seeing some very beautiful country we returned to the fairgrounds. All those hills, holes, and drifts and my ATV was still clean, definitely a benefit of winter riding.  It took a few hours for all the riders to return, but a superb hot roast beef dinner was awaiting them.

James returned with the SnoCobras and regaled us all with stories of these awesome ATV skis. “They were a bit of a challenge on the open road sections just like a snowmobile, but I just couldn’t believe how they handled the trails and the snow.” James went on to describe how easily they followed the trail, and how much fun the machine was to drive.

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Brentley Summers announcing prizes; we all felt like winners.

During the concluding ceremonies door prizes were announced, and prior to the top pledge earners, Brentley Summers, a Ride For Dad volunteer and past president of the ATV Club asked the audience if anyone had broken down on the trail. One poor soul raised his hand, “I blew my belt not ten minutes out.” he was the first to receive one of the many substantial prizes. By the end of the evening, very few of the 250 some riders were empty handed, the prizes just kept coming.

The event had officially raised $44.451.50, all going to raise awareness and research prostate cancer. I felt proud to have participated, and thought the entire event was extremely well run. 

For more photos and to comment, please visit my Facebook Page.

About Mark Hamerton

Ontario facinates me; the farther I go in the bush, the more I feel at home. I love showing people new riding areas, and the countless stunning locations you can get to on an ATV.

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