Riding the Backwoods of Canadian History

A father-daughter ATV adventure turns into a fascinating history lesson.

Have you ever had one of those rough weeks that you wish never happened? Or you wish you could at least forget about even for a few hours? Well I unfortunately had one of those weeks, and come Friday I was ready for a distraction. After a rougher than normal week, most people would recommend some well deserved R&R (rest and relaxation). Being a bit of an adrenaline junkie, I require a different form of R&R: riding and racing. With no snow to be found I was out of luck for the racing aspect, but I sure had a great opportunity to soothe my soul on some ATV trails instead. 

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I met up with my dad at the Whitfield, where we unloaded and prepared for the day's adventures.  

The Park to Park First Annual Boiler ATV Rally was the perfect opportunity to “kill two birds with one stone” (not literally, of course; my aim is seriously not that good). The ATV Rally was a great chance for me to unwind, clear my mind and spend time with my dad in honour of Father’s Day. This was also a great chance to help bring attention and help raise funds for the Prostate Extreme Team (PET). PET is a non-profit organization run entirely by volunteers who are dedicated to raising funds and awareness for prostate cancer. 

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We met up with Jon and Jeff from
Supertrax Magazine and my friend Claude and his adorable daughter Gabrielle. 

The Boiler Rally started out at the Whitfield restaurant just south of Parry Sound, ON. From there we headed south to the trailhead of the beautifully picturesque Seguin Trail. Following the historic route of the Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway, the Seguin Trail weaves through majestic forests, across wildlife-filled swamps, and over some of the best examples of the Canadian Shield south of Sudbury. The railway was built by the lumber baron J.R. Booth from 1891 to 1895, with operations beginning the following year. Booth transported lumber from his timberlines and sawmills in the Ottawa Valley to the now ghost town of Depot Harbour on Parry Island overlooking Georgian Bay.

In 1933 the Cache Two-Rivers bridge failed, and due to the extreme costs of repair the bridge was never fixed. The rail section west of Cache Two-Rivers fell into disuse and was dismantled in 1952, creating the Seguin Trail. Now the 80-km stretch from the Georgian Bay Country Visitor Centre to Sprucedale is used as a year-round multipurpose trail for snowmobiling, ATVing, horseback riding, dog sledding and hiking. 

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My Dad had a blast showing the Side-by-Sides that ATVs can go through the deep stuff too! 

The trails railway history is evident in almost every bend of the trail system. Bridges, blasted paths through Canadian Shield, and the occasional rail-tie can be found along the trail, and the remains of an impressive trestle bridge with fifty foot concrete pillars can be seen at one of the several Seguin River crossings. Our very knowledgeable tour guide Peter Searle took us down a difficult tight trail that you wouldn’t even notice from the main trail. I kept expecting the side-by-sides to get pinned between trees, but as we all came to a stop and got out we saw the name-sake of the Rally. 

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The Boiler. 

Here, literally in the middle of Nowhere, Ontario, were the remains of a steam boiler from a stationery donkey engine that was used as a small mill power source decades earlier. With a passion for history, I was truly mesmerized by the boiler and its history. With a nice touch of local history added to the Rally, we continued on our way to Sprucedale. 

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Side-by-Sides for miles!

With over 20 Side-by-Sides and ATVs on the trail, we were an impressive show to say the least. Having someone to guide us through the trail system and down some of the lesser-known side trails was a great way to get acquainted with the trail system. Having only ridden the Seguin during the winter months, I was quite surprised by the pure variety of trails available. Some places were buttery smooth, while others reminded me of the whoop sections of motocross tracks. The side-by-sides definitely thrived in the whoop sand sections as their suspensions ate those bumps for dinner.

CF Moto was a big sponsor of this ride, and they brought along a couple of their modified Side-by-Sides that won them the first to fourth spots in the La Tuque 12hr Endurance Race just a few weeks prior to the Rally. These souped-up race machines were certainly a sight to be seen on the trails! 

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 CF Moto was out in full force with their top race machines. 

One of the best parts about the Seguin Trail is the fact that at both ends of the trail, you can find yourself a place to unload your ATVs or Side-by-Sides, places to fuel up the machines and lots of options for food including the delicious Sprucedale Hotel in Sprucedale (obviously) and the standard Canadian sixth food group, Tim Hortons at the Georgian Bay Country Visitor Centre. To be specific, the Visitor Centre is located south of Parry Sound on Highway 400 off of exit 214. Don’t forget to pick up your Park to Park trail passes before heading out on the trails. The Park to Park team works diligently to keep the trails available for our riding pleasures so give them the monetary help they need so we can keep enjoying Mother Nature at her best! 

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With our machines muddy from the adventure, it was great to have the Seguin Fire Department wash our machines for us for their Firefighter Boot Drive. 
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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