When Was the Last Time You Did Something for the First Time?
It was somewhat accidental, I suppose, that I ended up in Northern Ontario on a men's ATV Retreat weekend with Mukwa Adventures. I generally avoid long trips, especially in the winter when the roads are snow covered and the sun dips down behind the trees far too early. But here I was, heading northwest on Highway 17, a six-hour drive ahead of me, with Spanish, Ontario as my destination for a weekend of quad riding.
Everything started a few weeks prior, while volunteering at the booth of the Renfrew County ATV Club at the Toronto International ATV, Snowmobile & Powersports Show. As luck would have it, our booth neighbors were Arthur (Art) and Amanda Trudeau, the owners and operators of Mukwa Adventures. Being that we were at an ATV convention, we naturally had many things in common and a friendship quickly began to form. After the convention, and a bit of back and forth chatting on Facebook, I was invited to attend their ATV Men's Retreat at the Ritchie Falls Resort for a weekend of ATVing, barbecued meals, wood-fired sauna, and hanging out with the boys. Sounded like a good time to me! I packed my camera gear and headed north for the weekend getaway!
Arriving in Northeastern Ontario
I arrived at Ritchie Falls on the Friday evening and was greeted by Art and Amanda. They showed me to my newly constructed cabin where I'd be spending the next few nights with some of the other guests on the retreat. The cabins were very cozy on the inside and had a nice living room area with comfortable sofas—great for taking naps and relaxing!
Supper was cooking on the BBQ while the other guests continued to arrive. Steak, green beans, and roasted mini potatoes were on the menu; a great hearty meal after a long day on the road. Feeling sleepy after my meal, I made my way back to the cabin, found my bed, and called it a day.
Mukwa Adventures isn't your typical ATV rental and guided tour business. First of all, the ATVs come to you! (Anyone else see a market for ride-hailing for ATVs?!) Working with the local lodges and access to thousands of kilometers of trails, Mukwa Adventures can build a completely custom experience suited specifically to the adventure you're chasing after. ATVing, fishing, ice fishing, camping, bonfires, BBQing ... you name it and they can make it happen!
Ready to Ride
Saturday morning got off to a slow start, Saturday being the day of our big ATV run through the snow-covered trails of Northern Ontario. All the guests were nice and relaxed from a good night’s sleep and had made their way back to the main lodge. Art and Amanda were busy cooking up a big breakfast. I'm not sure where I found the room after the supper I ate the night before, but I managed to pack down the pancakes, sausage, and hash browns somewhere into my hollow leg. And the coffee was strong enough to wake up the dead!
Before anyone was allowed to drive the machines, Art performed operation and safety training for the group, ensuring everyone would have fun but also remain safe out on the trails.
Having worked previously as a guide and outfitter, safety is something near and dear to Art. After we had become acquainted with the machines and put on our helmets, we fired up our rides and hit the trails!
A Change of Scenery
Growing up in Eastern Ontario in the Pembroke region, I quickly noticed that the terrain in Northern Ontario is much different. Most of the trees are evergreens, and very short compared to the ones back home. I'm not sure if this is because of the shortened growing season or if the trees in the area had been recently logged and I was observing the new growth.
In the areas that were not covered with snow, I noticed that the ground was covered in a thick layer of moss. But most interesting was the stream that meandered along the side of the road. The base of the stream was made up of large stones and boulders—not sand, not gravel, but big round stones! I'd never seen anything like that back in my neck of the woods.
We stopped for our first break to grab a quick snack and drink about 30 minutes into the run. It was a cloudy day, and as hard as the sun tried, it just couldn't break through. The temperature was surprisingly warm, though! I was expecting water to freeze before it hit the ground, but nope, it was pleasantly hovering around the zero mark.
Mukwa has six tracked machines, two of which they brought to the retreat. I had always wanted to try a quad with tracks, so I jumped at the opportunity! I realized that the tracks would be a bit slower and more work for the arms, but thankfully the CAM-AM quads had a track mode that added extra power steering assistance so that your arms wouldn't fatigue. The traction was unlike anything I had ever experienced; the terrain was mine to command! One of the guys liked the tracks so much that he went out and purchased a set of his own after the retreat, proudly displaying them on his Facebook page.
As we pushed further and further into the bush and the daylight started to fade, we pulled over beside a frozen lake to warm up with a fire and cook some supper!
Amanda and Art pulled out their portable cooking stove and started to grill some premium hot dogs and chili sauce. Hot chili dogs around the campfire with the daylight quickly fading—how perfect is that?
By the time we finished our meal and packed up the gear, day had turned into night. The temperature was dropping quickly now. With about 45 minutes of riding ahead of us, we pushed our machines into the night with thoughts of a nice hot sauna waiting for us at our destination. The bush trail ended and we travelled down a logging road where the forest had recently been heavily logged. I was near the back of the pack and marvelled at the sight of a trail of golden white headlights and red taillights snaking down the road, illuminating a small portion of the night. It was a cold ride home, and I was elated to see the lights of Ritchie Falls Resort around the last bend.
Mukwa Adventures’ slogan is: "When was the last time you did something for the first time?" I can say I've been on ATV runs before and I've stayed in cabins before, but I can say with certainty that I've never been on a guided ATV tour through the snow with a group of other guys! I cannot say enough great things about Mukwa Adventures and Art and Amanda—this couple knows how to help you take a load off your mind and spoil you with hospitality. I may have stumbled upon Mukwa Adventures accidently—but I'm ever so glad that I did.