The Last, Great ATV Ride of The Season

West Nipissing Rides VMUTS in Mattawa

It's not unusual for a club to have a dress code. So when the email insisted I bring waterproof boots, warm clothing, rain gear and a helmet I thought nothing of it. When morning coffee conversation turned to chest waders, I became concerned. When my hosts began to don said chest waders, I began to second-guess my choice of boots. Next came bags of food stuffed into the top case of the ATV, and lastly, a chainsaw. Okay, now I’m intrigued.

I've driven 388km (240 miles) northeast from Toronto to Mattawa in Northeastern Ontario and set up camp at the Voyageur Inn. Our ride to the trailhead after breakfast takes about 15 minutes. While the truck radio plays today’s latest hits my brain choses it’s own soundtrack. “The weather outside is frightful, inside it’s so delightful…”.

No, its not Christmas, it’s mid October and its been raining for a couple of days. This morning I saw cars with snow on their roofs and today's forecast is two celsius and drizzle. So my cranial sound track selection is applicable. Crappy weather aside, I love this country; the north, the woods, the gravel road stretching to the horizon and the quiet solitude. The trees are done but fall is no less beautiful. The fallen leaves, the grass and reeds lining the roadside ponds, are glowing a golden bronze, saturated to the max under the overcast sky. I just want to stop and stare.

This an ATV club ride, the West Nipissing ATV Club to be specific. Typically a strong turnout would be expected but given the weather, numbers are questionable. I am a fan of good company but not necessarily of big groups, so things are shaping up nicely. By the nine AM start time six of us were ready to roll. I drop in line behind our leader, and this cold dreary day turns to instant fun on these dirt roads and sandy trails.

In more than a few sections, I can’t see the end of the trail, in fact the whole forest floor disappears under water. I'm concerned but I follow. When the water starts creeping up to seat height I begin to second-guess my decision, but I continue to follow. Steady on the gas, don't touch the brakes, and done.

However a couple of machines back they're not so lucky. Time to get the rope.

There's something special about a club outing, be it ATV, bike or hike, it’s so nice to be in the company of like-minded people. There is no rush, no pressure to keep up. A secure comfort of knowing that someone has your back. We extract the ailing machine, a few minutes of tender loving care and we’re back on the trail enjoying what ATV riders enjoy most; mud, rocks and sand.

So where is this ATV paradise you ask? The VMUTS Trails System which stands for Voyageur Multi-Use Trail System is located in Mattawa in Northeastern Ontario, at the fork of the Ottawa and Mattawa rivers. The trail head is a mere three kilometres from town. In fact if you choose to stay in Mattawa, you can ride your ATV right from your hotel. The historic Le Voyageur Inn where I stayed was right in the of centre of town. It had everything I needed, a bar, good food and a super comfy bed. And there's a great family dinner just down the road at Myrt's if you want to mix it up - all highly recommended.

The trail network has been in development for over the past ten years now boasting a staggering 300 km of marked and mapped trails. All of it maintained and operated by just a handful of people and fully funded by the sale of day and season permits which are available online and at select establishments in the area. The multi-use in the name, its no joke. ATV, dirt bikes, 4x4s, mountain bikers and horseback riders, all share the trail with no issues. An outstanding achievement courtesy of some amazing and dedicated people.

Whether you want to rev your engine, cast a line or go for a hike, the Mattawa trails let you access thousands of miles of land that would otherwise never see a human footprint. I've already started planning numerous return trips; snowmobile this winter, ADV motorcycle next summer and kayak fishing with the family in fall. And the next time the West Nipissing ATV club hits the VMUTS trails, I'll be there - but next time I'm bringing my chest waders!

About Martin Lortz

Martin Lortz is a freelance photographer/writer specializing in the outdoor lifestyle. Whether he is covering adventure motorcycling, kayak fishing or family oriented outdoor pursuits, his passion for capturing the beauty of nature and the people that partake in it, is evident in his work. His photos and articles have appeared in magazines such as Ski Canada, Explore, Bike, Mountain Life, Couloir, Kayak Angler and Family Camping, as well as in calendars, catalogs and brochures.

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