One of our first runs of the season proved challenging yet exciting in the heart of the Haliburton Trail System near Gravenhurst, ON.
Words by Quinton Neufeldt
The ‘Great White North’ was a ‘Bob and Doug’ comedy-sketch in 1980s and they had typical Canadian slang and jokes from that era, including the idea that most of Canada is covered with ice and snow. Since the spring and summer seasons are shorter in Ontario, we took advantage of the good weather in June to get out on the trails.
Five of us met in Gravenhurst north of Toronto, ON, and then drove east on Hwy 118 before turning north on Black River Road into the Haliburton Trail system. This area of Crown land has numerous lakes and scenic campsites. Challenging trails and access roads are marked by the different user groups in the area, including ATVs and snowmobiles.
So far, we hadn’t felt the attack of mosquitoes or black flies, and conditions looked drier than the last time we were here so that was a welcome development! Our group consisted of Ian in his well-set up FJ Cruiser, Jeremy running his Jeep LJ (with the top-off of course), Brian in his new-to-him 98’ TJ with new 35” tires, Simon’s Jeep WJ with Superduty axles and myself in a Jeep CJ7.
It had been almost a year since we were last in the area and I was interested to checkout conditions on some of the trails and mark some entrances on my GPS. We ended up in a spot with a shallow river crossing, which had a hard bottom and everyone drove across without any issues.
So far, everything was going great and the group was feeling good. In past trips, good feelings were often accompanied by an onset of problems. So, sure enough, what looked like our next harmless shallow- water crossing turned into a situation with two water-soaked air filters!
I had driven through and was surprised at the depth of the centre but I was able to keep going without any mishaps, although I heard the sound of the fan hitting the water. Once out the other side, Jeremy was next. He carried some momentum into the bog and stalled right in the middle at the deepest part! As water slowly started to seep into the vehicle he jumped out on to the hood. Stuck this deep in water, it was decided the air filter was soaked and the engine may have taken on water. “Uh oh!”
Earlier in the day, Jeremy was telling us that his winch was off as his bumper getting some work done – another “uh oh.” Not to worry, Ian drove around and winched Jeremy to dry ground, and then got out the tools and proceeded to pull the spark plugs and air filter before turning the engine over to clear any moisture. Brian decided to go around on the ATV bypass to avoid any other problems and Simon had a bit more lift and taller tires so he drove through at a steady speed. However, after getting through, he noticed his vehicle running rough. So, he turned the engine off and his air filter was soaked as well.
Since we needed to take time to dry the filters, we decided to stop for a lunch break. Simon had reconfigured his cargo area with a custom drawer setup and pulled out his camp stove to cook some lunch – and also dry out his air filter.
Once all were running again and feeling good from lunch we were ready for the next challenge, which was a steep rocky hill with numerous ruts and slick, slimy soil, making it a challenge to even walk up without slipping. So, all of us needed to winch or get winched in different places depending on the wheelbase or line choice.
Following all the winching, the narrow widths of Jeremy’s Jeep LJ and my CJ allowed us to pass between a tree and rock with some momentum. However, Ian wasn’t so lucky. First, he almost hit the tree before getting high-centered on the rock. Then, after backing down, he decided to try the other side. However, the bog at the bottom proved to be a difficult place to back into and ended up winching back to get straightened out, before winching up the hill to the other side.
Brian thought his TJ would fit, where Jeremy and I had gone and took a run at it. A loud crack was heard as his forward momentum ceased when his right front tire contacted the rock. He turned the vehicle off and got out to inspect the damage. The result was a broken control arm on the lower mount and a damaged transfer case. Luckily, the vehicle still had rear wheel drive. We used his winch to pull the axle up and toward the front bumper and then Simon, who had driven around, winched him up the hill before putting a strap on the TJ to assist him getting through the rest of the trail.
The fun wasn’t over yet. Our progress was now much slower with the disabled TJ plus Simon’s track bar had broken off the mount on the front axle, so his steering was now a much more difficult affair. At one hilly rock strewn slope, Simon bumped a large rock loose, which became jammed under the skid plate of Brian’s TJ. Using a high-lift jack and a shovel, he was able to free the rock from its location.
With the most difficult part of the trail behind us, we stopped in a clearing to assess the damage and decided that with the sway bars hooked back up and the winch on the front TJ axle to keep the control arm in place, we could keep driving. With relief, we all made it out under our own power and back home safe and sound.
See you next time!