Story & photos by Quinton Neufedlt
Nine vehicles and 18 off-road enthusiasts met at Canadian Tire in Gravenhurst, Ont., October 21, to follow the Haliburton ATV Association’s (HATVA) marked trails around Black Lake and head for Black Lake bypass, near Dorset along Hwy 35. Among the series of off-road vehicles, Jeep was well represented with five JK’s of various years, trim levels and mods, plus a few other models to round out the group. While there was a plan in place, things didn’t go quite as well as we hoped!
Our day started out driving to the Pine Springs Road area, located north of Hwy 118 and east of Hwy 11. We stopped to air down our tires and repack our gear at this clearing. As it was also moose hunting season, we spoke to a few different groups in the area as well.
The first leg of trail was a graded dirt road. Recent logging operations had cleared and filled at least five kilometres of trails to such an extent that we lost the trail markers! However, since the route seemed to be going in the direction we were headed, we carried on at a good rate of speed. That was until we got to some loose fill over a culvert and many of us needed a tug to get through.
The recent cut and fill also meant that some sections were a bit spongy! We passed a series of side cut trails, but continued on. It was around this time that we started to lose the ATV trail markers and ended up on a trail with only snowmobile markings. Once we got to this swampy area with multiple streams flowing through, we began to realize we were on the Black Lake North Trail, and not the Black Lake bypass we hoped for!
Tire size and treads were part of the solution of handling this terrain, but winches were the order of the day for any serious deficiencies. Nonetheless, the combination of saturated soil, rocks and tree roots made for slow progress through this section. There were multiple ways through, which were slightly less (or more) challenging, but it all depended on vehicle width and wheelbase. A few were able to trudge through without a tug or winch, so they felt pretty good about that! What’s more, the fall conditions were mild, and the wet leaves added to the slick conditions.
One member of our group, Dave, gave the tough conditions a good run with his air lockers engaged, but he got caught in a rut, which took his vehicle right around to face the opposite direction. Although he was able to reverse and get back on track, he gave us some good entertainment!
After this, we stopped for a well-deserved break as everyone had brought their own lunch, drinks and snacks. Another member, Colin, was left in his socks after his shoes got stuck in the thick mud – but at least the temp was mild and the sun was out. At this time, some members of the group recalled memories from having taken this trail before and spoke about the various predicaments and jams, which included a ’07 GMC1500 Z71 that broke a front CV and blew a tire.
We also soon realized that this trail dead ends at Black Lake, which meant we had to go back the way we came! While we were undeterred – as we were enjoying our day – we decided to carry on and follow the trail after all.
A side trail down a hill looked like it might lead around the west end of the lake. So, three of us ventured down the steep rocky hill, while wiser members of our group further back suggested over the CB that not everyone should proceed unless it was clear and lead somewhere! Sure enough, the trail didn’t lead anywhere (for us anyway). Consequently, we needed to winch back up the hill. As Mo was stationed at the top of the first corner and Ken was at the top of the next corner, we managed to get the vehicles back up the slick, muddy, and rocky hill in a fairly short time.
Once back at the top, Dave and Brenda took the lead to double back on our route since it seemed that was the only way out. Mo and I decided to go to the end and get a few pictures of Black Lake before turning around to rejoin the others.
Nonetheless, it was a nice calm day on Black Lake and all of us made it out safe.
See you next time!