Day Trip in Central Ontario Canada
Words by Quinton Neufeldt
The recent disruption of our normal socializing has given us some extra time – allowing us to finally get around to repairs and maintenance on our vehicles! It was starting to feel like I had done all I could and needed to go for a drive. My plan to go to an off-road park for the April long weekend was canceled and at the time of writing, groups of greater than 5 people were not allowed. In order to help me plan an interesting day trip, I enjoy reading about the history and experiences of people who have lived in areas that we plan to visit. I had read a couple books and some online articles about central Ontario pioneers and entrepreneurs.
I sent my fellow wheeler Simon a message and wondered if he’d be up for a drive to a nearby powerline on Saturday. He replied in his typically articulate fashion with the thumb’s up emoji. As the week progressed the forecast looked good; a cool daytime high of five degrees Celsius with a mix of sun and cloud. We met in our local coffee shop parking lot and went east on Highway 7 from Peterborough, then north at Highway 62 to the gravel service road that follows the power lines.
This part of Central Ontario is a vast area of mixed forest, swamp, rock and farmland. Apparently, the promise of gold can do a lot to motivate people, and the rugged hills north of Belleville Ontario drew them in back when the region was part of Upper Canada. In 1866 someone working on a farm said he found gold and almost overnight the town of Eldorado was formed. It seemed everyone wanted to get in on the action. Claims sprang up all over and other towns were formed such as Bannockburn, Cooper, and others. Railways were constructed and places like Marmora and Madoc became important hubs. Unfortunately, once ore made it to Cleveland for analysis it was deemed a bust and I’m guessing everyone went back to their normal lives.
Once out at the powerline we let some air out of the tires and locked the front hubs. Simon had recently finished his axle swap project (at 7pm Friday evening) on the Jeep WJ Grand Cherokee. He had been looking for a better option after several sets of stock axles had broken or given up under hard wheeling use.
He had been searching Facebook marketplace and Kijiji and had a few options, but then came across someone parting out a Ford Super Duty pickup. After scoring a good deal on the front and rear axles he got to work fabricating. Modifications to the suspension and driveline were needed to make everything work. Since it is also a daily driver, getting the ABS and computer to function were important. Today’s run would be a chance to test it out!
The trees have been removed along the powerline exposing the dry granite terrain. We were rewarded with the opportunity to drive up and over rocks and ledges as we tested articulation and clearance.
We spent time trying different lines and angles on some of the rocks to see what worked and what didn’t. A rollover is often a risk, so we always look to go straight down or up, along with careful spotting, using low range – low gear, and wearing a seatbelt. With a fiberglass top on the CJ7 a roll cage is also a must for this type of wheeling. We took it easy and didn’t try anything too challenging or extreme.
The Super Duty axle conversion on the WJ was working great and only front bump stops needed adjusting. Best of all, nothing broke or was hit hard, aside from some minor fender rubbing. Simon hadn’t found time to get new tires, so he put on some used Grabber 35” and they worked well on the rocks but lack of tread would prove challenging later in the day.
We took a lunch break and used a small camp stove to cook some steak and beans. We certainly appreciated a good hot lunch in the cool, windy conditions.
After lunch, while travelling along the service road, I went around a corner after passing through some standing water and let several motocross bikes and ATV’s pass, then stopped to wait for Simon to appear.
After a few minutes I doubled back around the corner to see Simon stuck off to the side. He thought he could pull over to let the others pass but sunk in the marsh at the edge. A quick tug with a tow strap and we were on our way!
After this mishap we found a few other rocky hills to climb and enjoyed the views and fresh air before deciding to hit the highway and head home around 3:30. Safe social distancing and a great day of wheeling.
See you next time!