Words and Photos by Quinton Neufeldt
Bobcaygeon, ON, is a picturesque town at the narrows between Sturgeon and Pigeon lakes in the popular Kawartha region of Central Ontario. The community, which is home to the first boat lock along the famed Trent-Severn Waterway built in the 1830’s, is pleasurable for boaters, travellers, tourists, and locals alike. It was also the closest centre to one of our latest off-road outings late last season along the Forest Mountain trails.
Our group for this wheeling trip included Brian with his new-to-him 1998 Jeep TJ, Jeremy with his two daughters in a 2006 Jeep LJ, Ian with his Toyota FJ Cruiser and I was driving my 1986 Jeep CJ7. We commonly see other Jeeps or ATV’s on our trips out and this adventure was no different as we passed a few enthusiasts entering the trail off Bass Lake Road.
The Forest Mountain trail from the Galway access road is moderately difficult. Even though the distance to the top is less than .5 km (.3 mi) and the elevation rises approximately 50 m (164 ft), a little care needs to be taken to minimize side slipping and avoid large rock ledges. In fact, Jeremy got hung up on a break, which after some rock stacking and a bit of a push, he was able to get over.
The top of Forest Mountain consists of a fairly broad area with a choice of different routes to get back down including one to descend the backside. What’s nice about these routes is the level of difficulty is yours to choose depending on your rig and skill level. Given the warm weather and dry conditions, we had a choice of either going down the first ledge with large rock faces and several steep ‘drop-offs’ or go-between some gnarly-looking boulders.
After choosing the former and airing down, I went over one of the rock faces and instantly became wedged between another rock ledge and a stump behind the back tire. Whoops…now what?
When some other wheelers outside of our group showed up, someone suggested using a snatch block off a tree to pull the rear around. Travis from the new group jumped in to help and put a strap through two holes on the back wheel and then secured it to the winch hook. A quick tug got the rear moved over so I could proceed down the hill.
After my little incident, Travis’ group decided it would be best if they went somewhere else for the morning so they departed. Ian, Jeremy, and Brian took another route around the side of where I was and slowly started working between trees and boulders.
Since Jeremy’s daughters realized that things could get interesting, they decided to take a seat on the rocks to watch the action. Just before he made it down, there was a tight squeeze between a rock and an off-camber ledge that could’ve led him right into a tree if he wasn’t careful. Luckily, he made it through without any damage.
When we all made it to the base of Forest Mountain on the east side, we looked at our options to return to the top once again and a challenging series of several ledges looked to be the only feasible way. My Jeep Cj7 had been working well so far on this trip and after my first mishap, I didn’t have any more difficulty. I used low-range, low-gear and crawled up the dry ledge without any issues and stopped on a plateau. Ian’s FJ Cruiser was working well, too. On the first ledge, he used some momentum along a careful line choice to arrive at the plateau, making it look easy.
Ian then looked at the next two ledges and suggested a route through the woods that would meander to the top. However, I decided to proceed up the next two ledges and with careful work on the throttle and clutch, I was able to make it up.
Ian headed north to where he planned to go. Once under the forest canopy, the combination of leaves and pine needles on the bare rocks caused his vehicle to slowly slide off to the side. Working forwards and backwards made things worse until he could no longer move. He then attached his winch to a tree for a side pull and Jeremy used his winch with a snatch block off another tree. By doing this, they were able to slide the FJ from between the trees so Ian could back out.
Once Ian straightened out and backed onto the plateau, he made his way up the ledge where I had gone and got hung on a large rock outcropping. No amount of finessing would work this time so Ian got the winch going once again to another tree farther up the hill and got himself up. Meanwhile, Jeremy had been trying a different line on a nearby ledge. He also got hung up and needed to use winch as well.
Brian’s Jeep had been running great up until this point. His new set of tires grabbed well and all of the damages from a previous trip were fixed. He started up the ledge that Ian had tackled and once on the incline, his TJ’s 4-litre engine started coughing and sputtering. The engine stalled on the incline and wouldn’t start. Although the fuel gauge showed ‘E,’ he insisted he had filled the tank that morning and there was no way it could be empty.
Two other nearby wheelers stopped to help and thought a fuel pump fuse may have blown or there was a faulty relay. So, after checking and switching up the relay there was no change, the Jeep still wouldn’t start. This was a bit of a problem as there were two large ledges to still get past before getting to the top.
The wheelers in the two other Jeeps offered to assist Brian. Tim’s 2007 Jeep JKU Wrangler on 37’s took a run using a strap to pull the TJ but the dead weight of the Jeep proved to be too much. Tim then attached his winch to a tree and slowly pulled themselves and Brian’s Jeep successfully to the top. A feeling of relief occurred when we were back on flat ground when Brian’s Jeep started again. What was the problem? The fuel pump was loose in the tank and when it was on an angle it wouldn’t take on fuel.
Once we were all at the top, it was an easy trip straight down the west side and back to the access road. Brian expressed his appreciation to the wheelers who helped him and learned they frequently visit the area from their home base in London, ON.
By this time, it was 3 pm and Brian thought it would be best to make his way back home to diagnose and repair his fuel pump. Tim’s group drove back to their campground while Ian, Jeremy, and I decided to take the logging trail up to Crystal Lake. This trail meanders through forests, thick bush, and swampy areas. In some places, the water was quite high but nothing proved too challenging and we enjoyed the rest of the day on the trails.
See you next time!