Canadian Shield, Ontario, Canada
by Kris Schattmann
Photos by Dean Harkema and Gerald Wishart
Killer Lake is located approximately 3 hours northeast of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is in the heart of an area known as the Canadian Shield, well marked by it’s abundance of huge granite rock structures, marshes, and dark brown spruce bogs. The area is a covered in heavy tree growth with variations of Pine, Spruce, and deciduous forests. These conditions make it an ideal place for logging, camping, fishing, hunting, and of course, off-road recreational use.
Our small group of trucks were basically the core of a club that we are planning to form, to be known as The North Hastings 4 Wheel Drive Club. There were 6 of us, including 2 Suzuki Samurais, 2 Jeep CJ’s, and 2 Jeep YJ’s. There was a good mix of equipment with tires ranging from 29″ to 35″, some of us had lockers, some of us had winches, and all of us were ready to get muddy!
The vast majority of trails in this area are either old logging roads or trails that follow abandoned railroad beds. Most of these trails have been in existence for decades, and over the years they have become quite gnarly, with deep bottomless mud, sharp rocks, and a few tire-puncturing sticks thrown in for good measure. Combined with 6″ of fresh wet snow, our trip scheduled for late November would prove to be a nasty one to say the least!
My good wheeling buddy Dean in his 79′ CJ7, met me in Madoc with a couple of new friends, Peter and Gerry, both from the London Area Jeep Owners Club in their 89′ Jeep YJ’s respectively. We all said our greetings, fueled up, put our CB’s on Channel 4, and headed north to run the infamous Killer Lake Trail! The CB chatter was frequent as we all expressed our excitement.
Just before we reached the trailhead, we pulled over to air down our tires and I noticed that the traction was minimal in the fresh snow as my 35″ BFG’s skittered sideways trying to find traction. The only guy who had good traction was Gerry, who was running BFG All Terrains, and he was making the rest of us look silly with our big, open lugged tires. Another ½ hour worth of driving on the Forest Access road and we hooked up with Brian and Al in their “Sammy’s” as we have come to call them. From there we headed onto the trail, with my newly built CJ5 and I leading the way.
The first part of the trail was quite easy, and we kept ourselves busy chatting and avoiding the numerous trees that were trying to rip our mirrors off. At least until the first mudhole. It appeared to be frozen over, so I started to inch my way across it when I heard the ice crack and I watched my front tire disappear into 12″ of mud and ice. Fortunately, my tires were big enough to find traction in the sloppy bottom and I powered my way through the ice and mud. Looking back at the other vehicles in my group, it looked like Mother Nature’s version of a Chocolate Sundae, with our 4 wheel drives as the main entree! All the ice was washing up on the sides of the hole, and the mud almost froze instantly in the cold, crisp air. Hence the name “Icebreaker Run” stuck in my head, and it would be a forewarning for the rest of the trip.
About 2/3 into the trail we came upon a swamp crossing known as Borland’s hole. I started easing my way into the hole and busting through the 4″ crust when the water depth became evident at the middle of the hole. The water was up to the bottom of my doors! My exhaust was under water when the Jeep came to a halt. I was stuck! The ice had lodged it’s way under my Jeep and combined with the fat tires, my CJ began to float! I tried powering in forward and reverse, but to no avail. The Jeep would just wallow back and forth in the slush and I began to realize that I may get my feet wet!
I yelled for a tow strap and discovered that I had become the center of attention for the folks behind me. It became evident that they were gonna let me sit and I was going to have no part of it! I climbed back into my Jeep and started rocking it back and forth. After a few tries I was able to break free from the ice, and I let that 350 engine howl as I busted and crunched my way out of the swamp’s icy grip. Finally! I made it out – all I had to do now was sit back and watch the fun as the rest of the group “swam” through the slushy soup. Everybody was trying to take it easy to avoid body damage until Gerry and his YJ dented in his front fender on a huge chunk of ice. Small fish were flopping around on the ice as the vehicles plowed through. We returned the little creatures to their home as fast as we could get a hold of them.
On our way from there to Killer were several holes and hills that had to be traversed. It was tough going but everybody managed well until we arrived at Killer Lake. We visited the hunting camp for about ½ an hour and grabbed a bite to eat. We were able to witness a beautiful sunset as we started to make our way out of the camp.
As we were heading out, I heard a faint “thump” and I looked in shock as Al’s Sammy, affectionately named “Fluffy” was laying on it’s side! We rushed over to Al and discovered him in good condition with only a bruised ego. Apparently Al had backed over a hidden stump and it was enough to put ol’ Fluffy over. With some careful planning and the aid of Brian’s winch, we had Fluffy righted and on her way with only minor dents and scratches.
We made our way back through the trail, getting stuck in several spots and trying to hurry as the darkness of night approached. At one point I slid my Jeep off the trail and got hopelessly stuck in the mud hidden beneath the snow. We finally made our way to camp, and parked for the night.
The next morning we all arose to even more snow! It was a beautiful scene as it covered everything in sight. Unfortunately Brian and Al had to depart the night before, so there we just the 4 Jeeps to run trails on the way home. All of our vehicles made horrendous crunching noises as the axles broke free from the icy grasp of the ice in the brake drums. I elected to run in at the back of the pack and let Dean break some ice.
We decided to run another small trail called the Whitefish Lake trail. It was shorter than Killer, but much rougher. Dean’s CJ looked like a tank, clawing his way through the snow with his 35″ Super Swampers. Peter made short work of the trail in his YJ, equipped with Dunlop Mud tires and ARB’s front and rear. The trail came to an abrupt end and Dean got stuck in the slippery snow on an off-camber slope. Normally it would be easy to make the turn, but with the snow it was extremely slippery. He got out the winch cable and was out of there in no time.
We made it back to the Forest Access road and decided to play a little before we started home. Pete amazed me with his Jeep as he slithered up numerous hills and embankments. We all came to an abandoned air strip and played around there for awhile as well.
Finally we started heading out when we came to a small sand pit. There was one small knoll that looked enticing. With approval from the rest of the group, I slipped my tranny into super low and crawled up over the hill. It appeared that I would make it when I heard a screeching noise from my engine compartment! Everybody yelled at me to shut my engine down and I stopped to see what the problem was. I popped the hood and unhappily discovered that severe frame flex had allowed my fan to eat a nice sized hole into my radiator. With a 2 hour trip ahead of us, it would be a long, cold, tow home. Everybody took their turns towing until we got near my home, where we all pulled over and bid our farewells.
All said and done, it was a fun trip. Everybody enjoyed themselves and it gave us an opportunity to create some new friendships and wheel in new terrain. With winter upon us and the wheeling season basically over for the year, it will give us an opportunity to form our club, regroup, repair and prepare for next season’s return to Killer Lake.