Trail Running in Central Ontario

A day in the dirt delivered some unexpected off-road thrills in the heart of Bobcaygeon trail country.

by Quinton Neufedlt  October 31, 2020

Words by Quinton Neufeldt

Spring and summer had been passing by fast. When an opportunity came up to go wheeling in the heart of the Bobcaygeon wilderness, we jumped at the chance before the warmer weather soon became a distant memory. Like many of our trips in East Central Ontario, we were psyched, prepared, and ready to the hit the dirt.

We all met at Flynn’s General Store and Gas Bar, just north east of Bobcaygeon on a Saturday morning in July. While we fueled and stocked up on a few basic essentials, one of our crew, Simon, was telling us he had just installed a used, new-to-him transfer case in his Jeep WJ Grand Cherokee and was desperate to give it a go.

Leaving Flynn’s, we drove north on County Road 507, before turning west onto the access road. We briefly saw a few ATVs and some side-by-side UTVs as the area is regularly used by many outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy camping, fishing, seasonal hunting and other activities.

Making last minute preparations at Flynn’s General Store and Gas Bar.

Mid-summer in this area of Ontario is a good time to try some of the tough trails with the long daylight hours and warm temperatures. It also means less moisture in the ground (or so we thought), which translates to less probability of getting stuck or drowning an air filter from high water levels (see our previous adventure – A Wet and a Hard Place – 4WD Vol. 22 No.5).

As a testament to this, Simon explained that he (and a few others in the group) installed a new snorkel so there would be little chance of repeat ‘wet air filters.’ Conditions during this outing seemed at first to be dry and we were expecting most water crossings to be low. This would also give us a chance to climb some rock faces that the area is known for.

Our short-lived dry and dusty conditions.

We aired our tires down 10 to 12 psi since the conditions were firm to drive on. But, to our surprise, after following some ATV tracks at an intersection (onto an area that wasn’t rock) we quickly remembered the area also has swampy parts and my Jeep CJ7 – on 35” BFGs – sunk down deep into soft soil.

With no prospect of going forward, we hooked up the winch from the WJ and pulled the CJ back onto firmer ground. We then followed a trail under some tree branches on different off-camber angles, over gnarly rock ledges and climbs, and then stopped at Concession Lake for a well-needed break.

Going in deeper than expected.

Following our break, we were on our way again and made good time to reach a mud bog at the west end of the trail. During spring and fall only high clearance vehicles with a low roof line can negotiate some of the trail obstacles. Fortunately, we had no problems on this day.

By noon, rain showers moved into the area. We took a lunch break while deciding what to do. Rock climbing would become more challenging due to slipperier surfaces. It’s also not much fun standing in the rain giving advice, taking pictures and spotting. Up until this point, the bugs hadn’t been a factor until the blackflies and deer flies began hovering around us in earnest. We gave ourselves a good dose of bugspray and did a quick loop over Forest Mountain to the rock garden.

Got winch – will travel.

Afterwards we meandered our way north towards Crystal Lake. There was a mud bog along a marsh that could give us a challenge and test the usefulness of our snorkels. Crystal Lake trail has some challenging rock faces and tight switchbacks and we finally reached a stretch of muddy trail, adjacent to the mud bog.

Most times, we would take the bypass to the west but with the lower water levels we thought we’d give it a go. I eased in and started to sink up to the floorboards. Realizing the mud was deeper than I was interested in, I backed out and let Simon give it a go. Following several attempts to use different lines, forward momentum eventually ceased, and Simon figured a rock must be under the mud in front of his right tire. Using a winch on a tree off to the side, we put tension on the vehicle and tried to ease the vehicle to the left. Then we heard a ‘pop’ and the front left tire lost pressure and had to reroute the winch straight ahead.

Lost the tire bead, but the snorkel worked!

We decided to try to re-seat the tire and add air with an on-board compressor instead of switching it with the spare. This worked fine and we were back on our way – we were just a little bit muddier than before. Simon thought his snorkel worked well and water & mud is now one less thing for him to worry about.

We eventually made our way out of the trail system and back on the highway safe and sound, before a slow trip home – due to a front tire being out of balance – see you next time!

After the trail – safe and sound before our journey home

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