The Best Off-Road Fun in the Kawarthas
No matter how long you’ve been wheeling you can’t help but feel excited in the weeks and final days leading up to a big event like Trailfest where a couple of hundred similar-minded adventurers will be joining you. Held on the August long weekend near Bobcaygeon in Central Ontario, this annual get-together, hosted by the London and Area Jeep Owners Club (LAJOC), is Ontario’s premier off-road event, remarkably, selling out in less than two weeks this year. The pull of Trailfest is no mystery, the trails are challenging, scenic and immaculately maintained on private land where few wheelers get the chance to tread… lightly. The event is family friendly and offers wheeling for all levels of driver ability and vehicle capability; it’s open to all makes and models of 4WD vehicles, but is attended mainly by Jeeps.
Approximately 140 vehicles from Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia hit the trails each day, with almost 300 people, from those in diapers to octogenarians. Many come every year and think of this as a family reunion of sorts. There was plenty of time to enjoy some good camaraderie, encourage fellow participants as they negotiated obstacles and to enjoy the scenery. Air conditioning, if you had it, was a welcome luxury in the unusually hot weather, and the lack of rain over the summer left some of the trails a bit easier than they typically are. However, a good drenching on Sunday morning changed things considerably with slick rocks, mud, winching and tugging, making each trail’s rating go up a level. Thanks to the tireless effort and dedication of the twenty-four volunteer trail guides, and on-site mechanical support, everyone was able to have the best wheeling experience possible.
Friday’s inaugural swap meet was an informal way for people to connect and share. Some good-natured pranks on a Toyota FJ diehard by his Jeep-loving buddies started Saturday off on a high note. The “newbies” learned more about their vehicles and how to negotiate the Bumps ‘n’ Bruises trail in the 101 course, while everyone up to the very experienced tested their vehicles and skills on trails like Over The Ledge and Lunatic Fringe. Highlights include negotiating the “Wall” on the way to the lake, climbing Dewdney Mountain and the Eagle Rock, and getting through the “Crack” unscathed. After returning to base camp the activities continued, games included the RTI ramp, blind-fold race, and new this year, the instantly popular teeter-totter.
Sunday’s weather cleared up nicely and provided some relief from the extreme heat of the day before. The closing ceremonies included a children’s scavenger hunt and an impressive stockpile of draw prizes, donated by the many generous sponsors. Without the tireless dedication of the Trailfest Organization committee, the non-stop support of the trail guides, the contribution by the land owner for allowing the event to be held on his land and the presence of the smiling and enthusiastic volunteers, this event would never be able to successfully support the following charities: The Canadian Diabetes Association, Canadian Red Cross, The London Food Bank, and of course, Saturday’s charity barbecue for the Soldier On Fund.