Thanks to the problems I had getting the bike serviced in Ottawa, I didn’t g get back on the road until around lunchtime on Saturday, 21st June. I had been going to ride with Ted for an hour or two in the morning as the description of t of next section of the TCAT said it could be muddy in places and had water crossings but now I had to ride it on my own. The route went a fair way on tarmac before taking me through a couple of short wooded trails with a few shallow water crossings where beavers had flooded land to the side of the trail. Have been off the bike for a few days I was a little rusty and that combined with a heavy bike and some slippery mud meant it wasn’t long before the bike was down. Luckily the break in Ottawa had restored my strength and I was able to pick up the bike now without having to unload it first!
Riding on, the flat farm land around Ottawa soon have way to Canadian Shield terrain, the trails became better suited to the bike. Soon enough I was on the Hydro Line trail, so called because it follows along the power lines coming from a hydro-power station. This really killed my speed as it is all up and down and twisting and turning and rocky. Whilst fun to ride, it was hard work on a fully loaded big adventure bike… And then there was the water crossing! In the middle of the Hydro Line was a flooded section which I stopped to check out before riding through. It was early shallow enough and had a good solid bottom but what I failed to notice was a big rock just under the surface in the middle. Of course I hit it and the bike went down! Luckily the exhaust stayed just out of the water and I didn’t get water in the air box. However, I did manage to fill the pannier with my tool kit and spare with water, so after I finally got the rock moved and the bike out of the water I had to wait a while for my kit to dry out a bit.
Little did I know that the water crossing w wasn’t going to be the hardest part of the day. In the morning I’d been looking at the r route for the day and had decided to try and get to the Bon Echo provincial park. When I decided on a destination for the day I tend to push hard to get there. Evening was closing in, I was still on the last power line trail of the day and the inevitable happened. I was riding up and rocky climb and had picked my line carefully, unfortunately I hadn’t expected to be dropped into a deeply rutted muddy hole. The bike was well and truly stuck! It was already 7pm and I had to work for the next hour and a half with my trowel, rope and pulleys to dig the bike out of the sticky clay mud and drag it around so I could finally get it out of the mud. It was now 8:30pm and heading into twilight but I still had another 10km on the power line trail plus another 40km to get to the Bon Echo campground. By the time I got to the campground and pitched my tent it was 10pm and I was exhausted, all I could do was crash out and hope that the trails the next day would be easier.
Sunday morning I wasn’t feeling much better but I had no choice but to press on. Silent Lake provincial park was my target for the night, only 150km from Bon Echo. If the trails were good it would be an easy day but it could also be a hard day if the trails were muddy. Thankfully it turned out to be a good day. I had to miss a section of the trails first thing in the morning as I came across a deep water crossing. It was deeper than the one the day before and, although I may have been able to make it through, I have to consider the fact that I’m on my own and that if I get stuck I’ll be in big trouble so I doubled back to find an alternative route around. Despite stopping in Bancroft for a leisurely late lunch I still made it to Silent Lake by 4pm. Needing a good nights sleep I splashed out and rented a yurt. It was also early enough that I hired a canoe to take out on the lake for a couple of hours. The site was beautiful, the lake was like a mirror and afterwards I headed back to the yurt to light a campfire.
The early night in Silent Lake was exactly what I needed. Monday morning I was up early and without a tent to pack up I was quickly on the road. Given the easy day on Sunday I set myself the ambitious target of getting to North Bay on Lake Nipissing. It was going to be another long and tiring day. The first trail of the day started out nice and easy it wasn’t until I was nearing the end that I hit trouble. There was a big muddy section across the trail, other bikes had made a route around. Unfortunately my heavily loaded bike and gravel oriented tyres weren’t a match for the soft loamy mud, out came the trowel and ropes again! Eventually I got the bike free but whilst getting my breath back I wondered up the trail, just around the corner was a bigger, deeper, gloopier mud bath with no way around it. Once again I had to back track and find a way around. During the rest of the day I had to make two further detours because of a sandy/stony climb I couldn’t get the GS up on my own and a deep water crossing that some kind beavers had put in my way. I made it to North Bay in the end but not until well into the evening.
Tuesday morning I still hadn’t learnt my lesson about pushing myself to far and decided to try to get to Pole 392 Lodge. The lodge is about 400km from North Bay but the route description look promising. I called the lodge to make sure they had a room for me. Marie, the owner, was very understanding when I said I didn’t know if I’d make there that evening or not. As it turns out the railway line and logging roads were in good condition and I made it to the lodge in the end but not before I had to cross the scariest bridge so far, it was about 100 metres long, 15 meeters above the river below, no side railings but was just another challenge that makes this such a great adventure. I was the only guest in the lodge that night but Marie provided both dinner and breakfast, in fact I barely made a dent in the piles of food she brought out. If you’re winding about the name of the lodge, when Marie first moved there the only way to get to the house was by crossing the lake or by driving down the power line (in a 4×4) until you reach pole 392 and the heading towards the lake – hence Pole 392!
Wednesday was an easy day, miles of paved highway followed by a gravel road equivalent of a motorway – wide, smooth and very fast, although obviously I stuck to the speed limit ;-). I stopped in Chapleau for the night as I didn’t think I’d make it to the Halfway Haven lodge in daylight.
Departing from Chapleau in the morning I only had about 150km to go to Wawa where I was going to be meeting Gord Jones, who has helped set up this section of the TCAT. The day started out on good logging roads but about 10 km from the Halfway Haven lodge it suddenly got tough. The track on my GPS didn’t quite match what I was setting in front of me so I picked the trail that most closely matched the GPS. Within a couple of kilometres I came to a water crossing, it was pretty steep on either side but I figured I could make it across. Once I was across it became clear that I was heading in the wrong direction and the trail was rapidly becoming anything but a trail. Turning around I made it down into the water crossing but getting back up the other side wasn’t so simple. Thankfully there trowel got another outing as I had to dig a ramp out to get the bike up.
Back on the right side of the water crossing I had no choice but the return to the highway. The track on the GPS was clearly wrong but none of the trails I could see before me were shown on the GPS, without which it was impossible to figure out the c correct way to get to Halfway Haven lodge.
Back on the highway it didn’t take long to get to Wawa and find Gord at his shop. He had another friend, Sean, visiting him in the shop. Sean was in town for work and as he’d finished for the day he took m a back to Gord’s house to crack open some beers. Sean and. Gord had set up the GPS tracks around Halfway Haven and when I described the problem they knew something want right, a quick check on Google Maps showed where the error was a was that if I’d stayed on the main logging road another kilometre I would have got through without a problem but that really wasn’t any use to me having got to Wawa.