I've always held a special place in my heart for canoeing. It makes sense too as my dad had my brother and I out in his old aluminum Mohawk while we were still in diapers. I remember that leaky old boat well, and the short trips my dad would take us on along Big Creek near Quance's dam and out in the Teeterville pond. It wasn't long before he laid down some cash on a brand new (this was in the '80s) Coleman Ram-X 15' canoe. It was very bright red, heavy, and tough enough to withstand a nuclear blast. We made alot of memories in that boat and in my teenage years I took it out with friends and even solo a few times. At one point we also had a 14' fiberglass canoe so all four of the family members could get out together.
My dad has since hung up the trusty Coleman (which I still borrow on occasion) and bought a fleet of kayaks. When he offered a trip down Big Creek from Rowan Mills to Port Royal I jumped at the chance. I packed up my lunch and we hit Rowan Mills on the 3rd. My dad was paddling his trusty Ascend D12 and I would use my mothers new Wilderness Systems Commander. A good lathering of sunscreen and bug spray, a wave goodbye to the wife and kids, and we were off.
The lack of rain made for pretty low water levels. The waterline was a few feet below where it was a couple months prior. This made for some interesting sights, like the exposed roots of trees clutching the edge of the riverbank, and young bullfrogs digging into the mud looking for a nice damp cool place.
We also came across a number of turtles. I tried to get a photo of a baby snapper but he was too nervous and quick. The mama snapper wasn't scared by us and stuck around to have her photo taken.
We took a few stops along the way for snacks and lunch where the river bank would let us. You can see the high water mark across the river. Our relaxed pace meant that we had quite a few people pass us on the river, who most likely missed out on some of the animal sightings we came across. Taking things easy also allowed us to just enjoy the sounds of the bush and the occasional bloop of a paddle in the water.
Paddling my mothers hybrid canoe/kayak was a treat too, super comfy and easy to maneuver, these types of boats are the future for river paddlers who want something easy to get in and out of but with the comfort of a kayak. I can feel the urge for one of my own growing, the only thing holding me back is the lack of storage room. I'd have to get rid of a bike to make room and that sure as shit isn't happening. I'll just have to sneak out with Mama Bric's boat once in a while.
It was a great day on the river. I ended up with a sunburn on my legs and numerous bites on my neck but thats par for the course out here along Big Creek. I nearly forgot how much I enjoy a nice lazy paddle down the river as all my time has been used camping and biking in recent years. I can't wait to do more paddling this year and maybe I'll relive a few stories on the blog of canoe trips in years gone by.
As far as our route goes, this isn't the kind of place that greenhorns should make their first trip on. The banks are muddy and impossible to reach in alot of areas, not to mention that when you do get off the river, the bush out here is thick and has been called "Canada's Amazon". That should give you a good idea of what to expect. If you want more information on the Big Creek canoe route you can visit the Norfolk Trails website at http://www.norfolktrails.ca/trails/paddling/canoe-and-river-kayak-routes/big-creek-paddle-route.
The plan was hatched late Friday evening that we would ride early Saturday and beat the heat, or at least try to. It had been a while since both Kyle and I had been to the Hydrocut and we were both feeling an itch for it that we needed to scratch. Kyle showed up early and we were on our way after a fuel and drink stop. The drive up was full of our typical bullshitting about bikes, motorcycles, and diesel powered units.
We started out from the Snyder St entrance to the Hydrocut, which in my opinion is the better of the two parking areas. A quick ride down the multi-use trail and we started our 'Cut ride on Creepy Corner. It had been a few weeks since I've ridden the Torrent, due to a rear wheel failure and subsequent rebuild, and I was getting accustomed to the aggressive nature of the bike again. We came across some new trail sections, Medusa and Godzilla, and I went full bore on the huge rocks at the entrance. I caught myself by surprise by getting up and over such a large obstacle that I never would have tried in years gone past on my more modest bikes I've owned.
The gnarly freight train kept going. When Kyle and I ride it usually turns into a duo of grown men laughing and yelling through the woods. We push each other in different ways. Kyle pushes me faster and I push him harder in the technical sections and tough obstacles. We came out of the Frankenstein trail into a group of riders who appeared to be from Brantford. One remarked to us that we were "scaring all the woodland creatures" to which Kyle and I laughed and kept moving. We later joked that we were just practicing for our Mountain Dew commercial.
With our water running low and the heat of the day starting to get to us, we decided to slow the pace a bit for the remainder of the ride. We finished off without incident, opting to take the easy route on Kamikaze as our arms were tired and our concentration fluttering. The first "Buddy Road Trip" of the year came to and end with plans on doing much more together before the year is out. Where will we ride next? Kelso? Ravenshoe? Dufferin? We will see.
The camper is all finished with repairs / renovations. She isn't perfect but its a camper and will see alot of wear and tear. It felt like it took forever to do all the work but was so worth it to get it out camping. This little camper is going to get some miles on her this summer, lots of camping plans ahead of us.
Our repair / reno work consisted of:
She is also equipped with some neat extras now like a TV / DVD setup (for the kids at bedtime), and microwave. My little truck pulls it nicely and we have room inside to spare.
It was nice to get out over the weekend and take things easy. Lots of relaxing, enjoying campfires, eating outdoors, a bit of mountain biking...... everything that is great about camping. A summer of adventure awaits!
Work on the mobile cottage has continued and things are looking good. I'm an entire month behind from when I wanted it done, but it will be finished before our first camping trip.
I've added the flooring, painted the cabinets, installed a new mini bar fridge, sealed the canvas, and even made a built in shitter for the kids. Watch for Part 3 soon when it all comes together nicely and hits the open road.
The plan was to ride, as long as the rain would hold out..... or at least not come down like cats and dogs. My cousin and fellow rider Kyle met me at my place and after fixing a flat on my CX bike we were off on our ride without a plan. Our loose idea is that we would pass through Port Dover at some point and that we wanted to ride some pavement, gravel, and singletrack along the way.
We rode some renegade trails in Simcoe then onto the rail trail system to head it out of town. Another flat tire on the CX bike gave us a bit of a breather while I replaced the tube. My patch job from earlier in the day didn't hold up, so I swapped the tube out and packed the old one to try patching again back at home.
We decided to get off the LVT on Lynn Valley Road so we could tackle the climb up the start of Ryerse Road. It was a hard go but we toughed it out. We carried on through a bit of drizzle and finally arrived at the old Hay Creek Conservation Area. The Conservation Area is home to a winding network of hidden singletrack, it was fun but also a bit sketchy at times. The wet roots and skinny tires on the CX bike didn't get along too well.
We headed down Radical Road, following two fully loaded touring cyclists the entire way. A bit of time spent at the Pier and we decided on a lunch a Willie's.
Upon leaving Dover, the dark skies broke and the sun came out. We rode back towards Simcoe on the LVT, stopping the check out the Lynn River along the way, scouting out possible future canoe / kayak routes. Once in Simcoe, we dropped into the Brook Conservation Area for more trail fun and checking out the dam on the river. We stopped for a little photo op and cyclocross action.
We even happened upon some local wildlife. A deer nibbling on some tender leaves, a snapping turtle crossing the trail. All good things that brought together a great ride. We ended up with just over 35km and lots of laughs and stories told between us.
It wasn't an epic ride, or a soul crushing test of metal, or even a winding singletrack trip, but it was a really great just-two-guys-riding-their-bikes kind of ride. Nothing to prove, no one to impress, going our own pace, and just going with wherever the road takes us. It reminded us of our trips around the back country near Delhi and Teeterville from years ago..... but those are stories for another day. Ride on!
A Story from my teenage years.
It was a hot and humid evening in August. The sky was black with the storm clouds that were slowly creeping in on town. My friend and I had decided that even though the skies looked like certain doom, we would ride to the outskirts of town and into one of our favourite trails along Big Creek. We finished our shift stocking shelves and bagging groceries at the local Valu-Mart and grabbed our bikes, ignoring the 90% chance of rain the in the immediate forecast. If I remember correctly, there was even a rainfall warning in effect.
As we rode out of town it began to lightly rain. It was only a few minutes before it stopped, just enough rain to make the ground damp and fill the air with that summertime rain smell. We celebrated and laughed, thinking that we had beaten the chances and would be in the clear for our ride. We continued out of town until reaching the railroad tracks, which we followed briefly before dropping down into the valley on a trail we had dubbed "Devil's Spine".
It was a old ATV trail that rode North along Big Creek, eventually crossing the river into "Dick's Hill". Even though it was a 2-track trail, it was the best riding we had near town and we frequented it whenever we had the chance. We worked our way along the track, slowly descending the valley on this winding brown ribbon of dirt through the woods.
The black clouds above us grew thicker, the forest now getting so dark it was hard to see. We continued on, full steam ahead, as the first of the thunder and lightning started to strike around us. It was so close and powerful it shook my chest and arms as the deafening crackles filled the forest. The rain came down fast and hard, the trail became a flowing river of water in a matter of minutes. The heavy rain and darkness made it nearly impossible to see further than just a couple of feet ahead. I'm not sure if it was toughness or teenage stupidity, but we carried on riding, using the flashes of light from the lightning strikes to guide our way.
The rain came down so hard it hurt but we pushed on. My eyes stung from the rain washing my own sweat into them. Our old rim brakes squealed like banshees as we approached each corner, barely slowing our bikes. Our chains made horrible noises as the dirt and water acted like a grinder on our drivetrains. My poor bike must have felt like it aged a year in just over an hour as we kept going in the rain and lightning.
We reached the river crossing, soaked to the bone. Big Creek was already running fast and muddy. It made it difficult to carefully place my steps around the large rocks in the bottom of the river and one misplaced step later I was in the water. Having already been drenched, the water didn't shock me. I picked myself back up and got a good footing. I looked up at my riding partner and we both started to laugh. The combination of the pouring rain, the river, the thunder and lightning, it nearly broke us and all we could do was laugh in the face of it. Two teenage kids clutching their bikes, standing in the river while the rain poured on us and thunder shook our bones, looking at each other and laughing.
"What the hell are we doing out here?" My friend asked as we stood there.
"Having fun, right?" I answered with a smile.
We got out of the river and pushed our bikes up the steep hill on the opposite side. We got back on and rode towards the dead end road that would take us out of here. Just as we got onto the pavement the rain began to stop. Within a minute it was over, the black clouds moving away from us as we plodded along the road back into town. The water was dripping off of us, my shoes made a squishing noise with every push of the pedals. The sound of the rain drops falling out of the trees and hitting leaves on the way down was the music for the end of our ride.
We turned our heads and looked at each other again and laughed. My friend shook his head in disbelief as to what we had just been through.
"That was stupid" He said to me.
I grinned as I replied "At least it's one of those rides we will never forget".
The Bric...._ mountain biker, road rider, heavyweight gear abuser. Built like a brick sh*thouse. No bike is safe.