Riding Muskoka

Last weekend in October my husband and I had a chance to ride a very exclusive, invitation only, trail in the Muskokas. I cannot reveal it’s location as it’s private property but I will publicly send a huge thank you to the owner, Dave, for inviting us and creating 500 acres of awesomeness.

We may not have mountains in Ontario but we do have steep short hills, mixed hardwood forest and lots of Canadian Shield. Take the picture above, that’s Randy Evans a former pro-motocrosser, riding up a rather steep rock face on the aptly named trail ‘Hells Kitchen’. Ripping it in style Evans grabbed air, touched down, grabbed some more air before taking off.

I was both excited and nervous as I hadn’t ridden a technical trail in over five years. I left my camera behind and told myself my priority is to have fun and ride. And, maybe if I had the time at the end of the day I would grab my camera gear and get some shots.

Of course, as I was riding I fell in love with the terrain both as a photographer and as a rider. The 25 km loop began with single track snaking it way around hardwood trees, up and over short steep power climbs, creek crossings, and fast straight-aways. The terrain an endless variety of topsoil: loamy, hardpacked, softpacked, rock, sand and mud. Dave’s trails had it all. A 25 km loop of fun, fast flowing and technical sections to test even the most established rider.

It took us well over an hour to complete one lap. We stopped at the lookout point perched high up on a hill. To one side a deep lush canopy of green moss covered the trail and on the other a dangerous steep drop-off. It was indeed a beautiful view and I must admit in wanting to stay in one of Dave’s two small cabins on a warm summer night quietly sitting enjoying a birds-eye view of the lake and the surrounding hilly landscape.

I have painted a pretty picture of Dave’s land and it came as a surprise to find how difficult some (ok…many) sections were to ride. Previous rainfall had made many of the hills almost unrideable. They weren’t exceptionally difficult hills but the soft, greasy dirt quickly gummed up the treads creating an ice-rink of dirt, if that makes any sense. Thank you to Jeff, Jim, Dave and a few others for helping me (2x) up and out of those uphills.

Around every corner roots grabbed the front and rear tires and joked around throwing the bike side to side. Endless babyheads hidden deep beneath a layer of wet yellow leaves threatened to take you down. It was a constant battle of balance, clutch and throttle work to stay upright and maintain any type of speed and grace. More than once my feet flew off the pegs, arms and back bent in opposite directions desperately fighting the weight of the bike, and the trail pulling and pushing. It was hard work. And I admit to feeling out of shape.

My day ended up shorter than planned thanks to a broken kick starter (I must have strong legs). I was fortunate enough not to be deep in the woods and close to a hill on open land. But before bum starting the bike I managed to squeeze off a few ‘motoscape’ pictures that I am really happy with. Here’s one of my friend and fellow ‘Dirty Onion’ Shawn Richardson pulling a wheelie comfortably in style. Easily my favourite image of the day is the one of my husband riding towards me with a textured and layered backdrop of naked birch trees. This is one cool shot when viewed on a large HD screen.

After the quick photo session, Shawn, my husband and myself headed back to the car. Most riders were already back and indulging in freshly barbecued sausages, home made chili, baked beans and little chocolate and coconut dessert squares reminiscing about the day, and how hard the trail had become compared to previous trail rides. At the point, I looked at the owner Dave and coyly asked if we could be re-invited as I had an absolute blast and would love another opportunity to rip around the trail but in a faster fashion and with more style (a drier trail would help with that). Plus, I saw so many other photo ops. I really do need to come back.

Thanks to Dave for the invitation and for building and maintaining such a variety of trails. Thank you also to Ted D. for organising an amazing ride. What better way to spend a Sunday than with friends I haven’t seen in a while and new like minded riders enjoying a pristine trail on a cool late October day.