Monday, February 19, 2007

The great outdoors

For those of you who have been following my blog from the beginning, you'll know that I've already come out as a snowmobiler. For those of you who are new, you'll just have to get over it. This story started last weekend. Our local snowmobile club, The Great Pine Ridge Club, operating out of the Ganaraska and Northumberland forests, had our first poker run of the season. My snowmobiling friends and I took up the challenge with a total of eight sleds. In a poker run, everyone meets at the clubhouse where you sign up and find out the itinerary for the day. From there, you follow signs posted through-out the trails, picking up something at each check point to indicate that you covered the route. Back at the clubhouse, you turn in your proof, and pull a bunch of cards. The winning hand for the day gets a prize. Everyone else either settles for a barbecued hot dog or hamburger. All in all, it makes for a fun day, believe it or not, you actually get some exercise, and lots of laughs and camaraderie. The other thing that can happen on these days of man and machine usually has to do with breakdowns or minor accidents (referred to as "ending up in the rhubarb".) On this particular day, we had 3 out of our 8 machines breakdown - 2 Yamahas, and an Arctic Cat. This turned out to be a gloating opportunity for Keith, the owner of the Polaris who did all the towing. Don't worry, his time will come. At the end of the day, we all agreed that once we had our machines repaired, we'd join Andrew and Tracey up at a cottage they had rented up near Bancroft the following weekend. Winter has become somewhat truncated in these parts, so we need to "make hay while the sun shines", as the saying goes. By mid-day on Friday, two of the broken down machines had been replaced with new models. There was much excitement as to what these new machines would be capable of. Late Friday afternoon, We all made our way up to Beaver Creek Resort, a cluster of log cabins overlooking the Beaver Creek, set in a stand of pine trees about 20 minutes south of Bancroft. It was a beautiful place, and we were blessed with a sky full of stars to boot. I was one of the ones with a new sled, which happened to be a bright orange Arctic Cat Crossfire. I also bought equally bright orange jacket so that I would match my new sled, and it wasn't long before Keith had given me the nickname "Pylon" Oh well, I've been called worse. After enjoying a hearty breakfast on Saturday morning all twelve of us suited up and set out for the trails. It was a perfect day for snowmobiling, and for the most part the trails were in good condition. The most fun came when we took turns racing the new sleds against the old favourites on an open stretch of lake. I'm proud to say that Pylon on Crossfire came up a winner on more than one occasion! After the race, we headed back into the trails for some curvy driving. We had two children along (pictured above at one of our rest stops), so we took turns sharing them. At one point, my little rider fell asleep. This made driving a little challenging as his head bobbed from side to side, but it was all good. At one point we passed a dog sledding team, a pretty neat sight. Those dogs are so pretty, with their bright blue eyes, and their unbridled enthusiasm. In a group this size, usually a few of the more experienced riders end up leading and a gap opens up between the front of the pack and the stragglers. Everyone looks out for the team though, making sure that turns aren't missed, and regular breaks are taken to avoid any one from getting fatigued. I'm usually in the slower group - I tend to be a bit of a cautious rider, lacking in experience, and taking time to enjoy the scenery. It was getting late in the day when about 9 of us pulled off the trail to use an outhouse that someone in need had spotted. Before long, one of the leaders came back to report that Keith's Polaris had broken down with a blown engine. This meant we would have to head back to the resort, and Keith's sled would have to be towed in. We all pulled ahead to the scene, and after ribbing Keith about his short lived status as a tow-sled operator, we started to make arrangements to attach a tow line to tow his Polaris, and select the best route back to the cabin. While we were busy doing this, a couple of O.P.P. officers pulled up - they were on their way to assist the dog sled team we had encountered earlier. We got chatting about this and that, and just as they were about to hop back on their sleds and leave us, the younger one noticed that one of the twelve sleds was missing a current licence sticker. Well, all hell broke loose. We were all instructed to produce our ownership, licence and registration. Out of the twelve sleds, they found 2 that had missing paperwork, and we were told that these two would also have to be towed back to our cabin. This was really going to make the ride home unpleasant. After giving us the requisite lecture, off they went, without any tickets or supervision, which apparently was a signal that we really didn't have to tow our machines, but we should be a little smarter than this next time. After all, except for a few minor technicalities we were all law abiding, responsible citizens, just out enjoying the Ontario wilderness. These were nice officers. Back at the resort, we enjoyed another hearty meal and reminisced about our day. Keith took quite a bit of good natured ribbing about his bad luck - as Lynn sang a verse from an old country song "Honey if we didn't have bad luck, we'd have no luck at all". Two people were celebrating a birthday this weekend, so the chef set off some fireworks over the creek as we made our way back to our cabins for the night. After a night cap, an open air hot tub and some snow ball throwing, sleep came easily, as we'd all had lots of fresh air, exercise and full bellies. Next day, I thought I better get back to Ste. Anne's to check on things at the spa. All in all, it was a great weekend, once again proof that Ontario has so much to offer as a great winter recreational destination. The only thing missing on our snowmobiling adventure was a hot rock massage at the end of our day! See you on the trails!

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