Riding Great Trails in Explorers’ Edge

Many’s the time I’ve trailered to points farther north in search of good snow and great trails. On route, I’ve often wondered about what sledding I might be missing along that 130-kilometre stretch of the 4-lane Highway 11 corridor between Huntsville and North Bay, Ontario in the tourism region known as Explorers’ Edge. Last winter I found out…and the answer is plenty!
 
Explore the Almaguin Highlands
Tucked in between Muskoka and Lake Nipissing lies a majestic, 8000 square kilometre swathe of Canadian Shield wilderness called the Almaguin Highlands. This part of Explorers’ Edge is sprinkled with rural communities, unspoiled lakes, mixed woodlands, rolling hills and rocky crags – perfect terrain for the nine snowmobile clubs in this Almaguin Highlands area to 
Snow Time in Sundridge
deliver an excellent network of sledding trails. To experience them first hand, our Snow Goer Canada crew of Dan Carty, Craig & Johnny Biasi, Craig Irwin, Marsha and I towed our Triton Trailers three hours north of the Greater Toronto Area to the Caswell Resort on Bernard Lake in Sundridge.
 
Enjoy Three Day Rides
From the Caswell, we staged three different day rides on our Ski-Doo snowmobiles – one to Kearney and Burk’s Falls to the south, one northward to Port Loring and Restoule, and one west bound to Magnetawan, Ahmic Harbour and Sprucedale (Note that sledding east is not an option because there are no snowmobile trails into Algonquin Park.) We snowmobiled just over 800 kilometres, returning to the welcome hospitality of Caswell Resort each night. 

Along the way, we rode through the Loring deeryard, visited ice caves and experienced some of Ontario’s best trail riding. With trail accessible fuel and food available on our loops in places like Ahmic Harbour, Burk’s Falls, Kearney, Magnetawan, Port Loring, Restoule, Sand Lake, South River and Sprucedale, we rode each day with total pleasure and peace of mind.
 
Snow Time in Sundridge - Ice Cave
Power Outage
Our late afternoon arrival at the Caswell seemed auspicious…we arrived in a snowstorm and I found a parking spot for my rig right in front of the main door, easy for unloading our gear. Then, literally as I walked up to the reception desk, the whole Town of Sundridge lost power. Of course, no one had any idea how long the storm or blackout would last, so we were confronted with an immediate decision: stay and take our chances or go to some other town instead. Not knowing who had hydro or not, we opted to remain and huddled with some other guests in front of a roaring fire in the lobby hearth. Caswell staff were just starting to get a cold dinner ready for us when – presto! – the electricity came back on for good. Lucky thing, because I wasn’t looking forward to wearing my snowmobile gear overnight! 
 
Explore the Ice Caves
Next morning, a blanket of fresh powder covered the groomed trails, a snowmobiler’s dream come true. We steered south on TOP Trail D through the hilliest section of the Almaguin Highlands to travel east on local trail AL301 which dead ends at Dewfish Lake. Following a well-beaten path across the lake, we arrived at a popular attraction…ice caves, formed where water freezes into a solid curtain covering the side of a sheer cliff face. Visitors can walk in between the ice and the rock and peek out wherever Mother Nature has left portholes in the surface.

Then it was westbound on AL303 to Sand Lake, where we had an exceptionally scrumptious lunch and gassed up at Edgewater Park Lodge. From there, we had a variety of longer or shorter distance choices to circle north and catch TOP D123 back to Bernard Lake and the Caswell Resort.
 
Snow Time in Sundridge - On the TrailWatch Out For Deer
It snowed a little again that night, and the next day we headed west on TOP C105D to ride through Port Loring, where we stopped for fuel, followed by lunch at Roxie’s Diner (A good alternative is Jake’s Place, but during the winter weekdays, the two restaurants have a reciprocal arrangement that only one stays open for lunch as there’s typically not enough business to share.) We kept our eyes peeled for white tail deer throughout the day as these woodland trails pass through a well-known winter deeryard area. Its enjoyable riding, because the trails are winding and meandering, not tight twisty-turny and generally with forgiving corners that allow you to ride easy and effortlessly.

On day three, we followed TOP C104D west to Magnetawan and Ahmic Harbour before looping south on TOP C101 to catch the Seguin Rail Trail eastbound to Emsdale, after gassing up in Sprucedale and eating at the old Sprucedale Hotel. TOP D123 took us back northward to the Caswell.
 
Four Good Reasons to Ride Explorers’ Edge
I recommend riding this part of Explorers’ Edge for several reasons. One, it’s close enough that most of us can trailer there after work for a long weekend getaway. Two, it’s big enough and offers more than enough trails that you can ride a different loop each day, plus find good trail alternatives for shortening or lengthening each ride as you choose. Three, there are enough trailside services for food and fuel. And four, the area has elevation and is in the lee of Georgian Bay, both of which contribute to frequent and reliable snow. What’s more, it’s located just far enough north to be slightly colder than Southern Ontario and that can make a big difference when it comes to trail consistency.

Snow Time in SundridgeSo the next time you’re jawing with your riding buddies about where to go snowmobiling, give Explorers Edge a try!
 
Special thanks to Claude Aumont (OTMPC) and Kate Monk (Explorers’ Edge) for assistance with this tour. Craig’s tours are made possible by BRP (Ski-Doo), Gateway Powersport, FXR Racing, Split Rail Skis, Triton Trailers, and Woody’s Traction Products.
 
As The Intrepid Snowmobiler, Craig Nicholson is the author of “Canada’s Best Snowmobiling — Your Ultimate Ride Guide”. His snowmobile writing also appears in many newspapers, magazines and websites. He also hosts “The Intrepid Snowmobiler on Radio” and appears on Snowmobiler Television.














Ride Info


Who To Contact
OFSC (for permits and trail info)
 
Maps Needed 
 
 
Caswell Resort, SundridgeWhere We Stayed: Caswell Resort, Sundridge. (705) 384-7600. Located on the west shore of Bernard Lake at Highway 11 exit 276, this venerable lodging offers both motel-style units and rooms in the main lodge, along with on site restaurant open for both breakfast and dinner, indoor pool, gym, hot tub, sauna, adequate parking for trucks & trailers and direct trail access from TOP Trail C104D. I chose the Caswell Resort as our staging hotel because it’s accessible by 4-lane highway and centrally located in the ride area, enabling us to do loops of about the same distance each day (listed below) without have to repeat many trails.
 
Daily Itinerary
Ride One – Snowmobile south loop 245 km via TOP C104D > NN410 > TOP C105D > NN400 > TOP C104D > TOP D > AL301 (ice caves) > AL303 (Sand Lake) > TOP D (Kearney) > TOP D101B > D102B > 95 > TOP D > TOP D123 (Katrine, Burk’s Falls) > TOP C104D.
Caswell Resort, Sundridge
 
Ride Two  – Snowmobile north loop 260 km via TOP C104D > NN410 > NN415 > TOP C105D > NN450 > TOP D102C (Arnstein, Port Loring, Loring, Restoule) > TOP C110D > TOP D > TOP C105D > NN410 > TOP C104D. 

Ride Three – Snowmobile west loop 254 km via TOP C104D (Magnetawan, Ahmic Harbour) > TOP C101 > TOP C103D > TOP D (Sprucedale) > AL302 > AL305 > AL303 (Sand Lake) > TOP D > AL300 > TOP D123 > TOP C104D > NN400 > TOP C105D > NN410 > C104D.
 
 









Tested on Tour 
By Craig Nicholson, The Intrepid Snowmobiler
 
2017 Ski-Doo Renegade Enduro 
Part of Ski-Doo’s popular family of crossover sleds, last year’s Renegade Enduro is as close to the perfect trail touring sled as I’ve ever ridden. I operated it all winter in some of the best and some of the worst conditions I’ve encountered in many years of sledding. Throughout, that Renegade Enduro delivered consistent and reliable performance, handling and comfort in every instance. 
 
As a high miler, I couldn’t ask for anything more from my sled and that’s exciting for me because this REV-XS platform sled is back for 2017 with all its advanced features like Pilot TS Adjustable Skis, rMotion Rear Suspension with Air Ride, RAS 2 Front Suspension and an Ice Ripper XT Track. And that means I get to ride it again…and that my comments are still relevant for your 2017 sledding buying decision.
 
The 2017 Renegade Enduro comes with four Rotax® engine choices – 600 H.O. & 800R E-Tec 2-strokes and 900 ACE & 1200 4-TEC 4-strokes. Last winter, I rode Enduro’s with both the 900 ACE and 1200 4-TEC engines. In the past, I’ve also put a full season’s use on both E-TEC’s, albeit not in a Renegade Enduro. So I’m pretty familiar with what each engine does and while they’re all good, for 2017 I’m going with a Renegade Enduro 900 ACE because based on last season’s experience, it just feels right for me. Plus, no other engine can beat its fuel economy – on tour I’ve squeezed up to 350 kilometres out of one full tank of gas!

To further customize the Renegade Enduro for my long distance touring needs, I added the following Ski-Doo accessories…an extra high windshield with side deflectors and mirror kit, full body skid plate, tunnel scratchers, LinQ brackets, handle bar muffs, auxiliary LED light, and a glove box extension. No wonder the Renegade Enduro proved itself as my ultimate touring sled – and that’s exactly why I’m going with it again for 2017!
 



Stuckmate
Any rider who’s ever been stuck in deep snow knows what a chore it is to get out. After tramping down the snow in front of the sled as much as possible, it usually takes a strong pull on the skis coordinated with steady throttle to extricate. This is very problematic if you’re alone and can even be difficult with only one companion to assist. But what if you could accelerate and pull on a ski at the same time?
 
Stuckmate is a safety device that makes this happen. Invented by a Canadian snowmobiler, Stuckmate gives you an extra helping hand when you need it most. Basically, it’s a handlebar-mounted, spring-loaded clip that affixes to your throttle lever. It operates via a 6-foot cable controlled by a handheld trigger device. Squeeze the trigger gently and Stuckmate engages the throttle while you’re standing to the side and pulling on the ski.
 
 
 
With a universal design that fits all makes of snowmobiles, the bright yellow Stuckmate is incredibly light and packs away in its own small storage pouch that’s always easy to carry with you. It’s also easy to install, to operate, and it works as advertised – just be sure to follow the instructions carefully…
 
 
 
So the next time you get stuck in the snow and before you work up a serious sweat lugging your guts out, give Stuckmate a try – it’s the smart way to get back on top of the snow where you belong! Stuckmate is available online for $69.95 + tax.
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