From snow to sand and mud

Darryn Duncan rips around Sandilands Provincial Forest year-round

by Jillian Clark |

Duncan and his wife love to spend long weekends camping in Manitoba's backcountry.

Duncan and his wife love to spend long weekends camping in Manitoba's backcountry. — Photo courtesy Darryn Duncan

Darryn Duncan loves southern Manitoba’s outdoors in the summertime—specifically the ATV adventures that Sandilands Provincial Forest provides. The mixed terrain of forests, open space and swamplands lets Duncan test his manoeuvring skills from April through November. Come November, he swaps his ATV for his snowmobile.

Duncan has 40 years of snowmobiling under his belt, but never thought to ATV until about 10 years ago when his wife convinced him to try. Her encouragement and their shared love for exploring on an ATV has led to plenty of cross-country adventures together.

“She didn’t like the speed of snowmobiles, so she always quadded because it was slower,” said Duncan. “She would always get so mad at me when we first started quadding because I would ride it like I did my snowmobile.” By that, Duncan means fast. Eventually, Duncan slowed down to find that he enjoyed his wife’s desired speed.

Duncan rides the same trails in the winter snow, “but I enjoy ATVing because I get to see things that I may not have seen before,” he said. The slower speeds of an ATV actually allow him to see more of the landscape they tour through.

Bring on the technical terrain

Duncan likes his side-by-side Polaris Razor S 800 EFI because his wife can drive while he enjoys the views.

Duncan likes his side-by-side Polaris Razor S 800 EFI because his wife can drive while he enjoys the views. — Photo courtesy Darryn Duncan

Southern Manitoba, around Steinbach and Sandilands Provincial Forest, offers a variety of terrain for ATV advocates to enjoy. “You get a little bit of everything in this area,” Duncan said. “And a lot of the trails we ride on aren’t named. They’re sort of like little rabbit trails, so some are definitely off the beaten path.” Duncan and his wife chase the thrills of an adventure outdoors as often as they can.

Duncan likes to test his ability at slow-going sections. “I really like technical riding, where you’re going over rocks, around trees, logs and mud holes,” said Duncan. His love of technical terrain means that Sandilands Provincial Forest is the perfect playground for him. The forests are sometimes wet, but endure long dry spells; the small reservoirs, swampland, rolling hills and bush offer a totally different experience outside of his favourite forests. Bedford Pit is one of Duncan’s favourite places to stop. The large sand dunes are a drawing feature for riders looking for a challenge.

Duncan’s experience riding the nearby trails on a sled makes trips on the ATV that much easier. They stop at the same shelters as he does on his snowmobile and explores the same areas, but the scenery makes all the difference. “You see it green instead of white,” and at more leisurely speeds, he said.

Cross-country quadding for two

The biggest perk of living in small town Steinbach, Manitoba, is the fact that riders take off right from their front doors. The location makes day trips extra easy to schedule. “We usually leave the house by nine in the morning, and we are able to ride right from our house,” Duncan said.

The couple often plans overnight camping trips into the wilderness, with all of their gear packed away onto the ATV. “I love being outside,” said Duncan. A couple of coolers and a tent is all they need for a weekend getaway in Manitoba’s backcountry. They’ve travelled as far as 150 kilometres in a day to camp for a long weekend.

Their favourite destination is St. Jean Baptiste for the annual ATV derby. “It’s a full weekend derby,” Duncan said. “That’s our favourite place to go to because you do the ride along the river, you ride in some bush, and then when you get back they have a big party.” However, for the most part, Duncan and his wife stick around Sandilands. Lucky for them, some great riding is just outside their front door.

Duncan’s current weapon of choice is a Polaris Razor S 800 EFI. “It’s got really good off-road suspension and bigger tires,” he said, which is perfect for the more challenging terrain that he most often searches for. “And it’s a side-by-side and my wife can drive,” he said. With this ATV, Duncan gets to sit back and relax while his wife does the heavy driving—what better way to really enjoy Manitoba’s backcountry?

Rider information

Rider: Darryn Duncan
Where: Steinbach, Manitoba
Occupation: Works for Manitoba Hydro
Bragging rights: He's an all-seasons kind of guy, riding from snow to mud
His weapon of choice: Polaris Razor S 800 EFI
Local ride recommendation: Duncan usually sticks to the forests in Sandilands Provincial Forest, but also frequently stops at the Bedford Pit for a mid-afternoon campfire lunch.

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