As I sign the waiver for the three-hour Call of the Wild tour, I start to panic. This is backcountry ATVing, and I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to keep up. Our guide, Liz Shakley, arrives and assures me that I will be fine and it’s all about having fun.
We jump on Canadian Snowmobile and All Terrain Adventures' red bus and drive about 25 minutes south to the Callaghan Valley. As we turn off the highway we are truly entering the Canadian wilderness. Huge cedar trees line the roadway and we see a black bear snacking on the grass at the verge. We turn off and hit a pot-holed road that leads us to Canadian’s ATV base—this is more like it. The cabin is rustic, and packed full of wet weather gear and helmets. Liz advises us to put on another layer, as there are so many puddles to splash through. My nerves are starting to fade as the excitement builds.
The machines are lined up ready to go, seven 2009 bright red Honda Fourtrax 420cc machines are at our disposal. After a quick safety chat where we cover how to stop and start, hand signals, and general ATV etiquette, we are ready to go. There’s a winding road ahead of us and Liz explains that we’ll get the hang of riding the machines along the wider trail before we turn off for a skill training session. The throttle under my thumb is sensitive, at first I bunny hop my way forward, and then it’s thumb to the floor!
Kicking it up a notch
Just as I’m feeling my speed demon beginning to take over Liz takes us off the road to a cleared area under the trees. Here we practice tight cornering and shifting our body weight to assist the machine. I feel more confident with the skill session under my belt, and soon we are heading off onto the single track. It’s rooty, rocky, there are corners, divots and ditches—in short, it’s amazing as we ride amongst the old growth forest of the Callaghan. As we head to Gold Mine Lake there’s a rock roll that Liz is gearing us up for.
We’re at the top, and the roll over seems very dramatic. My stomach lifts as I hover over the edge, then it’s all go as I ease my hands of the brakes. The adrenalin is pumping, I look back at the ridge and can’t believe I did it. The sun is out and the extra layer is beginning to get a little warm, lucky for us there’s a big lake to cool off in.
Back on the trail
A quick dip later and we’re back on the machines. Liz is taking us to her favourite look out. More single-track gnarliness leads us to a pool by a rushing waterfall—it’s time to put the waterproofs to the test. We all take turns crashing through the water, then stop at the top to appreciate the view. We are overlooking the valley and in the distance Black Tusk is striking.
On the way back we hit the service road again and this time there’s nothing stopping me. Dust clouds billow as we enjoy the last of what has been an amazing ride. This tour is as stunning as it is adrenalin-pumping, the specially designed single track is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. This is a taste of the true Canadian outback, and it’s been the ride of a lifetime.