Better late than never. It’s a motto that many people live by and is especially applicable to Dennis Saarela, club member of the Logan Lake ATV Club. The 78-year-old was only introduced to quadding 12 years ago, meaning that the first 66 years of his life were void of ATVs. Thankfully for Saarela, a provincial move from Powell River to Logan Lake changed all that.
“A bunch of friends that we made here took me out one time and I got hooked,” he said. “I never had an interest before or even thought about ATVing.”
One reason for Saarela’s quick acceptance of the sport was because his initial outing was a memorable—albeit wet—one.
“The guys took me out and just about drowned me,” laughed Saarela. “We went through a big pond. As I got close to it, my eyes grew big and I thought, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to get through there.’ I forgot to pick up my feet and filled my boots full of water. Other club members will never let me forget it, ha ha.”
Saarela’s favourite place to quad around Logan Lake is Ridge Trail in the Leighton Lake area.
“Ridge Trail hooks up with Swamp Trail and makes a nice circuit,” he said. “There’s a ridge component to it and a wetland component to it. Views off the trail look down into the wetlands. That’s why I like it.
“Ridge Trail is quite technical. It’s not a beginner’s trail. Everybody that goes on it just seems to love it. There’s a steepness and narrowness to some of the track. If you’re going through the swampy wet area, you gotta like going through the mud.”
Even if that doesn’t sound like fun to you, Logan Lake boasts a plethora of places to check out.
“There’s such a variety and vast area that you can access,” Saarela said. “You can go east, west, north and south for miles and miles. The areas that you can ride around here are endless.”
Dennis Saarela rides a 2014 Polaris RZR 800 and is an active member of the Logan Lake ATV Club at age 78. — Photo courtesy Dennis Saarela
Most trails can’t be accessed directly from town; however, there are many staging points available for ATVers to unload their machines. Saarela recommends staging at Tunkwa Provincial Park Campground for easy access to nearby trails.
“It’s very popular during the summer months for that reason,” he said. “There’s Tunkwa Lake and Leighton Lake and they’re interconnected. Tunkwa is a fishing lake and Leighton Lake Campground is more for riders. They have a horse corral there too. There can be ATVs and horses on the same trails. We try to teach people to be very courteous towards horse riders by pulling over and turning off their machine, that sort of thing.”
Never too late
Despite his age and late start getting into the sport, Saarela is a major contributor to the Logan Lake ATV Club. He’s been an executive for the club and continues to serve now as an active member.
“We’re a small club,” he said. “There’s a core group that does most of the work. I call it STP: Same Ten People, ha ha.”
Whether he’s joined by those same 10 people or another group of riders, Saarela enjoys getting out into nature with his wife by his side in his 2014 Polaris RZR 800.
“At 78 years of age, I like the mobility it gives me,” he said. “I don’t like sitting in front of a TV. It’s a way to get out of the house and into the fresh air to socialize with friends. Hiking or biking is not an option anymore. We get to areas we would have no hope to get to otherwise.
“This applies to a number of our club members as well. One of our members is 86 years young and is still riding. It keeps us active physically, mentally and socially.”