Best ride ever: A late autumn joyride with grandpa, dad and sons

A refreshing chill in the air means no bugs and good times in Rock Lake, Manitoba


Three ATVs are lined along a snow-covered trail in an open field.

(L to R) Neil, Joshua and Lloyd MacAulay take a break on a trail through a field near Rock Lake, Manitoba. — Photo courtesy Jeff MacAulay

Usually when that clean winter air settles into rural Manitoba, that means it’s time to fire up the sled and take it for a rip. On December 6, 2015, Jeff MacAulay took his ATV out for a burn before the first major snowfall would relegate the quad to snowplowing duty. That decision was a wise one for Jeff, as the outing ended up being his best ride ever.

Joining in on the excursion were Jeff’s dad Lloyd and his two oldest sons, Neil (12) and Joshua (10). The group of four rode a pair of Honda 350s and an Arctic Cat 150 to Manitoba Conservation Crown land about 13 kilometres (eight miles) northwest of Pilot Mound, accessible via Provincial Road # 440 at 18N intersection down a path that dwindles to a prairie trail.

“My great-grandpa used to live in the old yard there,” Jeff said. “It’s marked by a couple old foundations and a few evergreen trees.”

Jeff MacAulay and his wife Nancy smile for the camera.

Jeff MacAulay (pictured here with his wife Nancy) had his best ride ever with his father and two oldest sons on December 6, 2015. — Photo courtesy Jeff MacAulay

The old hog’s back ridge trail starts at the edge of a hayfield and goes through heavily wooded oaks that taper downhill to the Pembina Valley, coming out into a creek with willows, marsh and bog before entering another hay field pasture beside the Pembina River.

“It’s pretty, heading deep into the woods with a canopy of tree limbs,” said Jeff. “Feels like a tunnel in spots where the ground is depressed from the century-old road bed.

“It was nice and sunny, around -6 C with no wind chill. It’s cool once you’re down by the creek. After we were through the marsh, we felt a refreshing breeze. ATVing is so much fun, especially when it’s cool enough for no bugs.”

This unique ridge between a ravine and valley is low to moderate in difficulty, especially if starting at the top and riding down. When riding in late fall, as Jeff was, frost firms up the swampy spots through the marsh, making it even more accessible.

Wildlife thrive in the area. Riders should keep their eyes open for whitetail deer, elk, porcupines, beavers, rabbits, foxes and coyotes, as well as hawks and eagles soaring overhead.

A Honda XR100R dirt bike has been custom painted in John Deere colours.

At one time, Jeff MacAulay rode a Honda XR100R dirt bike that he custom painted in John Deere colours. — Photo courtesy Jeff MacAulay

As the MacAulays took in the sights and traversed the diverse countryside, they reminisced about the past and looked forward to future memories.

“We talked about when I was my boys’ age,” said Jeff. “My ATV riding days began when I quit riding our horse and we bought a brand new Honda Big Red ATC in 1982 for ranching.

“My boys weren’t ready to ride the Honda XR100R dirt bike that I custom painted in John Deere colours, so I traded it for an Arctic Cat 150 ATV—a great machine with practical fenders, racks and lights.

“We had a quality time of camaraderie with my dad. He’s a 77-year-old grandpa to my four children and still enjoying life to the fullest. We’re planning on coming back with a chainsaw to clear some brush and downed trees and we’re looking forward to snowmobiling on the frozen river and lakes.”

On our rad radar:

Rider: Jeff MacAulay

Where: Rock Lake, Manitoba

Occupation: Oilpatch tank truck driver

Weapon of choice: Arctic Cat 150

Memorable quote: “We have lots of good riding from our Rock Lake home,” Jeff said. “Nearby gravel pits, the old dam and century-old roads/trails down to the lake.”

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