Ladies, leave your man at home ... and come to Ontario
Often when we go out for a ride with a big group there are a couple of women among our ranks. However, up until recently we’ve never been outnumbered by the so-called fairer sex while out on the trails. That all changed in October when we went on a two-day ATV trip in Ontario where men were clearly in the minority.
We knew what we were getting into ahead of time, as we were invited to participate in a women’s ride on what happens to be one of the best trail systems we’ve ever seen – we’ll explain more about this later. Never ones to turn down a trip, we jumped at the chance, packed our bags and readied ourselves for another interesting ATV adventure.
We took off from Toronto in the morning and headed north to a town called Mattawa, about 30 minutes east of North Bay. This trip should take a little less than four hours if you don’t stop to smell the roses along the way.
During our drive up north we started to wonder why we don’t see more women out on the trails. Despite the raw power and adrenaline-fueled thrills provided by ATVs, four-wheelers are generally unintimidating to ride – certainly compared to their two-wheeled cousins. It’s this fact that opens ATVs up to riders who are new to motorsports and probably wouldn’t consider starting out of a dirt bike. In a lot of cases that means women.
Ontario is a little different than most riding destinations in the United States in that you do see a lot of women having fun on the trails. This can probably be attributed to the massive popularity of snowmobiling, which is very much a family activity in Canada and parts of the northern United States. When the snow is gone, which it is for at least eight months of the year in most places, many snowmobilers turn to ATVs to feed their motorsports appetites.
Mattawa is located in an area known as Ontario’s Near North and is home to the Voyageur Multi-Use Trail System (VMUTS), which is where we would be spending the majority of the next two days. This area is renowned for its beauty and is hugely popular with off-road enthusiasts, hunters, fishermen, and people who just like to be in the great outdoors. VMUTS is unlike any trail system we’ve seen. It’s home to 300 kilometers (about 185 miles) of well-maintained and varied trails, but it’s also connected to a much larger network of trails – nearly 2,000 miles – that are diligently mapped with GPS coordinates. You could spend weeks riding up here and go somewhere new every day.
We met up with our group for some breakfast and a coffee at Draper’s Bakery & Café in downtown Mattawa. Since everybody was new to us, we weren’t entirely sure what to expect or how we’d be received. Fortunately, everybody in the group was exceedingly friendly and eager to hit the trails. Most had been riding ATVs for years and were quite familiar with the trail system; however, a couple of newer riders were in our party so we planned to stick to fairly tame trails so everybody would return home in one piece.
Since one of our missions with this trip was to figure out why there aren’t more women riding ATVs, we talked to one of the more experienced riders about what she likes about the sport.
“It’s great to get out with the kids,” says Kristin Tucker, who lives in nearby Nipissing. “We can go camping or we can just go for a ride during the day and just enjoy the scenery.”
Of course, sometimes you just want to let loose and not bring the entire family with you. ATVing can be a great way to get a little break from your daily life and have some fun with your friends.
“The girls and I really have a great time just getting dirty and leaving the guys at home with the kids,” says Stewart. “It just gives you a real sense of independence and freedom – like girls can do anything that guys can do and sometimes better. It’s pretty awesome.”
Stewart isn’t alone in this thinking. Go ATVing in Ontario and there’s a good chance you’ll run into a group of women having a fun day on their own.
“I just started to come out with the girls,” says Mattawa resident Lise Moore Asselin. “Usually I’d come out with the kids and husband and family and do that all the time. Coming out with the girls I feel more independent that I ride the bike myself and it’s a lot of fun.”
We spent two days riding these trails on our Honda ATVs and it was rare to turn around and not see a smiling face. It wasn’t just the veteran riders enjoying themselves, either. The new riders in our group were clearly pleased with the experience and already are thinking of future off-road adventures.
“It’s amazing,” says Jaimi Trouton, who lives just outside Toronto. “Pretty easy for a first-time rider. It’s good to be here with the girls to prove to myself that I could do it. It’s just good to feel independent on the bike.”
Despite her inexperience, Trouton, who emphatically stated her favorite part of the trip was the puddles, had no trouble keeping up the pace with the rest of our group – men or women. She says she could certainly envision herself bringing her girlfriends out for a day of riding.
Sounds like a great idea to us. In fact, we’ve even put together a possible itinerary for your off-road adventure.
Start your journey in Toronto. You can go shopping during the day and hit the clubs at night. If your husbands demand to come along, send them off to a hockey or baseball game to get them out of your hair while you hit the town.
After catching a few hours of sleep load up the car and head north up Hwy 400, which eventually turns into Hwy 11. Once you hit North Bay, you’ll want to head east on Hwy 17, which will take you right into beautiful Mattawa Voyageur Country. The city has loads of accommodation options, including the Moosehead Estate and Retreat, a beautiful bed and breakfast located on the shore of Lake Champlain.
You can ride your ATV just about anywhere in town, so you can gas up and ride your machine right to the Voyageur Multi-Use Trail System. After you’ve had your fill of riding for the day, head back into town for some dinner and drinks and call it a night. We’re guessing you’ll want to stay an extra day so you can do it all again!
For more information or to get help planning an ATV trip to Ontario, visit GoRideOntario.com/ATV.