Are you a City person? A gentleman farmer? Or are you an all-out outdoors enthusiast like me? It doesn’t really matter as if you share a passion for the outdoors, being in the fresh air, have a sense of exploration and have respect and admiration for Nature, it puts us all in the same boat, so-to speak. Now if you’re into bogging in the mud and racing down forestry trails, you’re pushing it too far for my liking but to each their own. As long as all respect nature and pick up after themselves. I’ve always said to leave wherever you went in nature the way you found it, or even in better shape by picking up others’ garbage and dangerous goods.
Those who know me know that I’ve always been an outdoors enthusiast. As a child, I loved camping with my family and as a teen, my cousin and I were heavily into fishing, hunting, trapping, spending as much time as possible in the forest and even taxidermy. I don’t know what it is, if it’s the quietness, the birds, the dangers at times, but it’s one of the best antidepressant out there, one of the best ways to unwind and forget about society and its issues, including the ever negativity of the news… particularly if you don’t have cell and internet reception!
This past weekend, I went exploring the new area we moved to along with the former owners of the acreage we purchased back in March. Even though they have been on this earth a few years before my girlfriend and I, we have become good friends with them. They have a smaller Can-Am side-by-side while my girlfriend and I each have a Yamaha Kodiak geared up for hunting. You know those nice snow peak mountains I photograph regularly from my deck? Well we decided to go behind them through ATV trails and old forestry and mining roads.
GUIDE TO QUADDING – DO’S AND DON’TS
If you’re planning on going on a joy ride with friends, there are a few things you should know and prepare for ahead of time. No matter how experienced you might be, you risk big each and every time to step onto a all-terrain vehicle in the backcountry. So in order to put the odds on your side, I have compiled a short list of things to do and not do when enjoying Mother Nature’s beauty in her domaine.
1- Go prepared
Ensure to have enough gas, food & water, clothing (including rain coat), tire plugs, pump, first aid kit including survival blanket, bug spray, helmets and yes, toilet paper! Never go in the bush without some sort of fire starting kit and keep it all in a waterproof container. Having a few bear bangers, bear spray and flairs is also not a bad idea. Never, ever go in the forest quadding without a working chainsaw and/or an axe. The trail may be clear when going up, but you never know when a tree can fall and block your way back home and in the event of an emergency having to stay overnight (it has happened to me before), you will be able to cut yourself some firewood, which will allow you to stay warm, dry and to keep predators away. For quadding, a good set of eye protection such as goggles and/or sunglasses are a must, as it’s extremely hard to quad with bugs, rain or even snow flying into your eyes. I personally never go into the backcountry without at least one tarp, some rope and a few bungee cords.
2- Check your machine
Oil, tires, loose bolts, and bring a spare spark plug in case you flood your machine as well as extra motor oil in case you spring a leak. Ensure you have a tire plug kit and at the very least, a hand pump, although those small DC compressors that plug into your cigarette lighter (do they still call it that?) work amazingly well. Ensure that you have a few basic tools as well. It is also crucial to familiarize yourself with the machine and the safety procedures of riding in the backcountry. This is NOT like riding on paved roads with predetermined speed limits and grades for curves and hills. Ensure that everything on the machine is secured as vibration and bumps are frequent in the bush.
3- Familiarize yourself with Area
Get a GPS or a map, even if going with someone else who knows the area. If they get hurt, you need to be able to go get help or describe over the phone where you are. Notice turnoffs, place ribbons if you must (breadcrumbs). Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back. Most GPS are equipped with “breadcrumbs”, keeping track of the directions you’ve taken. You can easily follow them back home if need be. A GPS will also give you coordinates which can be passed along to your local Search and Rescue team in the event of an emergency. It’s well worth the investment. But DO carry extra batteries though… Also as important, do some research about the type of wildlife there is in the area. Where I live, it’s heavy bear country, including Grizzly bear. Are there wolves, cougars, wolverines in the area? Learn their behaviour, what to do and what not to do when faced with them.
4- Stay together
Some are more experienced riders, others not so much. Those machines are not the safest out there and many accidents and even deaths are happening every year. If you’re ahead and can’t see your partner(s) behind, stop and wait until everyone has caught up. Never leave the most inexperienced rider last in the group. Have someone behind them incase they need help crossing a spot where they’re not comfortable with. NEVER take unnecessary chances. If your gut tells you it’s too dangerous, don’t do it or let a more experienced rider get across a hazard. There is no room for braveries in out backcountry. If you have an inexperienced rider or someone who doesn’t know the trail behind you, stop before dicey areas and inform them on how to cross. Examples: Going down a steep hill, get them to put the machine on low gear to allow for more compression. Going up a long or steep hill, tell them to put it on 4×4 if your machine has that feature. Sharing of information is key and could prevent serious injuries or worse…
5- Allow yourself enough time
No sense in going if you have to speed through it. Enjoy the smells, the views, stop from time to time to take pictures. Stretching your legs and resting your arms feels great from time to time. Remember that however long it took you to get somewhere, it will take about as much time getting back. Allow yourself plenty of time to get back before dark as in the dark, every tree looks the same, every trail looks different than in the daytime, and when it starts getting dark, hazards are not as noticeable. When the sun starts going down is also when you will see more wildlife on the trails… predators included.
1- Drive too fast
By driving slower, you will be able to hear nature, issues with the machine or any other potential danger. You’ll save on fuel and let’s face it, trails do change and there could be a tree down, a landslide, wildlife, other riders coming the other way and other hazards on the trails. Often in high mountains areas, there is a big cliff offering no protection on one side. If you have a gun on your machine, never, even have it loaded, even with the safety on. For one thing, it’s illegal but as a safety precaution, a loaded firearm on a moving vehicle is extremely dangerous for the people riding with you and for yourself.
2- Try to be a hero
An ATV is just a machine and trying to preserve it is not worth your life or the life of others. If you feel like your ATV is going to flip or roll, be ready and willing to bail. If you have to do so, try jumping away from the direction of the machine, trying to prevent it from rolling over top of you. I have once flipped my quad which landed over me and I broke my L-12 vertebrae in the process. It doesn’t feel good and Those machines are much heavier than you think! This is more true on a quad as in a side-by-side, you should be buckled up anyway and most have a roll cage. Just keep your arms in if you can. If someone in your group has had an incident, don’t take unnecessary risks to save or retrieve them as two of you in trouble is worse than just one.
5- Drink and ride
In Canada, you can now legally add to this category smoking marijuana. Basically, don’t consume anything that will impair your judgement and reaction time. Those are deadly machines in often deadly terrains, particularly on mountain rides. You’re not allowed doing it on the roads, it’s just as bad doing it in the trails. If you’re staying in the bush overnight, have a beverage or two at camp, when you’re done riding. It’s just as good but a hell of a lot safer too.
4- Play with fire
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know how dangerous wildfires have been just about everywhere in Canada in recent years, particularly with Global Warming. In summer months, forests are often tinder dry and even a hot exhaust can and will start a fire. Not only are you putting yourself at risk, but anyone else who wouldn’t know that there is a fire and would be riding towards the danger instead of away from it. Forest fires travel much, much faster than you can on trails jumping well ahead of you, potentially putting everyone in a life threatening situation. You smoke or someone in your group does? Use water to extinguish your cigarette butt. Then bury it in dirt to ensure the wind doesn’t carry it towards grass, and definitely don’t simply flick it. And if you MUST build a campfire, ensure to clear any flammables from around your firepit and line it with a minimum of two rows of rocks. Don’t build your fire up too high and keep an eye on sparks.
5- Open your mouth while riding
While it is hard to not smile or be at awe at what nature has to offer, flies and mosquitoes are prominent in high countries. One movie scene that jumps to mind when thinking of bugs while riding is Me, Myself and Irene, with Jim Carrey. He loved riding so much, he had a huge smile on his face and… well I posted the picture instead of trying to describe it. Those flying bugs will find their way behind your sunglasses, in your nose and, if your mouth is open for any amount of time, in that big trap of yours. It’s apparently good protein though!
There you have it folks. Riders will tell you that there are even more things to think about when going on a ride than what I’ve described and I will agree. But these are basic rules to follow. I will add one more for you, one of the most important rule if you ask me:
Respect nature: Pick up after yourself! This is not YOUR habitat, it’s one we share with tons of wildlife and other creatures living in the area. You see a can, pick it up. You see glass, try to carefully pick it up or at least, put it by a rock, buried so the sun doesn’t shine on it to start a fire.
Here are some photos from our last trip, where I went exploring for new hunting territories in our area. Enjoy the beauty of nature and… stay safe.