Finding Yonder: The Abitibi Trail

by CycleChick on July 26, 2013

You are HerNinety-nine percent of great adventures end happily, and serve to inspire each other to step outside of our beige tupperware boxes and go farther. Do more. The other 1% – the adventures we don’t like to talk or think about – end in epic catastrophe, like sawing your own arm with a Swiss Army Knife, or eating a sherpa.

As much as I try to think about the 99%, it is that one percent that lingers like the rotting smell of old sherpa as I ride through the Abitibi Trail – alone and untethered to the world by anything other than an iPhone that shows my location as a lonely blue dot somewhere in the vast sea of green that is Nopiming Provincial Park.

I was in Nopiming Park on a family camping vacation, you know, the kind where you cram your car to the roof with half the shit you own and leave the other half – the half you actually need – safely at home. After many years of similar family vacations, we have gradually moved from (me) “Uh, honey… um, I was thinking – only if there’s room – that maybe I could bring my bike?” to (him) “Which bike are you bringing?” Let me tell you, it is a wonderful thing.IMG_5323I found out about the Abitibi trail because of a tip from some folks on Twitter. I had mentioned being in the Park, and they knew the area. “Head east on the 315, then turn into Flanders Lake.” they instructed. “At the end of the road there is an old ATV trail into the backcountry. The fishermen use it to get to the remote fishing spots.”

And so, since it is my custom to venture alone into the wilderness on the advice of total strangers, I hopped on my bike and went to find the trail. My first attempt was unsuccessful and almost ended in a trespassing charge and a nasty case of lyme disease. But the next day, I found the trailhead

IMG_5398As fashionable as riding gravel roads is these days, five day of it is enough to make any self-respecting roadie go half mad. My pristine white Rapha socks were (gasp) dirty, and these old bones were getting a sound thrashing, given the fact that my tyres are never inflated below 200 psi. I am now of the firm opinion that washboard belongs on Chippendales dancers, not roads. Needless to say, I was happy for a break from the gravel and excited for some new scenery. washboardThe trail itself was lovely, and perfect for a cross bike, even one with less-than-ideal 25c road slicks. Rolling and wild, the mud, sand, rocks, and water made the gravel seem almost like pavement by comparison. Almost.IMG_5397
It was around this time I began, in spite of myself, to think about the 1%. Not with any more intention than anyone thinks about unpleasant things, like what their ass will look like when they are eighty years old. But I was essentially alone, in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a bike and a cell phone. I’m pretty useless with GPS technology, but if I ran into a bear I would certainly be able to document my demise through a series of great Instagram photos with artful sepia tone filters.

If you have ever had the misfortune of camping with me, you’ll know I have an irrational fear of bears. While they are naturally timid creatures, if you take one by surprise it could very well respond by taking your head clean off. I find this contradiction both curious and terrifying. And so, to announce my presence as I rattle down the trail I find myself whistling the first tune the comes to mind: The Lumberjack Song.

“I’m a lumberjack and I’m ok. I work all night and I sleep all day…” (Oh God please don’t eat me)


“I dress in women’s clothing, and hang around in bars….” (If I make it out of here alive I swear I will go to church. Sometime.)


“I wish I was a girlie, just like my dear Papa.” (Who will look after my bikes if I’m dead?)

After a while I started to calm myself down and feel better. I came across a pretty little stream that puddled across the trail and into a lush marsh surrounded by evergreens.IMG_5386It seemed so peaceful and serene I decided to stop for a moment to wash my now filthy bike and take a few photos, trying not to think about thirsty bears. I stopped and took my phone out of my back pocket and was immediately attacked by a swarm of ten million carnivorous insects. It is clear to me now how so many of our rugged and unbreakable ancestors went mad from the relentless buzzing and biting of these blood thirsty little vermin.

I had to remove my helmet to release the deer flies that had flown into the wind vents, become trapped in my hair and were now tearing chunks out of my scalp. I barely escaped with my life. This was the only picture I took.IMG_5395Helmet dangling from one hand, I hightailed it out of the Abitibi trail swatting the air with my free hand like a crazy person shooing away the voices that tell them to light things on fire.

I wasn’t thinking about bears anymore.

So why, you might ask, amid the risk of getting hopelessly lost, devoured by insects, or messily eviscerated by a bear, would someone venture deep into the backcountry on a bike? I’m not sure I’m best qualified to answer that. After all, the trail was only 3km long. It felt much longer. Perhaps you can ask Hal and Dan, who are down south right now riding the Colorado Trail Race, a completely unsupported 500 mile journey through the outback of the Rocky Mountains.

I’m 99% sure they know the answer.


“Because it’s there”

by Dave on July 26, 2013 at 10:43 pm. Reply #


by CycleChick on August 1, 2013 at 8:13 pm. Reply #

Life isn’t much of an adventure if you think about consequences too much. Reminds me of the time a friend and I drove around Alberta for a week without any kind of agenda. We drove into the mountains, found a beautiful (and isolated) spot and decided “Hey, let’s go for a hike.” So, without any knowledge of the trail, no food, water, or any kind of bear repellent we started up the trail. About 30 minutes later reality kicked in….if something were to happen, no one in the world knew where we were. Unless the rental car was lojacked, chances of our bear-bruised bodies being found were pretty slim. Back to the car we went. Even though it wasn’t the epic hike we wanted, we got great photos and memories, and we still talk about how stupid, yet incredibly fun, that mini-adventure was.

by Gail on July 27, 2013 at 12:59 pm. Reply #

Awesome. Sometimes the best adventures are the ones that only last a few moments.

by CycleChick on August 1, 2013 at 8:14 pm. Reply #

What is artful sepia tone filters?

by rick on July 30, 2013 at 4:24 am. Reply #

You know, those warm tone black and white photos from yesteryear? You can apply digital filters to modern photos to make them look all romantic and old-fashioned-like. Some people love-em. Some not so much.

by CycleChick on August 1, 2013 at 8:13 pm. Reply #

Did you go beyond where the river crosses the trail? (You can trek through it, depending on how rainy its been) The trail actually goes for MUCH longer than 3kms, as it turns into a system of trails. The main branch actually goes until it hits Whiteshell/Winnipeg river.

As for avoiding the horrible bugs (which we’re very familiar with), try going in August next time, when bugs are at the lightest. Or April or October to avoid them completely. :)

by tskomro on July 30, 2013 at 7:12 pm. Reply #

I did go farther than the river. After a while the puddles got bigger and bigger until I couldn’t really go much farther. Not without a canoe at least. A shame, because it really was quite fun! And yes, next time we’ll come during the low season for bugs.

by CycleChick on August 1, 2013 at 8:08 pm. Reply #

Great site ,informitive, and hilarious.My daughter lives in Vancouver, going to school ,and is succumbing to blatant Canuckism ( not a bad thing) ,having escaped the blistering heat of the Texas Siberia where we live.
Jim Randlett

by Jim Randlett on February 2, 2014 at 6:27 pm. Reply #

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