2014 Watkins Glen Ride

Day 5 to Chalpleau

Day 5

Got a pretty early start on Tuesday, and stopped at the lighthouse up the street.

Point Iroquois Light Station

The curator couple who live there invited me in and let us walk to the top of the lighthouse. Nice people.

Then I booked it up to Sault Ste Marie. I just floundered before crossing the border, wasting time. I have been looking for gloves, mine were worn enough to have holes in them. I found some at a motorcycle shop (Chippewa Motors. Gave me a discount and some helpful advice, good guys). Exchanged some real money for Canadian. And my camera had died, I searched around for a replacement battery. No luck. Ate at Arby's, wasting time.

Crossing the border was straight forward. No problem. Never was.

Once in Canada, searched for a map of the Chapleau Crown Game Preserve, which was a focal point of the trip. They do not exist. Well, they may, but they are a State Secret.

Then I headed north, and found Ranger Lake road. I liked that road quite a bit. It starts out with good pavement and nice rolling small mountains. Then decent packed dirt.

Ranger Lake Road

Found this place, something about white building with red roofs on the water looks so cool:

Ranger Lake Fire Attack Base


Right before that bridge was where I about died. I was riding on nice Heidenau K60 Scouts, which are great on the dirt roads. But, like snow tires, they don't make you safer. They just mean you can go faster at the same level of non-safety. So, I'm booking along and suddenly barreling around the blind corner, on my side completely, is a huge logging truck. So I'm braking hard looking for where to ditch. Doesn't matter how good the tires are, you ain't stopping fast on dirt. And, well, I didn't die. Sorry, don't have a more interesting end of that story.

Then up 129 to Chapleau, paved, boring. Tried not to take this picture, but Ontario Provincial Police stopped me and told me it was required:

Required Picture

Got to Chapleau, bought a camera after another search for a battery, and ate a burger. Late afternoon, and I'm still not into the Game Preserve.

Chapleau Crown Game Preserve is a huge chunk of state-owned land in Ontario that has been closed to hunting for years. Literature says there is a black bear every square kilometer there, and lots of moose. There are ride reports out there of dual sport bikes next to black bears, like at here. I wanted to see bears. Besides seeing my Dad, that was the focal point of this trip.

It was pretty much a bust.

It started great. I had a late start, it was probably 4PM when I finally got up there. There are two roads into there from Chapleau, I headed up Martel. It started out with heavy logging (hunting isn't allowed, but logging seems to be encouraged). But then it started getting into a nice dirt road. I was very encouraged:

Chapleau Crown Game Preserve

Martel Rd, Chapleau Crown Game Preserve

There were bear tracks, even more encouraged:

Bear track in the Chapleau Preserve

That map has a couple picnic areas on it, and observation decks, etc. Most of them are lies. They don't exist. I cut over to Lafreniere Rd to the Bird & Picnic Observation place, which was on a pretty industrial dirt logging road. I didn't like it for camping, so I headed up to Platform #3. It doesn't exist. It was getting dark and I needed to setup. So I set up on the edge of a jeep trail. It turned into a stream bed just a bit up the way, so I wasn't worried about traffic.

Campsite on a Jeep trail

I hung my food from the non-existent bears in one of my yellow dry bags. It was viewable from the main road, so it wouldn't have taken many days before someone decided to investigate what it was. So, had the worst happen, I'd be found. You know, to collect the entrails. Every good bear mauling story ends with a reporting of the number of pounds of the victim's body that was recovered.

I took a short hike, first down the jeep trail then out to the main road. While I was on the main road a pickup came by. I heard him coming plenty early because it was about the only sound in the forest. When I saw the headlights, I walked back into the woods and hid behind a tree. I just didn't really want to explain why I was on foot out there, wasn't looking for conversation, and didn't think I had anything to gain by anyone knowing I was camping out there.

Then I turned in. It was the quietest night I have ever spent. It was silent, which is really cool. But strange. I heard a loon cry once. Other than that, no insect buzz. No tree frogs. No birds. Nothing, silence.

Road to Missinaibi in the Chapleau Preserve

I told myself not to worry about the bears, I mean, they don't bother humans. Well, just that one time ... Black Bear Kills Woman North of Chapleau ... but surely not again.

Day 6 Exploring Chapleau Crown Game Preserve and the Sultan Highway

Day 6

So, as it turns out, not a visitor all night. Not even a chipmunk or vole. Packed up and started to head out.

Chapleau Crown Game Preserve

Well, the plan was to be out of the preserve by the end of the preceding day. And I was well into the preserve. But, maybe I should explore to the north a bit. But you know how it is, you always have to know what's around the next corner.

And a key to traveling is to not be on the way too the good part, but be at the good part. Meaning, enjoy where you are as much as possible and don't worry about getting somewhere better. And don't be victim to a plan and allow it to ruin the moment. Or something. You get my drift.

So I figured I'm here, I should explore.

Sadly, my best wildlife encounter. This and some loons:

Beaver in Chapleau Crown Game Preserve

They were in there somewhere, moose:

Moose Tracks

and views and really pretty lakes and stuff:

Chapleau Crown Game Preserve

I got about as far north as the road would take me, the entrance of the Missinaibi Provincial Park. Realizing I was a ways from a diner, I made myself breakfast. Another aspect of traveling is Mood Management, and I am susceptible to being grumpy when I'm hungry. Best to stay in front of that:

Dinty Moore stew and freeze dried coffee for breakfast

Everything tastes good when you're camping. Well ... almost everything.

Then just a little farther north. Cause don't ya know I am in intrepid traveler going where no man has gone before. Well, except for ... the guys driving the RVs to the park.

Yup, there's a campground setup there. When I got off the bike first thing I hear is they guy walking by saying "Wow, I've never seen anyone pull in here on a motorcycle before". Which sounded cool, except the place was full of RVs that had pulled up their boats:

Missinaibi Provincial Park

Still, the place was so quiet, and the folks up there were all just ... what? ... calm. Peaceful. I hung out and chatted and it was so relaxing. They were RV guys, but the type of RV guys who go to the middle of nowhere. Good folk.

I talked to a conservation officer (game warden) for a while. I think he was driving the truck I ducked the night before. Glad I did, great guy but I think his urge not to let anyone get hurt would have complicated my life. We mostly talked motorcycles and snowmobiles. We disagreed on what gets more more immediate power, carbs or efi. I'm a carb guy, but those electrons are fast was my position. His was that all that computer stuff slows things down.

Anyways, he says it used to be he'd see a couple bears every day, and plenty of moose too. But in the past few years, he sees about nothing. He didn't know what the cause was. Animals just go to where the food is or something he figured. A guy in the boat was saying the fishing isn't what it used to be either. Plenty of good eating fish, but no so many trophies.

Asking about the roads back out the warden said to just stay on the main road, the alternative route had washouts. But I wasn't going to listen to a safety nazi, so I tried to cut back over to Lipsott Rd. There were water crossings. I did a couple, then got to one that was a little too deep for me. I could have made it, but was thinking there was just going to be more. I was alone. Far away from help. Promised the wife to be safe. Decided I was getting into "stupid" territory and turned around. Wondered if I would regret it later. Turns out, a little bit but it was the right decision.

Water crossings in the Chapleau Refuge

Then back out. Took a long ride down a side road to find an observation deck that didn't exist. Got turned around at a picnic area and took a right when I should have taken a left, ended up heading back north for a while. Just your basic floundering.

My retreat from a too-deep water crossing

I carry a spare gallon of gas. I never had to use it but when I finally got to the gas station I had 175 miles on the odometer and she took 4.08 gallons of gas. I should have ridden up the road a couple miles just to say I ran out.

Diner was closed so no late breakfast. So back to Grumpy's for a couple burgers and a stupid amount of fries.

Lunch at Grumpy's Chip Stand

Just one more Chapleau pictures before I move on:

Chapleau Crown Game Preserve

OK, after some burgers it was probably about 2:00. I headed down 129 a bit to pick up the Sultan Industrial Road. Starts as provincially owned hard top, then private logging dirt road open to the public.

Sultan used to be a town, since unincorporated. Some places there were pretty nice, others not at all.

Sultan, Ontario

And there is was little, odd graveyard featuring this one grave with an animal burrow right in the middle. Pretty sure if you stuck your arm down in there you'd reach right into the casket.

John Ceredigion Jones grave

Well, what do you know. While looking for more information on this grave site I found a picture of that grave: http://www.chapleaulibrary.com/wakami/index.htm.

His identity was sought by princes and prime ministers, poets and peasants. His was a life of peculiar frustrations. But he did achieve one thing and it stands as his monument on the Peace Tower in Ottawa
The writer was John Ceredigion Jones, a Welsh-Canadian poet. At 64 years of age (in 1947 ed.), he jumped from the lumbering train, pulled himself together and trudged up to the mill at Sultan seeking work. A penniless wayfarer, he was given a job in the mill. After a few days work, he dropped dead from a heart attack.
Mr. Pausette, mill manager, stated "we did not know where he had come from beyond Sudbury. He was burried with his boots on in a rough wooden box. Rev. Howard Strapp of Chapleau gave him Christian burial and there he lies".
The unravelling of his past showed Jones had been born in Cardiganshire, Wales, March 1, 1883. He emigrated to Canada in 1904 and became a rolling stone who wrote verses and innumerable letters to the press. During his life time, he had been President of the St. David's Society in Toronto, had visited the Yukon, revisited Wales 1921, had been in business with Colonel Pryce Jones on the Prairies.
Just, wow.

Sultan, ON Cemetery

Then onto the dirt. Man, it was dusty. When riding alone it was pretty fun. But when a truck passed it was about a whiteout. And if you got behind someone you were done. I quickly realized that if you aren't in dust, don't stop for anything. Just enjoy. Like don't stop for pictures like this one:

Sultan Industrial Rd

At the end of that road you can cross 144 and get onto 560. There is gas there. It is a very rugged gas station that lacks the female touch. There were buildings that I don't know if you could rent a room in or not. You would have to be damn rugged to dare to.

Now, all of the Chapleau stuff really isn't forest. It's mostly a bunch of land that is being logged, is recovering from being logged, or is about to be logged. It's not so much forest as cropland, and the crop is timber.

But once on 560 I left that and got into more natural forest. It got pretty damn beautiful. And the pavement was a nice change from a ton of dirt/gravel. It was just fast and smooth and comfortable. Fairly decent corners in parts. A really nice ride.

Rt 560, Ontario

I was kinda figuring on a motel that night. But there was a city campground that was pretty empty for $5 a night, with all-you-can-burn firewood. And nice thick green grass. I'll take that over a marginally clean motel room anytime, so I camped one more night. Set up mostly in the dark. Didn't use any of that firewood, just turned in and slept soundly.

Elk Lake municipal campground