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Late-Season Riding in the Algoma District

Ontario has much to offer snowmobilers - even in April!
travel Wawa Ontario Canada snowmobile trail scenery sunset sunrise
How often do snowmobilers get that extended season that allows riding into mid-April? Not very often so when it does, take advantage! We started our journey from Dunlop Lake Lodge in Elliott Lake. Ontario, which is a 2.5-hour drive (130 miles) from the Michigan/Sault Ste Marie border crossing. 

Welcomed by owners Jess and Trish, we were shown to our rooms before heading down to the dining room for a home-cooked meal and a few drinks to cap off the evening.
travel Wawa Ontario Canada snowmobile trail scenery
■ Embarking in April
There wasn’t a huge rush to leave in the morning since daylight lasts until almost 8 p.m. at this time of year. While we were eating breakfast, a few locals that were avid snowmobilers came in and filled us in on current trail status. Trail conditions were listed as limited (to be expected) but still passable. Avoiding the odd rock that poked through the snow on the sunny corners was a small problem to face. After all, it was April. 

Temperatures were just above 32 F when the three of us hit the trails for what would be a high-mileage day. None of us had ever been as far north as Wawa, Ontario, so we didn’t know what to expect. We each brought a few gallons of fuel, just in case some gas stops weren’t open so late in the season. Tip: Bring octane boost or high-octane fuel along with you if your sled requires it. Most fuel stops only carry 87 octane. The larger towns have premium fuel, but there can be long stretches between them.

■ Open highways
The first 60 miles treated us to elevation changes and technical turns. Navigating along the main F trail was a perfect way to start the trip. The soft snow meant muscling the sled through the corners, but what an amazing section of trail.
travel Wawa Ontario Canada snowmobile trail scenery
Pulling into Aubrey Falls, Ontario, we made a pit stop at Black Creek Outfitters. I emptied my two gallons of high-test fuel into the tank and added another couple of gallons of regular fuel from the pumps to get me to our next fuel stop: Halfway Haven. With three turbo sleds in the group, premium fuel was equivalent to liquid gold.

As we continued north, the temperatures stayed just below freezing. Jamming over to the D trail had the sleds on cruise control, which allowed us to cover quite a bit of ground in a short period of time. The D trail, which has only been reopened recently, connects the Town of Searchmont, Ontario, to Halfway Haven, and then connects north to Wawa, Ontario. 

If you can picture a four-lane highway with perfectly smooth and incredibly fast trails, then you have experienced what the Algoma District has to offer. Thank you to the volunteers that keep this remote section of trail open so that we can all enjoy how magnificent these trails really are.

■ Halfway Haven
Arriving at Halfway Haven Lodge around mid-afternoon, we were greeted by Sean, who has owned the lodge for about six years. After topping off the sleds with premium fuel, we went inside for some homemade soup and food while the snowmobiles took a well-needed rest for a few minutes. We shared some laughs with Sean and learned a lot about his lodge that operates year-round.
travel Wawa Motor Inn Ontario Canada snowmobile
Halfway Haven is the ONLY place to stop along the D trail, so pop in to say hi or stay for a few nights to explore the backcountry (by ATV during summer months). They also offer all-inclusive hunting and fishing trips. With lodging, food and fuel right onsite, what more do you need? Without Halfway Haven, the D trail wouldn’t exist.

■ Smooth sailing to Wawa
Heading north/west on the D trail was another spectacular stretch that had us pulling into Wawa with plenty of daylight still to burn. To our surprise, we didn’t pass any other sleds for the entire day. These trails were some of the best trails that I have ridden all year, and I was surprised that we had them all to ourselves. 

We arrived at the Wawa Motor Inn and checked into one of the chalets we would call home for the next two nights. The cabin was amazing, to say the least, and being able to drive the sleds right to our front door was a bonus. 

We headed up to the licensed dining room for dinner, then relaxed in our living room with a few refreshments in hand.

■ Exploring the Algoma District
The next morning brought more warm temperatures and beautiful sunny skies. After breakfast, we headed north for an out and back to Hornepayne, Ontario. We blasted across Wawa Lake to pick up the #7 club trail, which would lead us to the bottom of the Magpie River. Running the river when conditions allow for perfect visibility is ideal. There are a lot of obstructions and pressure cracks that would be very dangerous if you didn’t know the area or were running it at night. Certain areas where the ice had heaved displayed an aqua blue color, making them great places for a photo opportunities.
travel Wawa Ontario Canada snowmobile trail scenery
At the end of the river, we hooked into the #3 club trail, which took us back to the main D trail and into the town of Dubreuilville, Ontario. There, the only available fuel was at an unmanned cardlock pump, and it only dispensed 87 octane. We each put in $20, which would be more than enough to cover the remaining 95 miles to Hornepayne. We spotted a few bald eagles circling above us as we jumped on the D108A and squeezed the throttle for a non stop run into Hornepayne.

We grabbed a quick bite to eat, topped off the iron with premium fuel and headed back south toward Wawa. Pulling into the cardlock station, we saw our first snowmobile group of the week. After a splash of fuel, our last 50 miles kept us on the D/F trail hooking into the D trail, which runs southwest back into Wawa.

■ Trouble in paradise
About 20 miles from the Wawa Motor Inn, one of the sleds in our group stated making some “catastrophic failure” noises. With a large clunk coming from the machine, the operator was lucky enough to be able to limp it back into town. Parking for the night, we discussed options for fixing the sled in the morning.

Morning came, and with a full day’s ride back to Elliott Lake, we came to the mutual decision that riding the broken sled would not be ideal. If you’ve ever had a breakdown while being a good distance from home, then you know there are several options to get you back home. What has always worked the best for us is to rent a van, load the downed sled into it, and drive one-way to our destination. This proves to be the most cost- and time-effective way to transport both yourself and sled back.
travel Wawa Ontario Canada snowmobile trail scenery
With just two of us to hammer down on the final day, we got underway after helping our buddy load his sled into the moving van. Stopping at Halfway Haven, we squeezed as much fuel into the tanks as possible and grabbed another homemade meal before continuing southeast on the D trail. 

Along the trails, warming huts are placed so riders have everything that they’d need if they had to spend the night for any reason, including a wood-burning stove and an emergency phone. We stopped at a warming hut to stretch and hydrate. 

A groomer pulled up to the junction. It was his last pass for the season. We chatted for a while and thanked him for his time spent keeping the trails in perfect condition.

■ Cutting it close
We had to make our next destination before 5 p.m. closing time, as we needed fuel to get us back to Dunlop Lake Lodge. We pulled up to the pumps just after 4 p.m. to find that the store and pumps were all locked up. We had four gallons of fuel that we were carrying between the two of us, but we weren’t sure if that would be enough to get us back. Did we chance it or decide to “open” one of the doors to a nearby cabin and spend the night?
travel Wawa Ontario Canada snowmobile trail scenery
There’s great riding in the Rangeley area and good chow, repair shops and activities to be found in town.
With about four hours of daylight left, we decided to keep rolling, but stay easy on the throttle to conserve as much fuel as possible. We had 60 miles to go with the tanks about 1/3 full, plus everything we were carrying. The good thing about this situation is that both of us were on identical Yamaha Sidewinders. Fuel mileage should be similar, so we opted to fill up the trailing sled with a couple gallons and go until the front sled ran out of fuel. If needed, we could dump the remaining fuel into the trailing sled, ride it to the Lodge, and then return with fuel for the other sled.

Luckily enough, we came across a sign for Elliott Lake and realized that we were close. We emptied the remaining couple of gallons into each sled and coasted into Dunlop Lake Lodge on fumes. One of our sleds sputtered coming down the last hill, and the other sled would not restart to load onto the trailer.

We had 5 gallons of fuel in the trailer, so we were able to put a bit of fuel in to get them loaded. The tanks had a good vacuum pressure when taking off the gas caps, so needless to say, we just made it.

After unloading the saddlebags, we got to our room and headed down for dinner. It was open mic night, and local talent was playing a variety of genres. There we ran into a few other snowmobilers that took the same route as we did from Halfway Haven. 
travel Wawa Ontario Canada snowmobile trail scenery
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