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Outdoor Adventures: Taking a ride on the wild side

  • Off-roaders hit the dirt in Pittsburg. The trail is part of the 1,000-plus miles of the Ride the Wilds system in Coos County. Marty Basch / For the Monitor



For the Monitor
Monday, July 24, 2017

On the dirt road, the pastoral landscape whizzes by. Weathered barns and wildflowers, curious cows and caressing curves, and forested mountains and open meadows are delightful snapshots of rural life. 

Along the pock-marked rocky way, we rocked and rolled during bone-shaking, tummy-twisting crawls going up and down the steep uneven pathways more at home for mountain goats than mere motoring mortals.

Then there’s the mud. Powering straight through it, the rig creates its own wake. The mud oozes into the vehicle creating small ankle deep brown pools. Reach down into the brackish waters for a plug. Find it. Twist it and watch as the fleeting waters drain away and your boots return to view.

Such is kicking up some dust while four-wheeling along the trails of Ride the Wilds in northern New Hampshire and Vermont near the Canadian border.

Frankly, I’ve never seen myself as the ATVing kind. But interaction with hunters while hiking led me to that world and paddling hooked me on fishing. While mountain biking I’ve encountered off-highway road vehicle operators so when the chance came to drive one on a guided tour I took a ride on the wild side for some perspective into off-roading.

Headquarters was Bear Rock Adventures in Pittsburg owned by Corinne Rober, a former Glen restaurant owner. 

“A lot of people think ATVing is this yahoo thing where you ride 150 miles at 150 miles per hour,” she said. “It’s not that. This is another way to get you deeper into the woods and add another layer of adventure – a bridge.”

The idea is a sound and unforgettable escapade.

“We want to make this safe, easy and approachable,” said Gray Rentz, a manger creating tours for Polaris, the powersports manufacturer. “We want to bring this to families for a different and memorable experience.”

First thing in the morning following a dinner at the Rainbow Grille on the shores of Back Lake and a night in a Lopstick Lodge cabin overlooking First Connecticut Lake, it was time for the group safety and instructional video plus a time to go over OHRV basics.

The electric start automatic transmission four-seater came with GPS, a map showing your location as you drove while also allowing the outfitter to know that location. As a last resort for an extreme medical emergency, the touch of a button would signal a helicopter medical evacuation but at a hefty cost. With four-wheel drive and power steering, there was also storage compartments for gear like rain jackets, snacks and water.

The five-vehicle caravan followed Rober along a myriad of terrain, stops made for tourist photos and a chance to switch positions. The route flowed through the forest along the meandering Halls Stream, a natural border between the U.S. and Canada’s Eastern Townships in Quebec and up into the wonderful hills of Pittsburg.

Uncertainty quickly dissipated behind the wheel once the realization was made that this powerful dirt puppy handled much better than a front-wheel drive daisy-cutting low hatchback. Thirty mph seemed much faster than that. We waved to other ATVers and motorists. We slowed down at gates and when graders were out smoothing portions of the roads that had recently seen logging trucks. We gave way to fellow ATVers when the two-way trail was tight.

Adhering to speed limits, and seeing reminders along the way that sections of the route could be closed if speed limits weren’t met, we slowed down for walkers and cyclists. When it was time to ride some pavement in town, even more caution was used sharing the road and making safe crossings.

But instinct sought a blinker and rear view mirror, both not there.

We drove to a congenial Northeast Kingdom sugar house in Canaan, Vt., April’s Maple, for lunch. Nothing like basking in the anonymity of being a helmeted and goggled driver/passenger and then unmasking for a tour and much-appreciated salad topped with maple vinaigrette. Talk about world’s colliding!

The ride, about 75 miles in approximately 6 hours, took us along the bucolic Connecticut River and to the top of Beaver Brook Falls in Colebrook, a chance to see the Beaver Brook before it makes the 80-foot plunge. 

Overall, driving was good fun. Riding shotgun garnered a bronze medal. Being a backseat passenger was a bit of a squeeze for leg room during a zestful day of white noise and power toys in the Great North Woods.

(Marty Basch can be reached through onetankaway.com.)