I hadn’t planned on doing the summer challenge. At least not that week. I was just going to explore. But when a friend pointed out that the route I was planning on taking passed by all the of the checkpoints it was clear that it was fate. So after some fiddling with the route to bring me in line with the rules I declared, packed up my bike and set out.
I was doing a few things differently from others who had done challenge 4. The first was that I was starting and ending in Winnipeg, and simply passing through Beausejour twice. The second was that I was taking 5 days to do it and wasn’t terribly concerned with taking the most direct route possible, but lastly, I was doing Patricia Beach first and Ancient Mountains last.
I left Winnipeg on the morning of Victoria Day, it was cold and overcast. I left the city on 59 north, jumped onto the floodway trail, cut through Birds Hill Park and started my way west towards Beausejour. By the time I got to Beausejour it was raining, and north of town the road turned to such thick mud that it gummed up my drivetrain. After getting everything running fagain I turned east towards the sand of Mars Hill and then to the old rail line, which took me up to Patricia Beach, where the concession stand was open despite the cold, and the promise of hot food was to good too pass up. After that I returned to the railbed, following it to Grand Beach, where I spent the night after supper and a hot shower.
Leaving Grand Beach the following morning I followed the railbed south, and then east all the way to Pine Falls. Aside from piles of rail ballast pushed over the low spots, the railbed to Pine Falls is pretty good riding if you have the tires wide enough for it. After Pine Falls I followed the highway north to Manigatogin. North-bound traffic was light, though as Hydro is building a new transmission line I encountered some work crews blocking lanes. After stopping in at Wood Falls I continued to the English Brook campground at the junction of PR 304 and the road to Bloodvein. A bunch of locals stopped by to fish or hang out in the evening, but otherwise I had it to myself.
The following morning I started east towards Bissett. Stopping briefly in Bissett to buy supplies, I continued towards Nopoming. The road was deserted: I saw less than 10 vehicles between Bissett and Black Lake. After seeing the Ancient Mountains sign, I turned left, changed my shoes and hiked to the trail, only to realized that it was the short Tooth Lake Access trail. Annoyed, I continued on to the correct turn off, stopped for lunch and hiked the trail, then continued to the Black Lake campground.
The next morning I started south towards Lac du Bonnet, but turned towards the Old Pinawa Dam and followed the single track Pinawa Trail to the Seven Sisters Dam. At east end of the Seven Sisters Dam a small excavator was removing reeds from the dam intake. The operator waved me through after setting his boom down, but an annoyed Hydro employee at the other end of the powerhouse told me that it was very “uncool” to travel through a worksite “like that”. After I explained that I had stopped and waited for permission, he indignantly replied “well you’re a very lucky guy, I’ll just say that.” and told me to carry on. After stopping for lunch in at Jennifer’s in Seven Sisters Falls, I followed the trails, and then logging roads towards Whitemouth, where I spent the final night.
Leaving Whitemouth I rode through the old peat quarries, and then took ATV trails and backroads to Beausejour where I stopped for lunch. After lunch I returned to Winnipeg via Birds Hill Park.