Bon Echo Provincial Park boasts a collection of extremes amongst the Addington Highlands of southwestern Ontario – one of the deepest lakes in the province, a massive 100 metre-tall slab of granite stretching two kilometers in length, and 500 year-old pictographs illustrating the life stories of Native Canadians. Surrounding these highlights, is a backdrop for adventure racing that can only be described as epic.
On a sunny and warm May 7th, 2005, Frontier Adventure Racing returned to Bon Echo P.P. in the staging of the summer season opener for the Salomon Adventure Challenge Series. A sell-out race of 100 teams from Ontario, Quebec, and the USA created an electric atmosphere at Race Headquarters as most teams camped out both before and after the race. An additional buzz was created by the presence of City TV’s Breakfast Television as they planned to follow their own Dave Pinton, competing in his first adventure race!
Upon the completion of the Race Briefing at the Park’s amphitheatre, racers gathered underneath the Salomon arch for the beginning of the race at 10:10 am. With a 2 km Le Mans start to the canoeing portion of the race, it was quite a scene. Imagine 300 lifejacket-wearing, kayak paddle-carrying crazy adventurers frantically running along Park roads as the summer adventure racing season officially kicked off.
Once in the canoes, teams were treated to a 15 km circular tour of Bon Echo’s easternmost landscape. Beginning at South Beach, the route traveled south past Rekr Rock and then upstream to the east end of Semicircle Lake where CP1 was located. Teams Lather. Rinse. Repeat. - No One Gets Left Behind of Toronto, EAS/Hammerof Hamilton, and RunningFree.caof Toronto were quick off the mark, establishing an early lead. The most fun aspect of this section of the race was negotiating the upstream drag of canoes (and teammates!) through some swift water and then attempting to move quickly through the shallow, sludgy waters just before the CP. Thankfully, no one lost their shoes in the muck!
The paddle continued on Shabomeka Lake and Kishkebus Lake to the 1.6 km portage to Upper Mazinaw Lake. Teamwork was tested through the boat carry – some canoes were heavier than others – and a bit of rocky terrain had to be negotiated. The final descent at the end of the lengthy portage was a welcomed respite as were the cheering locals in a few motor boats that congregated in the area.
Racing hard to CP3/TA1, teams Machine of Parry Sound, Beowulf-Reloadedof Toronto, and Simon River Sportsof Chelsea pushed the leaders as they paddled their way under the ominous Mazinaw Rock, through the Narrows, and around the Lagoon to the start of the first biking section. At races end, this paddling route was lauded as one of the most beautiful paddles ever featured in a Salomon AC event.
Volunteers from Friends of Bon Echo encouraged the teams to transition quickly as this next biking section was a mere 2 km long. Teams cycled west toward the start of the trek where Bon Echo Creek intersected a trail head.
What lay ahead at this stage of the racecourse, was a regular and advance option trekking section. Teams making their way over land to CP6 before the 2:30 pm cut-off would have the option of either course. Those completing the advanced trek would automatically rank ahead of regular course teams in the final standings. In an increasingly competitive Series, having this option caters to all levels of racers.
From CP4/TA2, teams Dead Reckoningof Oakville and HolisticClinic.ca #1 and #2, both of Ottawa made up some time by chasing each other along the trail run to CP5, just south of Bon Echo Lake. At the post-race festivities, CP5 race staff received a rousing applause from the teams as being the most enthusiastic volunteers – nice work guys!
As teams moved off-trail from CP5 to CP6 through varying Highland terrain, 20 years worth of work by the area’s relentless beaver population created a dose of havoc for the race logistics. CP6 was meant to be at the east end of Pearson Lake where the Skootamatta River begins. However, Pearson Lake has grown eastward since 1985 – the time when this area was last mapped by the government – and the CP was off the UTM grid coordinate by about 400 metres where the present Lake now drains. Nevertheless, teams continued on toward CP6A at Rainy Lake, the advanced course checkpoint, or CP7/TA3, where the regular course and advanced course meet up again at the east end of Joeperry Lake.
As with any FAR event, route selections were a-plenty as there were no discernable trails in this westernmost region of Bon Echo P.P. The various routes taken by each team were a point of much discussion at race’s end; exactly the flavour that sets FAR racecourses apart.
From CP7/TA3, it was an 8 km biking leg to the Salomon finish arch at Race Headquarters. The pace was fast as only 11 minutes separated the fastest team and the 59th fastest team throughout this final section.
Congratulations to teams Charlie’s Angelsof St-Augustin-de-Desmaures, Quebec (SalomonWomenWill), Simon River Sports(Coed), and EAS/Hammer(Male) for winning their respective categories.
A sell-out race, amazing landscape, and incredible weather – what an awesome start to the 2005 Salomon Adventure Challenge season!
See you June 11th for the Salomon AC Long Course!