Canol ATV Adventure: The Unbeaten Trail

We figured we would have better luck fixing our sunken quad near Stan's fly-in hunting camp. Towing the swamped machine back up the trail was definitely not a trip highlight for me. We kept our eyes peeled for the sow grizzly and cubs we ran into the day before.

Debora, Stan's wife, let us rummage through their tool shed. I found a star key that fit our oil drain and soon several quarts of water poured from the machine.

Stan and Jesse, one of Stan's guides, landed in a bush plane and walked over to see if they could help. Jesse, believe it or not, has a history racing quads in the Baja desert and his father is a mechanic. With a sat. phone call to his father we rolled the quad, shook it, and watched the water rain from the crankcase.

Jesse and I changed the oil and managed to force the oil filter socket on. It was the right size after all. Before I put the dried spark plug back in, I turned the key a few times and uneasily watched water rocket up and out. The spark plug in its rightful place, she fired up. A couple gallons of water shot out of the exhaust.

I high fived Jesse so hard my hand still hurts.??With a near disaster averted, Stan invited us into his cabin for dinner. His wife Debora stacked our plates high with Dall sheep steaks and fresh vegetables, then we moved on to generous servings of homemade pie and cookies, all prepared on the wood stove. The food was delicious; several steps up from the freeze-dried food and instant oats Mike and I had been gnawing on for three weeks. I joked that we dunked the quad on purpose in hopes it would get us a meal.

Around the dinner table we listened to successful caribou and sheep hunting stories. Stan shared a few Canol miss-adventure stories he heard from other passersby's. "This trails not for quads" he said. "Only horses or on foot, everyone who brings quads or trucks in here has problems". ??We camped at the Equi again that night after spending three hours looking for a safe place to cross. It was frustrating; the opposite bank was only about 40 feet away, so close, yet so far. By morning the water had dropped and we were mobile again, pushing for the divide as Charlie made his way from Whitehorse to rendezvous with us.

Through Caribou Pass the weather was sunny but cold. Then winds blew strongly as we rode across a high plateau nearing the trailhead. Water levels in the rivers were more manageable than on our way in, and thankfully, we rode across them with relative ease.

After a minimal amount of winching, a handful of river crossings, and ten hours of consistent riding, Mike and I finally met up with Charlie. We sat around his fire to soak in the warmth while we enjoyed some food and a celebratory beer or two.?

Looking back on the trip I thought about the things I could have done differently. I don't think you could find a more practical way to learn what works and what doesn't on a quad trip. It was tough no doubt about it, as tough a quad trip as you can find anywhere. There is no uncertainty that Mike and I had a couple near disasters, but at the end of the day we dealt with them and made it further than most. We even tried crossing the Twitya under conditions that would have turned most riders back immediately.

We gave it our all and went for something no one has done: complete the Canol by quad, without fuel or food drops. We didn't make it all the way, but it was far from a failure. The Canol Trail is still there, waiting for another attempt - the unbeaten trail.