A warm Thursday morning with beautiful clear skies, the ’88 YJ is on the trailer and the truck is loaded, en-route to Minden, Ontario for the premier event — Camp NL VIII. Kim and Brian Sibbles, volunteers of the Ontario Federation of 4 Wheel Drive (OF4WD), head north from their small town of Garden Hill, Ontario to meet up with the Camp NL committee already on site at South Wind Motel and Camp Ground. This year Kim is running the registration table and Brian will be a trail guide on the newbie runs.
As the day progresses, many of the 40 trail guides have arrived and are out pre-running trails to ensure participants have the ultimate experience. With over 20 trails to choose from, the 180 km plus of awesomeness has to be checked and confirmed as ready-to-go for the 170 vehicles arriving shortly. The OF4WD trail guides are an elite crew of veteran wheelers who dedicate many volunteer hours in promoting the sport and giving people an excellent safe guided experience on Ontario’s top trails.
Registration is “OPEN”. Kim Sibbles, along with her fantastic team of ladies, work diligently ensuring participants are all paid up, waivers are signed, their pre-ordered shirts and sweaters are in their bag ready to be worn, and early bird raffle tickets are in hand. By 22:00 hours, more than 80% of the participants have registered and are setting up camp or moving into their motel rooms. 4WD vehicles such as Jeeps, raptors, land cruisers, FJ’s, and Yota’s are everywhere. It’s like Christmas around the event tent, people who generally don’t see each other all year long are re-united with their friends, reminiscing on old stories and catching up on life details.
Sponsors of the OF4WD: Just Jeeps, Rock Spyder 4X4, Stangs Fab, TMR Customs, Off-road Addiction, and Grote Trillant, are all set up and on-hand in the vendor area with people drooling over the newest and greatest equipment available for their off-road rigs. Excitement is in the air!
Friday morning, Chris Muir, a committee member and Mechanic at Sponsor Autoworks Offroad, hails the campground on a PA system welcoming everyone to Camp NL VIII. Drivers’ meeting at 08:00 with trails departing at 09:00, the event tent is bustling. Early morning registration is underway and last-minute participants are signing up for their trails, awaiting adventure. Drivers are lining up in their departure locations and guides are briefing the participants about the trail and safety-related items. BOOM, they’re off—everyone leaving the gate with bright white smiles, waving frantically with excitement.
On the trails, the participants experience everything from entry-level trails to extreme level 5 trails. Camp NL has something for everyone, rock, mud, technical, scenic, you name it, it’s here at this event.
Brian Sibbles leads the Offroad 101 (Newbie Run) along with fellow guides Chris Miles and Chris Muir. After a discussion around the event tent about off-road safety, etiquette on the trails, parts of the 4WD and equipment one should have when going wheeling, the group heads off to the trail. Training the participants on how to prepare the vehicle for off-roading is always fun. The excitement in their eyes and the hesitant reactions to airing down tires and removing sway bar disconnects is fun to watch. They haven’t even hit the trail yet.
Venturing down the trail, the trail guides demonstrate how to traverse obstacles and then give instructions to the participants who are white-knuckling their steering wheels. Arriving at a clearing later in the day, the group enjoys lunch and talks about the excellent time they are having. Many of them saying they had no idea their vehicles could do the things they have been doing. The rest of the day was excellent, everyone did really well. After a stop at Kawartha dairy for ice cream, the group heads back to base camp.
The 4WD’s begin to roll back into base camp. Everyone has had an excellent day and despite the overcast weather and rain from the previous night, carnage was limited. CT Motorsports, another OF4WD dedicated sponsor, has the MASH unit set up run by owner Ski and his team of guys. Conducting repairs on vehicles who sustained an unfortunate mishap, Ski asks for a donation after repairing the vehicles and donates his proceeds to the OF4WD at the end of the weekend.
The delicious smell of grilling fills the air around the event. Rubicon Grill’s Tony and his team are cooking pork Slovakia with roasted potatoes, rice and awesome Greek salad. Participants fill the event tent, feasting and sharing stories of the day on the trails. A band starts to set up to rock off the beginning of the evening entertainment. Playing into the night, participants enjoyed a bonfire and danced to the live music until the entertainment wrapped up around midnight with an encore set. After the clean-up, the band played around the fire acoustically which was an added treat for those still roaming around.
Saturday, 07:00. The smell of peameal bacon, eggs, sausage, toast, bagels and coffee is floating across the facility with participants flocking to the event tent. Enjoying their breakfast, they lead off to the departure lanes with full tummies. Another day of trail riding is underway.
Saturday turned out to be a wicked day on the trails. The heavens opened up the night before, again, and added a few inches of water to the trails. Participants began arriving at base camp later in the day and despite the hot weather, everyone had an excellent time. With dirty trucks and participants rehydrating, folks hit the showers and arrived for dinner in the event tent smiling and ready for the night’s festivities.
Enjoying another excellent meal from Tony, participants browsed the vendor area, taking advantage of the Camp NL exclusive deals. As dinner finished, people began to snag a piece of grass with their camp chair awaiting the start of Saturday night’s festivities. The tent is full, people are standing around outside and the temperature is cooling off to comfortable levels. Chris Muir stands at the front of the tent with the excellent prizes. Chris Miles, Sponsorship Director, clearly worked hard with the 2015 OF4WD sponsors. Prizes like winches, half doors, custom bumpers, recovery gear, clothing, and more was eagerly awaited in the raffle giveaway. With people salivating over the awesome gear to be had, Mr. Muir welcomes everyone to the festivities introducing the Camp NL committee and thanking the volunteers. Prize raffle giveaways were mixed in with awards and the charity presentation.
Camp NL is a fundraiser for the OF4WD as well as a fundraiser for the Halliburton Highlands Hospital Foundation (HHHF) which is the local hospital for the area. Over the 13 years of NL, the 4WD community has raised over sixty thousand dollars. Dale Walker, of HHHF, was on hand where the crowd applauded her thank you to the community and the importance of 4WD and economic development in the area. Every year HHHF sells stuffed animals which have become a bit of a collector’s item at Camp NL. This year the toys were raccoons, $20 each and if you get it now you’re also going to receive some swag from the OF4WD sponsors. A herd of people flood the front and all 100 raccoons were sold in about 10 minutes flat. The last of the bunch were bought by OF4WD sponsor Autoworks Offroad Paul and Tami Hamilton for kids at the event who did not get one. A very nice gesture, kids came forth to get their very own raccoon to sleep with that night.
As the final grand prizes were given away, trail sign up for Sunday runs opened while the bonfire started and the DJ fired up for the Saturday night party. A good time was had by all.
Come Sunday morning the event is winding down. Many participants are packing up to head home and only the brave head out for one final day of guided trail runs. As the facility empties out by Sunday evening and everyone returns home safe the camp NL committee is cleaning up and already organizing for the 2016 event.