Frank Zinck loved his cross-island tour of Newfoundland last August so much that he plans to repeat it for many more years to come, including again this summer.
But there is one thing the Nova Scotia man will not be doing during his next trip or any other future excursion unless something changes: trying to circumnavigate Corner Brook on his machine.
Zinck, his wife and a friend of theirs boarded the Gulf ferry in North Sydney on their ATVs and got off at Argentia last summer. They had their route all planned out and would spend the next nine days making their way to the ferry terminal in Port aux Basques before returning back home to the mainland.
When they tried to ride past Corner Brook, their dream trip became a proverbial nightmare. The group spent nearly their entire day moving at a snail’s pace through trails really meant for a snowmobile on a thick blanket of snow.
There were boggy sections and steeply angled passages to go with large branches and boulders obstructing the trail.
At various points along the rugged route, Zinck’s wife got off their machine and walked on ahead as he tried to get through a hazardous part of the trail. Their ATV nearly rolled over at another section after they both had jumped off it, though Zinck said he was able to somehow right the ATV by maintaining a precarious grasp with one hand on the throttle.
The plan was to leave their motel in Riverside Drive and pick up the resumption of the Newfoundland T’Railway near the western entrance to Corner Brook. After slogging their way through roughly three-quarters of that route, the party decided to forego the off-road in favour of the shoulder of the nearby Trans-Canada Highway in order to get to the T’Railway more quickly and safely.
“I guess I am one of the few people who can say I drove from Argentia to Port aux Basques without some sort of transport thought Corner Brook, but I don’t really need that claim,” said Zinck. “I didn’t realize it was going to be as bad as it was. It was really rough.”
Zinck, who had mapped the route in advance using his GPS, said the trail is obviously not for the faint of heart and certainly not for someone like him who isn’t interested in challenging the limits of his machine or his own body.
“This was something only experienced people should attempt,” he said. “We won’t be doing it this year. We will be getting picked up to go around Corner Brook.”
While the navigational lesson has been learned, Zinck said it is unfortunate that ATV tourists like himself can’t really get to enjoy what the Corner Brook area has to offer.
“The beauty in and around Corner Brook gets missed,” he said. “When you’re on a quad, you stop and enjoy the scenery. You don’t get that when you get picked up on a flatbed and pulled from Pasadena to the other side of Corner Brook.”
Zinck said if there ever is a more ATV-friendly trail built to get around Corner Brook, he hopes it is not just built for that purpose alone and only follows along the highway.
“I would like to see something that reflects the T’Railway itself and the beauty of the landscape there,” he said. “Having a trail around Corner Brook and making it a magnificent portion of the trip would be amazing.”
While the Corner Brook area was the worst part of the trip, Zinck suggested the province should also try to put together a more consistent ATV trail product across the entire island. With maintenance of the Newfoundland T’Railway mostly left up to local snowmobile clubs, he said there were sections that were clearly maintained well and others that have been in obvious disrepair for years.
“I think if Newfoundland wants to be taken serious as a destination for ATVs, they need an association that gets together and deals with all of the issues as whole,” said Zinck. “Having a trail that was consistent would be wonderful.”
Zinck, who works for SaltWire in Halifax, N.S., posted videos on YouTube daily during his nine-day ATV excursion from Argentia to Port aux Basques in the summer of 2017. Here is one video showing just how rough it was for him and his group as they tried to ride around Corner Brook: