Off Road Biking in Skunks Misery

Fred Knight says….Frednuary 10, 2008 at 5:08 am Edit

I have found so much pleasure in Skunks Misery on all of my visits. The area is so peaceful and quiet and I love taking a nice relaxing ride through the area on my off road bike. I do not ride there because I want to destroy the area, I ride there because like your hobby of birdwatching, my hobby is off road riding. I would also gladly leave Skunks Misery to the bird watchers but as the local area has been closing all off road riding facilities in the area so that is one of the only areas left. How is that fair? Im not trying to destroy the area, I’m trying to appreciate it as much as you. My off road bike probably pollutes the air 5x less than the car you drove to get here. If you have any suggestions as to where to ride legally or other alternatives please suggest them but otherwise, get used to us riding in Skunks Misery because even if you do police it… you will not catch anyone with any skill on a bike.

17 thoughts on “Off Road Biking in Skunks Misery

  1. wardsville |

    Hi Fred
    Thanks so much for your “Off Roading” blog

    A little food for thought….
    Chatham Kent (do you live here?) has approximately 3% forest cover in the ENTIRE municipality.
    Middlesex County i.e. Southwest Middlesex has approximately 12%.
    Skunks Misery shares a border with Chatham Kent and Middlesex Counties.
    Skunks Misery is about 1300 acres and is a very environmentally sensitive area for people from Chatham Kent, Southwest Middlesex, and all of Ontario to enjoy.
    From the Ministry of Natural Resourses site
    “Absolutely NO motorized vehicles (ATV, 4-wheel drive, etc.) are allowed with in the woodlot, due to the damage the vehicles do to the tree root systems on and adjacent to the trail system, and to the trail itself.”

    Here’s some special words for you from

    Joni Mitchell 1970 (yes, I am dating myself)

    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot
    With a pink hotel, a boutique
    And a swinging hot spot
    Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don’t know what you’ve got
    Till it’s gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot

    They took all the trees
    Put ‘em in a tree museum
    And they charged the people
    A dollar and a half just to see ‘em
    Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don’t know what you’ve got
    Till it’s gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot

    Hey farmer farmer
    Put away that d.d.t. now
    Give me spots on my apples
    But leave me the birds and the bees
    Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don’t know what you’ve got
    Till it’s gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot

    Late last night
    I heard the screen door slam
    And a big yellow taxi
    Took away my old man
    Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don’t know what you’ve got
    Till it’s gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot

    If civilizans do not take an active role in protecting these sensitive areas who will?

    Please sing this song once in a while…….especially when you are off roading in Skunks Misery.


    • Good reply and a Great song by Joni Mitchell. I think Denise Corneil of Wardsville should sing that song at the Wardsville Bicentennial Celebrations. I know she has one TERRIFIC voice.

      • Hi Carol
        You’re reading a blog. Way to go. You’ve come a long way from your two fingered typing. Denise

  2. Like i said, im not trying to destroy the area and riding it does not destroy it. Explain to me how it will wreck the tree root systems? The mpst that will happen is the tops of a few roots will be stripped…. yes, it will possible wreck a couple roots but when they are destroyed, more will sprout. Notice they say it wrecks the roots system but they dont say that it will destroy the tree, that is because 90% of the root system is still intact and will still bring up water. What riding will do is keep the trail worn in and let the naturalists still enjoy it.
    Also, even if it does kill a few trees, which it doesnt except for possibly sapplings, who is more in the wrong? Myself who is makeing a narrow path through the trees to enjoy a ride or you, who will drive you truck on the paved road in which thousands of trees had to be removed to make in order for you to be able to travel without getting you vehicle dirty or having to deal with a few troublesome bumps. How does that song even come close to myself? If anyone has paved paradise it is yourself, I am riding on natural terrain on a “dirt bike”, key word being “dirt”. I am not paving anything, I am enjoying the forest as natural as i can.
    You think of some more arguments or an alternative solution, if you can come up with something reasonable i will gladly stop… however, if you do not then i will continue riding in skunks misery.

  3. From Oman

    We have a gang from Wardsville travelling in Oman together, so we’ve been debating this issue. It comes down to the fact that there are different groups that have different needs and we need to look at each group: walkers and those who want to enjoy nature, the horse crowd who are looking for horse trails and their supports, the ATVers, and the snowmobilers. Is there somewhere we could welcome the ATVer’s? I don’t think they care whether they ride in Ontario’s best remnant of Carolinian forest, they just want someplace to ride. And the walkers actually appreciate the ATVers who keep the trail set for them.

    I’m a planner by training and I think this just requires some serious planning in partnership with landowners and the leaders of these various groups.


  4. Its true, ATVers and dirtbikers dont care where they ride, they do just want someplace to ride. In truth, Skunks Misery is not the greatest trail to ride, its a little boring. There are no hills or obstacles, the only good part about Skunks is that you can go so fast on them which I dont even like to do because of the fact that someone else could be on the trail and endangering others is not high one of my goals. However there are hills in the Middlesex County and in Elgin county, and a lot of times you will see the entire wooded areas not bein put to use. Landowners would possibly allow trails through the areas except for the fact that insurance rates are phenominal and there would be noise complaints. In Rodney, they have closed down the Dust Valley track and near Dutton a buddy of mine has his own private practice track, even on his own land on his own track they have made a by law stating he can only ride for an hour and a half each day. Birdwatchers can complain all they want about dirtbikes riding in the area they want to enjoy but it was people like you that have helped shut down all the legal riding facilities. Stop complaining about us ruining your bird watching trail and start helping us in having legal riding facilities. The only place that we can ride legally that is close is Gopher Dunes and the trails up around Simcoe. Help us get somewhere in Middlesex Elgin county.

  5. Hi Fred
    Here’s a few links for you to view. (you likely have already)

    1)Ontario Trails Council

    2)Ontario ATV Trail Guides

    3)Ontario Federation of ATV

    Hopefully some of these sites can offer you some ideas on where you can go riding.
    Skunk’s Misery is an endangered and significant area in Ontario.

  6. Is this the crux of the matter? Those who participate in the ATV and four-wheel riding do not want to pay for the privilege of accessing property? I can’t think of any sports where landowners just allow sportsters to trespass on their property, or use their property for free. Whether it is skiing, snowmobiling, golfing… a lot of work goes into preparing the terrain. And those who enjoy the sport gladly pay to use the land for that purpose.

    Even hunting. No legitimate hunters enter property without permission from the landowner. And there is usually an appreciative exchange of some kind, if not money.

    So I’m trying to understand the four-wheelers point of view.

    Yesterday, I saw a sad looking group of ATVers hopelessly stuck in a deep wet ditch beside the CNR track adjacent to my property. It looked like Dad had been called in to undertake a rescue. A dangerous spot because there is virtually no place to be when the trains go by except perched on the steep slope or standing in the bottom.

    No doubt “goin’ muddin’” is a lot of fun and I’m sure it is a small percentage of ATVers that are the irresponsible cowboys. You know who they are.

    If ATVers are unwilling to pay to access land that is set aside for their use then I just don’t see an easy solution. Please help me understand.

    Mary Simpson

  7. hi all! Nice blog , and topics.
    My friend and I visited Skunk’s misery this past Saturday, May 10th.
    What a joy. everything is just bubbling ready to break through the spring!
    On the topic of ATV’s…well the fact they have motored through the Misery
    in the past, has left huge Ruts and deep pockets in the trails in the Forest across from the Hospital. And in these ruts was much water. I understand it was a pretty wet season this year, but it made our navigation through the trails quite rough at times , because we had to bush wack quite a bit..and of course along edges there are lot’s of razor barb bushes (not sure what they are really called) …. it was quite fun, but the damage is done from the motorized vehicles. It does not look like they have been through there at all this year…which is probably a very good thing.

    I have a question.. at the entrance near the plaque..what is the concrete sidewalk loop all about? We speculated that there was a fancy garden there in the past, and one part a possible water spring/fountain? are we close ? Anyone have old photo’s of this? It looked elaborate..but is obviously a thing of the past..and is intriguing to know more. This has been a draw since the 1930’s? So there must be old post cards..ect?

    Now, you mention this Hermit character? any more topical info??

    Also, is there anyone that has good orientation where the rare trees are, such as the Chestnut? We spotted a few rare trees, but no chestnut..the Sassafrass are just finishing budding out..I love the smell of mature Sassafrass leaves. >…

    Looking forward to many more trips to the Misery, through the seasons.. Is this the only forest public can navigate? we also visited The Big Bend park..and were captivated by the 3 beaver dams the crafty critters made from the flooding….

    ciao !..from a Strathroy fellow, living in Wortley Village London

  8. ATV’s are a fact of life in our mechanized world. The problem is they are sold to people who don’t have any land of their own to ride on. So they go looking for private/public land, but in Southwestern Ontario, the land is becoming so valuable as our population continues to grow exponentially. Not only is land getting expensive, so little of it is preserved to serve its ecological function of cleaning our air and water that we are quickly restricting ATV/motorbike access in order to preserve what little land left due to the loss of land from urban sprawl. The snowmobilers are very organized and INSURED. This is a huge bone of contention. If ATVers drive on private property, even with out consent, and they get hurt or killed they can sue the landowner. So who want’s that liability??? No one. So the ATVers need to get organized in a large enough group thay they can buy land of their own or an insurance plan that removes liability from the landowner (like what the snowmobliers have)in case they get hurt (which happens all the time since there are no driver licensing requirements)and then they can approach landowners to make a deal to ride on their land.In time, if ATVers don’t get more organized, I foresee more bans and laws inhibiting the use of these machines except on your own land, and even then, if your land is classified as wetland or has endangered species on it, you won’t be able to ride there either. In Southwestern Ontario, ATV use is going to have less and less fun attahced to $10,000 purchase. Save your money and take a vaction or plan on travelling elsewhere to use it.

  9. Well I certainly hear the words that blatently admit that “even though it is against the law, and the cops cant catch them anyway, so we are gonna ride there reguardless, unless someone else comes up with a solution” (paraphrased), I have a suggestion, be carfull of hidden, homemade, spike strips, on the trails, how many tires are you willing to fix and replace, before you respect the law, and the law makers, and te environment. If you have so much dispespect for all of that, please dont expect me to show any mercy. My grandaighter can hardly manage the ruts and mud the motorized vehicles are making, and the noise totally destroys the solitude, and as far as hunting goes, which is legal, i have had a hunt trip totally ruined with these guys rippin through the bush, and almost run into me AND MY GUN, not once but 5 times in less than an hour. They dont just acknowledge my presence and move on somewhere else, they turn around and go by me numerous times, so ive had enough, my solution is flat tires, and lots of then, they cost nothing for me and my friends to make and im sure they will be very affective.

    • You are in camo and very difficult to see, you cant blaim them for that. Now i ride dirtbikes in skunks misery, im a hunter and i like preserving the enviorment but what do you expect youth to do? There are no skatebording signs up all over town, there is no wear to ride, there is no rec center… everything fun is slowly being taken away. Im in grade 12 in Chathem and if you seen the drug use and teen pregnicy in my school you would be ashamed that that is Canadian youth. There are stupid people but for the most part everyone i have encountered there have been very good. I seen people on horse back i pull off to the side and shut my bike down till they pass, people have been riding there for a long time and it doesnt apear to be killing trees?? The fact that you were still there with a LOADED GUN is iresponsible on your part, it sucks that you had a bad hunt, i get it but that is just dangerous! SO this is what needs to happen… There needs to be an agreement that keeps everyone somewhat happy, poping peoples tires is not going to solve anyhting, u are just going to piss people off and they are going to fix their bikes and continue riding.

  10. Hey Dan, that attitude right there is what kills people. Have you ever blown a tire on your car? It severly pulls to the one side when that happens. Can you imagine doing that on an ATV going 30 or 40 kph down a trail 8 feet wide with tree’s on both side? Good thinking.. it’s hillbilly’s like you that only make the problem worse. I have no problem stopping and turning the machine off to let horses go by and I’ll usually stop, take off my helmet and have a few words with anyone walking the path, but don’t cause more harm than needed bud, thats completely un-called for, and what-if someone else walking the trails or even a horse going down the trail in late fall just like this afternoon and the trail is covered in leafs and steps on this home-made spike-strip of yours. Act mature and set an example for your grand-daughter. Metal Mulisha forever, and we will always own Skunks Misery.

    • No.You just hide the spikes under water in a dugout area where the atv must travel slowly. Don’t use too many spikes close together and keep them on the thin side so it won’t cause a blow out…you want to cause a slow leak….and you won’t give away the location so they’ll hit it again next time! It’s so fun I am disappointed when their are no trespassers!

  11. Hey Dan, I know you are upset over irresponsible ATV ers, but this is not the way to get your point across. What you will end up doing is hurting someone….and most likely it will be a hiker, jogger, birdwatcher, etc. and not the irresponsible ATVer you want to punish. I’ve never been to skunks misery, but am planning on going there with my daughter. We will be on Horseback, and would appreciate not stepping on your homemade spike strips. Thanks,

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