It started out as a small idea in the mind of Steve Rock. Design clues to find abandoned homes, barns, vehicles and locations spread through a section of Southern Ontario and get friends out to play in their vehicles in the cold winter months. All clues would be referenced with maps in the Southern Ontario Backroad Mapbook. The clues, depending on difficultly to find, had different point values and the more clues found, the more points each person or team could amass. Those registering received a unique Dropbox address to upload their photos of the locations and Steve would confirm and tally each entrant’s points to get the winners.



The post on Facebook was simple enough but as the event grew closer, the number of folks responding grew. The night before the Rally was to take place, over a thousand people had expressed interest and over two hundred said they were coming. Would Steve be ready for the masses? Of course, plenty of planning had taken place. A number of volunteers had been lined up and were ready to pitch in and help.



The Saturday morning of the event dawned cold, -9°C cold, and winds whipped through the parking lot of the Husky Gas Bar and Restaurant, off Highway 400 in Bradford, making it feel even colder. I arrived around 7:30 AM and many of the volunteers were already in the restaurant, enjoying breakfast and waking up with multiple cups of coffee. Steve doled out assignments to the volunteers, easy to spot in their orange toques, who then headed to their respective positions.



Even though the Facebook page had indicated a 9:00 AM registration, the first vehicles started arriving around 8:00 AM and a continual stream made its way into the registration area and on to the staging area for the next three hours. In the end, over 100 vehicles had shown up, registered, made donations to the local food bank and eagerly awaited the start. There was a good assortment of vehicles, from small cars, Subaru’s and Audi’s to fully equipped four-wheel-drive vehicles, many with full families on board. As Steve had posted the clues on-line at 2:00 AM on the Saturday morning, many additional individuals, not concerned about winning prizes, also headed out to photograph locations.



As the locations were on snow covered back roads, the volunteers all had four-wheel drive vehicles equipped with gear to assist anyone getting stuck. That didn’t take long and by noon the first call for assistance came in. As the afternoon wore on, the crews travelled the 100 km² (39 mi²) area and helped with tugs and tows. Many people traveled in teams and were also able to assist each other when they ran into trouble.



Sunday morning brought snow with some strong winds blowing across the back roads. Folks still came back out, continued to hunt for clues and get stuck, but, judging by the comments left on the Facebook page, had a great time. When all the results were tabulated, the 2017 Rally Champion was Max King with 47 locations and 3 ghost towns for a total of 2420 points. Runners-up were Randy McGregor and Brandon McGregor. Steve has a very successful event on his hands with many asking when the next Rally will take place.



Abandoned building images courtesy of Nick Butt. Other images, Colin Hughes and Rally of Abandoned Ontario.





Have you been on a trip through abandoned Ontario?
Let us know in the comments!