Blog written by Mark McRoberts, a participant on the September 2016 Simcoe County Rail Trail Ride.
Reproduced with permission for republication by Ontario by Bike.
We had 2 full days of perfect cycling weather on the horizon, which just happens to coincide with our group ride with this nifty little organization: “Ontario By Bike”. Our family booked a weekend trip with them last year and had a good time. So we booked the three of us for this late September weekend tour and trail ride. Booking fall outdoor activities far in advance of any realistic weather forecast is always a bit risky. Occasionally, you can end up with a weekend like this one.
There were 39 people in the group including the organizers. They are all very nice people and they bend over backwards for you. The lunch stops are all pre-arranged as well as Sunday breakfast. They book your hotel, provide all the maps and support services. They have a truck that carries our overnight bags and shadows the group and responds to any bike problems.
We met at Snow Valley Ski Resort, just a bit outside of Barrie, Ontario. We recognized quite a few riders from last year’s ride, including the two organizers. Everyone was in good spirits and raring to get going.
We got underway a little past 9:30am. The trail, for most of the morning, was a reclaimed railroad bed, which means it is a firmly packed base under fine gravel. There was one stretch, before getting into Wyevale that got really soft and people were getting off their bikes and walking them.
Nevertheless, it was a good, rustic trail that took us through mostly woodsy areas and the occasional small town. Fall foliage is getting underway a little earlier this year by all accounts. There were some trees in full-blown red, yellow and orange display mode. I have always loved that.
There is one segment of the trail that detours onto a paved road and that was OK with me, as it was nice to ride on a smooth paved surface for a short stretch.
We took a short break at a park in the town of Elmvale. The organizers had bananas, granola bars and water for everybody. My family rode on to see a natural spring and water bottle refill location. I pulled into Wyevale, about 33 km into the day’s ride, for lunch and found them seated on the baseball diamond bleachers, already tearing into their lunch – and drinking their spring water. There were washrooms and lots of places to sit and eat.
With lunch done, we moved on towards Penetanguishene – a town on Georgian Bay. Most of the way was through more of the same woodsy, well shaded landscape. Penetanguishene, has a very nice waterfront park with a beautiful view of Georgian Bay and this thing (see art sculpture below), which compels one to take your picture with it.
From Penetanguishene, the path took us through a ravine area, paved and with some surprisingly steep downward grades. There was a segment in this ravine where there was a series of 13 short wooden bridges. We arrived in Midland around 2:00pm and stopped at The Boathouse Eatery, with a patio overlooking boats on the bay to have a drink and relax.
The hotel was 3km south and rather up-hill. We took showers and chilled in our room for an hour or so, before heading for the evening social, back at The Boathouse Eatery, where a good representation of our cycling companions were in attendance.
After a fun evening out, back at the hotel we set the alarm for 7am, with breakfast around 8am and weather looking as good as today. We rode a total of 55 km on day one.
The next morning, the first leg of the trail took us through Midland, rimming the southern bank of Georgian Bay and offering breathtaking views of the bay.
The morning section of the trail was paved and after riding on crushed limestone the day before, this smooth asphalt surface was a welcome upgrade. However karma, being what it is, would have us paying for this a little later on in the day.
The first break of the day was at Waubaushene Beach, about 23km in. They broke out the bananas and granola bars again, which I inhaled. There was a pedestrian pier that extended into the bay. Still under a totally cloudless sky, everyone was taking turns taking everyone else’s pictures.
Lunch turned out to be only another 8 or 9 kms from Waubaushene. We had started moving away from Georgian Bay, kind of south-east towards Coldwater with its upscale, hip looking downtown strip. We had vouchers for Ems Café, who offered chicken salad sandwiches, soup, and these decadent brownies. Any calories we had ejected over the last day and a half of cycling were quickly replenished at Ems Cafe.
The trail that spanned from Coldwater to Orillia was pretty rough and ragged. Some of the time, it was just the regular ground limestone on a pretty firm, even base. There were some really pretty sections, tunnels made out of concrete and trees. All in all, lots of eye-candy.
There were other parts that were a little like cycling along an overgrown, grassy road that cars and trucks had been over and over and had worn tire grooves. One simply tried to keep their bike within the confines of one of the two narrow divets. The highlight, however, was a stretch of about 5 km where it appeared that they had recently refreshed the gravel. That sounds like that would be a good thing except it seemed that they used, not crushed limestone, but actual stone gravel, half-inch “p-gravel”. It was tough cycling and those with thinner racing bike tires or hybrid tires were the worst off. Mountain bike tires fared better.
Couchiching Park was a nice choice for the final destination, which offered shady trees and a small beach overlooking Lake Simcoe. We went skipping stones at the beach and waited to get me on the first shuttle back to Snow Valley to pick up our vehicle.
We really enjoyed the group ride. It’s a welcome change up from our solitary efforts and fun to be around other people who value what we value. Ontario By Bike is a great organization and they really do whatever they can to make the experience fun and relaxing. They were talking about future plans and mentioned a trip in the Thousand Islands region of eastern Ontario. I’m pretty sure that we will be up for that.
Lead image photo credit: © (2016) Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation
All other photo were sourced from Mark’s blog.
Blog written by MarK McRoberts, a participant on the September 2016 Simcoe County Rail Trail Ride. Reproduced with permission for republication by Ontario by Bike.
To read Mark’s blog in it’s entirety click here.