This is a report of my 350+km bike trip from Toronto downtown to Belleville Ontario in two and a half days.
My goal was to explore the Trans Canada Trail between Toronto and Belleville, self supported and camping along the way: my very first bikepacking journey.
Preparation started 2 weeks before the trip. I already had most of the things, but I had to find a tent and bags to carry everything.
Eventually, I settled for a hammock, best tradeoff between weight and price, a saddle bag and a stuff bag I would tie to my handle bar.
Here are the details of what I brought:
- 1 change of clothe for the after ride, 1 pyjama to stay warm, flip-flops, a towel, a minimalist toiletry bag and a first aid kit
- flat tire tools, chain tools, small pump, front and rear lights
- hammock tent + pegs, sleeping bag, emergency blanket, headlamp
- Chamois bib, jersey, arm warmer, gloves, cap, helmet, SPD shoes, 3 pairs of socks, windproof vest, rainproof jacket
- phone, camera, GPS watch, maps and kindle
Gear, done. Route, ready. Let’s go!
Day 1 Toronto to Musselman Lake
I left Toronto after work, around 4pm, heading to the Don River Trail. That’s my usual playground, but this day I went farther than usual.
Funny to think now that some of the best trails I biked during the week-end were in Toronto. That also why I love this city.
Eventually I reached Steeles ave, and this was an other story: welcome to the suburbs with its huge and well paved driveway.
And then, fields. Long straight roads, each part of a very well traced grid.
Rolling roads that never turn.
You’re in cruising mode. Your mind is free to wander. You check your GPS course, but it’s just a line.
The sun set slowly on my left side. Gradient of red.
And after a hill, the road became even smaller and, it turned to curl around a lake. Right on time to see the reflection of the last light on its surface.
Well I’ve arrived.
But as I will learn slowly during this week-end, it’s never that easy when you are in a city, whatever size it is. So wrong left, cruised down a path along a lake. Looks like a campground farther. Yes but everything is closed. No light, nothing. Spot a “office” sign. Biked around. Nothing.
OK. Time to check-in with the girl. Switched on the phone. Started to type… And oh a car is coming. I was in the middle of the road so I moved on the side. Weird, the car seemed to come right at me… ’til it stopped one meter away, full light. A guy came out and asked, visibly annoyed:
- what are you doing here. It’s a private property?
- hum, I’m looking for the campground.
- does it look like a campground here? You haven’t seen the “private property” signs. You’ve cross three of them. I saw you on the video camera, I called the police.
- hum, yeah (seemed to me like campground are private property). Look I very sorry, It’s dark, I took a wrong turn, can you indicate me the campground?
Well, that, went well for a first contact.
Eventually I found the right campground, buzzed the guy in charge and got my spot.
Then, sat up the hammock, ate meal bar dipped in peanut butter, reviewing the route for the next day. While doing so my ear caught some Canadian French words across the road. Later in my sleeping bag, I would wonder if all French people speak louder or am I just hyper sensitive to French.
Many time I woke up, cold. I’ll need to fix that tomorrow.
Day 2 – Musselman Lake to Warsaw
The day before, I set up my alarm for 5:30am. I woke up at 5:00am, cold.
Well I guess it’s time to pack. So I gathered my stuff and went to the washrooms to change up.
Some jumping jacks later, I slipt into my wet garments (grrr…), layered up. Time to pack up and go. While doing so, I noted that 5am appeared to be the time when RVs’ owner go to their washroom break. I stuffed a granola bar in my mouth while pedaling quietly away.
It was misty outside. Like cycling in a cloud.
Misty or early enough that I missed my first right turn and ended up doing extra km before reaching Uxbridge and the place of my breakfast.
On my way to my breakfast place, I hit upon a small map of the local trail. Definitively useful to find the Trans Canadian Trail
And here I was. The Trans Canadian Trail. I was wet, it was misty and we were Saturday, early in the morning, but I couldn’t stop crying: I had done it.
I was on the trail, heading to Lindsay and the Kawartha Lakes.
The trail to Lindsay went through swamps and wet country, I was going to be in the mist for a while.
Some sections are very well maintained.
Like “Adopt a Highway” program.
Was that the sun???
Lindsay, first Tim Hortons stop. Did a detour by Canadian Tire to get a windshield sun screen and a cheap sweater for extra warms for the night.
Omemee Rail Trail.
I was definitively on an old railway.
After 110km, Peterborough.
On my way to Lakefield. I stopped at a brewery to get a cold beer and some fries. I was feeling ok until I sat down.
Then I got a sickening feeling mixed with some tiredness. I was empty. I had to force down my fries. Beer was easier to gulp (It always is). But the trip wasn’t over for the day.
Back on saddle, direction Warsaw via Lakefield.
After stopping at a farm (the local highway was renamed, my map is a bit old) and some biking through gravel roads, I reached Warsaw. At last.
So were is the campground? After spending 10mn on my map, I realized there was a sign 20m away with the direction. Went an extra 5km to reach my destination (and uphill).
After a friendly chat with the guard who assigned me my spot, I set up on a spot that was basically in the middle of the forest.
While setting up my camp, chipmunks ran around and inspected methodically my bike in search of my left over fries.
If you chase them, they would yell at you. “How dare you” I heard them say.
I slept very well that night.
I woke up one time, opened my eye to see no difference. It was just pitch black outside, and so quiet.
Day 3 – Warsaw to Belleville
Woke up with my alarm. Same ritual. And on the road again.
The weather seems less wet than the day before.
Back to Peterborough, Time Hortons and direction Belleville for the last day of my journey.
Finding the Trans Canada Trail east of Peterborough wasn’t as easy as I thought. I Had to double check several time my map. Found myself on a huge highway. Eventually I located the trail near Technology road. The thing is that this section still have the train track. The trail by itself start a couple a kilometer away, but it was a long detour to reach it.
Meh, I’ll just follow the track, eventually it’ll merge with the trail. That’s when you’re are happy to have a rackless bike.
Yop it was totally worth it.
Past Hasting, things changed. The trail becomes a double track with big gravel. You can see the influence of ATV.
By-bye Trans Canada Trail.
One last stretch to Belleville on coarse road. I remembered thinking: “Well I could say I had my ass skin tanned”.
That’s where it ended.
After a quick grooming in the washroom (at this point I really stunk), I checked-in my bike and rested for the remaining hour before my train arrived.
Back to Toronto.
On the 401, cars were piling-up in a traffic jam. Well, I had an awesome week end.