In accordance with the plans mentioned here recently, we made a very full day trip out of cycling along the Hamilton - Brantford - Cambridge Rail-Trail all the way to Cambridge and back.
We had planned to head out at 6am but had a hard time getting up, firstly, and then noticed that, even at 6:30am, it was still quite dark and foggy. Aside from a little light shed on the trail where there is a little break in the foliage in the urban portion, the trail has no lighting. Add fog to that and we decided that the more sane thing to do would be to leave an hour later.
The air, though already somewhat heavy with humidity, was nevertheless still somewhat cool as we made our way from Hamilton's downtown to the starting point of the Hamilton - Brantford Trail on Ewen Rd about a half block south of Maint St W.
The first portion of this trail to the Trail Centre, and a little beyond, we'd done before. In fact, in July of 1996, shortly after getting married and, as it turns out, only a matter of months before the trail was completed all the way to Brantford, we rented a couple of bicycles and took the trail as far as it then went, taking rural roads the remaining distance into the city. Once there, we stayed at a nice little Bed and Breakfast on the Grand River for a couple of nights. But that was 14 years ago and not part of this story...
The portion from here through Dundas to Jerseyville was very nicely surfaced with finely crushed rock. It made for a smooth ride through beautiful territory, with a nice little break to grab a snack or fill up our water bottles, for free, at the Dundas Valley Conservation Area Trail Centre, built, in period style, at the site of an old railway station.
The signage -- wooden posts marking kilometres travelled, signs and benches with dedication plates naming donors who have purchased a kilometre or more of the trail (there are still some kilometres available), and signs indicating intended uses of the trail or marking roads crossed along the way -- was very good from Hamilton to Jerseyville. Though the signage from Jerseyville to Brantford continued to be decent, there were increasingly large sections of trail that were little more than doubletrack, making for a rougher ride. But much of that was made up for by the natural beauty surrounding it.
Getting into Brantford was easy, but the signage in and through Brantford is poor. It is not at all straightforward, for those not familiar with the city, to find their way from where they enter Brantford to where the trail continues to Paris and Cambridge. The trail will get you to Brantford, but if you don't know where you're going, it won't get you quickly across and onward to Paris. We did not see, for example, when we entered the city, that the trail continued as the Gordon Glaves Memorial Pathway/Trans Canada Trail (there is another Gordon Glaves Memorial Pathway) in a loop below and around downtown Brantford. We probably got onto the non-Trans Canada pathway, indicated by a broken red line on the map, which took us straight into Mohawk Park. Even on the map, however, now that we have completed the trip, it is difficult to see exactly what is what and where. It's all very frustrating!
Though, with our basic knowledge of downtown Brantford and the location of SC Johnson, we managed to find our way back to the Gordon Glaves pathway and the SC Johnson Trail, we did get somewhat lost on the way back. The Gordon Glaves Memorial Pathway/Trans Canada Trail itself was actually quite nice, once we'd found it, taking us through the Waterworks Park, past the Wilkes Dam and Brant Park Conservation area, and through the Blue Circle Section. The latter is comprised of former mining lands now being rehabilitated. There were some gorgeous wildflower fields, but punishing grades, thankfully rather short, in the Blue Circle Section.
Route 1: Gordon Glaves Memorial Pathway/Trans Canada Trail Loop
- at Locks Rd/Mohawk St, cross street and turn left onto Gordon Glaves Memorial/Trans Canada Trail
- follow trail as it loops below Mohawk Lake and through Bellview Park (you will cross Birkett Ln, Erie Ave, and River Rd/Birkett Ln)
- at River Rd, as it runs along the river, cross street and continue to follow the trail north (you will pass by Rivergreen Park, cross the Brantford Southern Access Rd/B.S.A.R., pass Earl Haig Park, under Colborne St W, through Waterworks Park, past the Wilkes Dam)
- just before Hardy Rd, turn left to follow the Blue Circle Section (you will encounter some steep grades in this section)
- at Masters Ln, with Hardy Rd to the right, veer left onto the SC Johnson Trail (you will loop around below the SC Johnson distribution centre before crossing Hwy 403/Chedoke Expy and head towards Paris)
The Brantford to Paris trail felt quite short at only 11 km. The trail opened up onto a small road, leaving us somewhat confused as to how to proceed. Whether there were signs to turn right onto Curtis Ave or not, once there we saw a sign warning trail users of a busy lighted intersection. That intersection was Ontario King's Hwy 2/Dundas St E. Once through the intersection, we saw a Fire Station on the northwest corner followed by the Paris Museum & Historical Society. Almost immediately after the museum, we found the Paris - Cambridge Trail.
The Paris - Cambridge Trail was also rougher than the Hamilton to Jerseyville section, some of it also doubletrack, but the scenery was gorgeous. We passed through some of the densest forest, much of it following the Grand River, and past a lookout with a breathtaking view of the river in both directions and the limestone supports of an old abandoned bridge.
Partly because of the roughness of the trail, and partly because we were getting quite hungry, the Paris to Cambridge portion seemed quite long. We greeted the final information kiosk and 77 km marker with some excitement, as you can tell below.
After lunch and some relaxation, about 3pm, we left for home. Were it not for the confusion in Brantford where, on our return trip, we got ourselves a bit lost, we would have made it back to Hamilton before dark. As it was, we had to race with the sun for Hamilton. We lost. The last four or five kilometres were done completely in the dark. Good thing we had our headlights to light our way, as there are no lights along the trail.
The ride home, though a little rushed, was quite eventful. We spotted a couple of Great Blue Herons between Cambridge and Paris, a total of six deer, of which one was clearly a juvenile and one was a baby with one of its parents. For that one, we made sure to use our bells to scare them away before we got too close to avoid an unpleasant confrontation with an unhappy parent. Though nice to see, none of the deer and cottontail rabbits we encountered posed long enough for a photo. Neither did the fox that ran across the trail between the Dundas Conservation Area and West Hamilton, glancing back furtively to make sure it got across well ahead of us. Jihan was not too happy about missing out on the fox sighting...
Once back in Hamilton, we took a slight detour into Westdale for a relaxing reward at Second Cup. They are the only coffee shop in Hamilton, as far as we know, and the only Second Cup location of which we are aware, that carry vegan baked sweets.
In total, from home to Cambridge and back home, we cycled 179 km (about 111 miles), completing not only a metric century and a half, but also an imperial century. It was the longest ride we have ever undertaken in one day. Aside from some heat rash, I was hardly even sore. Tired, from a long eventful day, but not stiff or aching.
We look forward to many more. For the full photostream, click here.