- Rail Trail is 40 kilometres long
- ATV trail, rideable, just a bit of rock and roll (gravel, coarse, sometimes smooth, some potholes)
- No facilities
It’s a 7-letter word. When five women decide on a cycling adventure in late September, it’s all about the weather. This was the cushy quasi-bikepacking trip with a hotel stay instead of a tent. And we could not have asked for a more perfect day – 24 C blue sky, sunny with a light breeze. After surfing around for a rail-trail to ride, the Trail of Two Lakes kept popping up as a gateway to Prince Edward County (PEC). PEC is a well-known cycling destination. And trying to reserve a hotel room seven weeks in advance confirmed that – we barely found a place at the Drake Motor Inn. After all, September is harvest time, and we discovered Wellington, Ontario is in the heart of winemaking country and perpetually busy. As one local quipped: “it’s a new suburb of Toronto”.
After a quick stop at Starbucks in Carleton Place, we continued driving to Madoc, Ontario. It is about a 2-hour drive from Ottawa, and once we arrived in Madoc, we parked two vehicles at the skate park for our one overnight. Less than one kilometre down the road, the trail starts at the end of Hill Avenue. Straps adjusted on knapsacks and packs attached to the bikes, we rolled forward. About 30 feet in, a yellow and black sign indicated that there is no exit and the trail closed up ahead. Well, what does one say to that? Turns out an old wood bridge, remnants of a bygone era, could no longer support ATV and snowmobile traffic. We walked our bikes across the barriers and chatted with the guys fishing on the bridge. ATVs and snowmobiles follow the detour.
The first 10 kilometres of the route is rough. Very doable on mountain bikes or gravel bikes but covered with a thicker and in places, sizeable coarse gravel. It is more of an ATV trail than a cycling trail. Our eyes glimpsed views of lakes, dense bush and streams that meandered away as we mainly focused on our tires rolling over the trail surface. The next 30 kilometres to just outside of Belleville, was less rocky, and more like a gravel road. Rail trails always cross water, and as we approached the wide Moira River, we could only imagine it’s raging waters in the spring. We ran into several volunteers for the Eastern Ontario Trails Alliance who shared the new paper-based maps with us. Ripping rotten planks from the bridge, they were hammering bright new ones in place.
Canifton Road at the end of the trail leads to the main roads of Belleville. We cycled through the downtown core and out towards PEC. Several cafes with patios called to us, and we stopped at one for coffee and soft drinks before continuing to cross the bridge over Lake Ontario and the Bay of Quinte. From there, I mapped a route that involved quiet roads, a few gravel stretches that took us near the Lakeshore and then onto the Millennium Trail – a rail trail that is being converted in sections to a stone dust surface that crosses the county.
The Drake Motor Inn is a perfect destination for a group of women. We locked our bicycles outside in the parking lot, which we were a little concerned about at first. Still, the woman at the front desk reassured us that security wanders around overnight and they have never had an issue. Our bodies needed fuel after 90 kilometres, and the Midtown Brew Pub was the perfect post-ride refuelling station with french fries, olives and salty treats. And the cold, cold welcoming beer. Which we devoured.
Later, the Devonshire Inn perched on Lake Ontario, the sister company of the Drake and just down the street, offered delicious food and local open mic night. They kept referring to us as the bikers and gave us a glass of prosecco (free!) as a liquid appetizer to start dinner. We spent the evening singing along with the musicians and enjoying the refreshments and yummy food.
Sitting on the patio the next morning, we enjoyed a view of Lake Ontario, and it’s seaweed scent while we inhaled a hearty breakfast. We cycled back towards Belleville on County Road 2 to shave a few kilometres off our total distance for today. We followed the road to the bridge crossing the Bay of Quinte and retraced our steps back through town and out onto the Lake of Two trails. Another sunny stellar warm cycling day that felt more like July than mid-September.
In the parking lot in Madoc, we all said next year, let’s do three days of riding and stay two nights in the area of PEC. Not surprisingly, everyone agreed. Now if only we could be guaranteed to have the same weather!