Dodgeville

Random Wanderings and Wonderings

Peterborough to Hastings rail trail II: New and improved

By , July 28, 2013
The Lang-Hastings Rail Trail before and after its makeover.

The Lang-Hastings Rail Trail before and after its makeover.

What a difference a year makes! I first cycled the Peterborough to Hastings rail trail last August, saying at the time that the trail was “challenging” because of the relative lack of summer maintenance. Back then, the trail was rough, somewhat overgrown, and best suited to a mountain bike with at least front suspension. At that time, a plan was afoot to improve the trail and elevate it from a “proposed” route for the Trans Canada Trail to being an official part of the cross-country walking and cycling path. Well, the trail got its promised upgrades last autumn and spring, was officially named the Lang-Hastings Trans Canada Trail, and is now an absolute pleasure to ride on.

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A beaver pond along the Lang-Hastings trail.

The trail starts at the southeastern edge of Peterborough and meanders east toward Hastings on the Trent River. Like most rail trails, it’s quite flat, with long gentle grades rather than hill climbs. It passes behind farm fields, beside quiet country roads, next to wetlands,  and between hills.

The new crushed limestone surface brings the Lang-Hastings trail up to the same quality as the Omemee trail to the west and is a vast improvement over the rutted and loose gravel double track I rode last summer. With a better trail comes more traffic: instead of cycling for 90 minutes without seeing another soul as I did last year, I encountered at least two dozen people riding the trail on a sunny Sunday afternoon in May.  There were even a couple of spandex-clad roadies enjoying the smooth ride.

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The trail ends at an open swing bridge over the Trent River

The trail head is a little awkward to access from the Peterborough end, where it doesn’t quite match up yet with the rest of the Trans Canada Trail to the northwest. Don’t make the mistake of trying to join the trail from Technology Drive in Peterborough; the trail there is wholly unimproved and still has rails and ties for about the first kilometre. Your best bet is to join the trail at Keene Road, a short distance outside Peterborough. There’s some roadside parking available there, or you can make the relatively quick ride from downtown with only a short section along a busy Highway 7 / Lansdowne Avenue.

Between Peterborough and Hastings, the rail trail has the expected mix of farm fields, wetlands, and very gentle climbs and descents. There are a few surprises along the way, including a pond created by an impressively long beaver dam that abuts the trail. After riding thirty-some kilometres east to Hastings, the trail ends rather abruptly at an open swing bridge over the Trent River, requiring a rather lengthy detour to pick up the TC Trail again on the other side of town. You’re best off bailing from the trail at 7th Line and riding into town along River Road and Park Lane. (Hint: take Park Lane, even though it looks kind of silly to do so on a map.)

Although I wish the connections at either end were more direct, I’m happy to have the Lang-Hastings trail brought up to standard. With more users will come greater pressure for connectivity and improvements for other trails, and that can only be good. Peterborough is at the centre of a network of trails that stretches from Uxbridge and Lindsay in the east, to Haliburton and Bancroft in the north, Prince Edward County in the south, and Renfrew in the east. As the gaps in existing trails are filled in and more of them are improved to be suitable for casual cyclists, you could be looking at the backbone of Ontario’s own Route Verte-alike cycling network.

Continue reading below the fold for a short gallery from along the trail, and compare it to last year’s ride along the same route.

Continue reading 'Peterborough to Hastings rail trail II: New and improved'»

Danger!

By , June 29, 2013
Danger!

(Allegedly.)

Who am I to argue?

We did it!

By , June 7, 2013

Tunnel Boring Machine gets started on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT

After a merciless robocalling campaign, months of behind the scenes schmoozing, and whistle stop visits from Senators Duffy and Wallin (remind me to double-check those expense forms), Don and Humber—my picks for tunnel boring machine names—carried the day, along with Dennis and Lea. I’m happy to confirm that I’ll be splitting my incredible winnings equally with everyone who helped achieve this victory by voting, mumbling their general support, or just ignoring me entirely. Please submit your mailing addresses ASAP so that I can drop your full share of absolutely nothing into the mailbox.

The only part of my priceless winnings that I can’t divvy up with everyone is Wednesday’s trip into the launch pit at Black Creek Drive and Eglinton Avenue for the launch ceremony. There were actually four winners in total who were invited to the ceremony: one person who had suggested Dennis and Lea, and three of us who had all suggested Don and Humber. We got to wander around the coolest construction site in the city for the low, low, price of having to listen to a couple of speeches. Then in recognition of the enormous contributions that my fellow TBM-namers and I made to the  project, we (along with several workers much more deserving of the honour) signed our names to the belly of the beast before sending it on its way:

Everyone got to sign the TBM before it heads into its new tunnel

Glen Murray, the Minister of Infrastructure, announced proudly that the TBMs for the Crosstown line were built right here in Ontario. What he didn’t announce was that the plant where they were built is closing next year. Caterpillar seems to make a habit of buying up local manufacturers only to shut them down.

Lea again

The tunnel boring machines were both impressive in size yet smaller than I expected. I somehow thought they’d be bigger, but I guess the thing with TBMs is that they pretty much have to be the same size as the tunnel they’re digging.

Head-on view of Lea, the next TBM to be launched

Dennis is the first TBM to start, and Lea, seen above, will be up next. Don and Humber will be starting to dig toward Yonge Street from Brentcliffe Road in about a year and a half.

Supermarket Finds: Individually wrapped cantaloupes

By , May 27, 2013
When nature's wrapping just isn't enough.

When nature’s wrapping just isn’t enough.

No longer content with wrapping each little mandarin in its own plastic packaging, the East Dodgeville Loblaws had a rack of individually wrapped cantaloupes on display this weekend. The good news is that many more products are ready for this kind of innovative packaging. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next week.

Don’t be distracted by the “50% off for quick sale” stickers; these melons are lovingly pre-ripened for your convenience.

Supermarket Finds: Individually wrapped mandarins

By , February 20, 2013

Individually wrapped mandarins

So the East Dodgeville Loblaws is now carrying individually wrapped mandarins. I’m not sure why these little oranges need to be wrapped in plastic when all of the other ones seem to survive just fine in nothing but the all-natural, easy-open, biodegradeable, and universally identifiable wrapping that’s built-in at the factory, but there you go. Another product innovation from the people who brought you individually tagged mushrooms.

Mourning doves

By , January 28, 2013

Mourning doves feeling contented after a meal

As the temperature hits -20°C, all of the other mourning doves give Dave the silent treatment for convincing them not to fly south this winter.

Supermarket Finds: Pre-ripened fruit

By , January 11, 2013
Pre ripened avocados at Sobeys

Or as we say in English, “Ripe avocados.”

Increasingly, supermarkets are ripening my fruit for me. Tomatoes are vine-ripened, peaches and nectarines are tree-ripened, and now avocados at Sobeys are, uh, pre-ripened, as if they’re doing me some kind of favour. It’s funny how only avocados get this odd notation. Mind you, I’m sure that the “pre-ripened” sign will result in more sales than the equivalent “50% reduced for quick sale” over at Loblaws. The wonders of marketing: convincing you that they’re doing something revolutionary while selling you the same thing you’ve always been buying. Of course, the downside to this wonderful new pre-ripening service is that I now have to go to separate bins to buy avocados for today and Sunday.

Meanwhile, I’m still ripening all of my pears and bananas on my own. I feel that Sobeys just isn’t doing enough to meet my pre-ripened fruit needs.

The worst Christmas present ever

By , January 7, 2013

Pattison model billboard

I can’t imagine giving someone a worse Christmas present than a replica billboard complete with ad company branding.

“Uh, what’s this, Mom?”

“Why, little Ginny, it’s the gift of selling your eyeballs to the highest bidder. Now go read those nice banner ads your father got for you.”

(Seen in December in a paint store that wasn’t—I think—selling it. )

Upper Canada Heritage Trail

By , December 4, 2012
Upper Canada Heritage Trail in Niagara-on-the-Lake

The first leg of the Upper Canada Heritage Trail looks like many other rail trails.

Upper Canada Heritage Trail in Niagara-on-the-Lake

The majority of the trail runs beside Concession 1 and passes numerous orchards and vineyards.

Risa attended a meeting in Niagara-on-the-Lake last weekend and I tagged along for the drive down the QEW so that I could take a walk down an old railway, now the Upper Canada Heritage Trail. It travels about 11 km from the Bruce Trail west of Queenston down to the Waterfront Trail on Lake Ontario. Combined with the first few kilometres of the Bruce Trail from Queenston Heights and the General Brock Trail along the Niagara River, it constitutes a day-long hiking loop over mostly easy terrain. The UCHT would definitely be the quieter side of the loop, especially at this time of year.

Risa tossed me out of the car at the trailhead at York Road and Consession 2 and told me I had three and a half hours to get to Fort George or I’d be walking all the way home. The terrain was about what you’d expect in a rail trail: mostly flat, mostly straight, and mostly running behind farms. A portion of the trail just north of York Road was completely washed out: about 20 metres of the raised railbed had collapsed into a jumbled mess of trees, dirt, and rocks below. The resulting hole is navigable on foot with sturdy boots and a bit of care, but don’t expect to pass with your bike or horse. Several large potholes and a subsiding trail leading up to the washout hint that much more of the old railbed here is probably going to collapse in the near future.

The long middle stretch of the trail runs dead straight and flat beside Concession 1 and is a pleasant walk alongside a quiet country road lined by numerous vineyards and orchards. Autumn is usually my favourite time to go hiking but this portion of the trail would probably be much nicer in the late summer with the sights and smells of all the fruit coming into season.

Upper Canada Heritage Trail in Niagara-on-the-Lake

The third section of the trail curves up through suburban Niagara-on-the-Lake heading toward downtown. It feels like more of an urban rail trail, with numerous well-kept backyards opening right up onto the trail. Just imagine having a section of the Bruce Trail literally outside your back door. This section is also home to the most interesting sight on the trail, a long stone wall. It looks long abandoned and neglected at first, but it does still separate private homes from the trail. Numerous sections have fallen down and been replaced by ugly wooden or chain-link fences,  while another portion would have fallen over if it weren’t propped up by three large metal beams.

The trail ends at the Waterfront Trail, a short walk away from downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort George. All in all, it’s a nice walk, if not a challenging hike.

Waterfront Trail expanding to Lake Erie

By , November 27, 2012

The Waterfront Regeneration Trust, which manages the Waterfront Trail along the length of Lake Ontario, is expanding it to include the Lake Erie shore starting next year. This has probably been in the works for a while, but the news seems to be flying below the radar so far.

I don’t expect the trail to emerge next spring as a finished entity along the entire Lake Erie shore, but adding 620 km of signed on- and off-road trail is a huge step forward. A lot of cyclists in Ontario (myself included) salivate at the thought of our own Route Verte connecting the corners of the province. A lot of the infrastructure is already in place, with numerous long-distance trails radiating across many regions of the province. Some of them are already managed as pieces of larger trail networks like the Waterfront Trail, the Central Ontario Loop Trail, and the Trans Canada Trail. Still, completing a provincial network wouldn’t be trivial: some trails would need to be need to be improved to be suitable for casual cyclists and filling in the missing links would need to be prioritized. Closest to home, Toronto suffers from relatively poor connections to out-of-town trails. The Waterfront Trail is nice, but won’t get you to the numerous bike routes that start north of the city. That’s one reason I like the hydro corridors so much: they’re quiet routes through the most car-centric parts of the city and have tremendous potential for linking to trails beyond Toronto’s boundaries. We need more of them.

With the Lake Erie extension, I hope that the Waterfront Trust has learned some lessons from 15+ years of wrangling the trail along Lake Ontario. Here are two improvements I’d like to see applied to the trail on both lakes:

  • Follow an obvious and sane route. I’ve ridden the Waterfront Trail through Oakville a number of times and have never been able to follow the official route. It seems to constantly duck onto short side streets for one or two blocks before coming right back up to Lakeshore Road. The route may travel one block through a park that is otherwise two blocks away from the through-route. The little jogs just add distance and confusion to the overall route and make it incredibly easy to get lost. The situation is the same in parts of St. Catharines, Toronto, and probably elsewhere. I’d much rather just have a relatively straight route than one that takes me two blocks out of my way so that I can ride for one block on a quiet street that’s still nowhere near the water. A cyclist shouldn’t need to consult a map to follow a signed route, any more than a driver should need a map to drive straight on the 401.
  • Have more visible and more consistent signage. One of the reasons it’s so easy to lose the trail as it zigzags from street to street is that many directional signs are so small that they border on invisible. The small size is compounded by the fact that many directional arrows are pale orange on a tan background and don’t exactly call your attention to them. You’ll never see one unless you’re actively looking for it. I understand that there was some NIMBY resistance in the early days of the Waterfront Trail, but surely it’s well-established now and can push communities for better signage. Signs have improved in a lot of areas, but there’s still much work to do.

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