Happy Days Ahead – Cycle Touring Northeastern Ontario

Get ready to add to your cycling bucket list!

Sharpen your pencils cycle touring fans, and get ready to edit your bucket lists—Northeastern Ontario is about to become bucket-list worthy! With two long distance trail extensions in the works that will traverse the full length of the region, the cycling future in the north is looking very bright.

First out of the gate is the Waterfront Trail extension from Sudbury to Sault Ste. Marie, taking in some of the most spectacular scenery in the province along the Lake Huron North Channel. With the route laid out and maps in hand, a group of cyclist gathers at the Quality Inn in Sudbury. The objective: put some tires to the pavement and check if the maps will get them where they need to go.

The group is as varied as the terrain they are about to explore. There are world travelers with a couple hundred thousand kilometres already in their legs; there are the weekend warriors; and there’s even the “I'm not a cyclist” types who, until now, limited their exploration to city paths. And over each of the five days of this trip, the group will be joined by local cyclists as they make their way west.

Day one: a quiet city road and bike paths turn to country roads and pavement turns to gravel. Yes, gravel. After all, this is a multi-use trail and though the majority of the route is paved, a variety of surfaces can be expected, all ride-able as our group proves. That said, your choice of equipment has the potential to make or break your day. It’s not the style of the bike, but the tires it’s sporting. Best to avoid the super-skinny or the extra-fat.

Lunch is at Centennial Park, a quaint riverside setting that has the potential to be a perfect day trip. In the afternoon we push on heading southwest along deserted country roads and into a steady head wind. Apparently the prevailing winds typically blow from the west—a good thing to know when planning a long bike trip. Day’s end is in Espanola, where a tired cyclist’s needs are met with a good meal, a celebratory pint and a good night sleep at the Pinewood Motor Inn.

Day two: nothing beats a quiet country road on a blue bird morning. The 27-km stretch to Massey is a breeze compared to yesterday’s slog into the wind. Rest stops are stretched to the max and laughter and chit chat is the accompanying soundtrack.

Massey is a charming town located at the most western reaches of Northeastern Ontario on Highway 17, where the Spanish and the Aux Sable River’s meet. The morning’s quick progress allows us ample time to explore. We tour the museum, make a side trip (1 km) to the rapids in Chutes Provincial Park, and challenge some ice-cream cones to a meltdown race.

From here the Waterfront Trail continues west beyond the reaches of Northeastern Ontario to the shores of Lake Superior. All in all, it traverses 370 km, 22 municipal communities, three First Nations territories, and 10 villages, hamlets and towns. The official trail launch is scheduled for Canada Day 2017, but there is work still to be done. Signage will be going up next spring, and sections of Highway 17 that are part of the trail will be upgraded with wide paved shoulders for safe cycling. If you recall, I mentioned two trails in the works. Nipping on the heels of the Waterfront Trail is the Voyageur Cycling Route which will make it’s way east from Sudbury through North Bay and Mattawa, all the way to the Ottawa Valley. This adds another 380-km stretch of Northern Ontario cycling splendour.

With 370 km in the books and Lake Superior at their feet, this group’s bucket list deserves a check mark. Judging by the smiles on the faces of our intrepid cyclists, the Lake Huron North extension lived up to their expectations. Sharpen your pencils cycling fans and edit your bucket lists—this one’s a keeper.

Visit www.waterfronttrail.org for more information on the Lake Huron North extension. You can view maps and a couple hundred photos from this ride. To keep up to date on the Voyageur Cycling Route, visit Dicoveryroutes.ca.          

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