Dear Rideau Trail, I have neglected you. With my job, my trips to Denmark and Spain and my job again, I really ran out of time in the last two months to get closer to my goal of getting to the end of the trail this year. So much so that I begin to doubt that I can do it. I tried to make up for this lost time over the last weekends and I have now arrived in the Cataraqui region.
If you remember well, last July I hiked up to west of Westport after going through the beautiful Foley Mountain Conservation Area. From there, I headed south, following several miles of small country roads, and I finally arrived at the South Frontenac Township.
Once the trail finally left the country roads to dive into the forest, this portion really pleased me. As was the case around Westport, the area was a little more rugged and rocky. The Rideau Trail took me around a big beaver pond that could apparently previously be crossed over a cable ferry, but that does not seem to be the case now. I was initially disappointed, but the hike around the pond was still nice and interesting, in addition to offering pretty views.
I continued to walk south towards Bedford Mills. When I came out of the forest after three kilometres, I decided to stop my hike for the day and resume it a week later.
The Rideau Trail then follows an old road through the ghost town of Bedford Mills. Bedford Mills is another of those villages that prospered with the construction of the Rideau Canal. In the 1830s, businessman Benjamin Tett decided to build a sawmill and a gristmill near Buttermilk Falls and take advantage of the proximity of the canal to ship the wood. Mica mines were also opened nearby. At its peak, Bedford Mills had 150 inhabitants.
But traffic on the Rideau Canal eventually declined in favour of the railways, the mines were depleted, and the people of Bedford Mills began to leave. By 1916, the sawmill and the gristmill ceased their operations and Bedford Mills became a ghost town. Today, some of the old residences have been converted into cottages, the old power station is now a garage and the little church is still standing.
Going through Bedford Mills reminded me of why I love following the Rideau Trail. It’s an epic journey through the region that surrounds the Rideau Canal, but also through its history.
After Bedford Mills, the Rideau Trail follows Massassauga Street for 5 kilometres. Then it goes again onto private lands near Lake Benson. There too, several climbs and several descents. The trail definitely puts my calves to the test since Westport.
Then I arrived at the point where the Rideau Trail meets the Cataraqui Trail. The Cataraqui Trail is a 103-kilometre trail that connects Smiths Falls to Strathcona. The Cataraqui Trail is also part of the Trans Canada Trail’s extensive trail system. In other words, from the point where I was, I could hike to Vancouver … But, for the time being, I’m going to be content to try to get to Kingston.
The Cataraqui Trail is rather linear as it follows an old abandoned railway line. The landscape was not uninteresting, but I must admit that I prefer the Rideau Trail and its winding path. So I was happy when the Rideau Trail left the Cataraqui Trail and returned into the forest.
The following kilometres were magnificent. Fall colours could been seen here and there. There are several lakes in the area, so I was spoiled by great views.
I hike this portion of the trail in two days. I met a dozen deer, three snakes, several owls and even some cows, as the path goes through a field at a certain point. The Rideau Trail continued to be steep, I even slipped on a wet rock down a promontory, but as the temperature is now cooler, there is no more mosquito nor deer fly. I’m starting to understand why fall is the best season to enjoy the Rideau Trail.
After several kilometres, I came back to the Cataraqui Trail. From this point, the Rideau Trail follows it for 7 kilometres. Seven kilometres in a straight line, without any climb or descent. Not as exciting as the previous kilometres, but at this point, it felt good to rest my legs a little with a more moderate walk.
I hiked these 7 kilometres on the Cataraqui Trail before deciding to stop there for this time. I am now 70 kilometres away from Kingston. 70 kilometres! It seems to me a little, and a lot at the same time. I do not know if I will be able to go all the way before the end of the year, but I intend to keep trying!
My journey on the Rideau Trail:
- Km 1 to Km 5 – Year goal: 150 kilometers on the Rideau Trail
- Km 5 to Km 25 – Along the Ottawa River
- Km 25 to Km 35 – In the wilderness of Stony Swamp
- Km 35 to Km 50 – On the country roads
- Km 50 to Km 80 – Marlborough Forest and its horseflies
- Km 80 to Km 100 – Hello Rideau Canal
- Km 100 to Km 125 – A fall hike in Smiths Falls
- Km 125 to Km 150 – 150 kilometres later
- Km 150 to Km 155 – I’m back, and with a new goal
- Km 155 to Km 175 – Entering the Mica Mines area
- Km 175 to Km 180 – That time it was raining caterpillars at Murphys Point Provincial Park
- Km 180 to Km 195 – Hello Big Rideau Lake
- Km 195 to Km 215 – A mountain, a bear and a drought in Westport