Earlier this year, I set myself the goal of hiking all the way to the end of the Rideau Trail. It finally took me until the very end of the year to get there. But I did it. I hiked more than 300 kilometres to reach Kingston and the end of the trail.
When I set this goal a few months ago, it was my intention to complete the trail before December. I was afraid that the hike would become more difficult and less pleasant once the snow set in for winter. But my year was busier than expected (and I may have procrastinated a little), and when December came, I still had 40 kilometres to go on the trail.
But my first kilometres on the Rideau Trail from Sydenham immediately reassured me: the trail looked rather pleasant under the soft light of December.
It must be said that this portion of the trail runs once again along the Cataraqui Trail, a trail built on an old railway. The trail is flat and fairly linear and was therefore rather easy to follow despite the thin layer of snow.
The Cataraqui Trail eventually meets the K&P Trail, another trail built on an old railway. The K&P Trail connects Kingston to Sharbot Lake, further north, and the Rideau Trail follows a portion of it. There are some interpretive signs on the K&P Trail, in addition to signs indicating the kilometres to go before arriving in Kingston. I think that’s when I realized how close I was to reaching my goal.
When I reached the boundaries of the Kingston municipality, I stopped my hike for the day and resume it a week later. December had offered us a few warmth days and all the snow was gone on the trail.
The Rideau Trail continued to follow the K&P Trail in a straight line. And the signs kept showing me that every step was bringing me closer and closer to Kingston. 22 kilometres, 21 kilometres, 20 kilometres … This long linear portion of the trail was a bit monotonous and I took the opportunity to think about all the kilometres hiked from Ottawa. Stony Swamp, Marlborough Forest, Smith Falls, Perth, Westport, Frontenac Provincial Park, Gould Lake … So many beautiful places I had visited with the trail!
As if to give me a last glimpse of the landscapes that the trail has offered me over the last two years, the Rideau Trail eventually left the K&P Trail to follow a quiet path through the woods. It went through a private land before following a forest path, lined with cottages, farms and fields. Then the trail followed a country road before going along a field and into the forest again.
I came back later to continue this portion. This time the snow was back, and the branches of the trees were hanging low under its weight. Although the trail was a little harder to follow and the snow and ice slowed my pace a little bit, the snowy trail had something magical about it.
But I eventually had to exit the forest since the Rideau Trail returned to the K&P Trail. This time, it was clear that I was getting closer to the city. There were many more people on the trail and I could distinctly hear the traffic noise. The noise became ubiquitous when I walked in a tunnel under Highway 401. This time, I was clearly in town.
The Rideau Trail had not quite finished impressing me though. It made me go through the very pretty (and very large) Cataraqui Cemetery. With its large trees and ponds, the cemetery must be beautiful in the summer. This is where Sir John A. MacDonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada, is buried. The trail passes in front of his tomb, of course.
After passing through the Kingston Train Station (literally), the trail follows a few quiet streets before going through the Marshlands Conservation Area. Again, this section of the trail must be pretty during the summer. But under the winter greyness, it seemed a little dreary. Nevertheless, the conservation area made me forget for a few kilometres that I was in town.
Then I reached the shores of Lake Ontario. There are no words to describe how I felt at this moment. It was on the shores of the Ottawa River that I started walking, just under two years ago, with the crazy goal of hiking to Kingston along the Rideau Canal. And more than 300 kilometres later, here I was.
The last seven kilometres of the trail follow the water’s edge. Sometimes along trails, sometimes along the road. I passed by the old Kingston Penitentiary and near one of Kingston’s famous Martello Towers. I finally reached downtown Kingston, with its beautiful city hall. I had finally officially reached the end of the trail.
I think I still need some time to process what I’ve accomplished. But I’m done. And I am very proud of it!
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
- Km 215 to Km 250 – A fall walk along the Cataraqui Trail
- Km 250 to Km 270 – Hiking through Frontenac Provincial Park
- Km 270 to Km 290 – Falling in love with November at Gould Lake