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  • Writer's pictureRay Targosz

A Solo Bike Tour Around Southern Ontario

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

For ten heart-pounding days, I plunged deep into the wild heart of Ontario on a bikepacking odyssey that would rival any legend. From the poetic embrace of Fenelon Falls, I tore through whispering forests. I battled the untamed spirit of the backcountry, every pedal stroke an act of defiance against the capricious moods of Mother Nature. Yet, it wasn't just nature's grandeur that left an indelible mark on my soul. The chance encounters, like the Fort Irwin Marina owner extending a hand of brotherhood or the rugged rancher who ensured my journey didn't dry out, infused my adventure with hope and humanity.

In the pulsing heartbeats of Kingston, Picton, Belleville, and the glowing streets of Petersburg, I unearthed stories, laughter, and bonds that bridged the gap between strangers. And oh, the challenges! Slippery trails tried to thwart me, gears rebelled, and the labyrinthine paths tested my spirit. But this wasn't just a test of endurance - it was a dance of the soul. As I thundered into Caledon, having tamed the tempestuous skies of Newmarket, I realized this was more than a journey. It was a tale of grit, heart, and the intoxicating magic that binds us all. Adventure, after all, is written in every shared glance, every uphill struggle, and in the wild symphony of life that plays around us. Let's keep chasing it!

 

Day One: Embracing the Wild

Dawn is that sublime moment of the day when possibilities stretch out in front of you like the winding trails of an unexplored wilderness. Today marks the beginning of a bikepacking saga spanning over ten days, each stretching to an average half-century. With the fire of passion burning in my soul, I stepped into the clutches of the wilderness. And what a diverse embrace it was! The motley of this voyage weaves in the shadows of towering hills and the hum of bustling highways and intersperses with the serene tranquility of backcountry byways and the whispering stories of ancient forests. Each pedal stroke is a rave with the elements.

Now, imagine a sun painting the world in hues of amber and gold. That's what greeted me as I left the cocoon of Fenelon Falls, with 100 km of the Victoria Trailway waiting to be explored. An early bird, they say, catches the worm, but I was chasing horizons. The first few miles felt like an ode to nature—the melodious chirps, the rustling leaves, and the rhythm of my heartbeat echoed the song of the road.

Mid-day saw me at Kinmount, seduced by the aroma of fish and chips, teasing and tempting. As I dug in, I felt the burst of flavors, as if the very essence of the sea was rewarding my efforts. Every bite energized my spirit, preparing me for what lay ahead: the silent beauty of forested areas, the mystical charm of swamplands—landscapes so diverse, they felt like different chapters of an epic tale.

Yet, as day turned to dusk, the actual test of this adventure began. Racing against time and with the weight of the day's miles pulling at my muscles, I swung by a local market. The goal? To arm myself with sustenance for the night and the morning yet to come.

The night, however, had its plans. The undulating roads of cottage country threw challenges that tested my body and spirit. Hills rose like warriors, and the serpentine roads played tricks with my senses. And then, the cruel twist of fate—my phone breathed its last. Darkness, fatigue, and disorientation became my companions. Yet, adversity often opens doors to serendipity. The community centre of Fort Irwin offered me refuge—a patch of grass under a canopy of shimmering stars.

As I nestled into my sleeping bag, the day's adventures replayed in my mind; the adrenaline rush contrasted with the lullaby sung by the crickets. The spirit of the wild had embraced me, and I knew this was just the prologue. The journey, with its tales of sweat, grit, and undying passion, had only just begun.

 

Day Two: Embracing the Rain

As dawning fingers pried open the eyes of the world, I was greeted by a harmonious chorus of avian serenades. Nestled deep within nature's embrace, I felt each tiny rustle of the underbrush. Those night-time whispers of critters kept sleep at bay at times, but the pure, unfiltered wildness was worth every restless moment.

The soft golden tendrils of the rising sun brought a promise of new adventures. As I commenced my day, an unexpected camaraderie awaited me. The proprietor of Fort Irwin Marina, a living testament to the hospitality of this region, welcomed me with a spread of snacks and vital directions to navigate my way back to Haliburton. The day ahead was etched with anticipation—rolling hills, stretching kilometers, and the ever-changing advance of the weather.

Perhaps emotionally moved, it wasn't long before the sky shed heavy tears upon the land. These were no mere droplets but an onslaught of rain, each drop like a watery embrace, seeping through fabric and soaking skin. The dense rain draped the world in a shimmering veil, its rhythm becoming a drumbeat urging me forward. In between, a lone gas station emerged as a refuge, its shelter momentarily protecting me from nature's mood swings as I refueled on snacks and spirit.

As the day's curtain drew, my resolve was drenched but far from diminished. All my gear bore witness to the day's aquatic trials, but my spirit was still blazing. Seeking solace, I took refuge in a quaint rented room. That night, beneath a sheltering roof, I laid out my soaked belongings like trophies of the day's battles, hoping to face the morrow with dry gear. The drying shoes whispered tales of the day's adventures, and as I nestled into sleep, I fortified my gear with a dry bag—ready to challenge the rain at its game come daybreak.

 

Day Three: The Odyssey to Echo

The hushed aura of the morn was almost misleading. My gear, remnants from the prior deluge, were neatly laid out, each piece narrating tales of persistence and grit. Assembling this complexity of memories into my pack was a ritual, every component having its dedicated spot. Two hours had slipped by with the repacking process, punctuated by the solemnity of a quick breakfast.

The initial burst of azure on the horizon was deceptive. As my tires crunched the grave trail beneath, ominous clouds began assembling like an audience to my journey. An hour into my ride, nature's applause roared—cold, determined droplets assailed from the heavens. Each felt like nature's tiny, relentless critique, prodding me to rethink my decision, but the journey beckoned.

But the rain was more than just a discomfort. Trails meant for ATVs, their sandy arteries having seen countless adventurers, became unrecognizable. They transformed into treacherous channels, daring me with their slickness and unpredictable depth. As I fought for traction, I tapped into the lifeline of modern civilization—my phone. Reception held strong enough to reroute my passage to Bon Echo Park, turning a promised day's respite into an odyssey.


The beacon of Bancroft loomed on the horizon, a small town buzzing with activity. Its heartbeat is palpable. But in this hum of life lay a dilemma—a brief hiatus to resupply meant leaving my steel steed unattended. The pulsating streets and onlookers left me in a split-second decision conundrum.

The latter part of the day was a lesson in trust and reliance on the human spirit. As both cellular reception and my downloaded maps betrayed me, I was thrust into a tango with the unknown. Ontario's vast highways stretched endlessly, challenging every ounce of my mettle. My urban-designed bike, not crafted for this rugged ballet, became more a companion to walk beside than to ride. Every summit of these undulating paths promised a momentary respite, a fleeting downhill joyride, allowing gravity to play its part.

And as the sun's golden tendrils retreated, a sign emerged from the horizon—Bon Echo Park. The culmination of my Herculean effort. As I approached the park, the knowledge of this triumph, of conquering nature's challenges and personal doubts, settled deeply, fortifying me for the chapters yet to come.

 

Day Four: The Thirst of Endurance

As sunrise painted its first strokes on the horizon, I set forth from Bon Echo Park, pointing my tires eastward to Silver Lake. This 50-mile stretch promised uncharted challenges as it unfurled through Ontario's rugged backcountry. I gave a cursory glance at my supplies, realizing that the crux of today's adventure would not solely lie in the terrain ahead but in the lone liter of water in my bottle. The impending heatwave was slated to bring the most scorching temperatures of the trip.

Navigating the labyrinthine paths of Bon Echo, each incline and descent echoed the rhythmic beating of my heart. The high sun cast no shadow, and the unforgiving heat bore down, reminding me of my dwindling water reserve. My usual cadence was tempered with caution—the pacing was paramount. Each halt under the shade of ancient trees became an opportunity to breathe and assess, listening to the quiet whispers of the wilderness while rationing each precious sip of water.

Amidst this titanic struggle with nature, serendipity shone its light. A chance encounter with a rancher, a guardian angel on this scorched path, saw my bottle replenished. Gratitude filled my heart as I realized that, in these expansive landscapes, human connections still stitched together an intricate web of kindness.

As the sun's intensity began to wane, I found respite at a quaint roadside shop, the aromas of home-cooked meals promising nourishment for both body and soul. As I made my way through the final stretch to Silver Lake, each pedal stroke bore the weight of the day's reflections. These undulating landscapes had tested the very essence of my spirit, forcing me to summon untapped reservoirs of grit and resilience. This expedition was evolving into a profound lesson in humility, endurance, and the inestimable value of fleeting connections in the vastness of the open road.

With the comforting knowledge of an impending day of rest, I coasted into Silver Lake, ready to recharge, reflect, and prepare for the next leg of this grand voyage.

 

Day Five: A Short Rest

Nestled amidst the pages of my journal, an eternal question posed itself time and time again, demanding introspection: "What does it mean to escape daily routine and fully embrace nature, challenging both body and mind?"

With its unforgiving grind, modern life often chains us to digital anchors. There's a muted stillness in spending endless hours captive before a screen, engaging in tasks that often fail to kindle the spirit's fire. It's as if my soul yearns for liberation, a respite I've realized is only felt after pushing my physical self to its utmost threshold. For me, that catharsis finds its echo in the rhythmic cadence of my heart, harmonizing with the turn of bike pedals—endurance cycling, to be precise, or its rugged cousin, bikepacking.

Picture this: The horizon stretches infinitely ahead, every inch of the road beneath beckoning exploration. The wind whispers tales of yonder forests and rivers with every downhill dash, while every uphill battle tells a saga of resilience and will. Rolling through forgotten trails, brushing past ancient trees, crossing serene waterways, and meandering through towns—each with its own untold story—there's an unparalleled fervor that courses through my veins. Every mile reveals a mosaic of memories, a harmony of muscles and determination, a testament to the spirit of adventure. In this expression of freedom, there's a profound realization. The unessential fades away, the noise is muted, and beautiful minimalism is embraced. If it can't find its place on my bike, does it merit a place in my life? When we strip life down to such simplicity, the heart beats louder, the journey matters more than the destination, and every moment becomes a passionate ode to existence.

 

Day Six: Marathon to Kingston

Day six wasn't just another day; it was an excursion, a marathon—a trek that stretched 124 km/77 mi into the heart of Prince Edward County. Dawn broke with the promise of a day painted in the hues of the vast Canadian landscape, from its azure sky to the mosaic of earthen trails. Every rotation of my bike's tires seemed to align with nature's rhythm, the gentle hum of gravel below blending with the chorus of birds overhead.

Emerging from the wilderness's cocoon, the intricacy of my pilgrimage began to evolve. No longer was I alone with the unspoiled majesty of nature? Civilization, in its varying degrees, began to reappear, offering solace in the form of food, water, and the occasional face from which stories of these lands would flow. But today, the flatter terrains would test my endurance in ways the wild hadn't. Every kilometer was a testament to my resolve as my travel unfolded over backcountry ascents, through fields where the very soil spoke tales of yesteryears, and across verdant meadows painted with the day's moisture.

Kingston's silhouette began to pierce the horizon, and a patchwork of experiences came with it. There were moments of camaraderie, sometimes shared with fellow travelers and at other times with kind-hearted locals. And just when I thought the day had given me all it had to offer, my left quadriceps began its haunting lament—a strain that promised to be tomorrow's shadow. Yet, even as fatigue clawed at my limbs, the universe lit up the path.

As the heavens broke open, washing the earth with their tears, I chanced upon a beacon of warmth—a food truck peddling Canada's iconic poutine. The tantalizing aroma of golden fries doused in velvety gravy and crowned with cheese curds beckoned me. Sheltering beneath the awning, I savored this serendipitous meal, every bite a symphony of flavors, a brief reprieve from the rain's relentless assault.

Gratitude wasn't just a feeling—an experience made richer by the strangers-turned-benefactors along the way. Rejuvenated and with Prince Edward County beckoning from across the waters, I mounted my steed, knowing that the ferry port and the conclusion of this monumental day lay just a few heartbeats away.

 

Day Seven: Senses and Souls

The blush of light blotted the horizon as day seven unfurled, revealing the undulating silhouettes of Prince Edward County's hills and the vast quilt of its farmlands. With every turn of the pedals, the morning whispered its secrets into my ears. As the sun, a molten globe, began its ascent, its fingers caressed fields of wheat and prairie grass, setting them aflame in hues of gold. This spectacle was accompanied by a perfume of freshly sheared hay and the intoxicating allure of wildflowers. It was a potent mix, heady and grounding, a reminder of nature's dual ability to invigorate and pacify.

Picton soon punctuated the horizon, its quaint charm beckoning like an old friend. Even before its streets welcomed me, the savory ballet of breakfast wafted through the air—each cafe and eatery offering its own aromatic overture. The town's heartbeat echoed in the clinking of cutlery, the soft undertone of early conversations, and the ever-present serenade of birds perched on boughs overhead. Succumbing to the lure, I found solace in a snug cafe, where eggs, bacon, and toast weren't just food—they were comfort, fuel, and, momentarily, my entire universe.

Halfway through my odyssey, each kilometer began asserting its presence, reminding me of its weight, literally and figuratively. My muscles, once taut with anticipation, now sang tales of weariness. But within, a fire raged on—a relentless determination to embrace every challenge and emerge stronger.

Belleville was a splash of color and chaos on my canvas of experiences. Its bustling core was a stark contrast to the silent tales of the countryside, offering me a mixture of sounds, sights, and textures. Armed with provisions, I escaped the town's embrace, relishing the peace that only the heartland could offer. Fortuitously, the clouds held their tears, allowing the day's narrative to be one of the sun-drenched roads and the pure, unadulterated joy of cycling.

My route took on a poetic rhythm, a play of ascents and descents, leading to Ferris Provincial Park. Though punctuated by challenging inclines and serpentine trails, the journey rewarded me with enchanting panoramas that felt painted just for me. Here, forests whispered ancient tales, rivers sparkled like scattered gems, and the air—oh, the air was a potion, heady with the notes of pine and cedar.

As the curtain began to fall on the day, the anticipation of day eight's shorter, gentler ride buoyed my spirits. The Trans Canada Trail would be my partner in this dance, guiding me into Petersburg. And for the first time, the setting sun wouldn't chase me. Instead, I would absorb Petersburg's twilight, sauntering its streets, sinking into the comforting clasp of diners, and finding kinship in conversations with fellow travelers—stories and laughter echoing into the heart of the night.

 

Day Eight: Revelations and Connections

The weight of accumulated kilometers felt both heavy and freeing on day eight. Each of those miles told a story of grit, rain, sunrises, and whispered secrets of the roads less traveled. With the majority of the trip behind me and just a sprinkle left, this day promised a gentle rhythm where I could genuinely drink in the essence of Ontario without the relentless drumbeat of a target pace echoing in my ears.

There's magic in slowing down, in allowing yourself to be genuinely present. Every rustle of the leaves, the distant call of a bird, and the play of sunlight filtering through the trees became more vivid, like watching the world in high definition. The Trans Canada Trail beckoned, not as a challenge, but as an old friend inviting me for one last dance.

In my many adventures, there's a familiar pattern: race against the encroaching dusk, reach the destination just as the stars claim the sky, and set camp embraced by shadows. But today, Petersburg unfurled before me, bathed in the golden glow of the afternoon sun—a rare and cherished luxury. The streets seemed to beckon, every corner whispering tales waiting to be discovered.

Trading my bike for the simple rhythm of my footsteps, I delved into the city's heart. The warm glow from diners was like an open invitation, pulling me into their cozy embrace. As I nestled into the ambient hum of conversations, the aroma of home-cooked meals tantalized my senses. It wasn't just the hunger for the journey; it was the hunger for connection, for shared stories.

As night descended, my solitary expedition became a collective blend of tales. Fellow adventurers, each a wanderer in their own right, shared stories of distant lands, trials, euphoria, and paths waiting to be explored. Our conversations flowed like a river, winding deep into the tapestry of the night. As hours slipped by unnoticed, the realization hit—day eight wasn't just another day. It was an anthology of moments, connections, and revelations, culminating in an evening that would forever shimmer brightly in the constellation of my memories.

 

Day Nine: Unexpected Detours

There's a rhythm to life on the road that becomes comforting, predictable even—waking with the sun, fueling up with a meal, loading the gear, and setting the wheels in motion. Today, on day nine, there was a change in that rhythm. What was intended as the concluding act turned into a heartfelt extension. Instead of the planned path from Peterborough to the warmth of Fenelon Falls, the wind gently guided me westward towards Newmarket.

Cycling through the city's veins, I let the journey dictate the pace. Every turn, every alley had a story to tell, and I was here to listen. The day promised simplicity with gentle elevations, especially with the beckoning heart of the Trans Canada Trailway. But nature, always the unpredictable counterpart, had other plans.

The bright optimism of the day was gradually overshadowed by foreboding grey giants marching in from the west, their windy heralds announcing an impending tempest. Now, I've embraced challenges head-on before mountains that seemed insurmountable and icy terrains that tested my resolve. But this, this was a different beast. Rain doesn't just test your gear; it tests your spirit.

Though I've battled inclines and daunting trails in the past, the heart of this expedition lay not in fighting against the storm but in dancing in it. I decided to let go, to welcome every drop, remembering that the raw beauty of nature is why I chose this path. But even the most seasoned adventurers know when to pause. The lightning's fierce ballet meant I had to find shelter soon.

The tempest's silver lining was the heartwarming generosity of Canadians. Nestled in a haven of country homes, I was given shelter by a kind stranger, reminding me that even in the stormiest days, there are beacons of hope. Raindrops pounded with such intensity they felt like nature's furious applause, urging me to respect her might.

Respite came, and with the storm's retreat, my journey resumed. The highways, though, always make it challenging. The rush of it all—the narrow margins of the shoulder, the massive behemoths of trucks creating whirlwinds in their wake, the challenge of steep descents, and the scorching touch of the sun—were all part and parcel of this thrilling adventure.

Reaching Newmarket, every sinew, every fibre in me echoed harmonious exhaustion. The relentless cadence covering 80+ km daily blended aches and euphoria. As the day drew to a close, I sought comfort in a hearty meal, letting the fragrant aroma of carbs envelop me like a lullaby. And with my gear as my only companion, I succumbed to the grip of sleep, knowing tomorrow would herald the final act of this epic adventure.

 

Day Ten: A Journey's Crescendo

When morning kissed the horizon, it brought an old friend: rain. This relentless partner of mine chose to accompany me during my final performance. With droplets caressing my face, I kicked off from the wet asphalt, heading towards the roar of a looming highway, a metal and rubber river that presented its own version of rapids to navigate. Every rush of wind from passing trucks felt like nature's challenge, daring me to waver, but I kept my course.

Then, like dream-shifting scenes, the ruggedness of the highway gave way to the gentle embrace of a gravel path in Caledon. The earth beneath me whispered stories, each pebble and grain narrating tales of cyclists' past. There was an audible sigh of relief as I realized the trails here were free from the growl of ATVs. The serenity and simplicity of these paths stood in stark contrast to the earlier days of my journey, which seemed to have an appetite for testing my mettle at every bend.

By mid-afternoon, the climax approached. My wheels slowed, my breathing eased, and I dismounted in quiet reverence for the closing chapter. The weight of what I'd undertaken, the expanses I'd covered, and the adversity I'd danced with began to sink in. This wasn't just another ride, a journey through Ontario's heart and soul and an introspective dive into my limits. It was a testament to the human spirit's ability to find ecstasy in the challenge, joy in the mundane, and wonder in every pedal stroke.

This ride had oscillated between each day's deliberate, contemplative slowness and the heart-pounding, adrenaline-infused rushes that came unannounced. It was the pure, undiluted joy of a summer ride, each moment etching itself into my memory, painting a canvas of experiences that words might never fully capture.

Thank you to those who've been with me, whether in spirit or through these words. Your energy propelled me, even when the winds didn't. So, as this chapter closes, remember the roads we've traveled, the tales we've spun, and always, always cycle onwards. Until our paths cross again, chase your horizons!

 

Trip Route: Detailed Map Overview


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