I felt so much more energetic on our final day, after staying in for the evening, than I did on Day 5. At our final evening briefing we decided to take the advice of our local experts, who provided such a great escort yesterday, and follow the Waterfront Trail to the Don Valley, for a trip length of 94km to my house, and a little longer for David and Dayle to their home, and Rani and Nelson to John’s house, rather than a more direct road route which would have resulted in a trip of 68km.
Breakfast was provided in the lobby of the Super 8, where we stayed, but consisted of white bread products, bad coffee and a few other things, making it the worst breakfast of the trip.
By now you know we started with a group photo. First, one with Jim, as an honourary cyclist, then another with the group who were riding. We all agreed that it would be difficult for Jim to shadow us through Toronto, so he headed straight to John’s house. That provided him with time to remove the modifications he made to the trailer and to greet us upon our arrival.
We were all anxious to make good time on our last day, especially upon choosing the longer route, so we were in the parking lot for our picture at 8am.
Here is the route we took to the point where we split up in east Brampton.
After only a kilometre on Westney Road, which was not very busy despite the time of day, possibly because we were heading away from the GO Station and the 401, we came across the Waterfront Trail. It was absolutely tranquil and we immediately knew we had made the right route decision.
The temperature was pleasant, the sky a mix of sun and cloud with interesting lighting.
There were places where the trees met overhead making for lovely green tunnels. There were regular wayfaring signs.
In no time at all we were at the Pickering Nuclear Plant which had a large wind turbine.
Then we cycled along the boardwalk at Pickering Beach. We had the place to ourselves. I imagine it would get very busy later in the day, with the lovely beach, with tables covered by large umbrellas and a playground right at the water’s edge.
Turning away from the beach we travelled along the very empty Liverpool Road, which is probably much busier on weekends. We had to travel up to Bayly Street, just south of Highway 401 and back down again to get around Frenchman’s Bay, which is missing just the smallest link at the waterfront, which allows boats in and out of the bay.
We stopped for our first Tim’s of the day at Liverpool and Bayly. We weren’t long into the ride but were already feeling the effects of not having a breakfast provided by Jim.
We cycled along Bayly on Day 5 with our Durham advocate escorts and they kept us on the sidewalk/multi-use path. So here we chose to ride along the barely-there asphalt strip on the south side since we would be turning left shortly.
It wasn’t long before we were back on a multi-use path and enjoying lovely parks and waterfront views with only occasional quiet residential streets.
Given the crazy real estate market in Toronto the last few years I was surprised we didn’t see more of these types of scenes.
Looking back at Pickering.
Nice transitions from roads to park trails.
Entering Petticoat Creek Conservation Area we were treated to this verdant scene and shortly encountered the most activity we had seen to that point as we passed a summer camp where the children had been making chalk art.
Everywhere we rode, from Ottawa to Brampton, we saw standing water. Water in ditches, on lawns, in fields and here, covering a parking lot, at Rouge Beach.
Due to the nature of waterfront with creek and river inlets and cliffs and bluffs, there was quite a lot of significant infrastructure, like the bridge above, to connect the trail. There were lovely sweeping curves and we soon got our first close-up look at the bluffs of Glacial Lake Iroquois.
We stopped briefly at the newly renovated Guild Inn. Rani and Nelson had never been; it had been many years for David and Dayle. They have done a lovely job, removing the ugly hotel addition and adding banquet space.
Shortly after leaving The Guild Inn we missed a turn and ended up in Sylvan Park. Instead of turning around and going back to where we went wrong, we pushed on since I could see trails marked on the map I was following. We ended up on a hill so steep we had to push our bikes. I would not recommend the little hike we did. We came out here and got back on track.
Not too much further on we came to a T-intersection at Brimley. The route I entered into my phone from the Waterfront Trail maps indicated we should turn left and head through St. Augustine Seminary, however, the trail signs indicated we should turn right and head north to Kingston Road. It was somewhat confusing.
A few kilometres earlier someone going in the opposite direction had yelled at us, “Don’t go through the church”. We didn’t know what he meant, but decided at this point he meant, avoid the St. Augustine trail. I have since discovered a note on the Waterfront Trail website indicating, “…that the trail that runs behind St. Augustine Seminary is not paved and in the Spring months or wet weather pose challenges for cyclists.”. The section along Kingston Road was not for the timid, however, one could ride along the sidewalk on the south side as the distance to the turn is short.
Upon reaching Queen Street, at about 42km of riding, we were hungry and cycled along until we found Tim’s opposite The Beaches Park and Kew Gardens. It had a patio and we happily recharged. Again, this section is not for the timid, and meant we missed a little over a kilometre of the Waterfront Trail, but it does provide a lot of restaurant choices. There were many nice looking patios, but we didn’t wish to linger.
Right across from Tim’s we were able to ride through the park back down to the waterfront.
We passed a pop-up bike rental business renting interesting looking bikes at Ashbridges Bay.
Then we caught our first glimpse of downtown Toronto and passed the Leslie Barns, a streetcar maintenance and storage facility.
We crossed to the north side of Lakeshore, at Leslie, where they have bike signals and a cross-ride. We then passed through the old support posts for the Gardner Expressway which was torn down in 2001 from the Don Valley Expressway to just east of Leslie. It was torn down because it cost less to do so, than to rehabilitate it. I remember at the time, many warned of carmageddon, but it didn’t happen. I wish the current council had taken the same approach to tear down the current eastern portion rather than spend $1B rebuilding it. It is much more pleasant to ride here than it is further west.
At the Don River we turned north. On Victoria Day, Rani and I, her nephew and another friend, Peter, cycled to the Brickworks. It was a pleasant ride, so we were heading towards the Brickworks to finish our ride from Ajax to Brampton along the same route.
I love the public art which brightens up the highway supports and a retaining wall .
The entrance to Corktown Common.
We stayed on the trail until Pottery Road and then cycled up Bayview, a long steep hill. Shortly thereafter we got on the Kay Gardner Beltline Trail. This is a lovely tree covered trail that was so shaded on a sunny July afternoon that all of my pictures are somewhat fuzzy. This trail almost didn’t come to be and was one of the first battles in Toronto over bike infrastructure. Rail service ended in the late 1960s. From the wikipedia artile linked above:
“In 1970, CN tried to sell the right-of-way east of the Allen for housing since the land was quite valuable. This would set the stage for one of the first public battles on biking trails. Most home owners adjacent to the line wished to buy the land to extend their backyards complaining of safety issues, vandals, and lovers. Both Metro Toronto parks officials and York Mayor Phil White saw it as an opportunity to build a bike path. Toronto Mayor William Dennison and his executive committee favoured buying portions of the Belt Line to expand roads and existing parks. Dennison told the Toronto Star that he opposed a continuous path along the Belt Line because “people have demonstrated they just won’t use it”, as well as echoing fears of the homeowners.
After two years of talk, the land was purchased by the city in 1972 as part of a land swap with CN that included the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Front Street. One of the supporters of turning the rail bed into a bike path was alderman David Crombie, who was elected as mayor of Toronto soon after.”
Here’s the best of the pictures I managed to take. The ribbons on the original rail bridge over Yonge Stree are for Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women.
We stayed on the Beltline until The Allen, where it is interrupted. After that we were on streets, some of them fairly busy the rest of the way home. Somewhere along the way it poured rain on us, but it soon became sunny again and we dried out.
We stopped for a final snack at Islington and Albion, at Tim’s, for the third time that day – a record for our trip. On Goreway we were caught at the level crossing by a long freight train.
At Intermodal Drive we bid goodbye to Rani and Nelson. On Sandalwood, I bid goodbye to David and Dayle.
My daughter was home from university for a few days. I imagined my whole family coming out to greet me as I arrived home after six days of cycling. In the event, it was a quiet homecoming. My husband and daughter had gone to an appointment. My 16 year old was at work and my other two sons were in the house wearing noise cancelling headphones blissfully unaware I had arrived home. I cajoled the thirteen year old to take my picture, then put away my bike, stretched, showered, snacked and waited for the rest of my family to arrive home, having picked up my belongings from John’s house on their way home.
It was a wonderful trip. Great sights. Great people with whom to travel. I made the memories of a lifetime. In my head, I am already planning the next cycling odyssey.