March 12, 2016: I face the prospect of a 30k hike with unfounded optimism. Since this series of walks began on Yonge Street last November, I have connected with the Trans Canada trail by public transit, taking the subway, bus or GO train to and from each successive trail segment.
As I leave the greater Toronto area, the transit connections are getting thin on the ground. It’s 30k between the GO bus stop on Hwy 7 north of the Greenwood Conservation area where I wrapped up the last walk and the GO bus stop near the old train station in Uxbridge. Being a historian, I reason that since Laura Secord walked more than that distance in Niagara to warn the British forces of an impending American attack in 1813, it must be a manageable day’s outing.
Nothing goes according to plan. The commute by subway to Toronto’s Union Station, GO train to Oshawa and GO bus to Greenwood takes up most of the morning.
When the bus finally unloads me on the shoulder of Hwy 7, I discover that the trail doesn’t quite match the map. At Pickering Museum Village (sadly closed for the season) the trail turns northward along Paddock road where there is a massive gap to accommodate the extension of Hwy 407 eastward.
I walk under the partly built highway through what I first assume is mud. The smell and the signs for the nearby Pickering horse centre soon make clear that I am ankle deep in something else.
I then proceed to get lost in the Claremont Conservation area.
Claremont, originally called Noble’s Corners after general store owner Thomas Noble, was settled by English immigrants in the 1830s who were drawn to the fertile farmland in the area. The community expanded when the Canadian Pacific Railway opened Claremont station in 1884, which stood until the 1960s.
The local conservation area is attractive but poorly signposted and I wander around in circles and get hit in the face with a tree branch before emerging near Sideroad 12.
After a pleasant chat with local dog walkers in Claremont conservation area, I do not encounter another person on foot. Sideroad 12 is eerily deserted.
A lone local resident on horseback remarks that she does not recognize me and is curious to know how I came to be walking in such a remote place. “I have a Trans Canada Trail blog,” I declare. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a published author in possession of a blog must be forgiven eccentric behaviour.
Sideline 12 leads to the Uxbridge-Pickering townline but I realize that I’m still a long way from Uxbridge. I plunge into the Glen Woods, hoping to make it through the Glen Woods and Walker Woods before the sun goes down. The views are spectacular.
Unlike the Claremont conservation area, there are plenty of numbered signs posted along the trails but I still manage to get throughly lost because so many trails intersect there including the Trans Canada Trail and the Oak Ridges Morraine. I wander off the edge of my maps.
I emerge in a remote parking lot containing just two cars. It seems to grow dark and cold all at once. My cell phone battery dies. I’m stranded.
Two families emerge from the forest with headlights on their bicycles, chatting with each other in Mandarin. The cars belong to them. One of the mums approaches me and says “You need help.” It’s a statement not a question. They offer me a ride to Markham, where I can catch the GO bus back to Toronto. I am profusely grateful. They tell me how they all immigrated from Shanghai recently and are enjoying Canada’s parks and trails.
For me, however, the Trans Canada Trail has lost its appeal. I think of everything that went wrong that day and all the other things that could have gone wrong. I decide to quietly abandon the walks and stop updating this website.
April 17, 2016: The Toronto Bruce Trail Club is chartering a bus to the Walker Woods, the next segment of the Trans Canada Trail after the Glen Woods where I lost my way a month ago.
The trip description promises an easy hike followed by refreshments. I dust off my membership card and book a seat on the bus. I have been spending too much time in indoors and jump at the chance I decide to revive the walks and this website.
Everything goes according to plan. After an April of snow and freezing rain, the skies are blue, there are buds on the trees and the wildflowers are sprouting.
The extremely efficient hike leader starts the walk in the northeast corner of Walker Woods.
The woods were the site of an aggregate quarry that is now being transformed into a bluebird sanctuary.
In the company of fellow hikers who are familiar with the area and know where they are going, Walker Woods and Glen Major forest are indeed a straightforward hike, passing by a pond full of frogs jumping.
After a few hours of hiking, the bus makes a stop at Annina’s bakeshop and cafe in Goodwood and I come home with the best apple pie I have ever tasted. My fellow hikers are good company. My enthusiasm for the Trans Canada trail is restored.
My next walk will cover the segment from Walker’s Woods to Uxbridge. It’s only 10k. What’s the worst that can happen?
Further Reading: Backroads of Ontario by Ron Brown