The plan: a 3 day bike-packing trip on the Simcoe County Loop trail, staying in provincial parks.
“The Simcoe County Loop Trail is a 160-kilometer loop that travels through nine municipalities, reaches three major bodies of water, including Georgian Bay, Lake Simcoe, and Lake Couchiching. And, it is primarily on off-road, multi-use rail-trails!”
There are lots of videos out there of fast looking young men on gravel bikes doing it in a day. Ignore those videos. We did. We planned a three day version with time to stop along the way.
I blogged about our plans here.
But those plans were derailed a little bit when provincial parks were still subject to covid restrictions and our reservations were cancelled. I cried. I sulked for a day. And then I made other plans. My word of the year FLOW is serving me well.
What happened instead: We did three days, mostly sticking to the loop but with some deviations due to the location of our accommodations. We still brought the Bob trailer for all of our other stuff.
Day 1: Parked the car in Barrie, bought replacement frame pump that we forgot (thanks Trek Cycles), rode into Orillia on a stunning, shaded rail trail. Stopped to pick up burgers and beverages in town and then made it to our airbnb trailer. Total distance, 41 km.
Where we stayed in Orillia:
Lots to love about the trailer. Air conditioning! A shower! The owners lived in it while they were building their house and now they rent it as an airbnb. We were also impressed with how close to the Trans Canada Trail it was, just under 2 km.
On day 2 we had lunch at Em’s Cafe, at the 20 km mark. along with lots of cyclists.
30 km later we rolled into Midland. Dinner was provided by friends Bill and Sarah who’ve just opened their own business.
But after dinner we biked what may have been the hardest 25 km we’ve ever ridden. And we’ve done a lot of tough riding together. Newfoundland! The ride out of town was fine. But once we hit the country roads we encountered hills that we feel Google really ought to have warned us about. I’m not a light rider, Sarah was towing the trailer, and we weren’t on our speedy lightweight road bikes. It was a slog. We were very happy to arrive at our airbnb bunkie and discover that we could use the pool. Phew!
Total day’s riding: About 75 km
Day 3: After a breakfast of coffee and BBQ’ed crumpets we set off, nervous about hills and heat. We took it easy, stopping lots along the way for water, ice cream, butter tarts and visits with friendly dogs. I’ve got to say that riding on a heat alert day is something I usually associate with late July or August, not the first weekend in June. Maybe I acclimatize to it by then but this was just hot and humid and insufficient shade. I read this–Things all cyclists think on very hot rides— aloud to Sarah on the way home and we agree with most of them.
Total mileage day 3: 40 km
- Wow. So many bugs–all different kinds. I took at least a dozen caterpillars out of my hair that were hanging from shrubs that we rode under. But also all the usual variety of flying things. The worst for riding? Clouds of midges.
- We also saw lots of critters–a snake! a beaver! a fox! frogs! So many frogs. Also, so many birds! Lots of ‘turtle crossing’ warning signs but no actual turtles. Also, we warned about a coyote on the path but didn’t see one.
- The upside of going with the flow was getting to do the trip but it involved more time off the trail on hilly, no-shade country roads than I would have liked.
- We missed the Tiny Trail on our route and we’re definitely going back at some point during the summer to ride it.
- I deliberately decided to go casual, bike dresses and my usual sunglasses, spd sandals instead of bike shoes. This way I’d feel better going 15-20 km/hr rather than 25-30, I reasoned. Nevermind all of that. Gravel and trails are hard in their own way and I should have stuck with my more technical cycling gear. It’s designed the way it is for a reason. It works.
- I’ve never ridden this bike this far before and now I am starting to have dangerous new bike thoughts. I’m browsing lists of best gravel bikes for bike-packing.
- There’s nothing like exhausting yourself on the bike to get a good night’s sleep. Night 1 was 9 hours and 45 minutes and night 2 was 9 hours and 55 minutes. Yawn!
- There were a range of surfaces in the trails. Some paved, some chip, some gravel but the hardest trail we rode on was sand. That was a challenge.
Anyway, will definitely do more of this kind of travel. It feels like a real adventure even though it’s close to home and you don’t have to be gone that long to feel like it’s a holiday. Maybe next time we’ll even get to camp!