Why drive back home when you could ride your bike!
Two years ago, my biking partner and I attempted our longest bike ride ever, an 80km ride to the nearby city of North Bay. This was during our first year of doing longer distance rides, and it was quite an adventure! The long ride didn’t scare us away, we didn’t start saying we’re never going to try that again. In fact it was quite the opposite, before the ride was even over we already knew that we wanted to do this again!
This past spring we had been slowly working our way up, attempting longer and longer rides as the weeks passed. Our first ride of the season in April had been an easy 13km run, and a couple months later in June we had completed a 50km ride. We enjoy biking any length of route, but now that we were easily completing 50km, we knew that we should have no problem attempting some really big rides!
Recently, I had to go run an errand in North Bay. Just a quick stop at a store in the morning and then I had nothing else to do. There was a fun idea that my biking partner and I had come up with a few weeks before, and it seemed like now would be the perfect opportunity to do it. We wanted to ride our bikes home from North Bay!
It would work out great! We’d bring our bikes, I’d stop at the store, and then right after that we would start biking home, while the third person with us would go on to do their errands in the city. It was all set and the plan was to basically follow our original bike route from the town of Mattawa to North Bay, but backwards back home, with a few minor changes to our route through the city.
The day came, we arrived in North Bay, and I quickly did what I needed to do. Now with that over with we were free to jump on our bikes and go!
We packed up and started off our ride in the Main Street/McIntyre area, where we quickly picked up on the southern section of the Kinsmen Trail, also a part of the Chippewa Creek EcoPath, near the Main Street overpass. It would be just a short distance along this trail until we reached the Kate Pace Way. I was pretty excited for this section of the Kinsmen Trail as I had read online that there were two pedestrian tunnels and also a bridge!
We turned off McIntyre Street onto the trail which curved around towards the tunnel. Down through the tunnel under a section of the overpass we went! I had never rode my bike through a tunnel before so it was quite fun!
Then up we went to the bridge over Main Street. We stopped here for a few minutes to look around. We had traveled under this bridge many times before but never over it.
Then back down we went following the trail that curved around and we went through another tunnel.
This tunnel was under a set of three or four train tracks. We popped back out of the tunnel and found ourselves at Lee Park just up the street from Lake Nipissing and along the Kate Pace Way.
The Kate Pace Way is a 12km multi use pathway named in honour of Olympic skier Kate Pace, who was from North Bay. The paved trail makes it’s way through North Bay from the waterfront area and winds through a variety of environments, following along a few streets in some sections. The Great Trail (Trans Canada Trail) also follows along the entire length of the Kate Pace Way and a Great Trail Pavilion is located on the waterfront where the Kate Pace Way, The Great Trail, and the Kinsmen Trail meet.
There was one last stop to make before starting along the Kate Pace Way, a quick photo op with the Gateway of the North sign in Lee Park. The Gateway is a large stone archway that had been erected in North Bay in 1928. It is a well known landmark in North Bay, and it was where I had choose to end our first ride to North Bay.
We left the gateway and started off along the trail, right away passing under another section of the Main Street overpass.
The trail left the busier city streets and went off on it’s own between a residential area and the train tracks, with trees on both sides. It was a hot, sunny day, the temperature was hovering just under 30 degrees Celsius, so it was nice to ride under the shade from the trees through this section.
One of the things I had been quite surprised about seeing during the short period of time that we had been riding through North Bay so far, was the amount of other people also riding their bikes! There were all ages, kids, seniors, people commuting to work, some enjoying a more slow leisurely ride and others on super fast road bikes who would speed past us and be gone by time we blinked. It was great to see!
The Kate Pace Way had been very enjoyable to ride. It was nice to get away from the busy streets, while still being able to ride on pavement. We followed the trail along until we reached the Lavase River bridge where we stopped for a short break to look at the river.
We then hopped back on the bikes and continued along the last few sections of the trail, passing by some scenic wooded and marshy areas and being careful not to run over two Garder Snakes that had crossed the path in front of us.
The Kate Pace Way came to an end as we arrived in the town of Callander.
We rode into Callander and stopped at Centennial Park along the beautiful Callander Bay shoreline to have our lunch.
We found a spot in the shade and enjoyed a light breeze off of the bay. Although the playground and splash pad were closed, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were still some people out and about enjoying a day at the park.
We had been traveling south for much of the ride and would now be starting to make our way east towards home. We left the lake view and started along the next section of the route, following paved side roads on our way towards our next destination, the town of Bonfield. We had been spoiled with a virtually hill free ride from North Bay, but would now see some our of first hills as we left Callander. We passed under Highway 11, and crisscrossed a few different side roads.
It was quieter as we rode further into the country, and the ditches were filled with beautiful early summer wild flowers! A deer crossed the road up ahead of us and then watched us pass by from a field.
As we turned onto Quae Quae Road we found ourselves now biking along a section of the Voyageur Cycling Route, which we would follow almost all the way back home. The Voyageur Cycling Route spans across 645km connecting 29 northern and rural communities from Sudbury to Ottawa. It’s name comes from the fact that it follows closely the path that the Voyageurs took along the great waterways across the province. We’ve biked along sections of the Voyageur Cycling Route several times before and both the route, and the landscapes and scenery it passes through, are quite enjoyable!
We began to see Lake Nosbonsing in the distance and a short time later we rode into the town of Bonfield. We stopped at yet another Centennial Park, this one located along the Lake Nosbonsing shoreline. We were nearing the midway point of the ride so we would take a little longer of a break here. The lake sparkled in the bright sun and we watched a friendly chipmunk climb around a tree.
It was time to move on and we continued on our way, following the Voyageur Cycling Route along Development Road, passing the halfway point. We were riding through a more rural area now. Lots of farm fields, cows, horses, and scenic rolling hills, and a lot less car traffic.
As we neared the end of Development Road we were about to start biking along one of the gravel sections of this route, about 9km until pavement again. We don’t mind riding gravel, and have rode this section a couple times before with no problems. But just a short distance along and we started to have a much rougher ride. It was quite clear that fresh loose gravel had been laid on the road recently.
The loose gravel along this section ended up not being too much of an issue, but did slow us down a little. The loose gravel and dirt also caused very dusty conditions when cars passed, but we were very impressed with the amount of respect and space given to us by the majority of drivers! Many slowed right down when they saw us and two pick up trucks actually came to a complete stop along the side of the road as we passed! We appreciated that very much.
One thing that you don’t always notice so much while riding in a vehicle along country roads is the sound. Almost a constant sound along the more rural section of our ride was the calls and songs of birds! So many different birds in the fields, along the fence posts, and flying overhead. We even saw a few large Sandhill Cranes out in a field.
We came to the end of the gravel section and back on the pavement again.
Just a few kms later we found ourselves in the community of Eau Claire. We were about 3/4 along the route now. We stopped for a longer break in the park area beside the community centre. Everything was roped off and closed at this time of course, but during regular times, not pandemic, this is a nice little spot to stop. There’s a picnic shelter, playground, and even public washrooms.
All along the Voyageur Cycling Route, special roads signs can be found that help you make sure you’re on the right route, and in certain spots large information signs can be found. These signs include information about the area and also show a map of the current section of the route you are riding. Installed beside each of these large signs is also a bike repair station. There’s a stand, a pump, some tools, almost everything you might need to make a quick repair on the road. Along with Eau Claire there had been another sign and station at Centennial Park in Bonfield, and was another in Mattawa at the Mattawa Information Centre. We had also passed by a similar bike repair station located along the Kate Pace Way.
In the home stretch now, we continued along the Voyageur Cycling Route. This next section, along Peddler’s Drive, was one that we had ridden many times before and really enjoyed. Scenic countryside views, a bridge over a small creek with a waterfall, and just a very smooth easy road. We stayed on this road until the end, where we would be leaving the Voyageur Cycling Route to continue along another direction
From here a short gravel road would take us out to the Trans Canada Highway, which we would be riding for the last few kms into town. There was nothing too exciting about this section until I saw a turtle on the side of the road. We stopped and I was very surprised to see that it was a Blandings Turtle!
The Blandings Turtle is a medium sized turtle with an oval shaped, domed shell, that is dark coloured, with various patterns of light coloured flecks. They have a bright yellow coloured lower jaw, chin, and neck, and with the shape of their mouths they look like they are smiling! Blandings are unfortunately in decline in Ontario, due to threats such as habitat loss and development, animal predators, and road mortality, and are considered a threatened species.
I took several photos of the turtle and then we let him be and continued along a short ways only to come across yet another Blandings Turtle! I’m not sure if I have ever seen a Blandings Turtle before, maybe not, so it was very special to have got to see two of them in one day!
We reached the last section of our ride, a few kms along the Trans Canada Highway into the town of Mattawa.
What a great day it had been! Beautiful weather, scenic views, wildlife sightings, and even a few challenges along the way. We biked a total of 82.5km, our longest ride yet! We really enjoy this route between Mattawa and North Bay, and will more than likely do it again and again!