With rolling hills, the Trent-Severn Waterway, rustic villages and some 134 forest-lined lakes, the Kawarthas and Peterborough area of Ontario beckon the wandering rider.
It was the regular Every-Second-Tuesday Ride Night for the Peterborough Tour Riders, and we had just made a pit stop before heading home after a 150-kilometre run.
“So what did you think of those roads?” asked the ride leader, my husband Jim Victor, on whose 2001 Yamaha Venture I was a passenger that night. The rest of our small band of six rode an eclectic mix of Harley-Davidsons, Honda Gold Wings and older model Moto Guzzis.
More than anything, it was a rhetorical question, but given that we had out-of-town riders with us, perhaps it was appropriate to ask. After all, how many Canadians not living near Peterborough are even aware that this city of 75,000, set in the heart of the lake-speckled Kawarthas region, is blessed with seemingly endless day ride options?
Located about 90 minutes northeast of Toronto, Peterborough is an escape from Big City pressure, while the rolling hills, river valleys and streams, and the forested surrounds of an estimated 134 lakes that comprise the Kawarthas create a geographical backdrop that literally beckons riders.
That night our group left the parking lot of the Peterborough Zoo on Water Street, the usual meeting place, and then turned right onto Nassau Mills Road crossing the concrete bridge that spans the Trent Canal. If we’d continued on this road, it would have taken us through Trent University campus, along the scenic Otonabee River, past four locks on the historic 386-km Trent-Severn Waterway that links the Bay of Quinte with Georgian Bay. Not only does the Waterway take a long geographic stretch, it also dates to a time of transition, from the occupation of the land by First Nations to its present-day industrial and recreational use. The Peterborough Lift Lock, a National Historic Site celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2004.
This time, however, we took another right-hand turn onto University Road, still part of Trent University property, but as yet undeveloped. It’s a two-lane, tree-lined road with several abandoned houses that have been bought by the university. You have to remember that Peterborough is a small city, and after a five-minute ride we were “in the country” enjoying the quiet roads with their many hills and bends.
At County Road Four we turned left into tiny Warsaw, and then onto Caves Road, which led us past Warsaw Caves Conservation Area where 800 metres of underground spelunking opportunities spread across seven caves, and 13 kilometres of hiking trails await the outdoor enthusiast. We crossed over the Indian River, a narrow but clear waterway that flows gently under a wooden bridge. A few more turns took us onto County Road 44 which for six kilometres winds and twists between tall maple trees and past an old log house, now covered in a plastic cocoon. An old man dressed in denim overalls and a plaid shirt sat in a chair by the door. It wasn’t a road that could be traveled in haste, for many turns were so sharp that it was impossible to even glimpse what might be around the bend. Some corners were banked and the shoulders were narrow, all of which added to the excitement of the ride.
At County Road 46, we turned right and headed into Havelock, home of the annual Havelock Country Jamboree, which has been nominated several times as one of the top five country music festivals in Canada. This year LeAnn Rimes, Terri Clark, Tanya Tucker and Paul Brandt will be among the headliners during the four-day event in August.
County Road 46 became County Road 30 and we soon entered the eponymously-named town of Trent River and crossed its newly reconstructed bridge as the setting sun created salmon-red splashes that hung over the treetops and reflected off the pale blue river.
Heading south, just before reaching Campbellford, we took another right- hand turn onto County Road 35 toward Hastings. Within a few kilometres we discovered the bridge was out and we were forced to take a detour onto Godolphin Road, which runs along the tops of many eskers. Around us, wheat fields caught in the evening light looked like stretches of golden sand. This scenic road took us into the town of Warkworth. From there we headed north again on County Road 25 and then west onto County Road 24, which took us into the rustic hamlet of Dartford.
”Watch on your right at the bottom of the hill,” said Jim. “There’s a neat old building with an old working water mill.” When we rounded the bend, we were disappointed to see yellow police tape around the perimeters of the property, and the clapboard house blackened by fire.
We traveled on, through the town of Roseneath, locally known for it’s covered carousel, then south once more onto Highway 45, through the First Nation reserve of Alderville, then turned west onto County Road 18, past a llama farm, and through Harwood to Gore’s Landing, a popular cottage and fishing resort area. At the top of the hill we turned right onto Lander Road, which took us along a high cliff overlooking Rice Lake, which is situated south of Peterborough and takes its name from the stalks of wild rice that once grew on its shores. By now there was just enough light remaining in the sky to cast shimmering shadows over the glassy water.
A few more twists and turns brought us onto Cavan Road and into the lakeside community of Bewdley and to the Rhino Roadhouse and a short drink before striking home.
It was an exhilarating ride and one of many that we are fortunate to enjoy throughout the riding season in the Peterborough area. If you care to join us some Tuesday night, we’ll meet you at the zoo near the camel compound.
An hour northeast of Toronto is the Kawartha Lakes region, home to the central stretch of the historic Trent-Severn Waterway; Lock No. 32 in Bobcaygeon was the first built on the system. The 101-year-old Peterborough Lift Lock is the highest hydraulic lift of its kind in the world. It’s just one of many sights to consider when you ride through the Kawarthas, which is included on the list of “Ontario’s Great Drives.” Take a trip south to Lang Pioneer Village near Keene; Discover Peterborough’s haunted history on a walking tour with costumed guides leading you by lantern-light through East City; head north to Petroglyphs Provincial Park to view the just over 900 aboriginal rock carvings; view the raw beauty of white water rapids along the Gull River; stop in at Bancroft to check out the mining history; visit the old-growth forest at the Haliburton Forest and along the suspended canopy boardwalk that winds its way through the tree tops 20 metres above the forest floor.
For more, visit: www.ontariotravel.net
– Judy Lawless, June 2007 Canadian Biker