Map 11-12: Conestogo and West Montrose (11.4 km)
A young coyote skittered across the field as we parked the car in Winterbourne. The trail runs beside tiny Cox Creek as it runs into the Grand. A gnarled centuries old tree stands guard over the creek. Here the trail is well-worn and well marked with blazes. We gave thanks to the many local landowners who not only let strangers hike across their land but welcome them by mowing a trail through their meadows and beside their fields. There was no need to bushwhack through nettles and thistles today.
The trail follows close by the Grand River alongside fields and through woodlots to Letson Drive at Buggy Lane (presumably referencing local Mennonite transportation rather than the ever present mosquitoes!)
From Letson Drive it traverses another woodlot. The main trail bypasses the covered bridge (there is a side trail to the West Montrose Kissing Bridge). However as we crossed the Highway 86 bridge we had a great view downstream to the bridge.
Once across Highway 86, we crossed the Guelph to Goderich Trail and passed the old railway bridge abutments. The bridge has been removed, creating a gap in the trail, which is bypassed via the covered bridge.
Now we were clearly in Mennonite farming territory. Signs offered maple syrup and quilts (No Sunday Sales!) Horse drawn buggies and carts plied the quiet roads. The trail moved between fields and woodlots, including a working sugar maple grove, a derelict sugar shack and old orchards. (Did you know that Johnny Appleseed planted apple trees to make alcoholic cider, which explains why most of the apples are so sour–although they make great applesauce.)
Curious cows clearly thought we were the most interesting thing they had seen all day. A couple of horses were tending their foals in a field.
Milkweed flourished in the meadows beside the river attracting various butterflies. We surprised a wild turkey with her solitary offspring.
Finally, the trail returned to Middlebrook Road in front of this remarkable “castle”. There must be a story behind this extraordinary edifice, but for once the internet comes up blank.