Trails in a COVID-19 Universe

Spring is here and the urge to get out on the trails gets stronger every day.  Fresh air and exercise are important to physical and mental health and well-being.  To keep everyone safe, we cannot travel away from home. So now is a good time for people to explore their own neighbourhood while keeping a safe distance from everyone else. On one of the first warm sunny days of the spring, we took the opportunity to ride our bikes from our home in Waterloo, to explore some of the potential cycling routes between Waterloo and the West Montrose Kissing Bridge. The Walter Bean Trail, a cycling route from Cambridge to Waterloo, using mainly multi-use trails near the Grand River, currently ends at the corner of Country Squire Road and Grand River Dr, just north of RIM park. Woolwich Township is planning to complete the Walter Bean Trail by creating a hiking trail through Woolwich Township, using the Grand Valley Trail. However, a cycling route is also needed. Country Squire Road is a quiet road that leads to Glasgow St South, crossing the Conestogo River over an old iron one-lane bridge which leads directly to the heart of the village of Conestogo.

From here, we could go east or west along busy Sawmill Road.  The route west requires a long ride on Northfield Dr E, which is a fast, busy road.  We chose to turn R onto Sawmill Road towards Katherine St, which is not as heavily used as Northfield.  There are narrow bike lanes along most of Sawmill Rd, except one section where the road narrows.  After crossing the Grand River, we were relieved to turn L onto Golf Course Rd.  Even here we could not entirely escape evidence of the COVID emergency, with a “Temp Closed … Stay Safe” sign outside the golf course. 

From Golf Course Rd, we rode along quiet country Hunsberger Rd, to Katherine St.  It has a narrow paved shoulder, which adds to cycling comfort.   We proceeded along Katherine St to the tiny village of Winterbourne, stopping to admire the deconsecrated old Chalmers Presbyterian Church at the corner of Peel St.

I had planned to take the route that minimized cycling on busy highways. I had scoped it out using Google Maps and Street View, taking the Peel St bridge over to the other side of the Grand River, proceeding via Crooks Tract Road and then crossing the river again over the Buggy Lane bridge.  Here we discovered that you cannot always rely on Google Maps.  The Peel St bridge has been completely closed to all traffic, even pedestrians and cyclists, due to safety concerns.  We later discovered that the last section of Crooks Tract Road and Buggy Lane is private property, blocked by a large “No Trespassing” sign.

We reluctantly turned around and headed back to Katherine St and rode further up to Letson Dr, keeping a watchful eye on the passing trucks.  This quiet gravel road led directly to our destination, the West Montrose Kissing Bridge, the only remaining covered bridge in Ontario, and the oldest in Canada.

Our ride had answered the question of which is the best cycling route from the Walter Bean Trail in Waterloo to West Montrose, having eliminated two of three possible options!  And we had enjoyed the fresh country air of Woolwich Township while getting some essential sunshine and exercise.

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