A ride from Caledon to Guelph via the Elora-Cataract Trailway

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On Friday, September 2, I went for an 80 kilometre ride between Caledon and Guelph on what turned out to be a spectacular day: sunny, a high of 23 Celsius and without too much humidity. The summer of 2016 has been exceptionally hot and muggy for long-distance rides, so I’ve done fewer of them. I was lucky to have that Friday off.

I started my trip in Caledon Village, after taking a GO train to Brampton and transferring to GO Transit’s Route 37 Orangeville bus, which only runs on weekdays. This made the trip very difficult to do on a weekend (I would have to ride 20 kilometres up from Brampton, on busy roads, and up the Niagara Escarpment, otherwise). The racks at the front of GO buses are wonderful for getting out of town (I used GO’s bike racks on similar rides this year), but they tie you to a schedule.

Map of my ride

The Elora-Cataract Trailway, owned and managed by Credit Valley Conservation (Cataract to Hillsburgh), and the Grand River Conservation Authority (Hillsburgh to Elora) is one of the best rail trails that I have ever rode. The surface was in near perfect condition along the entire stretch. Wayfinding, including through a gap at Fergus, was great. Barriers at crossings keep motor vehicles out, but are not too difficult to get around for cyclists. And it’s easy enough to get to and from Guelph. But it’s not so easy to get to from Brampton/Caledon.

After getting off the Route 37 bus in Caledon Village, and after a quick stop there for refreshments, I rode west along Charleston Sideroad for four kilometres to Cataract Road, the only possible route without very lengthy and hilly detours.. That was the most aggravating and dangerous bike ride in a very long time. There’s no paved shoulder, so I rode on the white line demarcating the far right side of the lane. There are several quarries nearby, and Charleston Sideroad was once known as Highway 24. There were many quarry trucks and other large vehicles, most who refused to provide the mandatory 1-metre space that the Highway Traffic Act now mandates. One quarry truck driver blared his multiple times at me, angry and unwilling to share the road.

image1Westbound on Charleston Sideroad

The dirt shoulder, filled with large stones and debris, is not suitable for cycling. The Region of Peel, responsible for this road, should pave the shoulders as soon as possible. Improved connections to Brampton and the Caledon Trailway should also be identified and built. But once off Charleston Sideroad, the ride quickly became one of my favourites. 

The Elora-Cataract Trailway follows a branch line of the Credit Valley Railway that operated for over 100 years before being abandoned by Canadian Pacific in the 1980s. Unlike many railways abandoned in Ontario in that era, the railway corridor remained almost entirely intact for recreational uses.

Highlights en route included Shand Dam, completed in 1942 for flood control and water conservation on the upper Grand River, a high-level railway bridge over the Grand River, the former Wellington County House of Industry and Refuge, and the picturesque town of Elora. The ride from Elora to Guelph goes through some lovely farmland, and Guelph itself has many options for food and drink before heading home.

IMG_5431-001House of Industry and Refuge

The Wellington County House of Industry and Refuge, now the county museum, is a fascinating building. Built in 1877, it is a symbol of the welfare system in the Victorian Era. The “deserving poor” were given food and shelter at these homes, but expected to work in workhouses or farms. They were known as poorhouses. Nearby, the old burial grounds are marked with new interpretive plaques.

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Waiting for my ride home in Guelph, with my bicycle already loaded on the bus rack. 

More photographs from my ride are below in the gallery.

 

 

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