Nothing is more exhilarating on a nice day than biking through the countryside. The warm wind blows through your hair, you sit high up and you feel like you are flying. You are in control of the speed and have time to take in the scenery of Simcoe County.
When you drive in your car, you miss a lot because of the speed. You do not have time to slow to a standstill and look around. When you hike, you miss a lot because you have to keep your eyes on the ground or you might stumble over a rock or twist your foot in a hole. So, for me, the bike is the answer.
I belong to a group that is an off-shoot of the Ganaraska Hiking Club (www.ganaraska-hiking-trail.ca). We are all retired and, each spring, we start biking as soon as the roads are free of snow. Most of our treks are 30 to 35 kilometres round trip. We would love new members, so bike on your own or come and join us for a day of fun.
We try to do a different trip every week. Here are some of our favourite trips:
1. Couchiching Park to Mara Provincial Park on Lake Simcoe
You will find plenty of parking on the waterfront in Orillia and you can start biking south right from your car on a smoothly paved bike trail. We love this trip because the trail snakes close to the water's edge along all of the bays.
After about half an hour, take a short detour to see Stephen Leacock's house and his beautiful flower gardens. If you bike on the weekend, you are guaranteed to see a wedding performed in the garden.
Continue the trail to the end, which is located at the Narrows. This narrow spot divides Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe. If you look down into the water, you still can see the historic fish weirs built by the First Nation people many years ago.
Now, try to block out the sound and pedal hard because you have to cross the busy, noisy bridge, but you will be rewarded.
You turn right after the Tim Hortons onto a quiet, paved country road. You will bike toward Lake Simcoe and Mara, enjoying the peaceful countryside, with farms and cattle herds. At Mara, you will find lots of picnic tables if you bike before the summer season.
2. Couchiching Park to Fern Resort
Like Trip 1, you start at the park and cross the noisy bridge at the Narrows. The Ramara Trail will soon start to your left. It is well marked with a Ganaraska marker. Yo follow an abandoned railroad through the pastoral countryside. We like to bike to Fern Resort in the off-season and explore some of the many nature trails.
3. Orillia to Coldwater on the Uhthoff Trail
Again, start at Couchiching Park. The abandoned railroad north takes you all the way to Coldwater. By the side of the trail are many swamps and creeks. There are lots of benches to sit, take a break and observe nature. This trip might be farther than you want to bike — 50 km return — but you will be rewarded. Coldwater has a wonderful new ice cream parlour where you can sit next to the river and enjoy a rest before you have to pedal back.
4. Hawkestone to Pizza Hut in Orillia
This is one of our favourite trips. We meet at the monument in Hawkestone and start travelling east along the abandoned rail line. You cannot see Lake Simcoe, but any right turn takes you close to the water. The, we stop at all of the small beaches and pars. Sometimes, the leader of the group reserves a long table at Pizza Hut. Nothing is better than "all you can eat" pizza with good friends.