February 18, 2009

Exploring Erin's maze of trails

As published in The Erin Advocate

It was a warm, sunny winter morning, so I decided to take a little hike along the rail trail at the north end of Erin village. The scenery is always better when you get out of your car.

It is the Elora Cataract Trailway, where the tracks put Hillsburgh and Erin on the map back in 1879. It is also a segment of the Trans-Canada Trail, a 21,500-kilometre recreational trail system (the world's longest).

When it is complete, we'll be able to hike, or bike, or ride a horse to Mount Pearl on the eastern tip of Newfoundland, to Victoria on Vancouver Island, or up to the Arctic Ocean.

The Trans-Canada Trail (www.tctrail.ca) is not a spectacular tourist attraction, but it is a feature of national interest. Currently there is only a small sign along the road to tell people it is there – we should do more to promote it.

Setting out westward on the trail from Main Street towards Hillsburgh, the view is anything but scenic at first. There's the idle Guardian Fiberglass plant. I know it is tough for the guys at the gate, now in their second winter of picket duty, and I hope the conflict can be resolved. But in the meantime, no one is missing the foul odour that comes from that place when it is operating.

After you get past the mountains of mulch and topsoil, and the graveyard of recyclable old trucks, the terrain is much greener. The trail is still very flat and straight, though, so I naturally looked for a side route, to make a loop. (Whenever there is an opportunity to go off on a tangent, I will usually take it.)

I cut to the left on the first snowmobile trail I saw, through a dense cedar grove. The great thing about winter hiking is that swampland is frozen solid and mosquitoes are fast asleep. I cut left again at the first opportunity and slid my way across a narrow section of the West Credit River, where the snowmobiles had packed down a nice, thick ice bridge.

I thought by then I was headed back east and would soon arrive at Stanley Park, close to my car. That never did happen, so it is a good thing that I had not set out late in the day. I was into an intricate maze of snowmobile trails, through open fields and wooded areas.

I cannot quite think of the right word to describe my situation – unable to figure out exactly where I was, or where I would end up. I wasn't going in circles, and I knew that civilization would be encountered if I just kept walking.

It is very quiet out there, except for the birds in the trees, and a pheasant I scared up on the ground. I encountered Everett and his hound, and we spent 20 minutes talking about bird dog training, so it became an educational outing as well.

By then, I was well south of my destination. A bit to the west were the fairways of Erin Heights Golf Club, or so I discovered when I got home and checked the Google Maps satellite view. My mistake was crossing the river, which winds north and then south as it gets closer to the village.

I emerged from the woods near the corner of Erin Heights Drive and Dundas Street, and faced a good long walk back to Main and up to the trailway parking lot at Ross and Daniel. It was a much longer loop than planned, but one of the most enjoyable excursions I have had this winter.