For route and pictures see: https://www.strava.com/activities/1630124477
My first foray into gravel riding was inspired by the spring classic Almonte-Roubaix that uses (as the race advertises), "roads not suitable for a road bike." or unmaintained roads. These roads can be muddy, potholed, swampy and debris filled. In the spirit of adventure those challenges oddly enough is why people ride them. (It also helps that there's no traffic). In West Carleton where I live I'd always been curious about roads I passed that didn't seem to go anywhere. Last spring, summer and fall curiousity finally got the better of me and I traversed them all. Although I find it fun, it's not riding I recommend to those who want to avoid getting wet, dirty, insect bitten, trespassing or being mistaken for a deer by an illegal hunter. (High visibility kits recommended)
I first showed most of these roads to Mike Nash last fall. https://www.strava.com/activities/1219703548 Today with my teammate Alain Villeneueve I retraced most of them the opposite way over a 90km ride that had its fair share of everything. (Funny how a road or trail can seem new if you do it reversed) Alain was doing them for the first time and I figured it was a great way to test our friendship. (I think we're still friends???)
First up was the ride through the Carp Airport on Thomas Argue connecting to William Mooney. Not sure whether we're allowed to traverse out onto the airport past the runways but so far haven't had any trouble. (I wouldn't go through in a giant pack though) As you leave the airport you go through a nice treed section and then pass a quarry on one side and the wake-boarding park on the other hidden back in the trees. You have to hop over a fence before continuing to McGee Sd Rd on William Mooney. Don't ride here during normal weekday work hours as there are many trucks going in and out of the quarry.
Just a short trip up the road and you get to Spruce Ridge. A few years back I actually drove through to the other side. Since then a berm was placed along the route blocking anything but bikes and ATV's (ATV rebels have wrecked the top half of the berm) This is a very enjoyable section. A bit rocky and some sand but overall it's great. Depending on which way you're coming from you can go down a dead end but it's not far before you realize you have to turn back. Today we had to veer left. There's a tricky descent, then you go over the berm, into the quarry, over some sand and then you're on your way out. Sometimes a green fence is blocking your way but renegade ATV traffic usually have already pushed it aside. Either that or the quarry workers have just given up putting the fence across. If you keep going straight you can take what I call "Howie Pit" road to Howie. This helps make the stretch on March Rd a little shorter. Don't use these trails unless it's the weekend or after the workday is over since they go through two active quarries.
Forest Edge Trail was next. Entering Corkery Woods subdivision you have to take Silent Wood to the end. There's a lot that was clear-cut and has the shreds of wood all over but once you get through that and jump over the drainage ditch the trail begins. This early in the season it's a bit trickier. The water filled depressions are deeper and we had to bushwack a couple times. Once you get through that it becomes more pleasant as it meanders to Forest Edge Rd. The trip onto regular roads was short as we crossed Vaughan Sd Rd and continued to the Trans Canada Pipeline cut on the other side of Forest Edge. There's some trails that lead back to an abandoned quarry, now a lake, but today we turned left onto the Pipeline cut. I encountered some "out of season" hunters back there last year and there's still a sign warning of hunters from last fall as you leave the trail at Marshwood. When late fall rolls around definitely do not go back there!
Continuing on the trail crossing Marshwood I had to keep a lookout for the start of the "Peter Robinson Trail." It loops nicely around a swamp and onto Peter Robinson Rd. This road, named after the founder of my hometown Peterborough, continues to Carroll Sd Rd. As you go past all the "Carroll" mailboxes it goes up a hill and the short rocky unmaintained section starts. I nailed a couple big rocks but somehow got over them unscathed. Carroll Sd Rd continues across Burnt Lands Provincial Park past the former unmanned radio communications receiver station of decommissioned CFS Carp. The Almonte detachment of the old base is now a protected area, the Burnt Lands Alvar. Basically an area of land with very little soil on top of the rock which allows unique species to flourish. Another short jaunt on March Rd, and a left on Ramsay 12 takes you into a subdivision which connects to the Greystone Bike Path. It's a great path that many use for cycling, walking dogs or strollers so don't bomb through it. It's got a couple tight turns too that may catch you by surprise. It's a great way to skip most of March Rd into Almonte!
Arriving at Appleton Sd Rd we turned right and went straight across the traffic circle and started Ramsay Conc 11a. Thus began the most challenging part of the ride. It is the longest and most meandering section as it's mostly a trail that has unmaintained road characteristics. It parallels Ramsay 12 to the north which is a true unmaintained road. Ramsay 12 unmaintained on the Almonte side starts at a swamp that isn't very deep but I prefer to wait until later in the year when it is more shallow to go that way. Regardless taking 11a is preferable as you can take a trail that connects to 12 or you can go around the swamp and come out on 11b on Ridge Rd. Last year I was startled when I suddenly came upon campers on Ramsay 12 heading towards the Almonte side. It would take one tough vehicle to safely drive back there. Today we came to a huge water filled depression after a fork in the road. Since I'd only done Ramsay 11 trail a couple times I was momentarily confused. We decided to try the other way and encountered a smaller water filled depression and trail that took us a different way to the same point. I'll have to remember that for the next time. At this point we had lost count how many times we had gotten our feet and drivetrains wet. My bike was making noise but Alain's was like nails on a chalkboard.
After showing Alain a few interesting maintained gravel roads it was fairly obvious that we'd have to skip the last section, the Rock Coady Trail. Alain's drivetrain was extremely angry. Turns out "dry lube" isn't the best for such a ride! I'd done the Rock Coady Trail very recently from the Panmure Rd side. (https://www.strava.com/activities/1625329658) Demonstrating the difficulties of trails versus unmaintained roads this trail goes straight for the first bit but then veers and meanders onto the Trans Canada Pipeline cut and then back into the forest. You have to jump one gate and go around another to get to Timmins Rd. I've been told they were placed there to stop people from drinking and driving back there. Sounds like a good idea to me! This recent ride on the trail I ended up turning off the Pipeline cut sooner than I had before but the different route hooked up again with the one I'd used before.
I've had two disconcerting moments on this trail. The first one was when I startled what looked like a small bear. I only saw its rear end briefly running away at top speed but it looked small enough that I was wondering if Momma bear was around. My heart immediately started pounding as I looked around for a potential charge to come. The other incident was when I rode it with Mike Nash in the fall. We noticed a pick-up truck up ahead on the trail. Gradually we caught up and I calmly rode past it on the grassy pipeline cut. They all chuckled like Beavis and Butthead when I rolled by but I figured it was just a bunch of "good ole boys" laughing at the cyclist in spandex. Mike hung back for awhile and I couldn't figure out why? Then an hour later we started talking about it and he mentioned they had a shot gun hanging out the side of the pick-up. He thought I had seen it and just didn't care. After the small shock of that new information wore off I had a good laugh about it. Ignorance was bliss in that situation!
Today four and a half hours later Alain and I arrived back at my place. Alain noticed that the teeth on his new front oval chainring had changed from red to silver. Oops. That's a type of gravel grinding you'd like to avoid. There were a couple cars in my driveway that weren't there when we left. Momentarily confused I realized it was my brother Charlie and my other teammate Andrew "Greyburns" Lees cars. In the middle of my ride with Alain I got a text from Charlie asking for assistance. They had driven to Burnstown to start a remote gravel ride only to find that a skewer had fallen off Charlie's quick release and was nowhere to be found. "Could you drive out to Burnstown with a wheel" he asked. Being in the bush riding the only way I could help was giving him my garage access code so he could remedy his problem without driving all the way back into town. That's what they did but instead of doing their original plan they did "The Gorman Gravel Route", a recent ride I did that's turned out to be popular with a few people in a short amount of time. That's fine with me. I'm not after money, glory or getting stuff for free. I'd just like to spread the joy of gravel riding any way I can!