June 29th: https://www.strava.com/activities/1670093392/
July 7th: https://www.strava.com/activities/1686766832
July 14th: https://www.strava.com/activities/1703166327
Last year when I started my gravel exploring I found my strength was a keen interest in maps and geography. What caught my eye mostly was Lanark County and it's endless supply of pristine single lane gravel roads. Unfortunately this caused me to overlook an area just outside Renfrew. Although I had done some gravel riding around Renfrew it wasn't until this spring that I noticed a network of what looked like single lane farm roads that zig zagged and connected as if someone had designed a trail system. Patience never being my strong point I decided to drive out there knowing the roads were likely still snow covered. I was able to drive down some of them until I got to those familiar yellow signs. These particular ones said, "No winter maintenance beyond this point." Without a more rugged vehicle at my disposal I had to turn back in frustration. After a little more snow had melted I decided to drive back risking the same result. Most of the snow was gone but now the meltwater had washed out parts of the roads and someone had decided to dig a drainage ditch across another. Without being able to turn around due to the narrowness of the roads I nervously had to get out and survey the best path that would do the least potential damage. I was able to navigate around the washed out sections fine but with the small drainage ditch I was forced to risk it and unfortunately dislodged the front bumper slightly on the minivan. Except for a few spots the roads were easily traversed just like the single lane gravel roads in Lanark County. That in mind I made a note to return on a bicycle and explore the entire network.
The first foray into the "Renfrew Farm Roads" was June 29th. I used the K&P Trail to ride out to Ashdad Rd where just before a sharp descent I got a spectacular view of the Opeongo Mountains. After taking some pavement I started the first road, Gorra Hill. The highlight of this road is a 1.5km climb at a 6% gradient. (It also makes for an interesting descent). As I've discovered a 6% gradient on gravel is equal to a 10% gradient on pavement. This is the spot that was washed out when I drove down it in the spring. Thankfully the summer maintenance repair work had been completed. Crossing Highway 132 the road continued but changed names to Haas. Most of that road was descending and I was hanging on for dear life as the gradient reached a maximum of -15%. Both Haas and Gorra Hill are on Streetview but as usual the images don't do these roads justice. It's equal parts concentrating on not going over the handlebars AND having my head on a swivel in amazement.
The longest road in the network is Sammon, the backbone of the network. It connects with most of the other roads and it's the most direct scenic route to get back to Renfrew. It comes out on paved Scotch Bush Rd and I started heading north to the next adventure. Even though I brought 3 large waterbottles it was a hot day and I was getting low. I flagged down a local and asked for water which she kindly provided. In the course of our discussion I mentioned that the next road I was going on was Ken Dick. Perplexed she looks at me, looks at my "road" bike and says, "You know that's a gravel road right?"
Out of all the roads Ken Dick was the most rugged. Nothing too extreme but it was definitely a little different than the rest. Along a 1.5km descent the road changed to Mhusk and I came out on Stone Rd. It was only a short jaunt before I turned on McNulty which might have been the flattest of all the gravel roads but still very scenic and quiet. McNulty brought me to a spot close to where I had already been on Sammon but this time I turned left, then right and headed down Colton. Going south on Colton towards Hwy 132 is mostly climbing but you hardly notice the pain once you get onto the scenic section. When I arrived at Hwy 132 my single lane gravel road exploration was done. I hopped off Hwy 132 to take a more scenic way back to my car via Ferguslea and the K&P Trail.
Since that first ride I've done two more taking a slighly different route with Alain and a reverse ride of my first one I did alone. I had a crew with me the last time and they were flabbergasted by the "Renfrew Farm Roads" network. I was just happy to be able to share it with others. I'll certainly come back. Perhaps you can come and discover it too.