Maitland Trail (49K in a Day Challenge) – May 5, 2018
Chris Monteath and Ken Gaudreau
Here are the highlights of the trail.
After completing the Avon Trail end-to-end over a 6-week period in summer 2017 (113 kms), then completing the Thames Valley Trail end-to-end over a 7-week period in late fall 2017 (110 kms), Chris and I decided to do the Elgin Trail end-to-end in 1 day on March 30th 2018 (41 kms in 10 hours 32 minutes). Having mastered the Elgin Trail in 1 day, we thought our next logical step was to complete the Maitland Trail end-to-end in 1 day. But we had no idea how much more difficult this trail was going to be, not counting the extra 8 kms we had to hike to go the full distance. This trail was grueling at times with the steep inclines and declines and challenging for both of us at times even with the hiking experience we had gained to date. The weather made it even more difficult with a cold morning heating up to 20+ degrees in the afternoon (having warmer attire on making it hot for us in the afternoon with the extra layers of clothing). Around 31k we both ran out of water and had to knock on a cottage along the trail to borrow their garden hose to refill our containers. By the end of the journey, we had completed 54.3 kms in 13 hours 17 minutes (after several trail retracements and the road walking to compensation for the closed section of trail adding an additional 5 kms to the day). But we were successful, and something that we will probably remember as the farthest hike we ever complete in 1 day. After doing the Maitland, the rest of the trails we hike should be a piece of cake.
We met up in Lucan at 5:30am and continued to our start point on Bridge Road in Auburn. We left the first car in the grassy section at the bottom of Bridge Road (close to the trail marker on the pole) then drove the second vehicle to the starting point at the old CP Rail station in Goderich.
After a brief walk around the CP Rail station looking for the formal trail head, we could not find a definitive starting point, so headed up Harbour street. Soon we saw the Maitland Trail map on the display board.
We followed the trail behind the grain elevators and continued down the steps to the Waterloo Street intersection. We took a picture infront of the Menesetung Bridge then spent the next 20 minutes trying to pronounce the Maneh-seh-tung Bridge name. We followed the trail up the slope until reaching the bridge and took some breathtaking photos of the Maitland river below. Of note, as we followed along the trail, I read aloud the Trail guide narrative to Chris as we passed the various points of interest (very informative for both of us). We followed along the trail to the Dunlop Tomb sign and stopped at the bench to adjust our clothing (it was already starting to get warmer). We continued along the trail down a set of steps, onto the road next to Hwy 21. We crossed over Hwy 21 onto Saltford Road and continued on the side of the road through Saltford. We soon turned left into a field, and followed the trail up the slope and climbed some more stairs until we exited into a subdivision. We followed the markers through the subdivision (noting the blazes on the curb), then followed the road right until we were back onto Saltford Road. We followed the road until we noticed the markers for us to enter a wooded area on the right. We entered the forest area and soon came out to a brief clearing, then re-entering the forest. We were in the forest for quite a while, then finally exited the forest onto County Road 31.
On the road, we passed by 2 cemeteries and reached Black Hole Road (next to the junk yard). We slipped through the fence next to the junk yard and followed an open grassy area down a slope towards the river. At this point, the trail was wide and easy to navigate with stairs in place where there were declines. We followed the trail along the waters edge as the temperature continued to rise. The trees still didn’t have their full foliage yet, so the sun was beating down on us through the treetops. We continued along the trail passing an old school bus up on the side of the ravine and noticed how many of the plants were starting to break out of the ground. Again, we continued thorough the trail up and down with the river to our right the entire distance. We crossed over several wooden bridges and some corduroy bridges. Overall, the trail was dry. There were a few sections that were slippery but were easy to navigate around. Where there were steep inclines, some had steps making it easier to climb. We passed by a large ball of barbed wire fencing and cleared any debris on the trail we could as the night before there was a large windstorm which I’m sure created most of the debris. We noted what was considered the “hog’s back” section of trail, then found ourselves away from the river for part of the trail. We did note what we thought might be bear tracks on the trail and snapped a few pictures as they appeared to be fresh (the night before??). We passed by a clearing which we thought was the Black Hole section, then past the pond on the wide section of Trail. At this point, we met Beth (a Maitland Trail member) and she informed us of the Trail closing by the land owner around the 44 km section of trail, and told us there was no easy way around, except to head back up the main road which would add another 5 kms to the hike. We thanked her and told her we would “improvise” once we got closer to the area. We continued through this section of trail as the trail was wide and easy to navigate.
We continued along the trail. The trail was very scenic in this area, and my picture moments were limited as I was concentrating on keeping my balance throughout all of the incline and decline sections of the trail. We stopped several times to take in the view and drink as the day was getting warmer by the minute. We passed by the “OOH AHH” point and took a picture. We followed along the trail eventually reaching the Falls Reserve Conservation area and walked through the uncut grass along the side of the river. We followed along the trail at a quick pace because the terrain was flat so we could make up some time. Eventually we came to the pond where there were a number of fisherman fishing in the pond. As turned right with the pond at our left we noticed how many people were actually fishing (I counted 12). We soon reached the Ben Miller buildings and passed by the main area. We turned left onto Benmiller Line and followed it up to the intersection with County Road 1. We turned right and followed the road. At this point, we pulled a novice mistake and as we were watching the horses in the field on the left side of the road, we missed the marker. It wasn’t until almost 1 km down the road did we realize there weren’t any markers on the poles. After a lengthy consult, we turned around and headed back down County Road 1 until we noticed the marker to turn onto Cherrydale Road (what a big mistake in the hot sun). Once back on Cherrydale Road, we continued on the road until we noticed the markers to the right back into the woods and back along the river. Again, we crossed over a few wooden bridges, some steps and followed the trail close to the riverbank. At one point, we noticed a ground hog up in a tree, about 10 feet up. This was definitely a picture moment as it was the first real animal we had seen this morning. This section of the trail was easy to navigate as most of the trail area was flat. We passed by a waterfall, that was not in the river (it was to the left of us, so I took a picture of that, wondering if we should get a closer look, but decided to keep moving.
At this point, the trail started to get a bit more rugged. We couldn’t see the river to our right anymore and the terrain had many more inclines and declines. We did cross over more wooden foot bridges and a few spots had some muddy areas (the ATV section for one), that we had to work around. It was at this point, we both ran out of water. We continued for what seemed like an eternity until we noticed a cottage about 200 mitres off of the trail. We went over to the house and Chris knocked on the door but there was no answer so we decided to use their garden hose to fill our water bottles. This was very needed because we were both getting dehydrated and starting to move slower. With mostly “fresh” water, we reconnected with the trail and were on our way. We continued up….then down…then up…then down for a long distance. Again, not a lot of picture moments as we were both concentrating on navigating the steep terrain. We then came to some flat sections with long individual wooden bridges over some swampy ground, but enjoyed the break from the inclines and declines. We eventually came to the old logging road and then soon onto Sharpes Creek Line. We passed by the gravel pit then soon turned left and continued along the side of a corn field past a manure pile, and back into the forest.
Again, we followed the trail for a long distance of flat land, then sloped land and all along with the river to our right, crossing over some wooden bridges and corduroy bridges. The terrain at this point was rugged. We passed by the “Old Eagles Nest hill” sign and continued along the trail until we reached the Fisherville sign. This is where the unfortunate event happened. My phone/camera battery died. I was not able to take any more pictures. So the rest of the writeup is by memory only (which is poor at best of times). Carrying on, we decided not to rest at the Fisherville spot, and passed the section of trail that had a lot of downed trees and debris. We followed along the riverbank for a short distance, then more uphill climbing until we came to River Line. We soon came to a large clearing and again, followed along the bank of the river. And again, more inclines and declines to navigate through a ravine like section. Finally, we reached a flat wide section of trail through the forest which gave us a chance to catch our breath and take a water break. Again some of the sections were a bit sloppy and muddy but were easy to navigate around. The trail passed by an old campsite with a lot of debris in the area, and we followed the trail along with the river to our right. We returned to the forest but it was easier to navigate because the ground was covered with pine needles which acted like a carpet making it easier on the feet and knees after going such a long of inclines and declines. We soon passed under a bridge and then re-entered the forest, then again…back up a steep incline we went. We soon entered an open field and walked along the side of the field until heading back into the forest then reaching a gravel road.
We followed along Little Lakes road which to us was a good break from the tough terrain earlier. We followed along the road until turning right onto River Line. This was a steep inclined road, but still we appreciated the flat ground below for the break. The view was incredible, and unfortunately, I couldn’t take any pictures (but next trip for sure). We followed River Line road until it ended at Hill Road, but continued to follow the trail straight along a flat section before reconnecting with the main road again (Heron Road). We continued along the road until reaching School Road, then came the moment of decision. We knew between the 44 and 46 km section the trail was closed. We had to decide, were we going to follow the trail along the farmfield above the closed section of trail (and claim ignorance if caught) or were we going to try to reconnect back onto the trail after the closed section, or were we going to stick to the road for the rest of the trip. Out of respect to the landowner, we decided to continue along Heron Road all the way up to Blyth Road.
We continued up Heron Road to Blyth Road and followed along Blyth road for quite a distance (it was quite busy at that time). We eventually passed Pinery Line, and for a split moment, considered reconnecting with the trail, but by then, we were worried we were running out of daylight so decided to continue on Blyth Road. We turned right onto Bridge Road and followed the dirt road back to our vehicle (13 hours and 17 minutes later (around 8:30pm)
If not for the closure, we probably would have completed sooner after looking at the map and seeing that Blyth Road was very much out of the way (the Heron Road/Blyth Road was way up only to come way down Blyth to get to Bridge Road).
We made it with about 15 minutes of daylight to spare.