Maitland Trail Hike End-to-End in Two Days – July 2018

Maitland Trail (Two day Hike) July 7, 2018/July 27, 2018

Tania Tucker and Ken Gaudreau

In early May, I completed the Maitland trail with a fellow co-worker, however, my long time hiking partner has always been my wife. Back in May she knew it wouldn’t be possible for her to complete the entire 49 kms of the Maitland in 1 day, so I promised her that I would do the trail again with her at some point over the summer. On July 7th it was her turn to experience the Maitland Trail, and the goal of completing the trail over a two (2) day period. Tania is also a seasoned hiker having earned her badges by completing the Avon Trail, the Thames Valley Trail and the Elgin Trail within the last 12 months. The staring point in Auburn was also an opportunity for me to cover the 8 kms of the trail I didn’t get to experience back on May 5th because of an unexpected trail closure back in early May covering the last portion of the trail, and instead had to “bypass” the trail without getting the satisfaction of going a full end-to-end directly on the trail.

Pre-start

We left our home in London around 5:30am with two cars. It was just starting to be daylight, and our original plan was to leave around 4:50am, but it took a bit longer to get ready this morning than expected. Our goal was to complete the first leg of the trail before it became too hot and humid outside. We were well prepared with water as I carried 6 large containers of water in my knapsack , and Tania carried 2 large water bottles in her waist pack. We drove to our end point at Sharpes Creek Line, and I parked the car at the designated parking area on the map (the east side of the road, just past Bishop’s Road), then continued with our second car to the trail head in Auburn on Bridge Road. By the time we started it was 7:15am…much later than we had hoped.

Section 7

We crossed over Bridge Road from the grassy area, then took a couple of quick pictures at the start point where the Maitland trail markers were posted. We followed the gravel/dirt road along the trail, until veering right past a large tree, into the bush section of the trail. The trail was wide and flat, and easy to navigate. The vegetation was thick, which was quite a change from when I hiked the trail back on May 5th.

Again, I was not able to cover this section of trail yet when I completed the trail from Goderich to Auburn back in May because of the trail closure. We followed along the trail, with the river to our left passing by a few blue home number signs, with a private drive to the right (eg 81801 blue sign). The trail eventually opened up into a high grassy area with a clear view of the Maitland about 15 feet to our left. Again, the trail was easy to navigate as it appeared to be a carved out ATV path. Soon we re-entered the woods, passing by the “Hikers Only” sign posted on a steel post. The ground was flat and filled with pine needles, so easy on the feet.

We eventually passed by the “outhouse” (the sign said washroom, but I doubt there would be any washing going on in there) and had a chuckle. After a few minutes, we exited the forest onto a gravel road, with the forest to our left and a wheat field to the right. We could see a deer in the wheat field about 600 metres away, and watched it scurry away as it noticed us on the gravel road. We followed along the gravel road and passed by the sign saying “smile you’re on camera..property protected by video surveillance”. We left the gravel road onto a grassy section of the trail, with the wheat field continuing along the right, and then reached a narrower section of ground with high grass on both sides of the trail.

Soon we came to a section with signs and staked off portions of trail with signs reading “not to step on the new trees”, and followed the trail through a part next to the wheat field. Eventually we entered back into the forest where the ground had a more noticeable slope down to the left. This was the first section of trail where the ground had a bit of an incline, and I warned Tania about what was to eventually come with lots of inclines and declines. We exited the forest again, back into a farmers field with what appeared to be soy beans to our right. We followed along a dirt clearing up to a gate, and noticed the trail blaze on a rock on the other side of the gate, so we bypassed the gate by walking through an opening in the trees to the right of the gate.

We continued along a road/path with a corn field to our left and a soybean field to our right. We were now on a gravel road (School Road), which was easy to navigate, eventually reaching the intersection of Heron Line. We followed the trail markers to turn left onto Heron Line, and continued down the gravel road passing by a farmhouse with dozens of wrapped bails of hay in white tarp. The road started to rise in elevation a bit, but was still easy to navigate.

Section 6

We entered the tree covered section of the road, and soon found ourselves at the crossing for the GART, where I took a quick picture and we continued on. Again, we left the gravel road and headed back into the forest with the trail more like an ATV path. We soon came to an open gate, and the ground became very muddy and uneven at this point. It appeared that the trail was being used by a number of vehicles based on the tire marks in the mud.

The terrain started change with a few steep inclines, and the trail became a bit uneven with large ruts in the ground, but still wide enough to pick a spot on the trail to walk without trouble. After a while, the road changed to a straight a gravel road (River Line), and we followed along River Line with a wheat field on the right and soybeans on the left. There wasn’t may picture moments on River Line but we didn’t have any traffic to worry about so we had the road to ourselves. Eventually we reached the intersection of Little Lakes Road and turned left. We passed by some “ponds” on both sides of the road with thousands of lilly pads blanketing the water. And at this point, the black flies were out in full force. We couldn’t seem to shake them at all, constantly swatting and completely frustrated with their persistence. Because of the flies, we moved as quickly as we could down Little Lakes Road, but it was futile as they continued to swarm us.

Thankfully, we noticed the trail markers on the right with the “Hikers Welcome” sign, and headed back into the forest. The flies didn’t seem to follow us, so stopped for a moment to have a drink and a snack. As we continued through this section of the trail, we noticed the area was very lush with foliage, and very peaceful. The terrain stared to change again, with more peaks and dips.

Section 5

As we followed along the trail, we soon found ourselves out of the forest and back into an open farm field. We followed the trail on a narrow grass patch which divided two farm fields, and then followed along the left edge of a separate field. Once again, we noticed the trail markers for us to turn left back into the forest. Once in the woods, we climbed up some wooden steps up a steep incline, immediately followed by a steep decline.

We passed by the wooden Londesboro Road sign nailed to the tree, and then exited the woods back into a clearing near the Londesboro Road underpass. We passed under the narrow underpass opening where two dirt mounds had been piled up underneath the bridge. At this point, we had reached marker 38 and I took a picture of the sign. We continued through a section of woods with some mostly petrified tries (little foliage), but the section was a nice change from the more densely covered section of woods earlier, and we could finally see the river again to our left. As we meandered through the woods, we soon came upon a wooden bridge (Leonard’s Bridge).

We continued on the trail, soon coming to a long foot bridge, probably built over a section typically muddy, but today, it was dry. The forest started to change again, and there was more foliage on the branches, so the sun had a harder time peeking through from above, so we were well shaded. The ground was thicker with plants, and the trail was less distinguishable for a while on the ground, but still easy to follow as the trail was well marked.

Again we reached another incline section with some wood steps, followed by another steep decline. We reached another foot bridge, but this time, the foliage had almost covered the boards. We continued to descend down sections of the trail, and soon came across a stream where we used the stepping stones to cross the water. We then came upon a wooden bench, but there was no time to rest as the humidity was starting to climb as it was getting warmer. We continued along the trail, up the inclines, and down the declines, and climbing up some wooden steps on the steeper inclines. We exited the woods into a small clearing, then after a few hundred meters headed back into the woods.

We then reached another ATV trail, and followed along the path until heading back into a less dense section of forest. The trail again had large ruts from the vehicles, but we found a flat section on the left to follow along. We soon exited the forest into a clearing, and got our first clear look at the Maitland River, where the water level appeared quite a bit lower than I remember from early May. I was able to take a few more pictures of the river from the clearing, before we headed back into the woods, still following the ATV trail. Eventually we came to a “Stop” sign…an odd place for a Stop sign in the middle of the woods we thought. But then I remembered why…we had reached Fisherville…the Friendliest Village in Canada….I had seen the sign before, but Tania had a chuckle from the details on the sign.

Section 4

After passing the Fisherville sign, we continued on the trail for a long distance without much change in the foliage, other than more inclines and declines in the landscape. We passed by the “Cedar Hill” wooden sign, and soon came to the OOH AHH Point sign, so I snapped a picture. We then passed the “Horse’s Folly Hill” sign on a section of trail that looked familiar to me from the spring.

We soon came to the “REROUTE” sign and made the left turn along that section of trail. This was a steep section of trail and a bit more difficult to navigate, but what goes up, must come down, so the section was soon followed by a steep decline letting us catch our breath. I snapped a picture of the 34km marker after passing by this section of trail. We soon reached the “Old Eagle’s Nest Hill” sign, and then crossed a large wooden bridge, but there wasn’t a name on the bridge as earlier.

It was easy to see that this section of trail was more rugged than the other sections. Last time I was on the trail, I didn’t take many pictures because I was focusing on keeping my footing, but this time, we were moving slowly so I was able to capture a lot of new pictures of the trail. We then crossed over a stream using a wooden board placed over the water, and then crossed over a proper wooden foot bridge over a ditch.

We then came to a clearing section with several wooden boards placed on the ground, which was good because this section was definitely muddy. This section of the trail was still a bit muddy in various spots, but the wooden boards and the wooden steps made trail passage easier. We then reached the 33km marker, it was very humid and hard to believe we had only gone 1 km since the last marker. We reached “Lady Slipper Hill” just before crossing over another stream filled with rocks to step on. We could hear the rushing water of the Maitland at this point, which was a peaceful sound.

We followed the trail up and down for a long distance with thick foliage on the ground surrounding the carved-out section of trail. We then passed by what appeared to be a section of pipes connected to maple trees, and then noticed the 31km marker on the ground. The trail finally exited into a farm field and we walked along the field with a wire fence to our left and the field to our right. We passed through an opening at a gate, then entered the forest again, but only briefly before exiting into a field again with a large manure pile to our left.

This was the same manure pile I noticed back in May, only this time, the “pile” seemed to be quite a bit smaller. We continued along the edge of the field until reaching Sharpes Creek Line. We turned right onto Sharpes Creek Line, and followed along the side of the road, passing by a gravel pit, and a large herd of cows in the field on the right. We passed by the cows, not letting us out of their sight, until we reached the car parked on the side of the road.

July 27th 2018 (Section 4 continued)

This was the second day of our two-day hike. Our goal was to complete the last 29kms of the trail. We both took a work vacation on Friday, because our life schedule had been extremely busy over the past two weekends, plus we wanted plenty of time to recover over the rest of the weekend. We left our home in London at 5:15 AM with both vehicles, and noticed the sky was clear and the moon was full (I took a few pictures). We arrived in Goderich around 7:10 AM and parked the first car at the old CPR Station parking lot at the bottom of Harbour Street. We then drove our second car to Sharpes Creek Line, which was the end point from the Day 1 hike. After parking the car on the side of the road, we started our walk at 7:23 AM…..again…..a later start than we wanted. Today was a very nice day, with a starting temperature of about 18c. There was also steady breeze throughout the day, making it easer as the day became warmer.

We briefly walked along Sharpes Creek Line, until we reached the blue marker (#80965) and climbed over the guard rail disappearing into the forest. We walked along a flat grassy portion of trail with thick brush blanketing both sides of the path. We soon exited the woods, into a clearing, but once again returned to the woods climbing up a steep embankment, that leveled off to at the plateau. The groundcover was thick and the only ground you could really see was the trail etched through the foliage.

We continued along the trail crossing over several wooden foot paths, over a muddy section of trail. This section had a large number of wild mushrooms growing out of the base of trees, so I took a few pictures of the interesting shapes. We continued along the path, again walking over some more wooden foot paths, and through a lush section of woods. We reached an ATV trail and turned left onto the trail. We followed along the ATV path for a long distance. The trail was easy to navigate being both wide and flat. We eventually left that section of trail, into a grassy section, and soon reached the 28km yellow marker staked into the ground.

After passing by the marker, we reached a gravel/dirt road and continued along following the blazes. The dirt trail soon intersected with another section of dirt trail, and we then turned left onto that trail. This trail had a gentle slop upward but was wide enough to navigate. At the top of the incline, we noticed the markers to turn right, back into the thicker section of woods. The trees eventually thinned out and we followed along the flat section of trail protected from the sun by the leaves high up in the tall trees. We were now back along the riverbank, and I noticed how much lower the water level was compared to early May when I was last on this section of the trail. We soon came to a clearing with a wooden bench and a number of other items and debris. We passed by the bench, and decided it was too early to stop and take break, so continued on.

We found ourselves back on an ATV trail, and continued along, crossing over a few muddy sections of trail, due to the heavy rain the night before. This portion of trail started to change with steeper inclines and declines along the way, but then opened up into a clearing with a flat portion for some relief. Again, we continued along an ATV section of trail, with a wide trail making navigation easier. We passed by the “Nature Conservancy” sign, and at this point, the trail was mostly covered with pine needles making it easier on the feet. We followed along the trail, veering to the left along this wide section of trail. We then entered a dense section of pine trees where the sun was completely blocked out. It was so dark in this section of woods that for every picture I took, my camera flash would go off, not doing justice to how dark it really was at this time.

We soon exited back into a section forest where the rays of the sun were able to peek through the trees again. We passed by a bench and the “When North meets South” sign on a metal post. We continued along the trail, and soon the ground changed from soft pine needles and grass, into rocky terrain. This section of trail was hard on the feet. We passed by the “Maitland Snakes” sign, and a very large spider web crossing the trail (I took a picture of that). The path winded through the woods, and we eventually found ourselves back along the waters edge. This was a very pretty section of trail, and the sun was able to peak through the trees causing bands of light and dark within the woods.

Section 3

The Maitland was now more visible. This was the first good view we had of the river since starting this morning. We climbed up a steep incline, and at the top was a bench with another metal “The Lower Maitland Valley” sign posted next to the bench. The trail now had a few muddy sections, but was easy to bypass because the path was wide. The trail had leveled out and was easier to walk without any obstacles or slopes to navigate.

We crossed over a large wooden foot bridge, but the stream below was basically a trickle, compared to a steady stream I remembered from early May. We continued along, and then came to another wide wooden foot bridge, before climbing up a steep slope. At this point, the trail became a bit indistinguishable and was overridden with foliage. It was clear that nobody had been on this section of trail for a few weeks, as the ground didn’t appear to be disturbed. We continued along, then soon heard voices. As the voices became clearer, we could see people heading towards us from the other direction.

We then met up with both people and noticed they were holding a brush and paint can in their hand and realized they were marking the trail. I introduced myself and after introductions realized it was Jane V and her friend. I had been corresponding with Jane several weeks ago about the end-to-end hike I did back on May 5th with my co-worker. It was nice to put a face to a name. We had a brief conversation and took a couple of pictures, then we were on our way again. Jane mentioned that the section of trail we were about to pass would look similar to the previous section (indistinguishable) at the request of the landowner, and when we reached that section, we knew this was the state of trail the landowner expected. We soon came to a long wooden foot bridge, and crossed over, then passed by the “Be safe, stay on the trail” sign.

We continued through the woods, passing by some recently cut popular trees, with the tree logs neatly stacked into a pile. We passed by the section of trail with a sign dedicated to the “Carey” family and continued through the flat wooded section of the trail. We soon crossed over another wide wooden foot bridge, with a waterfall in the distance. The path continued along the water’s edge, but most times the river view was obscured by the overgrown foliage. We finally reached the 21km distance marker, and shortly after, crossed over a narrow wooden foot bridge. The terrain changed again back to inclines and declines making navigation a bit slower.

We crossed over another wooden foot bridge, headed down a steep decline, then crossed over another wooden foot bridge, and then another larger foot bridge. We passed by the section of forest were some large trees had been cut down, and noticed a “Benmiller” map posted on one of the trees indicating the side trails. We climbed up a steep incline using the wooden steps anchored into the ground and stopped at the plateau to catch our breath. The trail eventually exited onto Cherrydale Rd, and we turned right onto the gravel road enjoying the break from the tougher terrain earlier. We soon reached the County Road 31 intersection, and turned left onto the road, following along the gravel shoulder of the road. This section of road was very busy at this time of day, probably because it was a week day.

We continued along the main road and eventually veered to the right onto Benmiller Line, passing by the Benmiller Inn buildings. We noticed the marker to turn into the main Benmiller Inn complex area and passed by those buildings. We noticed a gravel road and walked up the steep incline of the road. Now what hike would be complete without missing a marker and wandering off the trail. As we were focusing on climbing up the road, we missed the marker to the left, and continued heading up Grist Mill Line…way, way too far. The markers on the poles were blue diamond shaped markers, not the typical white markers, but we would always look back, and could see the “while” blazes on the back side of the poles … so felt we were going the right way, but then again confused, we stopped and started to read the written instructions on the guide, which were not very clear when you are reading them the opposite way having started in Section 7 traveling towards Section 1.

We then noticed a sign that said “Trail” to the left, and turned down that trail…but it didn’t look familiar to me, so we turned around and returned to Grist Mill Line. We continued up the road…and at that point didn’t see any white markers at all on either side of the poles….we knew we had missed something. A postal worker was delivering mail and we asked her, and she tried to point us back down the “Trail” portion of tract, which we knew wasn’t right, then we saw a woman walking a dog and asked her how to get back on the Maitland…..she really messed us up, as she wound up taking us into the subdivision on Glend Hill Lane, all the way to the back end of the subdivison….I knew that wasn’t right and knew she had no idea what she was talking about.

Aside from wasting our time and trying to send us back to Benmiller “the Town” instead of Benmiller “the Inn”, she was making us travel extra distance out in the exposed sun (it was hot by this time). I did my best to convince Tania that this woman had no idea what she was talking about, and finally was able to shake this woman, and make our way back to Grist Mill Line, then headed back down the road towards Benmiller Inn where we last saw one of the while blazes.

As we headed back, we noticed the marker to turn into the forest….a simple mistake that caused us about 45 minutes of time, about 2kms worth of wasted walking, and signification frustration out in the hot sun. I wish people who simply don’t know the answer would just say “I don’t know”…..both this lady and the postal worker were clearly oblivious to the environment in which they lived and worked….enough of the rant.

We had found the entrance to the woods which was most obvious to us now, and continued through the forest. This section of trail sloped downward to the left, and there was a roped off section, but we weren’t sure why at the time because there wasn’t a drop-off in the roped off area. We found our way back into a lush section of the forest until we reached an open section of trail making it easier to navigate. The only problem we had at this time was the black flies..and boy were they biting today. We just couldn’t seem to shake them. We stopped to spray ourselves with bug spray, but that didn’t even seem to do the trick today.

Soon we exited to the woods into a clearing where there was a pond and about 5 people fishing. We kept to the left of the pond and turned left back into the woods. Now we were on a gravel/rocky pathway, and followed along the trail back into a wooded area. The trail was wide and easy to navigate and soon we were back along the banks of the Maitland River. We continued along the trail on a dirt/ATV path for a long distance, with little change in the scenery until we came to a clearing where a number of Canada Geese were blocking the trail. As we moved closer, they moved off the trail and then flew back towards the river.

Once through the clearing and back in the woods, we reached some wood steps, and climbed the steep incline which exited into the Falls Reserve Conservation Area. We followed along the edge of the open section of the Conservation area, past the pavilion, past the swing set and up to the metal steps leading down to the falls area. We decided to take a few minutes, and go down the steep metal steps to the river bed, and walked along the rocks close to the falls edge. That was an enjoyable sight. We climbed back up the metal steps, and returned to the trail and soon we were out of the Conservation area section. We continued until reaching the “Blue Loop / Maitland Trail” intersection, and continued to the left for the mail trail until passing over a wooden foot bridge where there were a fair number of downed trees on both sides of the trail.

Section 2

This section of trail started to become more difficult with more inclines and declines and hard roots sticking out of the ground. The trail went up, the trail went down. We then reached another narrow wooden foot bridge, as we continued to climb over, under and around the large fallen trees. There seem to be many more inclines then declines, but it could have been the heat as we were past mid day and the temperature was at least 8 degrees warmer than it was when we started in the morning.

We seemed to be fairly high up in elevation at this point because we could see quite a distance into the valley and the winding river beside us. We soon made a steep descent down to the river edge, where we could get a good view of river. We passed over a long narrow foot bridge, and continued into the woods passing by the “For safety stay on trail” sign. Again, we passed through this section of trail without difficulty even with a large number of downed trees, some even blocking the trail path, and crossed over another wooden foot bridge.

After crossing over the bridge, the trail became narrow and the ground was covered with foliage, but easy to navigate. We passed by the John Hindmarsh memorial bench sign, and the OOH AHH Point sign, and continued to follow along the swerves and curves of the trail. We finally passed by the 14 km trail marker, and now were in an area that was out in the open fully exposed to the sun. Water wasn’t a problem for us as we had packed lots of water, but we probably went through more water in this section alone than we had in the previous 15kms combined.

Having looked at the map, we knew we had to get through this exposed section of trail from 12km to 10.5 km before it reconnected to the River Bend loop section and we would be back into a covered section of trail. In the meantime, the black flies were back and making this section of trail less than enjoyable between the sun heat and the biting flies. The section had some covered areas, but not as many as we would have liked.

We also came upon a dog leash. If someone reports a missing leash, they can find it somewhere between the 11.5km and 11km section of the trail. We did reach a green painted sign with a white arrow on the sign to follow the trail right on the ground, and if we weren’t paying attention, we might have missed it, but luckily, we had no mishaps this time. We were now back into a covered section of trail, so that made the hike less draining on the body without having the sun beating down. This was also a rockier section of trail, with a lot of loose stones and tree roots making it tougher on the feet.

We eventually reached a wide dirt road section of trail putting us back into direct sunlight, but not for long, as we returned to the woods and the shade of the trees. Although we were sheltered, we still had to navigate some steep inclines along the way, and at one point, it was very noticeable how high we had climbed because we had several outstanding views of the valley and river below (and a few good picture moments). We continued along the trail through some dense foliage until having to navigate some more steep inclines with only a few offsetting declines. The trail eventually levelled off, and gave us a chance to catch our breath.

At this stage, Tania was getting a bit tired of all of the spider webs she had been walking through along the way, so she asked me to lead for a while. Looking back at the pictures, I see they just aren’t quite the same without anyone in them, and she didn’t want to assume the role of picture taker at this time. It wasn’t long before I asked her to go back into the lead so I could continue taking pictures. We continued through some muddy sections of trail, and I tried to get a picture of a frog crossing our path, but it wouldn’t stay still long enough for me to capture a picture. We continued along climbing some wooden steps, up the side of a steep incline until finally at last reaching the back portion of a junk yard and County Road 31 / Black Hole Rd. We worked through the fence and turned left onto the road.

Section 1

Even though we were back out into the sun, it was nice to have a flat section of trail for a change as we walked along County Rd 31. We passed by the Colborne Cemetery to the right and then the St. Peter Cemetery to the left. Soon we noticed the markers and turned left back into the woods. We crossed over a wooden foot path, and then another long foot path. We followed along the trail without any significant change in terrain or landscape for a long distance.

We then noticed the 6km distance marker on the ground, and knew we could handle another 6km. This section was easy to navigate going in and out of the woods at various points. Eventually, we came to the end of the woods out at Saltford Rd. We turned left onto Saltford Rd, and walked along the shoulder until crossing over the road onto Westmount Line. We followed that road until turning left onto Dunlop Drive. You won’t see many picture moments at this stage as walking through a sub-division doesn’t warrant any kind of picture moments.

We continued through the subdivision until reaching a cul-de-sac, and skirted along the right side of the area before heading back into the woods and descending down some steep steps onto a flat section of land that followed along the edge of a ravine. We continued along this pathway before exiting into a clearing, where we turned left through an open residential lot, to reconnect back onto Saltford Rd. We turned right onto Saltford Rd. and continued down the road until reaching the intersection of Highway #21.

This time of day was very busy and crossing Hwy #21 was quite nerve racking at this time. I think it may have taken about 5 minutes before we felt we could safely cross the road. After we crossed we continued straight and since this was an extension of Saltford Rd with no exit (I think the name of the road changed after crossing Hwy #21, but I didn’t notice the new name), there was not traffic to worry about. We reached the end of the road and passed through an entrance which turned into a gravel pathway. We followed the pathway for a long distance, passing by the Dunlop Tomb sign, and another dog leash found on the ground.

We continued along the trail finally reaching the Menesetung Bridge. We crossed over the bridge and knew we were close. After crossing the bridge, we continued along the path until reaching the Menesetung memorial rock on North Harbour Road. We continued across the road, and climbed up a steep incline, then followed along the pathway behind the grain elevators. We soon reached the Maitland Trail sign, snapped a few quick pictures and walked back to the car in the CPR rail station, and back to the other car waiting on Sharpes Creek Line.

We did it, we hiked 29 kms in 8 hours and 40 minutes today. Tania completed the Maitland trail End-to-End from Auburn to Goderich over a 2-day hiking period, and I had completed an End-to-End-to-End from Goderich-to-Auburn-to-Goderich again over a 3-day hiking period. Another successful trail endeavor, and another memorable event for our lives.