Warning! Bumps Ahead – Part 2

In the previous installment of Warning! Bumps Ahead, Helen and I were in Leamington experiencing a major failure on the Trans-Canada Trail.  After a 5 hour drive from Toronto, and only 2 km on the bike, we found the trail was closed for the next 18 months.

I may have been annoyed, but I wasn’t worried – yet.  I had spent hours planning this 3 day excursion and I had alternatives up my sleeve.  There was a lot of trail still ahead. We cycled back to the car, piled everything inside again and headed out to catch the trail further along the route.

Luck was not on our side … more closure signs, more large rock gravel.

Eventually we reached the point where the trail became road and we proceeded to follow the Trans-Canada Trail signs, expecting we would soon reach another trail we could cycle.

Chatham - dam
Near Mitchell’s Bay and finally a cycling trail!  … but at a mere 1,400 metres, it wasn’t worth getting our bikes out of the car

The good news? …. the “trail” was well marked on the road and easy to follow.

The bad news? … we drove, and we drove, and we followed the signs …. for about 125 kms over 3 hours.

We finally conceded defeat and headed back to our hotel.

As we whined over a bottle of wine, the grievances we listed were many.  This brings me to my second major complaint about our experience on the Trans-Canada Trail so far.

The longest recreational trail in the world” (as quoted from TheGreatTrail.ca website) is in fact more “road” than “trail”.

Up until now, I was under the mistaken impression that the Trans-Canada was primarily trails – in its traditional definition as a rough pathway – linked together with sections of road.

The reality is that (according to Wikipedia) more than half of the trail is in fact road – which is not necessarily alarming when you consider how large Canada really is.

What does become alarming though is that sections like Essex-Chatham and Chatham-Kent appear to be almost 100% roadway … which I hadn’t expected.

Grande Pointe
Grande Pointe – from the expression on his face, it appears that he was probably looking for a “real” trail too

The problem is that the TheGreatTrail.ca map isn’t coded to make it easy to identify whether a route is road or not.

While some trails are accurately described as gravel trail/ paved trail/ road – others are not.  Nor does it provide information on how much of the trail is made up of these components.

The entire Chatham-Kent Trail was described simply as “paved trail”.  At over 200 km long, this would have been a cyclist’s dream if it had been accurate.  However all we found (with the exception of the 1.4 km trail noted above) was road.  I found a Chatham-Kent brochure online, but none of the short trails it included in the brochure were part of the Trans-Canada.

If you are trying to promote outdoor activity for people of all ages, would you consider “road” is an appropriate “recreational trail”?

Even worse, when we compared the route we drove by following the road signs, with the map on TheGreatTrail.ca website, we couldn’t get them to match up even though we had carefully followed the signs.

I don’t remember where this was, but it was “on the trail”

So now we are seriously questioning the viability of this project.

Our experience has been that we can’t trust the accuracy of the maps, the trail descriptions, the availability of signage, or even if we’re going to find the trails open.

Nor do we feel safe riding predominately on roads.

Our “Whine and Wine” session ended with one major decision … we will not continue with our current plan.  A new approach will be required.


  1. I’ve been following this adventure with much interest and just a little cynicism- not for the valiant efforts of you and Helen but for the apparently false presentation by the promoters of the trail! Is it just a way to claim another Canada 150 project? I actually heard a news story the other day about a woman who is the first to complete the whole trail but after reading your blogs I was a little dubious😕


    • And you have every reason to be cynical. The trails, the maps, and the signage are all unreliable. When it’s good, it’s very good. But when it’s bad, it’s awful.

      I had been following this young woman for a while and I’m in awe of what she accomplished – by herself.
      I’m also aware that she didn’t complete the entire trail – eg the forks up to Nunavet and the Yukon – nor do I believe she did many of the offshoots – eg there are 2 separate forks of the TCT running from Sudbury to Sault Ste Marie.
      There have been people on social media who have cast doubt on her achievement because of these omissions, but I for one give her full credit.
      She walked from coast to coast. That’s pretty damn awesome 🙂


  2. I propose Wine-and-whine-Wednesday! (For example.) On all that must be whined about! For some things just wine is not enough. 😉 I wish you much more luck and enjoyment in the future.


  3. Oh so sorry to hear of your disappointing journey to Essex Kent and the failure of your project as a result of what I thought was a hiking / riding path across Canada. Once you’ve hiked the Bruce you really appreciate proper maps, sufficient information re closures and path conditions and incredible online information. Obviously the Trans Canada needs volunteers like the Bruce Trail has. Good luck with Plan “B” or is it “C” already?


    • The Bruce really has spoiled us – for all the reasons you mentioned AND just for the incredible experience with nature it provides. Unless we are prepared to travel far and wide, it’s proving to be impossible to find something comparable.


  4. I agree with Ally. Rough start, smooth ending! And if all else fails, why not go with Janis’s suggestions?
    But for now, I repeat, don’t give up. You and Helen are pioneers!!


  5. Oh I do like a good old whine and wine session, though I am sorry it comes from frustration over your epic plan. Here’s hoping you come up with an alternative that satisfies your adventurous spirit.


  6. I’m sorry to hear this Joanne. If they had the time/money to put signs up, it seems they could have added this minor but really important bit of information. We are 20 years into a build-out of a network of bike paths here in CT, and I see some of the same things. The local signage is good, but it’s very hard to plan a bike ride from home, before driving to an entry point. I don’t understand why, in this day, these aren’t the first things they think of. I hope you find a way to pursue this goal.


  7. That has been so far quite an experience and I also hadn’t realized that this trans-Canada trail wasn’t all it was made out to be…it is quite a disappointment. Hope things improve for you soon…(Suzanne)


  8. Well, why in the world would they call this a trail for cyclists if it is a road for cars? Someone needs to define their terms consistently. Sorry this inspired project isn’t going as planned, but maybe a rough start will balance out with a smooth ending.


    • They are actually calling it “multi-use” for walkers, hikers, cyclists, etc. However road cyclists ride on roads. Trail cyclists ride on trails. Having done both, I appreciate they’re quite different.
      … and I don’t know any hiker/walker who enjoys walking on long, dusty country roads for miles and miles.

      I think their biggest fault is in how this trail has been communicated and the lack of appropriate information that exists. At worst, I would call this it a misrepresentation.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well reasoned. Misrepresentation is a kind way of putting it. Are you going to keep going with this project? Even though it’s not turning out as planned, it’s interesting from an armchair observer’s point of view.


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