A fascinating starting point for a leisurely exploration on The Great Trail is Fleming College’s Frost Campus on the southern end of Lindsay, one of the most sustainable college campuses in North America. The Kawartha Trans Canada Trail, part of The Great Trail, cuts through the heart of the college, which bills itself as a “living lab for outdoor learning.” Home to the School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences, here you can learn to climb trees, build trails, grow sustainable agriculture, make water clean and much more.
Hook up with The Great Trail on the south end parking lots, and then head around the back of the buildings to the campus courtyard, where a towering wind turbine spins in the breeze. Estimated to produce 10,500 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, the wind turbine powers the lighting in the environmental technology wing of the campus. Gaze up to the roof of the wing, where a research platform tests green roof technology.
Here a spur of The Great Trail, called the TD Canada Trust East/West Discovery Trail, actually detours inside the environmental technology wing. The doors are usually open, so it’s easy to park the bike and look around at some of the fascinating sustainability features, such as the Centre for Alternative Wastewater Technologies. So, when you wash your hands in the bathroom, the water you use was treated just steps away. The Centre’s wetland ponds, visible from windows in the hall, collect about 3,000 litres of wastewater from the washrooms in the wing every day and treat it.
Also, along with displays of Ontario’s flora and fauna, you’ll find a living wall at work, filtering the air and decorating the hallway.
In front of the living wall, visitors can see one of the geothermal heating wells through a plexiglass viewing cell in the floor. The geothermal system keeps this wing of the college warm in winter and cool in summer. There are 66 wells in total, each 122 metres deep and connected to an extensive coil system.
Veer off the Discovery Trail to the other wings of the campus, and you’ll find glass cases displaying taxidermy of Ontario birds and wildlife, as well as some beautifully intricate black and white murals, featuring trees and insects.
Back outside, wander beyond the wind turbine to the Lindsay community garden with sustainable agriculture plots to see the College apiary, before jumping on the bike to hit the Trail.
Heading east at the edge of the campus, the Trail passes a rustic log cabin used for outdoor education. Here, a historical plaque pays homage to renowned naturalist and author Ernest Thompson Seton. He spent some of his childhood in Lindsay and was one of the founders of Boy Scouts of America. Although this was not Seton’s actual cabin, he probably would have liked it.
Cycling further, the Trail passes through the Fleming College arboretum. The arboretum follows the course of The Great Trail east of the campus, where things get a little wilder.
Heading east, follow the alluring forest path to skirt the banks of the Scugog River, once the heart of this community. The river once served as a transportation network for the Anishinaabe Mississauga First Nation right into the 19th century. In Anishinaabe, Scugog means “submerged or flooded land.” Soak up the tranquility at this beautiful place, as red wing blackbirds chirrup and the lilies open for the sun.
Lindsay is a city of parks, but it was once famous for its trains and train stations. Like many other sections of The Great Trail, the 53.8-kilometre Kawartha Trans Canada Trail generally follows the gentle grade of a former railway bed. This makes for extraordinarily leisurely riding with no steep hills or sudden turns, giving you time to concentrate on the scenery. The Trail skirts Memorial Park, where a monumental display from another bygone era awaits the intrepid cyclist. The Railway Heritage Centre boasts a wooden caboose, a black Stelco 40 locomotive, a bright red Canadian National Railways steel caboose and more. In the warmer months, there’s also a brilliant flower display.
At this point, you’ll come to a crossroads of trails: the east-west Kawartha Trans Canada Trail, Lindsay’s Rotary Trail that runs along the Scugog River, and the Victoria Rail Trail Corridor which runs north to Kinmount and south to Bethany. Unlike the Kawartha Trans Canada Trail, it allows motorized vehicles.
Turn off onto the Rotary Trail and take in the scenic natural beauty of the river path. A rustic bridge crosses the river to two parks: Nayoro and Lion’s Riverview. Nayoro Park honours the twinning of Lindsay with a Japanese counterpart, a relationship that’s continued over 50 years. Like The Great Trail, it reminds us that we’re all connected.
The river path leads to Lock 33, which first opened as a timber lock in 1844, along the scenic and historic 386-kilometre Trent-Severn Waterway. This lock allows boats from the river to reach Lake Scugog.
If you’re lucky or patient, you’ll see the lock in action, as boats pass through to the other side. On the far bank, the beautiful remains of the Old Mill is a ghostly reminder of a thriving past. Even though the mill was gutted by fire in 1978, it still retains a fascinating beauty.
At this point, you may want to settle into a local motel for a night. Alternatively, you could go further – load your panniers on the bike and hit the Kawartha Trans Canada Trail for a nearly 20-kilometre ride to the town of Omemee and cycle camp a few kilometres north of the trail at Emily Provincial Park. There, you can watch the sun set over Pigeon Lake and wake up amid the natural beauty of Kawartha Lakes country. It comes highly recommended!