Sunday 16 November 2014

Niagara Escarpment

I've been chased off the road by lousy weather, so the dream trips begin again (it's a form of therapy).

The Niagara Escarpment
Since moving to Southern Ontario when I was nine, I've had a fascination with the Niagara Escarpment.  There are a couple of parks (Rockwood & Rattlesnake Point) that featured prominently with my younger years; I learned to rock climb at Rattlesnake Point.

When I got my driver's license and couldn't handle the tedium of arrow straight Ontario roads any more I'd drive up to Belfountain (where I got married years later) and drive the Forks of the Credit.  When I got my motorcycle license, one of the first long trips I ever took was to a conference in Ancaster where I was introduced to Sulphur Springs Road, one of the first times I got that feeling of flying while riding.

Southern Ontario is surrounded by interesting geology, but the only
thing that breaks up the monotony around here is the Escarpment
Last year I took a ride out to Horning's Mills, one of the prettiest places I've ever wanted to live and road River Road down through Mono Hills (somewhere else I've looked at houses).  All of these places happen to trace the spine of the escarpment.  

Geological scars have always fascinated me, I think the energy coming out of the ground in these places is palpable; the Escarpment is one of those places.

I usually design trips that go long or take me to exotic place, but this one is a close to home and very doable trip.  The Escarpment enters Ontario just below Niagara Falls at the Queenston Heights (where I attended my wife's cousin's wedding).  Starting there, I'd trace the Escarpment through Niagara wine country and past my wife's alma mater (Brock University).  A logical first stop would be on the turn around Hamilton in Ancaster.  Day One would be only about 100kms, with lots of stops and turns up and down the Escarpment.  Passing through the rows of grapes, we may end up testing the carrying capacity of our rides.
Day 2 would mark the swing north, starting with Sulphur Springs road and winding through Rattlesnake Point and The Forks of the Credit before parking it up for the night at The Millcroft Inn in Alton.  This one's about 120kms as the crow flies, but includes a lot of switchbacks again.  Pulling in early at the Millcroft spa is never a bad idea anyway.

After a restful night at The Millcroft we head north past my wife's childhood home in Mono Hills and up to Horning's Mills before tracing River Road and heading north to the bottom of Georgian Bay.  Blue Mountain looks like a nice place to stop.  This is another 120km day, but with a lot of room for exploration and switchbacks.

Day four has us tracing the shore of Georgian Bay for 150kms on increasingly quieter roads as we head away from the noise of the Golden Horseshoe.  We'd aim for Wiarton to stop for the night before tackling The Bruce Peninsula on the final day.

It's tricky following the Escarpment up the Bruce Peninsula, road access is spotty at best.  If we try to hit every bit of coast we're looking at over 200kms of riding.  Many roads don't appear to join up on the map but might in real life, it'll be an exploratory day of trying to find the wild edge of the Bruce.

The trip ends in lovely Tobermory.  If we left on a Monday we'd be in Tobermory by Friday night.  The goal wouldn't be miles covered, but rather how much of the Escarpment could we ride.  Relatively known roads like Forks of the Credit might get company from some Escarpment roads that only locals know of (like River Road out of Horning's Mills).
The Niagara Escarpment Run
Without any highways or long distance hauling, this begs for a light touch as far as gear
goes.  The bikes would be minimally laden.  In a perfect world I'd do this with my wife and two friends from Ottawa.  Considering the nature of the trip, I'd be tempted to try and do this zero emission.  The Zero DS with the power tank would easily cover the mileage requirements every day and be able to charge overnight at each stop.
It would even be able to handle the ride from Tobermory home at the end of the trip in one gulp.

The Bruce Trail runs along the Escarpment, which itself is a world biosphere reserve.  Being able to ride the escarpment without a whiff of CO2 not only honours the biosphere, but also points to a future of environmentally gentler motorbiking.