2018, will mark the 50th anniversary of the Ganaraska Hiking Trail. This post is more about the early days of the local trail known as the Pine Ridge Section and the Ranger’s memories of it. Having said that, I must include an overall picture of the complete 500 Km trail for those not familiar with it. The trail was originally proposed by the Willow Beach Field Naturalists of Northumberland County in the mid 1960’s for the purpose of providing naturalists an access to the unspoiled countryside.
This massive project started as a Centennial Project in 1967. The original route was hoped to make use of the abandoned Port Hope, Lindsay & Beaverton rail bed north to Millbrook. However, most of this route was not to be, because of politics and land-owner objections. The trail did quickly grow using road allowances, forests, some public roadways and private property. In 1969, the trail was extended to join the Bruce Trail near Collingwood, Ont.
Note: with the passing of both club founders in 2016, Jack Goering and Pat Lawson will soon have a section of the trail along the east side of the Ganaraska River in Port Hope named in their honor.
Other Sections of the trail include: Kawartha, Wilderness, Orillia, Barrie, Mad River, Wasaga Beach, Midland, Oro-Medonte and the Tiny Trails Sections.
The Pine Ridge Section’s southern terminus starts at the cairn at Km 0.0 just east of the Port Hope Town Hall and runs north to Km 63.0 a bit north/east of Omemee. Some highlights of this section include the Sylvan Glen Conservation Area, abandoned rail beds, and at Quay’s Crossing on Knoxville Road you will be at the former beach limit of ancient Lake Iroquois and a few Km’s north you will pass Fudge’s Mill. (See post: The Mill At Campbellcroft Ontario, Sept. 28, 2016). Further north of Tinkerville at the 9th Line you will find white trail blazes heading east, these belong to the Oak Ridges Trail Assoc. on their way to Castleton and Warkworth. At this point the GHTA an ORTA share a common trail west through the Ganaraska Forest. Note: All hikers must stay on the trail or face user fees for using the forest. Ranger remembers back in 2001 while planning the Hope/Hamilton Chapter of the Oak Ridges Trail Assoc. trail through the Ganaraska Forest, the forest people were planning on charging ‘user’ fees for all forest users. After some negotiation and pointing out our trail route was on the 10th Line of Hope Township, a public owned road allowance, charging a fee was illegal.
North of the Ganaraska Forest Centre, the Oak Ridges Trail again heads west towards Orangeville and the Ganaraska Trail continues northward to Glen Huron. East of Millbrook you will find the historic Old Marsh Church (see Post: Milbrook’s Historic Churches, Sept. 14, 2016). After crossing through Bethany and down the sandy north slope of Devil’s Elbow Ski Club, you will cross the hiker’s favorite Hogsback drumlin. Cross the Pigeon River and further north, you can find the Windy Ridge Conservation Area (a favorite of the2oldguys). (See post, Windy Ridge CA Feb 11/014). At this point you are nearing the beginning of the Kawartha Section of the trail.
I can’t remember exactly when I joined the hiking club, I think it was in the mid 1980’s. At this time I had developed an interest in the former Port Hope, Lindsay & Beaverton RR line that ran from Port Hope to Midland. At the local fall fair, I came across an application form for the club and because of its proximity to the abandoned rail line, the trail meant that I could walk a lot of this line without the worry of trespassing on private property. For a few years, I was hiking solo, as there was no organization among the few local members. Soon after, I met Jack Goering and he helped to advertise the club and organize group hikes. On the first hike I met Pat Lawson and led about a dozen enthusiastic hikers on a hike from the 4th to the 6th Line of Hope Township north of Sylvan Glen. As these weekly hikes caught on with hikers, Jack talked the Bushwhacker and I into mapping and measuring the trail with a surveyor’s wheel.
Eventually we got it done and brochures were printed for group or single hikers use. Eventually, we named our section the Pine Ridge Section, held regular meetings to map out the next season’s routes and leaders. With hikes advertised in local papers, membership grew and hikes were attracting anywhere from two to two dozen hikers depending on hike destination, length of hike and even the weather. In the beginning our hikes started out as ‘there and back’ and as hike lengths increased we required car shuffles. This means parking some cars at each end of the hike route to shuffle hikers back to the starting point. The most preferred and easiest hike to organize is the ‘loop’. I was very fortunate as a leader…never lost a hiker, no broken bones, but did have a few close calls with some cases of heat exhaustion along the trail on some hot days.
The most gratifying hikes that I led were the ones where the hikers see you years later and tell you they remember one in particular. One of my favorites was in the area of Richardson’s Lookout on Dean’s Hill (Garden Hill). Though the route scenery was long forgotten, they never forgot the rest stop at the former Betty’s Pies & Tarts on County Road 9. Another was a stop on the Oak Ridges Moraine on Gibb’s Road, north of Port Hope where on an autumn day you can see Lake Ontario to the south and Rice Lake to the north. My personal favorite was the summer wednesday evening hikes in Port Hope. These shorter evening hikes were held to keep us walking while avoiding the heat and mosquitoes of the woods. The Port Hope Laneway (see post: The Laneway Strolls, Port Hope, Ont. Aug 3, 2016) walks are still remembered and walked by hikers.
Although not active in the hikes for many years, I still enjoy the three yearly issues of The Ganaraska News to follow club activities. Seems as the Ranger was aging he was slowing down as a hike leader and was finding it hard to keep at the head of the group, a mandatory requirement for leadership. Today, I walk with the Bushwhacker or a friend or two. These walks are more my style as we can slow down and enjoy the scenery, fauna and wildlife a little more.