Daniel Geleyn | Apr 28, 2021

In addition to the well-known K&P Trail that crosses our area north to south, the Cataraqui Trail, which also crosses our area but from east to west, offers more options and variety for trail enthusiasts.

Like the K&P Trail, the Cataraqui Trail follows a former railway, in this case the former Canadian National (CN) Railway line from Smiths Falls to Strathcona near Napanee. West of Sydenham, the trail crosses mainly flat agricultural land known as the Napanee Plain. But between Sydenham and Chaffey’s Lock, the trail traverses a neck of the Canadian Shield known as the Frontenac Axis.

Because it follows an old rail line, the trail has no steep grades of over 5%, with a few exceptions where railway overpasses were removed at Opinicon Road and Colebrook Road in Harrowsmith and in one other location where the trail was detoured up a hill around some cottages.

The train services along what is now the Cataraqui Trail were discontinued in 1986 and the ties and tracks were removed in 1989. The right-of-way was donated by CN to the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority (CRCA) for use as the Cataraqui Trail in 1997.

On the Cataraqui Trail in Sydenham, I came across Mike and Catherine Purcell with friends John and Shelagh Mirski, who rode their bicycles all the way from Kingston.

“I try to come out biking two or three times a week on the trails,” says Catherine Purcell.

“Sometimes I golf when Catherine bikes, she’s more the biker,” says Mike Purcell. “But I still put in 570 kilometres biking last year.”

The Mirskis are planning on riding their bicycles more often this year. But they quickly found out they could not buy new bicycles this year. The demand for them is so high that there is a shortage. So they had to be satisfied with getting their old bicycles tuned up.

“We figure this summer, we’re going to be out a lot. I’m retiring so we’re going to be bicycling,” says Shelagh Mirski.

A little further north-east on the trail, between Perth Road and Opinicon Road, I met a few people walking their dogs and biking. The trail there is a little more rugged but still very good on a bicycle, especially if you have a mountain bike.

Emily Bureau, a Queen’s University student who has lived in Kingston for five years was accompanied by her friend Jeffrey Ray while they were walking their dog Buster.

“We discovered this trail a couple weeks ago,” says Bureau. “We’ve tried a couple different trails but we’re still discovering,” she adds.

Stephen Hunt and Monika Kuzma, who live around Inverary Lake, were also out walking their dogs.

“We come here often with our big dogs,” says Kuzma. “This trail is amazing for cycling. We’ve cycled all the way to Chaffey’s Lock and back, the terrain is just amazing and the scenery is beautiful.

Hunt and Kuzma also often use the trail in the winter months for cross-country skiing.

“It’s not groomed for cross-country skiing but it is for snowmobiles and we just piggy-back on that grooming,” says Hunt.

“I come at least once or twice a week for cross-country skiing. It’s great because after the snowmobiles or the groomers have been on, it’s nice and flat and there’s no hills to climb,” he adds.

The trails in our region are becoming more popular as people are finding new ways to stay active while taking precautions during the pandemic. But despite the fact that you may meet a few more people along the trails, they are still one of the safest and more enjoyable way to stay active while we have to stay close to home.

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