It was a cool late summer day in Peterborough when a friend and I decided we needed to get out. To have a little local adventure. We met at Jackson Park at the bridge with the dam. Water was crashing by below us as we exchanged greetings and prepared for the journey.
"Are you ready?" he said.
I replied with a wink and a grin, "I was born ready...and then 22 long years happened."
We decided to head up the hill first onto what I consider to be one of Jackson Park's most exhilarating trails. A bit tired from the climb, we pedaled across roots and rocks to make it to the top of the trail. Below us was a steep and obstacle-filled descent. My friend smiled at me and took the first plunge into the forest below. I followed quickly, barreling down, weaving at the last moment between roots at the bottom and careening over the next hill. A few minutes later we had climbed back up and the path took us down and to the right. Down the snake lines we went, hurtling back and forth. Finally we emerged onto a shallow down slope towards the biggest drop I had ever biked. We plunged down the trail, at the mercy of the shocks on our mountain bikes as the hill went over a bump and then shot us out like rockets up into the basket of the next hill and towards the eventual finish line at the first chain bridge.
Our journey was just beginning. We passed by farmers’ fields and cattle, biked under a bridge with a ZAP tag, and finally stopped at an incredibly massive old wooden train bridge. My friend's fear of heights had him off of his bicycle before we even came close. For the last ten minutes we biked along a massive dike-like soil divide where the railroad tracks used to sit. I biked slowly beside him as he walked, glancing over the edge at the hundred foot drop below. The trees in the distance were just starting to turn to fall colours and the view on either side was too breathtaking to even capture on my Nikon camera.
We crossed to the other side and noticed a trail leading down. Carefully, we crawled with our bikes down the hill and found ourselves underneath the trestle bridge. A quick look around revealed the bridge had lots of tempting climbing spots. There were cross lattices and massive iron struts of varying sizes and shapes. The rectangular support proved fun and easy to climb with the reward of a great view. One of the A-frame supports below beckoned as more of a challenge. I was almost able to make it to the top before I decided it was too dangerous. Adrenaline coursing through my veins with the trickle of fear the situation provided, I turned around and quickly realized that I couldn’t get down the same way I got up. Trying to stay calm despite the panic, I looked around for a way down and found it in a slightly upside-down facing side beam. I thanked my gloves, which allowed me to shimmy down to the second level without ripping apart the skin of my hands. After a little more scaling and sliding, I was back down with my friend to enjoy the beer that I had declined before the climb.
To me, a bridge is a symbol for overcoming obstacles. For my friend, that obstacle is his fear of heights. For me, that obstacle was heading down a cross-country trail to somewhere I'd never been before with just a couple bottles of water and some nuts.
I don't know if we were supposed to be there or actually what the Trans-Canada trail is meant for. I can't imagine anyone using it for convenience’s sake, since the towns it connects are so far apart on bicycle. I can only imagine it is meant for people like us, looking for a wild summer adventure in a time where we felt we had discovered everything already.
Adventures like these rekindle my spirit and make me feel like life is worth living. Every time I travel somewhere I've never seen, try a food I've never had, or stand under a waterfall I never knew I'd find, I feel this exhilarating sense that I'm finding myself, and with that, my spirit is set free.
Contributed by Conor Lynch
Conor is 22 and spends his time outdoors exploring Peterborough. He runs the Lost Youth Rotary Club and dreams of traveling the world to learn and help people with anxiety and depression by bringing them into the world of adventure. This story took place in late summer, 2016.
More Information about this adventure:
- Access to the Jackson Park: Parkhill Rd. and Monghan Rd.
- Find out more about the Kawartha Trans Canada Trail section and the historic railway bridge views featured in this story.
- For more information about cycling trails in Peterborough, check out the City of Peterborough Trails and Bikeways Map
- See the Southern Ontario Trans Canada Trail map below or visit http://www.tctontario.ca/