Biking to Lakefield & Kayaking on the Trent Canal

Accompanied by outdoor adventure experts Lloyd Graham and his friend Clare from Pedal and Paddle, I had spent the morning exploring Peterborough by bicycle. Then we had left the city behind and cycled northwards on the Rotary Greenway Trail to Lakefield, a pretty lake-side village about 16 kilometers north of the city. Lakefield is most well known for Lakefield College, a private boarding school whose most famous pupil was Prince Andrew who went to school here in the 1970s.

Downtown Lakefield, a very picturesque waterfront village

To continue with the historic theme Lloyd took me to the old train station in Lakefield which has not seen any active railway travel for several decades. Today, the 1881 train station houses the Lakefield Station Book Shop, owned by David Glover, a real enthusiast of old, rare and hard-to-find books. David explained that the front area of the book shop is the former waiting area of the railway station. The Grand Trunk Railway equipped many of its rural stations with Douglas fir paneling that had been brought in from Western Canada. The original ticket window is still there although it is now equipped with a glass painting done by a local artist during the 1980s when the train station was an art gallery.

David Glover, a rare and used book enthusiast, inside the old Lakefield Train Station

Then we made a brief stop in the harbour of Lakefield, where the trains would arrive with their Victorian-era travelers, ready to transfer them on to steamboats that would take them further north to Clear and Stony Lake. These were the earliest days of cottage country vacations. We continued to cycle past nice waterfront homes into Lakefield and stopped at the house of Margaret Laurence, a Canadian novelist and short story writer whose most famous works include The Stone Angel and The Diviners. Diagnosed with untreatable lung cancer in 1986, Laurence took her own life at her home at 8 Regent Street in Lakefield the following year. By the end of her career, she had become one of Canada’s most esteemed and beloved authors.

The house of famous Canadian novelist Margaret Laurence

We had now pedaled for quite a while and were starting to get hungry, so we cycled into the downtown area of Lakefield and stopped at a popular local restaurant called the Nuttshell Next Door which offers great soups and sandwiches. My hearty broccoli and cheese soup and veggie sandwich were able to restore my strength for more bicycling. But now the sky was turning dark grey and the rain was threatening, so we hopped back on our bikes to get back to Peterborough. Fortunately, about half-way into our 16 km ride back, the sky cleared up and the sun returned, just in time for our paddling adventure.

My delicious soup-and-sandwich combo strenghtened me

Just a bit south of Trent University we got off our bikes, and took three kayaks off Lloyd’s truck which he had parked there earlier. The bicycles went back on the truck and were securely locked while we put our kayaks in the water. Lloyd and his partner Clare are extremely experienced kayakers while I on the other hand had only kayaked once in my life, in a “whitewater kayaking” experience on the turbulent Ottawa River that had scared the living daylights out of me. Needless to say, I chose to go mountain biking on my second day of “kayaking” during this fear-inducing weekend in 2005.

Lloyd gets the kayaks ready

Today’s experience promised to be much calmer as we were going to paddle downstream the Trent Canal and I was glad there was not a hint of whitewater to be seen. I enjoyed paddling in the sunshine although my experienced guides had to be a bit patient with me. The paddling actually aggravated a shoulder injury that I had acquired playing tennis, so as time went on the paddling became rather painful, but the serene nature environment on the Trent Canal was still a beautiful experience.

Clare is a very experienced paddler; me not so much

The highlight of our kayaking experience was going over the Peterborough Lift Lock, lock 21 on the Trent-Severn Waterway. I had just gone over the lock the day before on a sightseeing cruise with the Lift Lock Cruise Company, but I had no idea that one could actually go through the lock on a kayak. I was really getting excited to see what it would be like to traverse the world’s highest hydraulic lift lock with a height of almost 20 meters (65 feet) on a kayak. To be certain, going over the lock in a small kayak felt entirely different than going over it in large sightseeing boat. I would certainly recommend that anyone with a fear of heights stay towards the back of the basin so they do not have to witness the 20 meter (actually very gradual) drop that takes about 4 minutes.

We are sitting inside the top basin of the Lift Lock, waiting to get lowered 20 metres

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