Travel Ontario: Breakfast at Clair on the Square and Hiking the Sawmill Trail in Bayfield

This sunny Thanksgiving Monday, October 11, 2011, started with gorgeous sunshine again, a perfect beginning to an action-packed day in the picturesque village of Bayfield. Clair, our bed and breakfast hostess from Clair on the Square had already been hard at work in the kitchen when we got downstairs at about 8:30. While Clair was finishing her blueberry pancakes, I got a brief chance to talk to her and find out a bit about her background.

Clair had been working as a Latin teacher in the Toronto area for many years when she needed a career change. On a trip to the countryside she found a lovely circa 1857 Victorian property in the village of Bayfield and about 23 years ago she made a spontaneous decision to buy it and turn it into a B&B. It took months of hard work, lots of determination and financial resources to equip the second floor of the home with three up-to-date bedrooms with their own private bathrooms.

Our abode in Bayfield: Clair on the Square

Our abode in Bayfield: Clair on the Square

Many years later Clair still enjoys the guest experience and sometimes she even shares the television in her bedrooms with her guests. We also met the other guests that were staying for the weekend, a single mother with two teenage daughters who has been coming to Clair on the Square for more than 20 years. Many guests become repeat visitors at Clair’s country retreat and form a personal long-term friendship with Clair.

After a healthy fruit salad, some home-made scones and our filling blueberry pancakes we were ready for a full day of activities. Just minutes away, on Bayfield’s Main Street, we linked up with Tyler Hessel and Heidi Martin, a dynamic husband-and-wife team who own Outside Projects, a company that focuses on active outdoor recreation. Today’s program would have us go on a guided walk with Heidi and, after lunch, on a local bicycle tour with Tyler at the helm.

Heidi Martin from Outside Projects, our hiking guide

Heidi Martin from Outside Projects, our hiking guide

Before we got going on our hike, we admired the store that carries an assortment of high quality apparel brands as well as leading bike brands such as Ridley, Intense, Norco, Opus and Haro. We met Heidi a few minutes down the road at Bayfield’s Little Inn where she let us know that two other walkers would join us on the hike. Then we started our walk through the old part of Bayfield and turned left to cross the Bayfield River on the big bridge over Highway 21. Looking north along the river, the forests were dotted with green, yellow, orange and red trees at the height of fall foliage season. We turned onto Old River Walk and minutes later we had reached the trail head of the Sawmill Trail, a 2 km trail that would take us down to the banks of the Bayfield River.

A scenic hike on the Sawmill Trail

A scenic hike on the Sawmill Trail

The Bayfield River Valley Trail Association has built many bridges, benches and interpretive signs along the trail to make this an educational experience. The signs educate hikers about the great horned owl, wild turkeys, the pileated woodpecker and white-tailed deers. Along the trail there are numerous lookouts over the river, and we stopped several times to watch fishermen in their hipwaders, and we even caught a glimpse of a Great Blue Heron, sitting completely still on a large boulder in the middle of the river. Dharma, the dog of the two ladies in our walking group, had the time of her life, and kept running ahead and back again along the trail to show her enthusiasm.

On the way back, Heidi took us through a part of the heritage area of Bayfield which was mostly settled in the second half of the 19th century. We saw a large church that is waiting to be converted into a private residence, and some large Victorian homes with impressive gardens. We also stopped on Clan Gregor Square which is anchored by a recently replaced cenotaph that honours Bayfield’s fallen soldiers. Surrounding the memorial is a series of plaques with photos of fallen servicemen that puts actual faces to their names.

Scenic views of Bayfield

Scenic views of Bayfield

Shortly after noon we arrived back at Outside Projects and Tyler was getting ready for our bike ride. But of course we needed to have a solid lunch before we could embark on another outside project. Tyler had just the place for us: the Black Dog Pub across the street…

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