The Blue Skies Music Festival near Clarendon, Ontario takes place on the first weekend of August, as it has every year since the early 70’s. It’s a great big gathering where folks come for a day, or camp out over the 3 day long weekend.
This year was the third time I’ve been. Last year I biked to a friend’s cottage close by on Sharbot Lake, then rode up to the site on the following Friday morning. You can read all about that adventure here. This year I did the same, however I chose a different route, identified by the blue line on the map below.
I rode back to Ottawa on the following Monday along the red line shown on the map, similar to the route my friend François rode to get there this year, which you can read about by clicking here.
Last year’s ride took me much longer than I had anticipated, so this year I tried to streamline my route to shorten the time spent in the saddle. To get out of Ottawa I headed straight down Wellington/Richmond/Robertson Road. Now most cyclists familiar with that stretch of road might not consider it the safest option. Few sections of it are safe most hours of the day, however there is a narrow window of opportunity early in the morning before traffic starts to build. I left the house at 5:30 am. Things went smoothly, until Richmond turned in to Robertson Road, just west of Baseline. That’s where any semblance of a paved shoulder disappears and the surprising number of cars, buses & trucks that early in the day flew by at highway speeds. I was very relieved to get on the Trans-Canada Trail west of Moodie Drive.
The Trans-Canada Trail between Bells Corners and Carleton Place is an old railway line that has been converted to a packed stone dust path, as described in a bit more detail in the middle of this post. I’ve travelled it a few times now, so in search of a little variety, and to speed things up, I rode along Abbott Street for a short stretch through Stittsville, which runs parallel to the Trans-Canada Trail. Traffic was calm, and there was a generous shoulder for most of it’s length.
Stittsville went through a growth period in the 1870’s when the railway line connecting Ottawa to Carleton Place was introduced. There are a few surviving examples of buildings from that period near the intersection of Main and Abbott Street where the train station was located, including this fixer upper sandwiched between the Trans-Canada Trail and Abbott St.
The rail-to-trail section of the path ends on the edge of Carleton Place. From there I headed south-east along a path that runs parallel to McNeely Ave to where it crosses Highway 7. At the end of McNeely there is a wonderful network of short trails called the Beckwith Trail, that meanders through a varied mix of wooded area and old farmland. I followed the McGregor Branch and the Shady Branch to get to 9th Line road.
I then headed southwest along 9th Line, a two lane road where I encountered minimal traffic. Saw some beautiful big old brick farm houses. I also road through a thunderstorm. I passed this family of bovines just as the rain let up, staring at me as if to say, ‘What the heck are you doing way out here in this weather?!’
9th Line turned into Tennyson Road which I followed for a bit before turning on to Concession Road 7. It too was a nice quiet paved two laner through farm country. On the other side of the 511 it became a very smooth white stone dust road.
Road 7 morphed into McVeigh road, which I followed to where it ended at Doran Road. Now Doran Road was the trickiest stretch along this year’s ride to Blue Skies. It narrowed down to one lane with a loose stone gravel surfacing that went up and down through the woods for quite a ways.
The road surface became smoother once it turned on to Fagan Lake Road, and then paved once more on the other side of the Elphin-Maberly Road, along Zealand Road.
I am always amazed by the cedar post fences that weave their way through this whole area. The manner in which they are stacked and arranged in a zig-zag pattern allows for great flexibility in negotiating the rough rocky terrain. Here’s an example, perched up on the edge of a stone cut along Zealand Road.
For the rest of the ride I followed Bell Line Road and the A&P trail to my friends cottage on Sharbot Lake, and then up to the festival site the following morning, as described at the tail end of last year’s post.
Et voila – ’twas another wonderful Blue Skies festival full of music galore!