We may not be heading into prime hiking time, but the winter months are certainly fine for making plans, whether you’re the municipality working on expanding the trail network or someone keen to take advantage of the area’s offerings.
Nicola Ross’ latest book takes aim at the latter group. Waterloo, Wellington & Guelph Hikes, the fifth in her Loops & Lattes series of hiking guides, looks at the options available in this neck of the woods.
Due to hit shelves next week, the book expands on a southwestern Ontario line-up that includes hiking explorations of Caledon, Halton, Dufferin and the Hamilton area.
Having written five guide books in as many years, Ross certainly covers plenty of ground, literally in this case given the subject matter. With each book encompassing some 35 hikes averaging about seven kilometres apiece, the numbers quickly add up.
Luckily, she loves getting out for a hike, with most days finding her out for at least an hour and a half.
“I have a dog,” she laughed in an interview from her Caledon home.
Her latest book saw her hit the trails in Waterloo Region and Wellington County, including a focus on the offerings here in the townships. Local organizations such as the Woolwich Trails Group were a big help in her research, says Ross.
“They were really helpful to me. I’m really grateful for that.”
Her goal in preparing to write a new guide book is to get to know more than just the trail routes, but the surrounding environment.
“That’s kind of the fun – really in-depth exploring,” she said, noting each area has its unique features, not only in terms of geography but the “après hiking” activities.
In Woolwich and Wellesley, that includes taking note of the Mennonite factor.
“There are some real cultural differences there,” she said, pointing to the old-time general stores where “you can find axes beside butter tarts.”
For those coming in from outside the area, the horse-and-buggy sightings are part of the wow factor, Ross added, also singling out the rich farmland.
“The farms along there are fantastic,” she said of hiking along the Kissing Bridge and the G2G trails.
“It’s really flat,” she said of this area, which can be a boon to novices, the scenery as many trails run along or cross the Grand River making up for some of the limited topography.
The area does present some unique features, agrees Ann Roberts, Woolwich Township’s environmental coordinator, who assisted Ross with her local research.
“We have a great variety here – we have starter, easier paths … and more rugged trails like stretches of the Grand Valley Trail.
“The Mennonite countryside and flavour are a huge attraction for the people coming in, as well as to the local users,” said Roberts, pointing to the local food, farmers’ markets and roadside farm stands.
The availability of “après hiking” options play a big part in her books, says Ross. For the Waterloo and Wellington guide, she delves into explorations of the likes of Elmira, St. Jacobs, Guelph, Cambridge and Waterloo, looking to make loops hikers can make, with plenty of reasons to stop along the way – the series of guide books is called Loops & Lattes, after all.
“There’s great stuff to do after you’re done hiking.”
In that regard, there’s a tourism angle to her books, along with information for novices who may be interested in hiking but don’t know where to begin, where the trails are or how long it would take to walk a certain route.
But there’s also plenty of information for veterans of the pastime, as well as locals, said Ross.
“I get seasoned hikers who say to me ‘I know all the hikes’ … but then there’s something new,” she said. “I’ve had people who’ve lived somewhere for 20 years say ‘I didn’t even know these trails were here.’”
That more people are mindful of hiking options reflects the growing interest in the pastime.
“Hiking is on the rise. It’s the easiest, best thing you can do to stay healthy,” said Ross.
Woolwich has certainly embraced the activity. A relevant latecomer to municipal trails development, the township has jumped in with both feet over the past 20 years, notes Roberts.
Along with its own work, the township also has longstanding contributions from service groups such as the Lions Club and organizations like the Woolwich Trails Group, which also has an updated guide to routes in the township.
With the season winding down, the township will now be focusing on planning for next year, including trails set to come online with the development of new subdivisions in Breslau, Elmira and St. Jacobs adding to Woolwich’s ever-expanding network, said Roberts.
Ross’ take on local trails, as well as those in the wider area, can be found in the book due for release next week. More information, including retail locations, is available online.