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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Head for the blazing fall hills on a bike or hike in Ontario's Lake Country

   One-Tank Trip for Sept. 27/14

   (c) By Jim Fox

   It’s time for the “Tour de Fall” as the hills are taking on a vibrant hue of autumn colours across Southern Ontario.
   Just an hour north of Toronto is one of the most picturesque regions for fall touring – Ontario Lake Country on the shores of Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching.
Enjoying a ride in the Copeland Forest at Horseshoe Valley are (from left) Jenna Hunter, Natasha Ilic and guide Sara Archer. (Jim Fox photo)
   It encompasses five distinctive districts: Orillia, Oro-Medonte, Rama, Ramara and Severn.
   “Enjoy the peacefulness away from the busy city life and take in the breathtaking fall colours,” said Jennifer Whitley, country marketing manager.
   A series of “distinctive fall getaways” has been established across the region.
   Newly developed are seven cycling, seven hiking and four driving routes, with many points of interest along the water, including the Trent-Severn Waterway.
   Whether you are looking for a long or short drive, a leisurely stroll or something more involved, an easy trail or an advanced hilly route, there is something for everyone,” Whitley said.

   Head for the hills
   The leaves were just starting to turn colour last week when I joined a mountain bike ride along the scenic and hilly terrain of the Copeland Forest at Horseshoe Valley.
Sara Archer of Ride Guides instructs the group before heading out. (Jim Fox photo)
   Our intrepid guide was Sara Archer of Ride Guides who went easy on us, avoiding rock-strewn paths and what are called “some of the gnarliest, fastest and most technical trails in the country.”
   This is excellent for beginners, intermediates and advanced cyclists who can use the cross-country riding trails, single-track terrain and paved rural roads in the area.
   Ride Guides provides the bikes, helmets and outlines the rules of the forest and tips on riding before heading out.
Writer Jim Fox joins Jenna Hunter and Natasha Ilic on the trail. (Sara Archer photo)
   The introduction to the “day ride” followed scenic single-and double-track trails “with manageable climbs and fun downhills.”
   Ontario’s Lake Country as well has been working closely with Cycle Simcoe to develop cycling routes.
   Oro-Medonte Township to the west and south of  Orillia was the first with four cycling routes developed – three on the roads varying in length and endurance levels along with a rail trail.
   They can be seen online or on the printed Cycle Simcoe map that also lists points of interest.
   Sara Archer of Ride Guides navigates a rocky path in Horseshoe Valley’s Copeland Forest. (Jim Fox photo)
   Other trails include the Orillia Millennium from Wilson’s Point to the Narrows, separating lakes Couchiching and Simcoe, and taking in Tudhope Park, the Port of Orillia, Moose Beach and Portage Bay.
   The Ramara Trail starts at the native Mnjikaning fishing weirs and then follows the abandoned CN Rail Line.
   The Uhthoff Trail, part of the Trans-Canada link, crosses many streams and wetlands, starting at Wilson Point Road in Orillia and ending in Coldwater.

   Package deals
   Casino Rama offers the Tour de Fall package with the option to bring along your bikes and go it alone or opt for a guided tour with equipment provided, says Jenna Hunter, public relations director.
Casino Rama’s resort hotel offers the Tour de Fall cycling package through Oct. 31. (Barbara Fox photo)
   “Our hotel suites and elevators are large enough to fit two bicycles for easy access and peace of mind for overnight storage,” she said.
   The package, available until Oct. 31 with no blackout dates, includes a deluxe suite in the luxury hotel, valet parking and $10 free slot play for Players Passport Club members (free to join).
   There’s also a $100 resort credit that can be used at the on-site Balance in Life Spa and for dining including the acclaimed St. Germain’s Steakhouse, Cedar, The Willow Chinese and Simcoe Yard House.
   The package is $295 for a suite for two plus tax and $395 on nights when there is a show in the Entertainment Centre.
  Casino Rama’s Tour de Fall cycling package includes accommodation in a deluxe suite with fireplace and $100 resort credit. (Barbara Fox photo)
   To book the package and links to the spa and restaurants: casinorama.com/Stay/tourdefall; 1-800-832-PLAY (7529) Code: Fall Colours.

   Need to know
   - Details about fall colour tours: OntariosLakeCountry.com; 1-866-329-5959
   - Simcoe cycling routes: http://cyclesimcoe.ca
   - Ride Guides: rideguides.ca; (705) 241-9938

   Fall colour reports
   The Ontario Parks’ fall colour report is now live for the season at ontarioparks.com/fallcolour
   It provides the latest details about fall colour changes in some 60 participating Ontario Parks with a new provincial map and “peak-viewing” colour chart.
   There are suggestions on the best viewing locations as climatologists suggest this year’s colours could be the best in years. The peak season is from now through late October.

Jim Fox can be reached at onetanktrips@hotmail.com
For more One-Tank Trips: http://1tanktrips.blogspot.ca

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