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Cycling the Confederation Trail

by Anna Karpinski

Near Elmira (photo: Anna Karpinski)At the first blush of morning light we ride our bikes out to the trail. A thin fog lays low across rolling green fields and a bright orange sun rises up over the treeline. Purple and yellow wildflowers glisten with dew at our sides and birds serenade our passage.

Stretching for 273 km from Tignish to Elmira, the Confederation Trail is part of the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) network scheduled for completion on July 1st 2017. When finished it will span 23,000 kms from the Atlantic to the Pacific, crossing all of Canada’s provinces and territories. The TCT will be the longest trail of its kind in the world.

While many parts of Canada are working to complete their portions of the trail, the Island’s leg is ready to go. It is fairly flat—an ideal spot to get biking legs in gear.

My sister Vera (a two-time Ironman finisher) and I (a 5K run for fun finisher) take five days last summer to ride the PEI portion of the trail.

We set out from Tignish and within a few minutes all trace of town life slips away. The path is overcast in a hundred shades of green and the sun dances on the leaves. Not another soul around. It’s just the birds, the trees, the chipmunks and us.

At our first detour at Tim’s in O’Leary, we grab an afternoon coffee. Our bikes loaded with panniers and water bottles spark people’s curiosity about where we are going.

“Riding the trail,” they say and smile. “I’ve been meaning to do that. How is it?

“It’s amazing,” we say.

“Many people out there?”

“Just us so far.”

“I have to get my bike out of the garage,” they add and walk away wishing us a good ride.

This scenario repeats itself a dozen times before our trip is over.

We spend our mornings riding in pristine nature through shaded woods, farm fields, and crystal clear bays. In the afternoons we leave the trail behind, check into a hotel, explore the area and look forward to dinner.

We stay at the Jacques Cartier Suite at the Rodd Mill River, at Slemon Park, an army base converted to a hotel, at the luxurious Rodd Crowbush Golf Resort, at the beautiful Inn on Bay of Fortune and at the bright yellow East Point Beach Motel.

Each hotel is unique and offers different things to their guests. But landscape on the island is the star and the hotels we stay at and restaurants we eat at, all exhibit a great respect for the nature that surrounds them.

At the end of our trip, with our legs a little stronger and our minds a little clearer, we receive a free tip-to-tip certificate from the tourist center in Elmira stating we completed the 273 km trail ride in PEI. Now there is only 22, 272 kms left to explore.

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