Among the many unforeseen effects of COVID-19, people returning outdoors in surprising abundance were at or near the top of the welcome list.
When indoor entertainment venues closed over two years ago and overseas travel became taboo, people looked out the window and were reminded that leisure activities didn’t have to start and end. finish on a screen.
Bicycle sales are taking off. Camping reservations have exploded. Canoe trips had to be booked months in advance. Golf courses and tennis courts filled up. Just like the walking and hiking trails.
We’re reminded of all of this as summer arrives for its third pandemic season, kicked off by the May long weekend.
And for the first time since COVID hit, the Trent-Severn Waterway is open on time over the long weekend.
The TSW is not Peterborough’s, but that’s how it is. It stretches nearly 400 kilometers from Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay through a number of communities that welcome the tourists it brings and use it as their own recreation area.
But Peterborough is the largest of those communities. And it’s the gateway to the Kawartha Lakes, the most scenic section of the waterway. And it’s home to the Lift Lock, a one-of-a-kind historical artifact and engineering feat that’s the route’s most recognized attraction.
Paddlers and boaters don’t really need the locking system. The annual opening is, however, a reminder that the water is there and waiting to be explored.
Put on Monaghan Road in Peterborough and head south and there is open water all the way to Hastings. From Lakefield Marina, head north to the open waters and scenic shoreline of Katchewanooka, Clear and Stoney Lakes with a single lock at scenic Burleigh Falls. Bridgenorth is the starting point that opens Chemong, Buckhorn and Pigeon lakes.
You are not a boater? Most of the same area can be enjoyed from the seat of a bicycle.
The PeterboRoutes cycling map offers eight fairly short and not too hilly routes that stay close to the city and immediate surroundings. First-timers can practice here before hitting the Peterborough and Kawarthas routes, well-marked rural routes on country roads and trails ranging from 45 to 100 kilometres.
Camping, whether you drive in and set up a tent or paddle to a site close to the wilderness, has become so popular over the past couple of summers that it’s been hard to find space. That’s less true now, especially if you can go mid-week.
The pandemic is easing, once again. Everyone is hoping that the predictions of a new wave in the fall will turn out to be wrong; there is no need to hope that interest in outdoor recreation will continue regardless – people can make it happen.
Late spring and early summer, once you get outside and look around, has a certain fall feel to it. The palette may be all green, but it ranges from almost bright yellow to forest that deepens, shifting from one scale to another as the leaves come out and then ripen.
The health benefits of being in nature – “forest bathing” has become a popular term – are well documented. The pandemic pushed many newbies into this healing environment for the first time and reminded others of what they were missing.
It would be a shame to turn around now. Summer is here. Keep heading outside, stay safe and enjoy the view.