Its been a number of years since I last visited Backus Woods, a 4300 acre old growth Carolinian forest, so I loaded up and drove the few minutes past Turkey Point to the trailhead a week ago. The trails here can be best described as unpolished rough-around-the-edges XC ski type trails. Its mostly wide singletrack that is fast and open that criss crosses a main fire-road through the property. The forest is a unique area that is home to many species of at-risk plants and wildlife and has some of the oldest living trees in Ontario.
The trail system is well marked with signposts along the way, telling a story of nearby plant or animal life. Each trail intersection also has a nicely detailed map to keep you on route. The Wetland Trail has a number of boardwalks along it taking you up and over the swampy areas.
There is no groomed singletrack out here, its rough cut mountain biking at its finest. Riding out here takes me back to when mountain biking was more about exploring and being in the outdoors than buff singletrack and strava times. Its the type of riding I did in my younger days, no worries of distance over time or shaving seconds off my last run, just good ole mountain biking.
The forest is full of gentle rolling hills, wetlands, a sugarbush, and a slow moving creek. You could create countless loops using the interconnected trails and main fire road to do a ride custom suited to your time / distance needs or spend most of the day winding through the woods and finding some gems that are not on the map.
At the south end of the forest is a rest area with a plaque outlining the restoration of the wild turkey population in Southern Ontario in 1984. The covered picnic tables are a perfect place for a break or a picnic.
Further south from the forest is the Backus Mill Conservation Center, a place with historical significance surrounding the War of 1812. The Backus Mill gristmill was built in 1798 and was in operation until 1957, one of the few that survived the War of 1812. The surrounding Heritage Village is also a unique look back to a simpler time. I remember coming here as a child during our "pioneer days" program in public school. We spent a day dressed as pioneer children, attending class at the old school house, then doing chores common for kids during that time period.
A quick jaunt to the opposite side of the mill pond will get you to the old pioneer cemetery. Its a bit of a creepy area with gravestones scattered along the hillside, many of which has been cracked from age.
After spending some time checking out the village and cemeteries, I got back on my bike and headed north to return to the trails. More time flew by as I wandered the trails back towards my truck, enjoying the solitude of being the only person out there. The only sounds were the light crunching of dried leaves under my tires and the occasional clang of my derailleur finding another gear.
I arrived back at my truck, with the 1800's miles behind me now. I'm really enjoying these exploration / adventure type rides that I've been doing recently. This one was particularly awesome because of the historical significance of the area. If you have never been to Backus Woods, its worth a shot, even if its for mostly exploring the history of the area and the riding is secondary.
The Bric...._ mountain biker, road rider, heavyweight gear abuser. Built like a brick sh*thouse. No bike is safe.