The County Camino
(aka The Prince Edward County Millennium Trail)
I recently celebrated a significant personal milestone by completing the entire Prince Edward County Millennium Trail – by foot. Woohoo!
The 46-km trail runs along an abandoned railway line from Carrying Place in the northwest corner of Prince Edward County (just south of the Murray Canal) to the east end of Picton on Highway 49, plus the 2 km ‘spur’ that runs off the main trail into the west end of Picton. That’s a total of 48 km. I walked the trail in random sequence, preferring to hopscotch back and forth along the trail’s 23 ‘official’ sections. (Spoiler alert: there are actually 24 sections.) I started on October 11, 2021, and finished on July 8, 2022, having walked a total of 96 km – out and back for each section. And I recorded the entire walk with my trusty SONY cameras.
The Millennium Trail’s abandoned railway line has its own story. It started in 1879 as the Prince Edward County Railway that ran from Trenton to the west end of Picton. That morphed into the Central Ontario Railway (COR) in 1882 with an extension of the line into northern Hastings County to service the rapidly expanding gold and ore mines. The COR merged with the Canadian Northern Railway in 1911, which in turn became part of the nationalized Canadian National Railways (CNR) in 1923. In 1955, a 5.6 km extension was built from the west end of Picton to the Bethlehem Steel ore docks on Picton Harbour to accommodate daily 35-car ore trains from the Marmoraton open-pit mine in Marmora. The mine closed in 1978. The CNR continued to serve Prince Edward County sporadically, including occasional trains to the Lake Ontario Cement plant next to the now-defunct ore docks. The entire CNR line from Trenton to Picton was closed in 1995 and the track was lifted in 1996. In 1997, the County of Prince Edward bought the abandoned line for use as a recreation trail. A very wise investment indeed!
So, what’s this about “The County Camino”?
I have long wanted to walk the Camino de Santiago – aka, The Way of Saint James – that runs from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, on the French side of the Pyrenees, for 780 km to the cathedral city of Santiago in northwestern Spain. The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Santiago contains a shrine honouring the apostle Saint James the Great. For centuries, pilgrims have walked the Camino de Santiago as an act of veneration and contemplation. It is the most popular of Europe’s many pilgrimage routes. Medieval pilgrims in Europe began walking these routes as a substitute for longer and more dangerous pilgrimages to Jerusalem. In the last thirty years, the Camino de Santiago has become popular with thousands of contemporary pilgrims who may not be Roman Catholic, but who are searching for renewal in their lives and answers to their profound questions.
I have always found long walks to be a source of contemplation and clarity. As Saint Augustine is thought to have said c 400 CE, “Solvitur ambulando” – “It is solved by walking.” Ever since I accompanied my father on his daily walks on our farm when I was a child, I have been smitten by the power of walking to sooth and illuminate.
Little wonder, therefore, that I enjoy walking Prince Edward County’s Millennium Trail. What a gift to the community it is! In my mind, it is “The County Camino” – my very own pilgrim’s trail. How wonderful it would be if there were others who shared this re-imagining of our Millennium Trail. I’m also thinking about how to create a pocket-guide to the Millennium Trail for people to carry with them on walks. Please contact me if you would like to discuss these ideas.
In the meantime, some photographs:
Below are photographs from each of the Millennium Trail’s 23 sections, one photo per section. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed collecting them over the last ten months.
Section 1 – County Road 49 (near Parson Brewery) to Johnson Street (County Road 5, Picton)). Length: 2.4 km
Section 2 – Johnson Street (County Road 5) to Talbot Street (County Road 4, Picton). Length: 1.3 km
Section 3 – Talbot Street (County Road 4) to Loyalist Parkway (Highway 33, Picton). Length: 0.9 km
Section 4 – Loyalist Parkway (Highway 33) to Sandy Hook Road (Picton). Length: 1.0 km
Section 5 – Sandy Hook Road to Lake Street (Picton). (The ‘spur’ into Picton.) Length: 2.1 km
Section 6 – Sandy Hook Road to County Road 32 (Bloomfield). Length: 2.9 km
Section 7 – County Road 32 to Stanley Street (County Road 12, Bloomfield). Length: 1.4 km
Section 8 – Stanley Street (County Road 12) to Wesley Acres Road (Bloomfield). Length: 1.5 km
Section 9 – Wesley Acres Road to Loyalist Parkway (Highway 33, Bloomfield/Wellington). Length: 3.8 km
(I grew up where the trail crosses Highway 33.)
Section 10 – Loyalist Parkway (Highway 33) to Conley Road (Wellington). Length: 2.6 km
Section 11 – Conley Road to Belleville Street (County Road 2, Wellington). Length: 2.0 km
Section 12 – Belleville Street (County Road 2) to Consecon Street (Wellington). Length: 2.4 km
Section 13 – Consecon Street to Greer Road (Wellington). Length: 3.2 km
Section 14 – Greer Road to Danforth Road (Hillier).
Length: 1.0 km
Section 15 – Danforth Road to Benway Road (Hillier).
Length: 1.9 km
Section 16 – Benway Road to Closson Road (Hillier).
Length: 1.0 km
Section 17 – Closson Road to Station Road (Hillier).
Length: 1.7 km
Section 18 – Station Road to Palmer Burris Road (Hillier). Length: 2.3 km
Section 19 – Palmer Burris Road to County Road 1 (Hillier). Length: 1.7 km
Section 20 – County Road 1 to Lakeside Drive (Consecon). Length: 1.8 km
Section 21A – Lakeside Drive to Loyalist Parkway (Highway 33, Consecon). Length: 2.1 km
Section 21B – Loyalist Parkway (Highway 33) to Blakely Road (Consecon). Length: 2.0 km
Section 22 – Blakely Road to Smokes Point Road (Gardenville). Length: 2.5 km
Section 23 – Smokes Point Road to County Road 64/Fort Kente Road (Carrying Place). Length: 2.7 km