Log Cabin Chronicles



TOMIFOBIA, QUEBEC | What a blessing a compromise in Tomifobia would be

The Tomifobia Nature Trail has generated plenty of press in the ongoing conflict between Ogden, Quebec, and trail developer Sentier Massawippi, of which I'm a member. However, I don't think I've read about anyone actually hiking or biking its length. So here goes.

My cycling pal and I took a 52 km ride in late August, travelling the 21 km trail from Ayer's Cliff to Beebe, then switching to country roads for our return.

We parked in the municipal parking lot in the centre of Ayer's Cliff and picked up the trail at the back of the lot. We were soon out of town, cycling on an easy-riding gravel surface for 7 kms.

The next 8 kms to the village of Tomifobia was passable on a hybrid or mountain bike, but not as pleasant. The path varied from a narrow, solid surface to a teeth-rattling rocky run.

What made the effort worthwhile, though, was the beauty of the trail. It is a nature lover's delight, leading deep into a wilderness valley flanked by gentle mountains. The landscape is reflected in the numerous ponds and marshes along the way.

Whenever the Tomifobia River straightens out long enough on its twisting run from Vermont to Lake Massawippi, the trail follows along the river bank. And so depending on the time of year, you can see wildlife such as turtles, great blue herons, green herons, osprey, or ducks.

When we arrived at the edge of the village of Tomifobia after 15 kms, we climbed up to Embury Road, where the trail ends abruptly. The former railway line obviously once ran under the road, but the tunnel is now blocked. A fence cuts off access to the trail on the other side of the road.

So we turned left off Embury and cycled through the village. Putting myself in the shoes of property owners there, some of whom oppose the trail, I began to understand their viewpoint.

Tomifobia is one of those rare villages remaining in the Townships that seems almost untouched by the 20th century. For one thing, I don't think there is one commercial sign along the main road. I felt like I had cycled back through time.

The beauty of the trail and its access to the United States would likely bring many cyclists through town, inevitably changing its character. For many people to want to prevent this is understandable, and its preservation is an asset to all of us no matter where we live.

Anyway, we still had to get to Beebe. Although we could see the trail as we cycled along Stanstead Road, there was no obvious public access, so we continued 2 kms through the village and eventually met the trail on the right. The path, filled with chunky rocks, was not inviting, so we began by walking our bikes. To our surprise, we were soon able to cycle again on a passable, though rough, path.

To our even greater surprise, the last 2 kms into Beebe consisted of a wide, smooth path that made for easy riding into town. We headed for lunch at Andrew's Café on Main Street.

After lunch, we left on the same road, Highway 247 N., passing the trail and climbing into the hills. The contrast between the morning and afternoon run was striking. I was now cycling on a newly paved road atop a hill, rather than rattling along deep in the wilderness. I felt like I was floating.

After 5 kms, we turned right onto Lapierre Road for a long descent, then turned left at the stop to go onto the Stanstead Road and cycle back through Tomifobia. We veered left at Embury, leaving the village to go onto Boynton Road.

Just after Boynton, we kept right at the fork in the road and had a pleasant road ride back to Ayer's Cliff.

Having seen the beauty of the Tomifobia Nature Trail and the unique quality of the village of Tomifobia, I wonder if some compromise between trail developers and opponents couldn't be reached by which the trail would bypass the village and stay a wilderness trail the whole way. Probably easier said than done, but maybe worthwhile to pursue.

Barbara Verity is a free-lance writer based in Lennoxville, Quebec.

RELATED STORY: A Bike Path Doesn't Run All The Way Through It

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