FoRT event inspires backyard adventures

By Darren Lum

Haliburton resident Sean Pennylegion will take people back in time to when the train was king in an upcoming talk presented by Friends of the Rail Trail.

It was during his cycling touring with wife Gwen when they rode their heavily laden touring bicycles on New Zealand’s 150 kilometre long Otago Central Rail Trail.

Pennylegion can still hear the cello play and the smell of sausages grilling on the barbecue when he got off the train. The restored wooden train with the tin ceiling led by a steam engine locomotive stopped in the small town of Middlemarch where they began their bike tour of the South Island inland trail that had that “Wild West feeling” with its moon-like terrain sparse vegetation and buildings that time forgot.

After the 70-kilometre train ride Pennylegion a vegetarian asked the griller for another option.
“I walked up to this guy and said ‘Do you have veggie sausages?’ The guy looked at me like I was from Mars and he said ‘What would be the point?’ And then he said ‘Next’” laughs Pennylegion.

He will be one of four speakers who rode and walked to a new experience who will share their perspective during the Slow Travel Local Flavours event at the Lochlin Community Centre on Wednesday Jan. 13 from 5 to 8 p.m. presented by Friends of the Rail Trail (FoRT) in partnership with TAG the committee developing the Toronto to Algonquin Greenway.

The speakers will not only reveal what they smelled heard and saw but what they discovered about the character of the places they visited.

Pennylegion’s ride on the non-motorized user trail from Middlemarch to Clyde was part of the couple’s four month New Zealand cycling tour – their second in as many years – in January 2008. They boarded and had their bicycles stowed on the restored train at the “gobsmacking” Dunedin Railway Station in Dunedin a community south of Christ Church.

The semi-retired Pennylegion 68 said the trail is mainly flat includes metal trestle bridges and tunnels which brought them to breathtaking vistas and close to a dozen significant communities where there are outfitters pubs boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts. The New Zealand government invested money in the trail to encourage tourism after the train stopped servicing these communities. It has been vital to keeping these communities alive.

The other speakers are Jewelle Schiedel-Webb who went on the El Camino de Santiago walk in Spain; Gerry Oxford who walked the 154 kilometre West Highland Way trail that starts in Milngavie and ends in Fort William Scotland; and Eric Lehman who biked the GAP (the Great Allegheny Passage) and the C&O Canal Towpath between Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh Pennsylvania which was the inspiration for the Haliburton event.

FoRT’s Pamela Marsales said the speakers’ experiences of travelling slowly through landscapes and communities discovering the character of the places they visited is the essence of slow travel which is an idea that grew out of the slow food movement.

The event also features a light buffet supper and cash bar. Event organizers have made great effort to include local food providers such as Haliburton Highlands Brewing who will have a few beers on tap.
Tickets are $14 and must be reserved in advance. Space is limited because of the venue (the community centre in Lochlin used to be a one-room schoolhouse).
This event is the first in a series of opportunities to build community around the Haliburton County Rail Trail this year. Sunday Rambles are returning this spring with talks and lunches as “Après” events. FoRT welcomes new and returning members – only $10 including non-members to events. Contact Pamela at 705-457-4767 or