The Durham Destroyer routes have been some of my favourite days on the saddle, so when I heard that a special one-of-a-kind commemorative mug would be available to the first male and female to finish all three routes in 2021, the challenge was on.
With a full summer schedule, my race window for The Full Monty was one weekend in late June, followed by another window almost a month later.
Beyond the tangible motivation of the commemorative mug, the Full Monty was also going to be my first self-supported bikepacking trip.
As the days ticked down, the weather didn’t want to play nice, with 50-100mm of torrential downpours predicted, every bit of my rational mind told me to throw in the towel and stay home.
To say I was disappointed was an understatement, to the point that I was searching from Windsor to west, the Sault to the north, and Quebec in the east for an alternate.
This weekend was planned for riding, and riding is what I wanted to do.
By the time Thursday rolled around, “T” minus one day to bikepacking weekend, the weather everywhere only got worse, and the decision had to be made, throw caution to the wind and ride, or risk a weekend of regret, and pack it in.
To keep a long story short, don’t trust the weatherman, don’t trust him even the day of, NEVER cancel your plans because of the forecast, if you do, my experience has always been the forecast will be wrong, and even if it’s not, it’ll never be as bad as you thought it would be.
You can read about my other Durham Destroyer rides here:
- Durham Destroyer – The Rookie – March 2021 Ride Report
- 2021 Durham Destroyer – I’m Not Worthy Ride Report
- 2021 Norco Search XR C2 vs 2014 Rocky Mountain Vertex 930 on the Durham Destroyer
Before I get too deep into it, let’s get some of the important stuff out of the way.
The Full Monty is advertised as a 302km single to multiday adventure that starts in Port Perry, passing through Claremont, Uxbridge, Cannington, Fenelon Falls, Bobcaygeon, and back. After a hilly start into Uxbridge, the route appears much flatter the rest of the way.
Parking – For weekend day trips, I usually park at SA Cawker Public School. I struggled to source overnight parking, eventually managing to luck out when friends of the family offered to take my car in.
Elevation Profile – The Durham Destroyer site lists 2,894m of climbing over 302km. You’ll notice that my Garmin recorded almost 800m less, but after talking to the route planner I highly suspect the barometric altimeter underestimated the gain during the torrential downpours I experienced south of Uxbridge.
Speed Profile – The route plays fast with not too many sandy or technical sections to slow you down.
Route Profile – Mainly gravel roads with some single and double track south of Uxbridge, quite a bit of excellent rail trail leading into Fenelon Falls, and only a bit of connecting asphalt on some relatively busy roads.
Safety Profile – For the most part, it was great save for a few km’s of asphalt I traversed Friday rush hour south of Claremont.
Stores – Plentiful throughout, with options generally at least every 40km, the only main gap being the 80km stretch from Port Perry to Claremont, noting that the freshwater springs are located along that gap.
Favourite Part – Persevering through two hours of torrential downpours leading into Uxbridge.
Least Favourite Part – Getting caught in two hours of torrential downpours leading into Uxbridge.
My Stats – 317.5km, 2,090m climbing, 16.5 hours moving time.
Where to Stay
Some people may be able to complete this in a day, and most should be able to complete it in two; I chose three, mainly due to the way camping worked out.
Being new to bikepacking, my biggest challenge leading into the weekend was where to stay, and quite honestly, due to COVID, there weren’t many options.
My first hope was to pitch my tent at a trailer park, including one option in Sunderland about 120km in, but that and every other trailer park on the route gave a hard “NO” due to COVID. Update, Robyn from a Facebook group I follow noted that Log Chateau Park did allow her to overnight camp when she recently completed the loop, she noted that although not all spots were dry she did manage to find one, and the showers were awesome.
My second thought was to start early on Saturday, push hard for 180km to Fenelon Falls where you can camp at most of the locks on the Trent for next to nothing, once again, another hard “NO” due to COVID. The lockmaster did confirm, only boaters, not bikers, are allowed to camp so far this year.
The final option was stealth camping, but being new to this whole bikepacking thing, that just felt way too nerve-wracking for me, so I finally decided to stay at friends in Uxbridge while also managing to find a unique place to stay via HipCamp north of Fenelon Falls, The Hobbit House.
With the forecasted rain, and roofed accommodations, the tent was left at home, and the true bikepacking experience was over.
If you’re interested in reading about what I packed for this adventure, you can check out, Packing for a Two Night Bikepacking Adventure.
Day 1 – Port Perry to Uxbridge – 100.5km
As I woke up on Friday morning, I checked the weather one last time, and although it wasn’t perfect, I had hope. Friday showed clear skies till about 8 at night, light rain all day Saturday with thunderstorms late afternoon, and the same for Sunday with an even higher chance of thunderstorms throughout the day.
I hoped Friday would hold, and Saturday and Sunday would at least be on the good side of bad, so off I went.
From Scugog Line 8, the route snakes across various gravel roads before passing this particular photogenic scene about 17km in, located on Gray Side Road just south of Utica.
From there, more gravel roads, including a quick spin by Chalk Lake, located just west of Lakeridge Ski Resort and the freshwater springs located at the corner of Chalk Lake Road and Lakeridge Road, a perfect spot to top up your water bottles before the 40km push into Claremont.
Just after the spring, the first of three trail sections south of Uxbridge begin.
This first a 4km stretch of double track leading to Concession 7, followed by a much longer 16km stretch of double track and overgrown hiking trail through Glen Major and Walkers Woods, and finally a brief 4km stretch through the Uxbridge Town Trails.
The devastation caused by this year’s Gypsy Moths was beyond imagination.
Leaving Durham Forest, it was back to more gravel.
It was past this rail bridge on Westney Road that things went wrong. As I mentioned earlier, there was a slight chance of rain on Friday, with the heavy stuff not beginning till 8.
By 4:30, I was only 40km in, and the sky’s opened up with a relentless downpour of rain following me for the final 50km into Uxbridge, it started fun, but by mid-way through, it was soul-destroying.
In fact, thirty km’s later, I checked the weather, saw that Saturday went from bad to worse, called my wife and told her I was done, that I was finding the quickest way back to the car, and would be home by nightfall.
It just a bit later, at the turn back to Port Perry and my dry, warm car home, that a simple thought entered my mind, “don’t trust the weatherman.” They were wrong today, so why can’t they be wrong tomorrow. That I made it this far, through the worst weather I can imagine, and how much it would suck if I gave up, only to wake up to sunny skies on Saturday.
And how true this one thought would be, inspired by something I believe David Goggins once said, the suffering I’m feeling now is fleeting, in only a few minutes, hours, or at worst days, it will all be over, but if I quit, that feeling of knowing I gave up will last a lifetime.
And it’s funny because looking back, you may have noticed that both my best and my worst memory from this weekend was that pain, suffering, and sense of accomplishment that I experienced by persevering through that two hours of hell.
50km later, I arrived in Uxbridge, where I enjoyed one and two-thirds of the, recently discovered, surprisingly amazing, gluten-free pizza at Dominos.
I would like to thank my friends in Uxbridge for COVID proofing their walk-in basement and taking me in Friday night. As you can see below, my bike was a disaster, and I was even worse.
I’d be very curious to know what seasoned bikepackers do when they don’t have access to showers or lakes after a hard and muddy day of riding.
Please comment below or direct message me.
Day 2 – Uxbridge to The Hobbit House – 115km
Going to bed Friday night, I didn’t know what to expect; my final check of the forecast was not inspiring to say the least. Then I woke up Saturday, and everything was better, with dry skies forecasted till noon, and a light rain afterwards, a walk in the park compared to yesterday.
From a perfect chain at the start of the day on Friday to a rusty disaster when I woke up on Saturday, probably my best packing decision all weekend was a small vial of lube that helped clean things up and carried me through the weekend.
The first 10km out of Uxbridge followed the Beaver River Wetlands Trail before turning onto Marsh Hill Road.
After leaving the wetlands, the Full Monty then takes you through about 35km of mainly gravel roads, similar to the shot below, into Cannington.
Cannington was the perfect opportunity to stop and refuel before the push towards Fenelon Falls.
I recalled recently seeing an Instagram post about Holy Grounds Cafe and decided to check them out.
Their breakfast was nothing short of amazing, with three eggs, two pieces of gluten-free bread, sausage, bacon, ham, and some of the best home fries I think I’ve ever had.
I definitely see myself planning a future route or two that includes breakfast at Holy Grounds.
After leaving Cannington, it was back to the gravel with another 35km stretch into Cameron.
Halfway through, I passed this Amish Bakery, which I really wanted to check out; however, I didn’t think to bring cash, and tap wasn’t going to be an option. The friendly stranger I talked to out front did mention that their bread is amazing and probably worth a stop for anyone passing by.
It was now 11am, about when the rain was supposed to begin, only it didn’t, so once again, don’t trust the weatherman.
The gravel roads leading into Cameron.
Entering the Town of Cameron, your first true refuelling opportunity east of Cannington.
From Cameron into Fenelon Falls, The Full Monty follows the Victoria Rail Trail for about 12km.
This stretch of railtrail is some of the best I can recall, hard-packed, fast and perfectly flat the entire way through. Normally I get bored very quickly on railtrail, after the hills of yesterday and the rolling hills of today, it felt amazing.
It was just a few hundred meters before entering Fenelon Falls that I encountered this scene below.
At first, I drove by, then decided to circle back, with thoughts of what are these supposed to be “trail angels” or something more sinister.
As this thought crossed my mind, I heard what sounded like a gunshot, followed shortly thereafter by loud voices. I realized these weren’t angels but some sort of warning, so I hopped back on my bike, pedalled fast for a few hundred meters, arrived at a road, and paused to watch an ambulance very slowly pass me by.
I’m not sure what happened, the ambulance was definitely taking its time, so my best guess, and hope, was perhaps a bear was up to no good, and a warning shot or something of the sort was fired.
And with that, welcome to Fenelon Falls.
With only 115km planned, and nothing to do once arriving at the Hobbit House, I decided to kill some time eating Kawartha Dairy from the Ice Cream Parlour seen in the top left, talking to the lockmaster who confirmed bikers are not currently allowed, FaceTiming my kids the locks in action, and eating a souvlaki dinner from greek hot plate just down the street.
While eating dinner, the rain returned, once again another brief five to ten-minute spell.
The Victoria Rail trail continues for about 10km north of Fenelon Falls, with the northern section being just as perfect as the southern section.
After exiting the trail, the Full Monty then follows about 22km of gravel roads into Bobcaygeon. It was a little over halfway through this stretch that I arrived at my night two accommodations as found on hipcamp, The Hobbit House.
You can read my full review by searching for the Hobbit House on hipcamp, but I’ll sum it up like this, the house is a very unique experience that has the potential to be awesome.
The good – it’s a real hobbit house with a real Lord of the Rings feel, located on very private land fully secluded from the owner, who was a very gracious host, the outhouse was one of the cleanest I can recall.
The bad – although it may be a hobbit house, I had hoped it would be cleaner inside with a proper dusting and sweep before I arrived. There is a swimming hole, and it’s exactly that, a recently dug out hole with water, so expectations need to be set accordingly. Finally, the house isn’t fully sealed, so some creepy crawlies did get in.
This is a unique place that could appeal to the right person or completely turn off the wrong one. I was somewhere in between.
Durham Destroyer – Full Monty – Day 1 and 2 Wrap-Up
I’ve said it already, and I’ll say it one last time, don’t trust the weatherman.
I could have easily not started or given up after day 1, and if so, I would have lived with that regret forever; instead, I persevered and, looking back, loved every moment of it.
With only 100km to go and the weatherman now forecasting hot, humid sunny skies with a chance of thunderstorms, things were looking up, and I was ready for tomorrow.
Thanks for reading,
Click Here For – Part 2 – The Full Monty – Bobcaygeon to Port Perry