The 12th annual Great Waterfront Trail Adventure is marking its first official ride in northern Ontario. It began Monday morning at the Roberta Bondar Park in Sault Ste. Marie and will end in Sudbury on August 1.

"Everybody knows that northern Ontario is a great place to camp, it’s a great place to fish, it’s a great place to boat, but we want to put it on the map as a great place to cycle," said Marlaine Koehler, executive director of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust.

About 150 cyclists from across Canada and the United States will ride 450 kilometres through 23 communities and three First Nations in northern Ontario over six days.

Bev MacDougall, who is originally from Sarnia-Lambton in southwestern Ontario, has been doing this ride for four years. She said it’s something she looks forward to every summer.  

“We’ve developed a circle of friends that we reconnect with each summer. I’m a big trail advocate, a real public health advocate, and I think it’s important to stay fit and healthy in your community,” said MacDougall.

Cyclists ride about five to six hours each day with a break in between for lunch.

To prepare, MacDougall said she and her husband started training in Florida in March and continued training once they returned to their hometown.

“We ride 55 km maybe two or three times a week in our own community, but because it’s flat in Lambton County, it’s going to disadvantage us for the hills of northern Ontario. But we’re up for it,” said MacDougall.

The Waterfront Regeneration Trust hosts this ride every year to promote active living in Ontario and to showcase the charity’s progress on creating a trail that connects all the communities along the Great Lakes.

This year’s ride marks the completion of a four-year program to expand the 3,000 km Great Lakes Waterfront Trail along the North Channel of Lake Huron.

Organizers say it’s the first provincially-recognized cycling route in northern Ontario.

“I think when people live in the North, they forget that the rest of us kind of have a magical connection to northern Ontario,” said Koehler, who is originally from Sault Ste. Marie. “You offer a tour like this, a trail that people can ride on forever and ever, because it’s permanently signed and mapped, it allows people to reconnect to those memories and remember these great places.”