Entering the heart of Mennonite Country is like stepping into another century. There are indications that the modern day is upon us and yet the pace is decidedly slower. If you are looking for handmade quilts, custom made wood furniture, fresh baked goods or maple syrup, this is your destination.
The Mennonites settled in this area in 1805 and it is easy to believe little has changed since then, except for a new bridge over the Conestoga River. If you look to the west, a few older bridges that have fallen into disrepair are still visible. One road now simply ends at a front yard, but it is clear that it used to meet up with a bridge and cross over to the other side of the river.
This part of the trail is along Temperance Road, which seems appropriately named for the people that live along it. It’s trail status is poorly marked and I was going to say that it was unmarked, but I realized that this sign actually says, Trans Canada Trail on it, it is just so faded, I didn’t realize what it said. Not much direction is needed. You simply follow the road until it dumps onto another road. So as long as you can overcome the desire to turn off of it, you should be fine with or without legible signage.
Temperance Road is a gravel top road that is approximately two vehicles wide with drainage ditches running up both sides. There was little traffic on it the day that I walked it, except for the trucks servicing one small factory.
On the road, you are surrounded by countryside. The hilly rolling nature of the area provides great views and vistas of the farmland, river and patches of trees. Most of the farms are decidedly Mennonite and the architecture is quite distinct. Note the chimneys that are open to the air with a over to keep out the rain. Most of these properties do not have hydro lines going up to the property – house or barn.
If you want to learn how to save the environment these people still practise many of the old methods of farming including using horses to move farm equipment and buggies for people.
You know you are in Mennonite country when the signs warn of cars ahead. (very old fashioned cars, but cars none-the-less). This particular sign was warning of the intersection with the next arm of the walk. Temperance Road dumps onto Herrogott Road which is a black top two lane road that has a moderate but consistent amount of traffic on it. I do not like to walk down roads but this piece connects to the next part of the trail with is completely off road, so it is worth making due.
The sides of the road are quite wide, enough to accommodate two draft horses pulling a piece of farm equipment. Along this stretch I was passed by a few horses. One older couple actually pulled out onto the road to give me room to walk along the side of the road, away from traffic.
Along this stretch you will pass Wallenstein General Store and it is worth a visit. This store has books, fabric, a huge assortment of black, white and beige button up sweaters, tools, bulk grains, fresh baked goods, local and imported produce, luncheon meats, Keurig coffee, over the counter medications, frozen food and ice-cream. With the possible exception of electronics and iPhones, it seemed to have everything you could want. I bought a tray of pecan butter tarts and a very large beefsteak tomato, yes, it had the flavour I remember.
There are chairs and a bench to sit on out front and at the side of the building. It is a busy intersection, but not in the same way that a busy intersection feels in the city. While I sat I saw an eclectic mix of modern vehicles, buggies with horses, older women on bikes and pedestrians of all shapes and sizes.
Despite the bit of the walk along the road, this is a nice walk with great vistas, a glimpse of another way of living and access to some of the best hand made items you could find.