Adventurous hikers wishing to complete the Avon Trail end to end encounter logistic problems. How far to go in a day? How many days to hike? Where to find accommodation to stay if necessary along the trail?
At Kilometre 45.8, the crossroad of the Avon Trail and Stratford Side Trail, nestled at Lake McCarthy on Forest Road, sits the Forest Motel, an all-seasons accommodation. It is a great launching point for trail adventures, going east towards Amulree and Conostogo or south west towards St Marys.
At first blush the motel seems to be small but in fact it occupies 32 acres of woodlands, wetlands and water.
Kim and Conroy Schelhass have owned and operated the motel for the past 14 years. Each year the couple along with their two grown sons and daughter have added value to the guests in this woodland retreat. In the warmer months, guests can swim, canoe, kayak, or paddle boat with motel gear on the private lake. In the winter, snow shoes and cross-country skis are available for use.
Trails have been added that run through the protected forest available for guests to explore at this woodland retreat. The Forest Motel is home to over 60 species of birds and waterfowl. As well, 30 kinds of mammals, reptiles and fish can be discovered on the property.
BBQ grills are available for guest cooking. “If you are hiking sections of the Avon Trail, you can return in the evening and enjoy a cookout”, said Conroy. Rooms are equipped with fridge and freezer space.
Two electric vehicle charging stations are soon to be installed.
Conroy points out that the motel will provide non-guest hikers with access to a bathroom since there are few along the trail.
The Forest Motel land has a rich history. It was once owned by the Grand Truck Railway. Steam engines were resupplied with water from the lake.
“We can offer you nature and history” said Conroy. “But mostly we give you unique character”. With swans on the lake, song birds and birds of prey by day and owls at night, be sure to bring your camera.