Mount Stewart to Elmira…
In the eastern section, an 70.3 km. segment was completed in November 1996. It begins at the Canadian Heritage Rivers Monument 4 km below Mount Stewart at the head of the Hillsborough River and goes to Elmira, near East Point.The Hillsborough was designated in July 1997, the distinction being based upon the cultural and recreational values on this, the largest river system in the province. Mount Stewart was a major junction on the railway with connections to Charlottetown, Souris, Georgetown and Murray Harbour. To date only the Souris line has been developed. The trail continues across the main street in Mount Stewart opposite the visitor information kiosk. It quickly passes into the historic salt marshes bordering the Hillsborough River used by our ancestors for marsh hay for their animals.
St. Andrews, a National Historic Site dedicated to Bishop MacEachern, overlooks the trail to the north as it passes inland to higher ground between the river and the Island’s north shore. Bristol Pond is the first of the bridges on this section and is located just before the trail reaches the village of Morell. One of the most significant features of the trail in this province is that there is no real wilderness. There are frequent villages, all of which were served by the railway over the past century. (The PEI Railway/CN Railway operated here from 1875 to 1989.) Each of these stopping points offers accommodations, food and services for the trail traveller.
Morell is the starting point for one the very few stretches of trail to follow the shoreline. Passing out of the village, one crosses the Morell River on a 235 foot long bridge, a structure which had a swing section in operation well into this century. The gears used for that function are still in evidence on the round pier under the structure. From here the trail winds along the coves and headlands of St. Peters Bay where Greenwich sand dunes, the new adjunct to the PEI National Park, are visible on the opposite side. Bridges also cross the Marie and Midgell Rivers where one has wonderful vistas into the estuaries and across the Bay. Shorebirds like the great blue heron and the kingfisher are common sights. The blue mussel fishing industry is also very evident from the trail with many boats among the neat rows of buoys up and down the bay.
Approaching the head of the bay, one is aware of the dominance of St. Peters Church long before reaching the Village of St. Peters. St. Peters Park and campground is located adjacent to the trail just before entering the village. This is the departure point for those wishing to see the Greenwich peninsula at closer hand. Following the trail, one comes quickly to a bridge over the St Peters River. From there the trail passes inland, crossing the main highway into woodland at Five Houses. The remainder of the trail is approximately in the centre of the peninsula that terminates at East Point and despite that, the surrounding terrain is quite varied. It crosses many wetlands indicating the headwaters of several rivers, flowing either north or south. Larkins Pond provides a large open area and an opportunity to see Canada geese and other waterfowl in season. The bridge across the pond was recycled from a problem area over a road and looks like an original structure. Beavers in this sector have been a problem where they obstruct waterflow and cause washouts. Some of their lodges are visible from the trail. The woodland habitat from this point rises into uplands where numerous grouse and the occasional owl are seen and where hardwoods are resplendent in season. They form a full canopy over the trail in summer. Roads are crossed frequently which lead either to the north shore highway and such places as the fishing port at Naufrage or to the main road to the south.
“At Harmony Junction the trail unceremoniously divides with paths going south to the Town of Souris or continuing east to Elmira. Taking the eastern option, wetlands, hardwoods and farmland alternate all the way to Elmira, the terminus of the trail. Some of the roads crossed lead south to Black Pond Wildlife Preserve, Basin Head Fisheries Museum and Red Point Provincial Park, not to mention many fine beaches. The last station on the line at Elmira has been restored into a railway museum with artifacts and some collected history of railway life in the area. By road at this point, one is only a few kilometres from the lighthouse at East Point, one of the better places on PEI for viewing migratory waterfowl.”