Category Archives: Hiking

From Caledon Hills to Limehouse: End-to-End with the Bruce Trail Toronto Club (Day 1)

1-IMG_1853The Bruce Trail Conservancy’s Toronto Club End-to-End expected hikers to complete about 50 Km over two consecutive days. (There was a one-day option, but I decided to forego this ultra distance which would take me 10 hours of walking and took it easy instead.) My group met at Limehouse in Halton Hills. This small community of about 500 people were still asleep when we arrived. There were over ninety participants in this event and we were taken by bus to the start point which divided the Toronto Club section from the Caledon Club section.

The first lag was the paved asphalt surface of Credit View Road and then Boston Hill Road. We were flanked on both sides by farmland. We passed a cornfield and an orchard.  We walked over a kilometre before entering into the trail.

The footing and the trail surface changed as soon as we were in the woodland.

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It was more shaded, but it also meant more obstacles. Some trees that had fallen across the trail were there for us to walk over or duck under. I negotiated three such tree trunks within a short distance. I felt like a horse jumping over hurdles in a steeple chase.

This section soon ended and we were back on the road of Heritage Road, which led into the Caledon Trailway.

The Trailway had an old rail buried under it. It reminded me of the Rail Trail in Hamilton that I frequented. As another hiker remarked, “Once you’ve seen a rail trail, you’ve seen them all.”

After exiting the Trailway, we entered some private property by climbing over a stile, and out again, but not before we saw many apples by the roadside. They were likely from apples trees of an abandoned orchard in an area close to the Terra Cotta Conservation Area.

The forest is a mixture of deciduous and evergreen tree. This is  the military formation of tree planting.

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We had walked over 10Km and was glad to reach the first check point near Vaughan Road for some snacks. Leaving the Terra Cotta Conservation Area, we entered the Silver Creek Conservation Area for a totally different challenge and scenery.

This was also a very rocky section on high elevation.

I suddenly realized that I had been here before, when I came to this narrow rocky section. I was here in early spring here when it was still covered in ice and snow on what I called a treacherous hike.

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We were hiking by Silver Creek and the sound of the running water accompanied us for some distance. This was a well-maintained section by the volunteers of the Bruce Trail. We came across many bridges like this one.

One more rocky patch and the second checkpoint was in sight.

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This also meant out of the woods into more urban area of the trail. The remaining hike went through the grounds of Scotdale Farm, road ways and finally the Limestone parking lot was in sight.

Day 1 was now completed and we had accomplished 28 Km. The weather was most co-operative. What we needed was a relaxing bath and a good night sleep to recover for the following day.

Reference: The hike followed Maps 13 and 14 of the Bruch Trail Maps and Trail Guide Edition 27.

Hiking in Hockley Valley

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The Bruce Trail in Ontario is divided into nine sections, each of which is maintained by volunteers from the local areas. I often hike in the Iroquia and Niagara regions, which are the two southernmost sections of the Trail. For a change, my hike today is at Hockley Valley of the Caledon Section.

We enter the trail by walking up an incline, and there is a sign indicating that this trail has a friendship counterpart in Korea.

The Hockley Valley is known as a popular resort–golfing in summer and skiing in winter. From the trail, we can see the ski runs looking green but deserted at this time of the year.

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It is a hot day, but the trail is shaded. It seems to be so as we move further into the forest away from the farms. But first, we say hello and goodbye to the cattle fenced behind the trees.

I notice that the trees are a mix of deciduous and pine. The predominance of pine means that we are north of the Carolinian forest that I often see hiking further south of the province.

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We enter Tom East Side Trail. There is a narrow water way along the trail, but it does not look like a natural stream. Our experienced hike leader explains that this is a ditch dug single- handedly by the wife Tom East, Isabel, when she was in her seventies. Both husband and wife were avid hikers and contributed much to the Bruce Trail. The ditch is meant to drain water away from the higher grounds to avoid flooding. There is also a side trail named after Isabel, except that we are not hiking there this time.

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Our route takes us to Glen Cross Side Trail and Snell Side Trail, and we hike on the Main Trail (Bruce Trail) in between. We cross several streams, and we seldom walk over as many bridges or board walk as this morning.

We come to an open field. The ski hills are now in a distant in a different direction.

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Fortunately we do not have to walk too long in the sun and we are back into the forest again. Tall trees and running water again.
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You may wonder if we take any breaks. Indeed we do for a hike of 13 to 14 Km like this morning. Besides a half hour lunch break, we take water breaks after walking up a hill, and quite often when we pause to examine unusual flora.

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This is the Indian Pipe, a native plant.

This is even more unusual. Nobody knows how it gets here in the first place.

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The grand finale is a panoramic view of the Valley and we can see the Hockley Valley Resort Hotel in the heart of the valley. We also notice a hint of red among the green leaves. We are counting our summer hikes before we begin to hike for the Fall colours.

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(My dear readers, I am away from home in Ottawa at the moment, and work has kept me too busy from blogging. I am glad I find the draft of this post, and surely I must publish this, because the colours of the trees are changing fast. Thank you for dropping by!)

Hendrie Valley Trails: An Ecological Haven

I had been wanting to go back to do a longer walk since my last visit to the trails in the Royal Botanical Gardens. I made it back at the end of the summer. This was what I found  when I entered the grounds from Valley Inn Road with my walking group. The Laking Garden, which normally attracted many bird watchers, seemed quiet.

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It gave us a serene start to our walk without the fowls fluttering on the surface of the water. We had the calming reflections all to ourselves.

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We entered  Grindstone Marshes Trail. It was unpaved, but footing was good. I think the trail is so named because there are thick marshes bordering the footpath.

The vegetation was so tall that anyone walking on the boardwalk and the bridge would find it hard to distinguish whether it was water or ground underneath the weeds and marshes.

One of us with a keen eye spotted a flattened patch and pointed out to us that probably a herd of deer had gone over this area.

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Grindstone Marsh Trail joined North Bridle Trail. We left the marshland and were now walking on narrow paths. We tried to look out for the much publicized bald eagles and their nest, but they were nowhere in sight. The Royal Botanical Garden was careful not to specify their exact location in view of public interests in this rare specie. The path took us to Creek Side Walk which ran along Grindstone Creek.

There was more uphill and downhill in this area but on a late summer day like this we were well protected from the sun. We emerged from Creek Side Walk to the residential area along Unsworth Avenue, where we could follow the city streets to end our walk.

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A Canal Hike on the Merritt Trail

My last encounter with the Welland Canal was on the Laura Secord Hike and only then did I learn that there were several canals in Welland, although not all of them were fully in operation. I therefore joined the Canal Hike of my local hiking club, -the Iroquoia Club of the Bruce Trail Conservancy, to find out more.

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We car-pooled and our starting point was at Port Robinson in St. Catharines. Ahead of us was a paved trail which ran beside the Canal. The lift bridge was in sight.

This is a big structure and I think it is interesting to have this industrial structure standing beside the green trail.

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At the lift bridge, we turned into a smaller trail which took us further up the canal and here we saw torrents of water raging downstream. Here we crossed over the bridge to the other side of the Canal.

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Back to paved roads and trail and we were heading in the direction of St. Catharines.

It was here that we discovered that the trail was closed due to reconstruction, and our hike leader had to change our plan to turn around and hike back. We passed the lock again with its rushing water.

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Once passed it, we were also able to enjoy again the calmness of the canal and the serenity of the trail.

You may have read about my fascination with lift bridges, and with this shot, we walked back to Point Robinson. We completed this hike  of 13 Km which was mostly paved trails. This is a leisurely hike recommend to anyone who does not want too much exertion.

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An Ecological Walk in the Royal Botanical Gardens

The Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System is Canada’s newest urban ecopark. It is ‘urban’, because it is situated in a fast growing residential and re-developed area between Burlington and Hamilton in Ontario. It is an ‘ecopark’, because it is an area designed to preserve, restore and protect the natural lands in this western part of the province. It has taken seven years of planning and the Park has been open since June this year. Work is still continuing to reconnect the natural areas in this region that have been fragmented by roads, rail tracks that has come into existence as a result of urbanization.

I enter from Cherry Hill Gate on Plains Road in Burlington, and I am in the grounds of the Royal Botanical Gardens.

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In front of me is a downhill trail and I cannot believe that the air already breathes cleaner and fresher once I walk into the shades . A colony of chipmunks has been breeding in this area and they take no notice of people when they scurry across the trail and in and out of their burrows, with their dollar-size openings on the grounds.

Fallen trees are kept as long as they do not create an obstacle on the trail.

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I take an incline–unpaved, with exposed roots but firm footing–and turn into an area of marshland.

The water may look mirky, but the marshland is home to many species of insects and wild life. I feel pretty lucky to spot a muskrat and get a picture of it.

Crossing the boardwalk, I arrive at a big pond rich in vegetation, like the water lilies. Take a closer look and one can see many insects such as water roaches, dragon flies and many others that I wish I could give their names.

My walk today is short loop from Cherry Hill Gate, and take up part of the North Bridle Trail, and then Grindstone Marsh Trail to return to Hendrie Park of the Royal Botanical Gardens. It is an easy forty-five minutes’ reconnaissance stroll. I’ll be back for more.

Hiking on Toronto Islands

If you are looking for a place for a walk or hike in downtown Toronto, you should go to Toronto Islands. Toronto Islands are a group of small islands off Toronto Harbour. The islands are off-limits to public traffic and are accessible only by ferries from the pier at the base of Bay Street, south of Union Station.

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This is where our journey begin. My hiking group takes the vehicular ferry, which carries services vehicles and cyclists across to Hanlan’s Point. I look back at the city and get a good view of how the CN Tower dominates the skyline. The sky is blue and it is a beautiful day for a hike.

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We approach the Hanlan’s Point docking area and on landing, the statute of Edward Hanlan in his swimming trunk and holding his rowing paddle greets us to his home. (I have since looked up on who Hanlan was. He won five world sculling championships consecutively between 1880 and 1884 and therefore probably deserved to be remembered by this larger than life-size statue.)

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Our group head across the grass towards the sandy path which takes us to Hanlan’s Point Beach.

During this hike, we either walk on the beach on the south side Centre Island, the biggest of the islands or keep to any path that runs along the shore, which sadly has taken the toll of erosion due to its exposure. Slabs of stone are piled up on some beaches to break up the waves as a preventative measure.

When we reach the “clothing optional area” (aka the nudist section of Hanlan’s Point Beach), we hurry on so as not to disturb the naturists who are sunbathing on the beach. To be honest, I much prefer the view towards the horizon.

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We are back walking on the path (Lakeshore Avenue) and shortly after we pass Gilbraltar Point Lighthouse, the look-out pier is in sight with its stone dyke –another measure to protect the shoreline.

This is time for a break–we stroll on the viewing platform and enjoy our packed lunch by the ponds in the garden.

Then it is time to pick up the pace again. It is a pleasant walk on the Broadwalk, which leads us to Ward’s Island at the far eastern end of the islands. From this direction, I can see planes taking off and landing at the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, which is used by private aircraft and Porter’s Airline.

On Ward’s Island is one of the two residential areas–the other is on Algonquin Island–on Toronto Islands. It is disappointing to see some houses that badly need attention and repairs, but one has to look into the history of the governance of the properties on the Islands, an anomaly which will shock many people.

But don’t drag me into politics; let me enjoy and complete my hike. It does not take long to reach the ferry dock at Ward’s Island, and I can take a ferry for passengers. By now, the sky has changed and is clouding over. I am glad our group has completed our hike under the best condition one could hope for.

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Related Post for another city hike:
Hiking on City Trails in Oakville: https://opallaontrails.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/hiking-on-city-trails-in-oakville/

Walking in the Footsteps of Laura Secord: A Bicentennial Hike

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I usually think of chocolates when I think of Laura Secord. However, the Laura Secord hike organized by the Niagara Club of the Bruce Trail takes us back into Canadian history. The British and the Americans were fighting in the War of 1812. Laura Secord, neé Ingorsoll, was born in Massachusetts, U.S.A.  She moved with her Loyalist family (Americans who supported the British during the American Revolutionary War) to Upper Canada (now Ontario). She married James Secord and lived in the small village of Queenston in the Niagara Region.

One day in June 1913, Laura Secord overheard some American soldiers who came to her house talking about the plan of a surprise attack on the British soldiers in Beaver Dams. She set foot on a 32 Km (20 miles) journey, arriving at De Cew House on June 22, 1813 to warn Lieutenant Fitzgibbon about the American ploy.  Two days later, the British defeated the American at the Battle of Beaver Dams.

To commemorate Laura Secord’s walk, the Niagara Club of the Bruce Trail Conservancy organizes a Laura Secord hike every year. This year is the Bicentennial Hike.

My husband and I arrived at the meeting place–car park of the Niagara Region office–at 5:45 a.m. to board a bus which took us to Laura Secord’s Homestead in Queenston to start the hike. The town was asleep, but the sun was up, and the town was adorned with flags to mark the bicentennial occasion. Around the corner of the Homestead, General Brock Column came into view. We began our climb up the stairs beside the printing museum. It was a couple of kilometres of hills to reach the Queenston Park, where there was also monument to remember Laura Secord.

The Bruce Trail Main Trail began here. Our journey was to follow the white blazers of the Main Trail until we get to De Cew House in St. Catharines.

There were so much to see on this hike. The terrains were variable, hence providing interesting challenges. The part I liked the least were the muddy downhills. Otherwise, I enjoyed the occasional leap over a water puddle or a stream, and an incline when my hiking stick became an asset. We came to a hill where everybody had to climb down carefully, due to the muddy slipperiness. It was a relief to overcome this steep slope!

We continued by climbing over a stile to enter a private property, came out to walk on city roads, and walked over a bridge which crossed the highway. We hiked on narrow country paths, past a swamp,  on the edge of people’s backyard and through the vineyards of Niagara.

We looked out for historical features along our route. Besides Laura Secord’s homestead, 1-IMG_1413 General Brock Column and the Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum in Queenston, we walked through the Screaming Tunnel, which according to legend, a young girl died here and if you strike a match inside the tunnel, you’ll hear her screaming. The tunnel was dark and wet. There was such a eerie feel to it that we just hurried on.  For a few kilometres, we were walking along the banks of the Welland Canal. Only Canal #3 was in operation and to my delight, I came across a lift bridge, which had played a very important role in the industrial development of southern Ontario.

Our last lag was to hike around the campus of Brock University. When finally we saw the grounds of De Cew House of which only the relics of the foundation remained, we picked up our pace to cross the river, and were received by Laura Secord and her friend.

It was a long hike and it took us over six hours to complete the 32 Kilometres. The Niagara Bruce Trail Club provided the hikers with a wholesome lunch at De Cew House, and very hospitable reception on all the four check points. The greatest reward at the end of the day was the badge of the Laura Secord Bicentennial Hike to sew on my backpack.

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