Brookbanks Park and Deerlick Creek


If you are heading northbound on the Don Valley Parkway just south of the York Mills exit, you may notice a small sign just off to the side which read, 'Deerlick Creek' the Don Watershed.  I love the Don Valley because it was my first exposure to the trails within Ontario, so with some time to explore, we decided to take the next exit at York Mills road.  

A quick look to the right heading eastbound and you'll notice a street called Valleywoods, which is a good starting point.  

The park isn't called Valleywoods, which I thought it should be, but instead it's called BrookbanksJust a short distance west of the entrance to the park, the Deerlick Creek flows into the park from the north. 


Shortly after entering the park, you'll go over a lovely bridge that will have you crossing over the Deerlick's west bank.  A quick look up at the expanse of tall forested trees along the path and a typical robin looks outward from a branch.  A mourning cloaked butterfly drops down to the path to say hello.  

The rocky creek bed is visible along the path, making it safe to take a closer look, or to skip a stone or two across the water.    Keep in mind that Deerlick Creek is part of the East Don Watershed project, so don't expect to go fishing or swimming here.  It's just a very pretty setting in the centre of a large community shared among residents in houses and apartments, so expect for the most part that you will be sharing the park with many

Historically speaking, as with any kind of modernization of civilization, much of nature gets uprooted, repositioned or destroyed to make way for the needs of city life.  This 1.85 km spot of preserved parkland is one of hundreds of projects in the city to bring back what was once lost.  

 Oh and by the way, the trail ends at Brookbanks Avenue...go figure :)

Dorothy McCarthy Trail "The Gates Gully"

How about some good old fashioned tales of British treasure stashed secretly, a passageway for smugglers, and a sanctuary for artistsIt's all true, and it all happened once upon a time here in Gates Gully (known as the Bellamy Ravine)It was a unique piece of urban history revealing sunken ships and other artifacts deep beneath this bit of shoreline.  

It's not too difficult to imagine when you look around here, that legends were born on this very ground you walk on and sometimes out of the very beauty that surrounds you in the present day, there was once tales of struggle, terror and woes.

 At the intersection of Bellamy & Kingston Roads, back in the 19th century was a very popular Inn and Tavern, owned and built by Johnathan Gates.  Mr. Gates settled there in the early 1800's.  On the night of December 5th, 1837 this tavern made history and its big claim to fame was that it served as a meeting place for the first militia.  The militia had showed up at the Gates Tavern to defend Toronto against William Lyon Mackenzie and his rebels.  Two days later these men marched on to join the forces of Col. Allan MacNab to effectively start the Upper Canada Rebellion.   In 1993, so many years layer the nearby ravine was christened Gates Gully in honour of Gates and his tavern (though today most refer to it as Bellamy Ravine).

 As you descend to the bottom of the gully, you won't be disappointed as it is one of the few places that you can safely walk from the northern end of the Bluffs (the Doris McCarthy trail) all the way to the shoreline of Lake Ontario.  Of course as you can imagine, as this trail winds its way through 24 hectares of ravine land down to the water, there naturally would be the advantage to ascend from the water to the top as well.  This made a reliable passageway for smugglers.  

 
Gates Gully had been a great lookout point on top and the shores below were perfect for boat landings with easy beach access.  It was used to smuggle tobacco, tea, leather and who knows what else to avoid paying taxes.
'Coltsfoot on the left' / Right is unknown

Back to the present moment, today, the Gully is surrounded by birch, beech, oak and sugar maple trees.  As I may have mentioned before in my blog, I am not someone who knows much about plants and flowers (botany) , so I am not easily able to identify any rare or even some common varieties for that matter, although a elderly man passing by had urged me to zoom in on the 'coltsfoot' which he said 'was the first flower of spring' so I obliged.

He also indicated that there might be sightings of white-tailed deer down the trail.  There are several wild animals that live in and amongst valleys, ravines and forests throughout Ontario like beaver, foxes, coyotes and deer.  Although it isn't an everyday occurrence to spot any of these little critters, it is not that completely unique either here in Gates Gully!

 If you look from the bottom to the top of the Bluffs, you can imagine that you are standing on a spot which would have been well below the surface of the Glacial Lake Iroquois over 13,000 years ago.  This helped to shape the nearby Scarborough Bluffs.   The TRCA (Toronto Region and Conservation Authority) began their better late than never efforts to stabilize the shoreline in attempt to prevent further erosion.

 You will also notice at the foot of the the shoreline, an interesting piece of steelwork.  The sculpture was installed here in 2002 by Marlene Hilton Moore.  Her vision was in the form of the ribcage of a fish, and the ribs of a canoe.  Further interpretations can be found by searching on Marlene Hilton Moores work.

Once the weather is fit to lie like a baked fish on the beach, you may find this spot quite nice if you are looking for a decent spot of sand.   Or, if you're like me you will seek to discover and travel over as many trails as possible.

One more little tidbit before I finish this post, if you want some adventure you may be in luck in finding some bits and pieces of the wreck of steamship Alexandria.  Back on August 3, 1915, the wooden ship came west from Montreal to Toronto, and had tipped about half a mile from the Gates Gully.  Thanks to the community that afternoon all ship hands were saved.  The next morning all supplies of food, clothing and 300 tonnes of cargo as well recovered.  The only thing not recovered was the wreck from the lake, and as far as I know there are pieces still out there somewhere.

Happy Trails. 

The Big Apple in Colborne

I thought I'd mention the 'Big Apple' as a side trip on the Waterfront Trail.  Actually if you've ever seen it off of Highway 401, you might be surprised to know that the people of Colbourne have put the apple on a pedestal-quite literally.   The town has become famous for their 'Big Apple' Hey not even New York has one this big! 

It's more than 10 metres high and 38 tonnes in mass, making it the biggest apple in the world.  Located a few minutes north of downtown Colbourne its a year round park.  The main building has a tourist centre, gift shop, bakery (apple pies perhaps?) and two restaurants.

I don't have any young kids anymore, but it is a neat place for everyone as it has a mini golf range, picnic and play areas and in the warmer months a petting zoo.  There's also a working beehive, which I'd like to check out someday.  Of course you'd be viewing from behind the safety of plexi-glass, but I love bees!  You can see them busy at work making honey.  Did you know that without bees polinating the apple blossoms, the trees wouldn't bear fruit...but that's another story.

Gus Harris Trail

I admit it, its not quite green enough yet, but it's getting there...  Our weather has been so confused lately promising us warm days ahead and waking up to blankets up to our noses!  But, spring has sprung and with it promises longer days and yes, warmer ones too.   

The Gus Harris Trail, which was christened on June 1, 2002, was named in honour of Augustus John (Gus) Harris, who was a career politician.  Like Kay Gardner (see the Gardner Beltline Trail in this blog), Gus served his city tirelessly in a variety of different roles and eventually becoming the mayor of Scarborough Township in 1979-88.  He passed away in February 20, 2000 due to his complication of Parkinson's Disease.  Yet another sad tale of a man who's honor was given to him after his death.  I could never understand this philosophy and it happens often.



We reached the trail very late in the day passing through from the east and travelling to the west, which is why most of the pictures are in the mode of the sun setting.    You can reach the Gus Trail off of Pharmacy Avenue, just a little north of Victoria park.  It's not a particularly large section of parkland but you won't be disappointed and despite the preceding photographs, there's much to love about this trail.  

 
A little historical fact (of course) was during the last ice age, this section of Warden Woods Park was once a part of the natural shoreline of Glacial Lake Iroquois!  The sandy soil of the ravine, has been ravaged over the years which have made city workers busy.  The most severe problem is soil erosion which has been somewhat eradicated with rock walls embedded in mesh to prevent flooding and further erosion.

I wanted to mention the footbridge that you'll see a few hundred metres into the trail.  It crosses the creek, and the other side offers dozens of several foot trail that weave their way into the forests of maples and oak trees.  I had my zoom lens ready to take my first decent shot of a wide variety of birds I saw overhead, including one woodpecker, which was evident by sound.  

Unfortunately as it was quite late into the day, so I didn't get THE shot of the bird I was hoping for :) 

Lakeshore Road - Clarington (Waterfront Trail)


Where it all begins
I thought that since I seem to be following some sort of pattern along the Waterfront trail, I might mention the 13 km spot of Lakeshore Road in Clarington.  It starts from the Port of Newcastle and ends just on the municipal border of the Hope Township.  Although it's not classified as part of the designated 'Waterfront trail', it's still a popular route followed by cyclists and inline skaters, although since there are no amenities along here, it is really best to take this long strip of trail by car.


You won't find any food, fuel or rest stops.  It does however wind along the shores of Lake Ontario and there is a 30 metre bluff, and the odd abandoned-looking farmhouse here and there, providing some of Clarington's most riveting scenery.



There's a small parkette about half a kilometre east along the road, easy to spot as it's along a curve.  About 7 kilometres along Lakeshore and the road turns sharply over an old wooden bridge.  Be cautious around here as Via Rail still accesses the double set of tracks here.  You must have seen those Via trains just scream by the plodding GO Trains.  
Old Wooden bridge structure

Just a bit after the tracks the road makes a sharp right to continue eastward, and there you will find the Bond Head Bluffs Area of Natural Science Interests (ANSI).  There are ANSI sites all along the bluffs of the Clarington secton of the Waterfront Trail.  

Certain portions have places of interest where rare plants thrive as a result of local mini-ecosystems.  These are private lands and the bluffs are unstable and prone to erosion.  Bond Head is of interest to those studying rare plants and flowers. Although, I do not have an interest in botany I do respect those who share a keen discovery, but I will not be exploring this rare place.
Lakeshore fields

Another 5 or 6 kilometres along Lakeshore and we passed quickly through Port Granby, which is a site of some low-level radioactive waste.  Sadly once a bustling port community with its own hotel, all remnants are now gone.  
Inukshuks line railways 'Welcome'

Local cow saying 'Hi'
A few more kilometres and we passed some lovely little towns such as Port Britain and Wesleyville.  Although I didn't take any pictures as the clouds overhead were looming overhead, we did stop briefly so I could check out a tiny Wesleyville Church (closed unfortunately).  Located between the tiny ports of Port Grandby and New Britain, it was a last reminder of the small settlement that served local farmers named after John Wesley, who in the 1740s founded the little Methodist Society.

I do not have any pictures that I am particularly proud of to show off here, as the spring and summer colours are just now emerging, and the greenery is still hidden under ashy brown fields.  The flowers are still mostly closed up, except for the brave wild ones found further in
 

To take this trek, I promise you that going along this historic roadway in the more colourful months will be an unforgettable experience, especially at sunset.  I'm sure many people find this among the most spectacular stretch of Lake Ontario's north shore.  In fact, I almost second-thought my idea to post any pictures at all, but they were taken, and therefore shared.

You will pick up the Waterfront trail again, once you reach the eastern boundary of Port Hope.

Update: Here's a link to an article on Wayback Times written by a nice man who used my picture for his article. Historically very interesting. 

Port Darlington (Waterfront Trail)

Port Darlington is the part of the waterfront trail that will be of special interest to those who like boats and boating.  

These pictures were taken a few weeks back and we've gone through up until Port Hope at the Ganaraska lately.  If you want to check out the slip house here, you'll see plenty of different kinds of boats, and the variety of spars and masts reflecting off the water provide a photographer's paradise! 

If you're interested in fishing or simply in cruising the lake you can hire a boat at the Port Darlington Marina.  The restaurant nearby has a screened balcony, an ideal setting for a meal.  

Historically, this was once known as Port Darlington, and once among Lake Ontario's busiest ports, shipping millions of tonnes of grain, lumber, and other products annually.  While one wharf houses a grain elevator and was used for industrial shipping, the other welcomed the passenger steam ships that called dailyThe port was so busy that the wagons that carried the produce had to wait their turn at the docks!  Remnants of the once stately Victorian summer cottagers are here, as it was once a very popular vacation spot.  

The Master's House located on Port Darlington was bought by the Municipality of Clarington and the community hopes to turn this into a Museum to show all the artifacts and display the community's early history.  So, if you are still reading this, I would guess like me you might be interested in history as well.  Here's another great trip to take:  Venture eastward onto East Beach Road and it will become easy to understand why this was a good area in the 1880s and 90s for people thinking of buying a cottage as the view is breathtaking.
 
We will be back, and I suggest waiting for another few weeks at least to come here as the ideal way to travel along East Beach Road is on bike or foot, so you can stop frequently to enjoy the view. 

I'll try to map out a better description with more colorful pics as the weather becomes more pleasant, or you can discover your own journey here.