Cedar Trail (Rouge Valley)

If there's anything that can heal me it's a good long walk through the woods or a soul-search over the fields of wildflowers, day-old hay and the sounds of a distant locomotive.  

How could I have known that my life has been easy and blessed until this year, which I will always remember as one of the worst?  It is true that tragedy brings forth pain and challenges, and if you can rise to it, you will be stronger.

While I long for the simpler days again, never realizing that simple is good and not to complain, it is in the wake of these challenges that I appreciate the buzzing of the bees and the flight of the birds overhead and the birth of regrowth that shows me life is going on all around me.  I'd love to walk here alone, but I can't.  I have to share myself with others that need me and maybe I might need them too.

I'm not done with this as there are still many obstacles ahead, but why not walk here undaunted, if not for answers, but for peace alone.  So I did.

My camera isn't working as well as it used to. I focus into something small and close, but it doesn't want to sharpen the view.  It's time for a new camera, but I still love taking pictures.  I have plenty I haven't cataloged yet, and some posts have been put off until now.  I have decided to balance worry with wisdom, heartache with hope.  

This is another series of trails in the lovely Rouge Valley Conservation Area.  This one is called Cedar Trail.  It's all off-road; no vehicles allowed here, so no point in looking back, but I will say one thing, the trail ends at a very inconvenient place in the middle of nowhere really.  So if you are on foot, you are looking at about an 8-10 km trek back to the city of Toronto, unless you want to turn around and go back the way you came.  I personally don't like to hike that way, and quite a few others are the same.  Moving forward without backtracking is pretty common.  But these trails aren't designed for that as they are in the middle of a conservation area which is a non-profit charitable organization that offers hikes and educational tours.  It is designed to have you come back to them, so that you can donate, share, assist, learn and restore.

The Rouge River flows through it from near McCowan Road to 19th Avenue.   It begins in the Oak Ridges Moraine in Richmond Hill and goes by Markham northwest, central to south and into a few other smaller conservation areas.  It flows like chocolate milk as it picks up mud and debris traveling south.  

Cedar Trail is one of 5 trails in the conservation area.  This particular one is 2.2 km through old growth forest.  Even while it was sweltering out and the sun was hot and humid, the lush valley was cool by comparison.   There are some steep grades on the trail and several wooden staircases taking you down into the forest floor, which is yet another reason, I personally don't wish to go back up where I came from.  I had no idea that what lay ahead was 2 hours of walking to get back into the suburban core.  It's rural country out here, next to the Metropolitan Toronto Zoo, which shares land space.  Passing several hectares of unripened corn crops and long two-laned highways it was quite the hike.   The Rouge Valley Conservation area is not for biking either.  

So, come here to escape,  belong to nature again and watch out for the coyotes (warning posters have been in every trail from Hamilton to Eastern Ontario).  When you go into the valley, expect to come right back up in this place, otherwise expect a 2-3 hour journey along Beare Rd up to Steeles almost as far as Markham Road.

Was it worth it? Yes.  You can expect to see small streams that flow into the Little Rouge Creek.  You will see all kinds of wetland and meadow species near southern sections of the trail and forest species in the north.  

If you haven't had a chance to challenge yourself in a while, I suggest starting with a place where you can't look back.

Ivan Forrest Gardens and Glen Stewart Ravine

The Ivan Forrest Gardens and the Glen Stewart Ravine are conjoined so I decided to bring them together into the same post.  Ivan Forrest is a small lovely garden that you enter from Queen Street East in the "Beaches' neighbourhood.  A perfect spot to have your quick lunch or just relax on one of the three benches at street level or a few located closer to to the fountain below.

Every spring the garden comes to life with perennials and fresh flowers newly planted. 
The newly built pedestrian bridge takes you through the Glen Stewart Ravine, an 11-hectare ravine lined with red and oak and maples.

A couple of years ago, a project was aimed to restore many areas of the ravine.  The City of Toronto along with Toronto's Conservation Authority were focusing on some major repairs which included the failing retaining walls and replacing the staircases and bridges as well as improving the trails.  The flow of the water from the slopes of Ames Creek needed to increase so a boardwalk was built as well.

Last year the $11M:11 week project was completed to reveal the success of the undertaking.  
Features included new elevated boardwalks and pedestrian bridges over the wetland to keep people of the newly planted areas.  The damaged walls were reinforced with sand bags along with newly planted grasses and herbs.  Many of the non native trees were taken down like the the Norway and Manitoba Maple and replaced with the natives species like red oak and Maple and Black Cherry.  complex ecosystem while at the same time allowing safer and heightened public access.   

Highland Creek Trail (and Colonel Danforth Park)

  The Highland Creek Trail is a paved trail that starts from Old Kingston Road and Highland Creek and ends at the shores of Lake Ontario then along the bluffs and into East Point Park.  

The trail follows through Colonel Danforth Park along Highland Creek where there is some of the most gorgeous scenery in the city.

Another hidden gem, I've never seen before and has become one of my favorite parks in the east end.  You will be amazed by the tall, aged-old cedar trees, oaks, maples and willows everywhere.  

You are never far from the Highland creek as it basically follows the trail on the right.  

The Highland creek river bed has a rocky bottom and water channel on the far side which provides a watershed for most of the central part of the city.

I would imagine Colonel Danforth park is stunning in the fall.  Incidentally, "Colonel" Danforth was named after Asa Danforth, who was an American and was commissioned by the Government of Upper Canada over 200 years ago to build a road from King Street east to the Trent river.  Asa was never a "Colonel" but he was a hard driving task master as noted by his workmen, so it is speculated, this title was given to him because of his military style of commands on his men. 

The park has the standard picnic tables with barbecues and washrooms opened in the summer.  Plenty of people come here to try their luck on casting out a line or two catching fish in the Highland creek.  Several species are native including trout, carp and bass.  Its a meandering river which like most rivers in Toronto, travel through a glacial ravine formed after the last Ice Age. 

As you leave the Colonel Danforth Park behind, you'll notice some wild fields before and some overhead 'silver-lining' pipe structures which form the mechanics of the watershed.  Finally up ahead a bridge which will take you directly south to the beaches of Lake Ontario.  

The waters shoreline is a mixture of sand and pebbles making it relatively comfortable on your toes as you wade in the waters, which I certainly did with the humidity at almost 100%.   You'll notice lots of driftwood along the shores as well.

At this point you can go east to the Port Union Trail or west through East Point Park.  That was an awesome experience, and as well a missing link from my trail list in the east.  

Nature is found all around us in any city and if you can be enjoyed by everyone so if there's no money in the bank or gas in the car, you don't need to travel far to see the same thing you'll enjoy in your own back yard if you look deep enough.

Cruickshank Park

 Cruickshank Park (located west of Weston Road, North of Lawrence Ave West in Toronto) has some really breathtaking weeping willows (my fave tree ever). They pave the path as well as line the creek banks where the Humber flows. Heading north on the trail you'll end up right about well...where the trail ends (and I'm thinking oh yah this is when it starts getting interesting?)

Enter the new Phase of the Mid Humber Trail Project.  This will be a 600 metre extension which will link up the north end of the Humber Trail (currently at Cruickshank Park) to the Mallaby Park Steps.  If you're on a bike, this would seem the best place to stop right at the foot of a 300 step incline.  (Geez I really hate ascending stairs)

Since the construction workers will simply apply the 3.5 metre wide pavement over the existing dirt path, you are looking at a 4-6 week endeavoured project.  
Once you come to the top of the stairs you are just smack dab in the centre of a construction zone, and it just baffles me that I can go from the depth of a quiet, green forest to a noisy sea of cement and sirens in a matter of minutes.  For a moment there I want to turn right back around.  The Phase 2 plan of the extension of the trail will most likely take it from Mallaby Park to Fairglen where the trail continues.  This will be nice once finished as it'll alleviate the outside world and keep you down in the Humber Valley a little longer.
I couldn't believe the white fluff that covered most of the trail north of Fairglen Avenue.  It was everywhere, and felt bad for allergic sufferers during this type of cottonwood looking like a snowstorm in June.  You can expect this kind of pollen to be falling off of trees into the air in early spring and summer.  What I was surprised to find out is by the time you see this white fluffy residue, it is left over from the seed production process, and this doesn't contain any pollen BUT...it does contain some high levels of fungal spore for those people sensitive to that.  
Myself I thought Cruickshank was nice and large, but really nothing that really stood out other than maybe the 'bell' (circa 1967) erected by the Weston Horticultural society, and of course...the weeping willow trees.

Happy Canada Day!

Falling Star (my fave)

Hi All!

I've been quite busy for the last three weeks as Trustee of an Estate.  There isn't much time for play, but thanks for the emails and will be back on the trails soon enough!

Here's a few of Canada Day's Fireworks. 
Do you see a flowerpot? I Do!!