Apr 29, 2013

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.