The Great Trail – Caledon East

Saturday, June 9, 2018

The idea for a Trans Canada Trail was given birth at the time that the country was celebrating 125 years of Confederation.  The plan was to complete a trail that would link all the provinces and territories by 2017 when the country celebrated 150 years.  In a quarter century a trail was created that extends over 42,000 kilometres and is the longest multi-use trail network in the world.  The trail passes directly through the GTA and then curves back along the top again as it heads north.  The map below was snipped from the official map

Great Trail GTA

A non-profit organization called The Trans Canada Trail was established to raise funds for the creation and maintenance of the trail.  All levels of government contributed to the project and donations were sought from corporations and individuals.  The province of Prince Edward Island was first to complete their section which is known as Confederation Trail.  To explore the original section of the trail we parked in the small lot on The Gore Road just north of Old Church Road.  After a short walk east toward Mill Lane and Humber Station Road we made our way west to Caledon East.


Pavilions have been established along the route where donors are recognized.  The first pavilion to be created is the one in Caledon East.  An inscription program was put in place for individuals who donated to finance a metre of the trail.  An inscription would be added to the pavilion of your choice.  My family had a inscription placed in the Calgary pavilion, the city where our late brother was born.  The inscription program was officially terminated in 2012 when it was determined to be a drain on resources that was hindering the actual development of the trail.  If you donate today, the federal government will give 50 cents on the dollar as donation matching.


The trail has been established using existing trails as a foundation.  The first section to be opened was the Caledon Trailway in 1995.  When the trail was connected from The Atlantic to The Pacific and Arctic Oceans in 2017 a new stone and pavilion were placed in Caledon East where The Trans Canada Trail was first opened.  The stone bears the new name of the trail.


The trail has been connected from coast to coast but it is far from completed.  Large sections follow roadways which in some cases are temporary until green-ways can be developed.  In other areas the trail may always be stuck on the side of roadways, mostly rural but also including some busier sections.  Some portions, such as one in New Brunswick on the Saint John River cannot be hiked or cycled, but must be completed in a boat or canoe.  The trail is intended to promote six main activities: walking/hiking, cycling, paddling, horseback riding, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.  Along the trail near Caledon East we found a single True Morel growing.  These fungus are edible and can be distinguished from similar inedible ones by the fact that they are hollow inside, from stem to tip of the mushroom.


The section of trail that passes through Caledon East follows the route of the Hamilton and North Western Railway which was later amalgamated into the Canadian National Railway.  It was abandoned in the 1980’s and Caledon purchased the right of way in 1989.  In 1994 they started to convert it into a multi-use trail which opened the following year.  The trail along here continues to use the old rail bridges to cross streams and roadways.  This is the bridge over Mill Lane.


Dragonflies rest with their wings open while damselflies rest with them folded on their backs.  There are about 5,000 species of dragonflies in the world and 130 of these have been identified in Ontario.  We saw half a dozen different ones along the way.  This male Chalk Fronted Corporal was one of several that were soaking up the heat on the trail.  They tend to follow humans as they hike because they like to eat the mosquitoes and biting flies that are attracted to people.  For this reason it is always nice to see these insects.


We found a patch of gooseberries growing along the trail.  They are not native to North America but have become naturalized, likely from garden escapees.  The fruit is cultivated and is an excellent source of vitamin C.  It can be eaten as is, cooked into pies or preserved in jams.  It is also used to flavour wines, sodas and teas.


The Humber Valley Heritage Trail along with The Bruce Trail are accessible from the Great Trail near Caledon East.  In other places The Great Trail shares pathway with The Lakefront Trail and The Pan Am Trail.  The pedestrian bridge crossing the mouth of Highland Creek is one example of a shared trail.


Based on the amount of fur in this scat it appears that someone is not doing the stoop and scoop after their coyote.


Along the trail we saw several chipmunks and squirrels as well as this rabbit.  The hunting seems to be pretty good for the local coyote population.


We’ve visited several sections of The Great Trail along the Waterfront Trail as well as on The Caledon Trailway.  At 42,000 kilometres in length, this is one trail that few will be able to complete end-to-end.

Google Maps Link: Caledon East

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Islington – Village of Murals

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The village of Islington was originally called Mimico when it was founded in 1814.  Dundas Street was the main route between York and the western part of Upper Canada. It became an important stopover on the stage coach route that ran along Dundas Street.  The village has been absorbed into the city around it but it’s original charm is being captured in a series of murals along Dundas Street.  The Islington Business Improvement Area (BIA) is a group charged with making the area attractive and preventing graffiti.  In 2004 they began to set aside a portion of the local taxes to be used to create outdoor murals that depict some of the history of the community.  To date there are 26 murals that cover over 25,000 square feet of public art.  Many of the murals were painted by John Kuna although several were painted by Sarah Collard and also Arts Etobicoke.  Each painting takes between 300 and 400 hours of work.

The paintings cover 5 blocks along Dundas Street and they are mostly painted on the sides of buildings.  The first two murals, however, are painted on bridges over Mimico Creek.  These young ladies are singing a welcome to visitors as they enter the community.


This mural depicts golfing in Islington in the 1920’s.  The Islington Golf Club was established in 1923 on the old Appleby Farm.  Notice the ball collector in this painting who is wearing a protective wire cage.


The old Islington Hotel is seen in this mural that depicts Islington in 1912.  The drive shed where horses were stabled can be seen in the foreground and Clayton’s Butcher shop is just beyond the hotel.  This mural is part of a pair that together depict the street view of the town a hundred years ago.


Gordon’s Dairy was a big part of everyday life in Islington.  Their milk wagons, and later milk trucks, delivered dairy products on a daily basis to homes in town.  The dairy was in a building that featured yellow tiles on the outside and had a lunch counter inside.  This mural shows the dairy as it existed around 1940.


The Royal Conservatory of Music had a branch in Islington between the 1950’s and the 1980’s.  This mural features Glenn Gould who was one of the most famous people to come through the conservatory.


This mural depicts a father fishing with his children in Mimico Creek near the old rail bridge.


This is my personal favourite of all the murals in the collection and that is why it is also featured as the cover photo for this post.  It depicts the old swimming hole near the mill.  The bathers are dressed in fanciful bathing suits and are climbing on the waterwheel for the mill.


This colourful mural depicts fishing in the creek.  The water below the children with their fishing lines depicts several of the species that were common in Mimico Creek a century ago.


The Guelph Radial Line ran through the community on it’s way between Lambton Mills and Guelph.  The line opened in 1917 and ran until 1931 when it was closed due to the increase in popularity of the personal automobile which made the trip to Guelph along Highway 7.  The radial line ran behind the building with this mural on it.


The Gunn House was also known as Briarly and was built in the 1840’s as a single story regency style cottage.  In the 1850’s it was expanded and given Italianate touches that were popular at the time.  The house was owned by the Montgomery family from 1870 until 1985.  It was demolished in 1989 to make way for some badly needed townhouses.  The house originally stood just east of Montgomery’s Inn.


One of the more unique murals is painted on the side of the building that served as the  manse for the Weslyan Methodist Church.  The building has been painted in a manner that appears to have removed the outer wall and allowed us to view the interior as it may have looked around 1888.  The pastor is seated at the table while a committee of women from the church inspect the house with white gloves to ensure that the housekeeping is up to par.


Montgomery’s Inn was built in 1830 by Thomas and Margaret Montgomery.  When Margaret died in 1855, Thomas stopped operating the inn and concentrated on farming the property instead.  The building was sold in 1945 to the Presbyterian congregation who used it as a church from 1946 until 1962.  The building sat abandoned until 1975 when the Etobicoke Historical Society managed to save it from demolition.  It has been turned into a museum and remains a valuable example of Georgian style architecture.


The old community of Islington has been swallowed up by the city but through the display of public art it has managed to preserve the historical charm of a previous century.  This is just a selection of the beautiful artwork and one only need take a quiet stroll along Dundas Street from Islington to Kipling to appreciate the beauty that has been created here.

Google Maps link: Islington

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The Crothers Woods Stairs

Sunday, May 26, 2018

Previous posts on Crothers Woods and the Beechwood Wetlands have covered much of the early history of this area but we’ll touch on it briefly as we set the scene for the present story.  The valley was a much different place in 1929 than it is today but to understand one of the prominent features of the valley we need to step back nearly a century.  At that time most of the tree coverage had been removed from everywhere except the ravine slopes.  A saw mill had been in operation in the area shown as Cottonwood Flats on the map below until the local supply of lumber was exhausted in 1858.  After that, Cottonwood Flats was home to manufacturing with Domtar operating an insulation factory there until 1965.  The area known as Sun Valley had been home to a brick factory since 1900 and by 1929 there was a large strip mine where the clay had been removed.  The Don River had become one of the most polluted rivers in Canada by this time but it formed a natural border to the floodplain.  The area bounded by the ravine, the large clay mine and the river was chosen as the site for Toronto’s newest sewage treatment plant.

Crothers Woods

North Toronto was annexed to the city of Toronto in 1912. This led to the rapid infill of an area that had largely been farmland until that time.  With the influx of affluent people came an outflow of effluent.  Hooking up to the existing city sewer system was impractical because of the Yellow Creek Ravine and so a new sewage system and treatment plant was needed.  A site was selected in the industrial area we now call Crothers Woods because it was lower in elevation and no pumping was required to bring the sewage to the plant.  The close proximity of the Don River was a deciding factor as was the concept that the discharge was downstream from any agricultural or drinking water uses.


The whole facility sits in the floodplain and at the time was bounded by the ravine, a deep pit and a dirty river.  R. C. Harris was the commissioner of public works in 1926 when the project was approved by city council.  Harris was a man of foresight and when he built the Bloor Street Viaduct (1918) he installed a lower deck for a subway that wouldn’t use it until 1966.  When he built the R. C. Harris Filtration Plant he designed it so that it could be expanded by 50% when the time came.  When he commissioned the North Toronto Water Treatment Plant he was decades ahead of his time in ensuring worker safety.  An escape route was planned to allow employees to get out of the valley if an emergency occurred.  A wooden boardwalk leads to a set of wooden stairs then to the road above.  A small section has no hand rails to allow cyclists to enjoy one of 9 kilometers of trails that weave their way through the 52 hectare park.  There are two places where the trails cross the stairway.


As the boardwalk approaches the ravine wall it starts a fairly steep climb.  This section of the woods is full of birds and the stairs provide an excellent place to find some quiet time when you can sit and watch for them.


In the fall these stairs also provide excellent views of the changing colours in the Don River Valley.  About half way to the top is a bench for those who need a rest or just want to sit for awhile.


One hundred ninety-five steps separate the wastewater treatment facility and the road at the top of the ravine.  The top of the stairs are almost hidden in the intersection of Millwood Road and Redway Road.  The stairs are obviously maintained because the deadwood has been removed and broken boards replaced.  Much of the blue paint is peeling from the structure and the new boards are still raw.  I wonder if a paint job is scheduled for the near future.

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When we visited Crothers Woods in December 2016 the stairway hadn’t seen much recent use.  Fresh snow covered the stairs at that time.  Today, there was only one other person using the stairs but dozens of others on the trails either hiking or riding their mountain bikes.


It turns out that the set of stairs designed in 1929 to allow the water treatment plant workers to escape functions very well today as a place for personal escape.

Google Maps Link: Crothers Woods

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Burnhamthorpe – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Monday, May 21, 2018

Today most people know of Burnhamthorpe Road which, along with Highway 10 forms one of the main intersections in Mississauga. A hundred and fifty years ago Burnhamthorpe was the name of a small farming community at the intersection of today’s Dixie Road and Burnhamthorpe Road. The village was originally called Sand Hill or Sandy Hill but this was easily confused with another community nearby. John Abelson had come from Burnham Thorpe in England and he was instrumental in changing the name . It roughly translates as Stone Hearth.

The old community has been over run by the city and not much is left. Known as the Moore-Stanfield house, this is the only farm house that remains in its original position. Samuel Moore built the house in 1882 on his 200 acre land grant. The house and part of the property was later sold to Joseph Stanfield who was Moore’s brother in law. In 1897 Fred Gill rented the house for $10 per month and used the front as a store and post office. This lasted until 1912 when the house was returned to residential uses.

Behind the house is an old field-stone building that dates to the pioneer days of the village. This may have been an earlier home on the property or perhaps a work shed.

Another board and batten building is attached to the rear of the house and it has an interesting cupola.

The village had a short business section that included a Sons of Temperance Hall, an Orange Lodge and later, a steam grist mill. Several tradesmen called the town home and it eventually had a dance hall that attracted people from nearby villages.

In 1912 Fred Gill moved into two houses on the south east corner and opened Burnhamthorpe’s third store complete with post office. It was run successfully by his son George under the name Gill’s Groceteria. It finally closed in 1973 and today has been removed.

Burnhamthorpe was a Methodist village with the first two buildings standing beside the pioneer cemetery on the south west corner. In 1874 land was purchased on the north west corner to build a new church. The name was changed to the United Church of Canada in 1925 from Burnhamthorpe Methodist Church . The church closed in 1978 after 104 years of service . The building was given an historic designation in 2013 and currently is used by St Apostle Andrew Romanian Orthodox Church.

Applewood was home to the Wordsworth-Shaver house which was relocated to Broadacres Park in 1980. James Shaver Wordsworth was born here in 1874. Wordsworth fought for political reforms including old age pensions, unemployment insurance and other social security measures. In 1932 he became the founder of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation which he led until 1940. In 1961 the party became the New Democratic Party.

The archive photo below shows the village wagon maker’s shop. The population of Burnhamthorpe reached a peak of about 100 in the 1870’s.

The village cemetery was laid out on the corner of the property belonging to Abram Markle. Just short of an acre of land was deeded to a group of trustees for the building of a Methodist Episcopal Church. The church would include the allocation of ground to be used as a cemetery. A school was built on the land just west of the cemetery (where the Burnhamthorpe library is today). The cemetery was public until 1859 when it was given to the Primitive Methodist Church. This congregation built the 1874 church we saw earlier. Many of the pioneers of the village are buried in this cemetery.

George Savage came to Canada in 1830 from Yorkshire. He was a blacksmith by trade and soon took up residence in Burnhamthorpe. Serving the village as blacksmith he also sat on the town council. George held the position of postmaster for many years and had a locally famous apiary. George and Sarah Savage are two of the early burials in the Burnhamthorpe cemetery.

Google Maps link: Burnhamthorpe

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Felker’s Falls

Saturday, May 12, 2018

John and Mary (Mingle) Felker were born in 1758 and 1769 respectively.  Johann Friederick Voelkel changed his name to John Frederick Felker when he emigrated from Prussia and purchased two lots in Saltfleet Township in 1820.  After taking up their land grant they went on to raise seven children.  When John passed away in 1838 the farm went to the oldest son, John Frederick Felker II.  The younger Felker also married a lady named Mary (Bently) and they had a family of 13 children who helped to operate the farm.  In 1880, following the death of John II, the land was split between the sons, with the part containing the falls going to the youngest son, Hiram A Felker.  On the county atlas map below Hiram’s land is seen along with Davis Creek which flows over the escarpment creating Felker’s Falls.  Two other properties belonging the the Felker Family can be found, all three of which are outlined in green.  Frederick Felker’s property has a small cross that marks the site of the family cemetery.


Hiram Felker was born in 1844 on the farm and lived there until he died in 1911.  His son Joseph Benjamin Felker was born there as well and he carried on the family tradition until his death in 1956.  His children sold the farm to a developer in 1961 and most of the table land was developed for houses.  This has caused Felker’s Falls to be located in a subdivision.  Around this time there was a land acquisition program along the Niagara Escarpment in an effort to preserve as much of this UNESCO world biosphere as possible.  The Hamilton Conservation Authority currently owns and operates the land.

We parked at Paramount Park and followed a short side trail until we reached the Bruce Trail.  It follows the top of the escarpment and provides some great views out toward Stoney Creek and Hamilton Harbour.  We turned to the right and headed toward Felker’s Falls. The conservation area is only 74 hectares in size but contains a section of path that it shares with the Bruce Trail.  We circled around the top of the falls looking for the best way to the bottom.  From the crest of the falls we could see the quickest way down was to follow the water.  Being careful not to go over the falls we crossed to the other side.  Upstream from the falls is a section of creek that flows through a hole in the escarpment and and runs underground until emerges into the waterfall, part way down.  This is known as karst activity and is similar to what can be found at Eromasa Karst.


Felker’s Falls is a terraced ribbon falls.  A water fall that is much higher (22 metres) than it is wide (6 metres) is known as a ribbon falls.  A terraced falls has an obvious step part way with two distinct drops.  Felker’s, like the nearby Devil’s Punch Bowl, exposes many of the layers of the escarpment in a stunning bowl around the falls.  These falls reveal a much greater flow of water at the end of the last ice age.


There are a couple of places where experienced hikers can get to the bottom of the ravine.  From there it is fairly easy to follow the stream back to the water falls.  With caution, it is possible to reach the edge of the falls but there is a lot of loose talus that makes passing behind the falls unsafe.


On the return climb from the falls we made a brief pit stop to check out this small cave created by the erosion of softer limestone from beneath a harder layer of dolomite.  It is large enough to have a few little seating areas as well as a fire pit.


Returning to the main trail we made our way back to where we were parked and carried on toward Glendale Falls and the abandoned section of Mount Albion Road.  One of the early plants on the forest floor each spring is the Mayapple.  Also known as a mandrake or ground lemon, the plant is poisonous.  The fruit is ripe when it turns yellow and can be eaten if you remove the seeds.  The name is a little misleading because the flower comes in May but the fruit grows in the early summer.  The plant has been used by natives and early settlers for various medicinal properties.  They were used to control vomiting, help with bowel movements and may also have been used to expel parasites from the intestines.  Modern medicine uses a compound from the plant to cure plantar warts.


The trail will lead you to the top of a steep ravine that contains Montgomery Creek.  The creek may have changed course somewhat since the Red Hill Parkway was constructed and now contains several small waterfalls listed as Upper, Middle and Lower Glendale.  It is possible to reach the bottom of the ravine and follow the creek back toward the waterfalls.  Depending where you start and the flow of water, you may be limited on the number of falls you can reach on this creek.

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Mount Albion Road is coloured in brown on the county atlas above and provided access from the bottom up to the top of the escarpment near the community of Mount Albion.  The road has gone through several stages from a muddy access road to two lanes of pavement.  When the Red Hill Parkway was built in the early 2000’s it crossed the former right of way for Mount Albion Road.  The section climbing the escarpment has been abandoned and now serves as part of the Bruce Trail.


The Felker Family Cemetery has at least 46 interments of family members including Frederick on whose property it is located.  Hiram, who was owner of the falls when the county atlas was printed, is buried by a rose coloured head stone on the right.


This is an area that will need further exploration.  There are at least four more waterfalls between Felker’s and The Devil’s Punchbowl if you follow the Bruce Trail in the other direction.

Google Maps Link: Felker’s Falls

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Owen Sound Jail – The Crowbar Hotel

May 13, 2018

Thank you to Urban Explorer Patrick Lipscombe who graciously allowed me to use his photos for this post.

The Owen Sound jail has been closed since Dec. 4, 2011 and is currently for sale for $99,000.  Some parts of the courthouse, including the main courtroom, are protected by the Ontario Heritage Act, but none of the early jail is.  The city is looking for a prospective buyer who will come up with a creative way to re-purpose the land.  Unfortunately, that could include demolishing the 165 year-old jail.  Here’s an idea, perhaps someone should create a real crowbar hotel.  It could get fixed up as a bed and breakfast/extended stay hotel for city slickers to experience the thrill of going to jail without getting a real criminal record.

Let’s follow John Smith, a guest at the Owen Sound Crowbar Hotel where he has chosen to spend a week of his summer vacation.  Let’s see what the hotel has to offer him.  Our customer service people will serve as the guest’s lawyer, booking their day in court and stay at the crowbar hotel.  John has selected the full package, including hanging, set in the 1870’s.  He’s arriving at the courthouse having been charged with murder.


John will be handcuffed and escorted into the prisoner’s box.  A gallery of paying customers will witness the trial and 12 others, who paid a little more, will sit as the jury. The judge is also a customer who wants to experience the thrill of sentencing someone to death by hanging.  Over the years many former inmates will return to pay well for the experience of sitting on the other side of the bench.


Above the judge is a painting containing the coat of arms to remind you that it is actually all the people of Canada who opposed you today.  The French inscription Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense is intended to bring shame on those who disrespect the crown or those with hidden agendas, especially in the court system.  This painting is also part of the heritage designation.  The courthouse at the crowbar hotel will also be available for business groups to rent.  They’ll sit on the jury to learn to solve problems together and have the opportunity try a jail-break scenario where they have to cooperate to escape.


Meanwhile, the jury has found John guilty of murdering a man who had beat him at poker.  To the delight of the audience, the judge passed a sentence of death by hanging. From the courthouse John will be brought over to the jail for processing.  This will include a cooling off period where he will sit with a few other hotel guests in a cell like this one, wondering what the hell he has gotten himself into.  Eventually he’ll be fingerprinted and all his personal belongings confiscated and listed on a form.  He’ll sign it before we lock everything up.  We want to ensure he get’s everything back when he gets out.


The jail has multiple cell blocks spread over 3 floors.  Larger cells are set up for guests who want to spend the night in jail but have the comforts of a four star luxury hotel.  Other cell blocks are set up for time periods so we can showcase Ontario Jails over the decades and provide authentic experiences.  Those who choose a 20th-century package will be given quick strip search and into the showers.  (Never mind that they showered already to impress the judge.  It didn’t work or they wouldn’t be here.)  They’ll be issued period prison garb when they come out.  John has chosen an older time frame and will spend his time in jail in his own clothes.  Minus his belt and shoe laces, to ensure he won’t be tempted to commit suicide before we hang him at the end of the week.


John is now ready to move into his range and meet his new friends.  They’ll spend hours discussing the crimes that got them there and claiming to be innocent.  After days of playing cribbage, poker and rummy they’ll know each other pretty well, perhaps making lasting friendships.  The whole day will be spent in the common area and periodically the guard will come by and yell “Jug Up”.  This means that if the prisoners stick their plastic mug through the main set of bars they can get a drink of some concoction resembling Kool-Aid but with double the water.  Trays of food will be supplied through a horizontal slot on the cell door.  Guards will be played by customers who will spend months on a waiting list.  This will be our most popular position as former inmates from around the world will come to experience life on the other side of the bars.


Cells are just about an inch wider than the bed that sits in them and only a foot or so longer.  A bucket will be kept at the foot of the bed in case any biological needs came up during the night.  In the morning these can be dumped in the main toilet but it can’t be flushed.  Guests are not allowed to secretly possess or dispose of any items, called contraband.  In the morning John will have to take all the blankets off his bed and fold them up.  Along with the pillow they will spend the day locked at the head of the cell.  There will be no strangling each other with bed sheets or escaping out of the window with them.  This means that every night at lock up guests will have to make their bed while kneeling on it.  Guests in the luxury cells will, naturally, have full service.


To complete the experience breakfast might consist of hard boiled eggs with blackened yolks, cold toast and mushy oatmeal.  Lunch and dinner will be comprised of mystery meat and soupy potatoes with overcooked veggies.  A small cash canteen will be allowed so guests with longer stays can order a couple chocolate bars or a magazine to help pass the time.  John has paid for the full package, including The Hole and so he will get into a verbal altercation with another inmate and spend a night in solitary confinement before being moved to death row.


John will be allowed visitors but will have to look at them through the windows and talk to them on the telephone.  The experience won’t be authentic if it is too easy for guests to get contraband.  Day visitors to the hotel will be able to have a tour and get their picture taken in court, a cell or even the hangman’s noose.


From inside the cells prisoners can look out into one of three exercise yards where they will be allowed an hour a day.  John will be hanged in one of these yards in a parlor trick that will shock a full house of customers.  Paranormal seekers will flock to the crowbar hotel to seek the spirits of the three men who were hanged here while the jail was in service.


With time, all guests will be released from the crowbar hotel with a fake criminal record, a bill for lawyer’s fees and memories to last a lifetime.  Troubled teenagers will be booked in by their parents to try and scare them.  Eventually, we’ll franchise to other locations.


The new Owen Sound Crowbar Hotel will be a place that you can truly say “Nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

Google Maps Link: Owen Sound Jail

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Moccasin Trail Park

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Moccasin Trail Park is one of those places that is passed by the most people and visited by the fewest.  The entrance is hidden off Green Belt Drive but the park is split in two by the Don Valley Parkway (DVP).  When the DVP was built the park was little used except for a pair of swings.The plan was to park at Moccasin Trail, cross the river into Milne Hollow and then proceed to Woodcliff Greenbelt.  Our trail and the points of interest can be seen on the Google Earth image below.

Moccasin Trail

In 2002 the city and the TRCA decided to build a storm water pond in Moccasin Trail Park.  The stream that follows the roadway down the ravine has been fed through a series of rocks to slow it down before it reaches the pond. Once in the pond it is further slowed down by a series of submerged berms.  The water pauses between each berm long enough for sediment to settle before cleaner water passes into the next section.  The water eventually passes through a culvert, under the DVP and the railroad tracks, before arriving at the Don River carrying much less sediment.  The pond has come alive and is full of cormorants and ducks this morning.  A painted turtle rests on a log and soaks up the morning sunshine.


The park system, including The East Don Trail, was part of the planning process for the construction of the DVP in the early 1960’s.  Two tunnels were built in 1961 to allow a footpath to pass under the DVP and the Canadian National Tracks.


This robin has a rare genetic disorder known as leucism that causes white patches. The lower half of the bird looks like a normal robin while the head and neck are white with some black trim. The loss of pigmentation differs from albinism in there is a loss of several different types of pigmentation and not just melanin.  Project Feeder Watch collects information of 5.5 million birds each year and only about 1,000 leucistic birds are reported.


The tunnel for the Canadian National (CN) line was built just to the north of the existing right of way and then the line moved over and the original berm removed.  In 1972 a Norwegian named B. C. (Berg) Johnson arrived in Toronto and quickly formed the opinion that the residents needed something to cheer them up on their commute.  He chose the CN tunnel because it could be seen from the DVP and prepared a swing on a rope and set about painting a rainbow on the mouth of the tunnel.  Much to his surprise a train went by and severed the rope, dumping him on the ground and breaking his leg.  Students from Don Mills Middle School stepped in and completed the mural which the city works department promptly painted a grey like the DVP tunnel.  Returning with a ladder, Johnson repainted the rainbow over 40 times before a judge issued a no-trespassing order in 1994 after his fourth arrest.


In 2012 the city decided as part of the development of The East Don Trail to restore the public art on the tunnel.  A local organization called Mural Routes was brought in and along with students from Flemingdon Park repainted the rainbow in 2013.  They also created a full mural inside the tunnel to cover the years of graffiti that were there.


The inner mural follows the same colour pattern as the rainbow with the south end of the tunnel marked by winter scenes and cold colours while the hot colours and summer scenes progress as you move north through the tunnel.


Passing through the tunnel you will find yourself in Milne Hollow.  This former industrial site once boasted a woolen mill and several other smaller support industries. Along the East Don Trail in Milne Hollow there is a flood control pond designed to divert water during times when the river is running high.  There is often a great blue heron that can be found in one of the two little ponds along this section of the East Don River.  Since the heron wasn’t at Moccasin Trail it wasn’t a surprise to find it in the reeds on the far side of this pond.  It didn’t sit long but we managed to get a picture of it in flight, just above the bird house.


After the mill was closed, the ravine slope was turned into a ski hill in the 1930’s and was run by the Don Valley Ski Club.  With three lifts, two rope and one Poma it also boasted a $70,000 snow making machine.  There were several 200 m runs dropping the 40 m of slope to the bottom of the hill.  It lasted until around 1976.  Today a lone ski lift tower stands halfway up the hill.  It is slowly disappearing in the new growth of trees that have been planted to rehabilitate the hill side.  From the East Don Trail it is becoming harder to pick the tower out of the trees.  We had to climb the hill to get a clear shot. The top of the hill has been over run with dog strangling vines. These invasive plants have the potential to choke out the new trees and shrubs and setting back the reforestation of the hill side.


The Milne family house was built in 1871 and is one of the oldest examples of gothic frame architecture in the city.  The front porch which used to look out over the mills has been removed.  Now abandoned, it is intended to be restored eventually.  Evidence of this intent can be seen in the new shingles and drain pipes that have been installed to prevent further deterioration.


A tree has fallen down and taken out part of the fence leaving access to look through a hole in the wall and see the interior of part of the house.  A real handyman special.


Along the side of the river, near Lawrence Avenue someone has set up a series of little places to sit and watch the river flow by.


To reach Woodcliff Greenbelt from Milne Hollow you will need to cross the DVP on Lawrence.  After navigating past several ramps for the highway you can descend to the pond on a small path at the end of the last guardrail.  The water level in the pond has been lowered and someone still has a gas pump and hose set up.  A solar powered camera took my picture as I was getting my photos.


Moccasin Trail Park is near the DVP but is a prime place for watching birds and possibly seeing the deer whose footprints we found in the park.

Google Maps Link: Moccasin Trail Park

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