Altona – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Altona was founded in the early 1800s by Mennonites of Swiss-German descent who had emigrated from Pennsylvania. They named their community after Altona in Germany, a town which is now part of Hamburg, Germany. It remained a small farming community until 1850 when Abraham Reesor built the first saw and grist mills in the area. Abraham was the son of Peter Reesor who was one of the early pioneers in the GTA. A school was built in 1834 and the community seemed to peak around 1856 at about 256 people. By 1869 the census showed only 200 residents and by 1910 it was down to only 100 people. This was often the fate of hamlets that were bypassed by the railways. The image below shows the Reesor mill as pictured in the 1877 County Atlas.

A couple of churches, the school and a hotel complimented the general store and provided for the spiritual and physical needs of the residents. A Mennonite Meeting House was built in 1852 and is one of the few buildings left in the community.

Through the window the simple pews can be seen as well as the pulpit. There is no ornamentation in the church and no stained glass in the windows. The Mennonites met here until September 15, 1974, after which regular services ceased.

The oldest grave marker in the cemetery is dated to 1835 and precedes the building of the meeting house. The early members of the community are interred here, including the Reesors, Nightwanders, Widemans, Hoovers and Stouffers.

When the Federal government decided to build a second international airport for the GTA, a large area of flat land in Pickering was chosen. Altona was seen to be just below an approach to one of the runways and flights were envisioned coming in over the town at about 300 feet above. The town was essentially expropriated, and all the property owners were bought out. This small Georgian Style Cottage has survived and is distinguished by its elaborate two-tone brick work.

We gave more details about the proposed airport in our previous post on Brougham and so we won’t go through all of that again here. Several of the homes in Altona are still occupied but if the airport ever gets off the ground they may well be demolished.

The story and a half home with a front gable and gothic pointed arch front window was perhaps the most common style of architecture in Ontario in the years leading up to Confederation. There are a couple of them still remaining in Altona, but for how long?

The house of William Rhoddick has been demolished but the barn and silo remain. It has been 50 years since the land was expropriated and current assessments suggest that there will never be an actual need for this airport to be built. It’s sad that the legacy of the people who cleared the land and worked so hard to make a living has been lost and soon may be completely forgotten. I wonder how they would feel if they could see what has happened to the fruit of their labours.

With so many of the buildings in the hamlet in a continuous state of disrepair there is an ongoing threat due to nature. The powers of wind, rain and snow are slowly demolishing several of the buildings that haven’t already been intentionally destroyed.

The community has become one of empty laneways that lead to former houses that were either torn down or fell victim to arson and vandalism. The Barkey House was built by one of the early pioneers who was also a Mennonite preacher who served at the meeting house. The home was eventually sold to the Mitchell family who owned it until it was expropriated in 1972. The house made the news in 2012 when it was discovered that someone had built a confinement room in the basement with the intention of kidnapping a woman and keeping her there. The home burned down a couple of weeks after the discovery in a fire which was deemed as suspicious.

Just up the road from Altona is a small family cemetery on the former Forsythe property which is the final resting place for many of the early members of that family. The Forsythe Family Cemetery has a small area at the rear where several of the earliest markers have been gathered together and laid in a horizontal cement cairn to preserve them.

The fate of the remaining buildings in Altona is very much “up in the air” as it depends on the eventual outcome of the Pickering Airport.

Related stories: The Reesors – Pioneers of the GTA, Brougham – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Google Maps Link: Altona

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The Lynde House

Sunday, November 27, 2022

The Lynde House is recognized as Whitby’s oldest building and was built around 1812. Jabez and Clarissa Lynde were some of the earliest Europeans in the area. Jabez operated a hotel and tavern on their lot between 1811 and 1819. The Lynde Family opened their home to militia during the War of 1812 so that soldiers could get supplies on their way to the battlegrounds in Niagara. General Isaac Brock was a noted guest of the house during this time. The archive picture below shows the house in its original location on Dundas Street West in Whitby at the northwest corner of McQuay Boulevard. This picture was taken around 1938 and includes the gas station that used to be beside the house. The building is a rare surviving example of the Georgian Architectural style.

The house remained in the family until 1893 when it was owned by Elmina Lynde. She was the youngest daughter of Jabez, and she bequeathed it to All Saints Anglican Church in Whitby. The church sold the property and the house changed hands several times over the next 40 years. A holding company owned by Loblaws bought the house and property in 1939. The elaborate front entrance way is enhanced by the second story window above.

They subdivided the house and created three apartments inside. They removed the grand central staircase and replaced it with a different to access the upstairs apartment. They also covered the original wood siding with stucco.

In 1968 a fire broke out in the rear apartment in the area that was formerly the kitchen. The Whitby Historical Society had been formed in 1967 and they took an interest in saving the home because of its historical and architectural significance. Loblaws agreed to donate the house to the historical society in 1972 on the condition that it be moved within one year. They were unable to come up with the funds to move the house and instead operated it as a museum until 1986. This came to an end when a fire broke out on the second floor and damaged much of the roof. Loblaws then sold the property to a developer.

The Town of Whitby donated the house to Cullen Gardens and Miniature Village, and it was moved there in August 1986. The image below is from the Whitby historical Society and shows the house on its way to Cullen Gardens. I find it interesting that there appears to be two people sitting on the roof while it is in transit. It looks kind of dangerous and I wonder what they hoped to do to assist with the move. Perhaps it was to ensure that overhead wires were lifted out of the way so that they wouldn’t get caught as the building passed underneath.

Quadrangle Architects oversaw the restoration of the house to its 1856 status. This included removing the stucco, repairing the clapboard siding and installing a replica staircase to the second floor. The home was furnished with period appropriate furniture that was bought at auction. Lynde house once again opened as a museum in 1988 as part of Cullen Gardens. When Cullen Gardens closed in 2005 the house was sold back to the Town of Whitby. Town council approved moving the house to the corner of Brock Street and Burns Street where it is now operated as a museum by the Whitby Historical Society.

The archive picture below shows the Lynde House as it appeared in 1905. The family is remembered in the name given to Lynde Creek as well as Lynde Shores Conservation Area. Lyndebrook Golf Course also pays homage to the family name.

At this time the museum is open for tours by appointment only and I just happened to be in the area on work business and hadn’t made arrangements to go inside. Perhaps another time.

Google Maps Link: Lynde House

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Edgeley – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Sunday, November 20, 2022

The community of Edgely was centered around the modern intersection of Jane Street and Highway 7. The first Europeans to settle in the area arrived around 1800 from Somerset, Pennsylvania. The northeast corner of the intersection had a hotel while the southeast corner had the general store which also had the post office from 1872 to 1960. A steam driven shingle mill was located on the northwest corner. A cider mill was located just south of the general store which produced cider, apple jelly and apple butter until it closed around 1900. Along with a community hall, there was also a blacksmith, dressmaker, a shoe maker, a wagon shop, a casket maker and two slaughterhouses.

In 1823 an acre of land was deeded to the Mennonite congregation in the Edgeley area for use as a cemetery and Meeting House. Jacob Smith Sr. (originally Schmitt) granted the land which currently is the most tangible evidence of the former community. After the Meeting House was moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village in 1976 the cemetery wasn’t maintained and by 1985 many of the earliest stones were in disrepair. The city of Vaughan gathered them together into a cairn to protect them from further deterioration.

The Meeting House was built in 1824 and clad with horizontal board siding. It was used for 99 years before being closed in 1923. It was operational again for a brief period between 1963 and 1976 after which it was moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village. It is the oldest surviving log Meeting House in Ontario and was built out of first growth white pine that was cut in the area of Edgely. Services were only held in the church every fourth Sunday because the pastor was shared with other Meeting Houses in the area.

The benches and wood stove inside the meetinghouse are original to the building. As per Mennonite custom, none of the wood was painted. The work was done by hand and even the nails that were used were forged by the local blacksmith. The total cost of the building, not including the stove was $221.

The drive shed was built around 1860 and used to store carriages while the Mennonites were attending services at the meeting house.

An archive photo from about 1900 shows the Meeting House, also known as Schmitt Meeting House, along with the original drive shed. This shed was replaced in 1916.

Edgley had two buildings that were used by the local farmers to butcher their livestock. It is a timber frame structure that is clad with board and batten siding. When it was built in 1860 there was no easy way to store large quantities of meat and so the local farmers would work together. One animal would be butchered, and the meat shared. When it came time to prepare another animal it would be provided by a different farmer. Once refrigeration became available this practice was no longer needed and in 1970 the building was moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village and opened as a rabbit hutch.

Most homes and farms had at least one apple tree and some had a full orchard. The fruit was harvested in the fall and stored for the winter to provide food for the family. Edgely had at least one of these storage cellars and it has been preserved by moving it to Black Creek Pioneer Village. The cellar was dismantled and moved to the village over a 65-day period. Two sets of wooden doors were used to help insulate the interior so that the fruit would be better preserved.

Inside, the storage cellar is just eight feet long and seven feet wide. The fruit or root vegetables were placed in the wooden bins and covered with layers of straw for better insulation and to increase the storage life. The small vent at the back of the building could be opened or closed in order to regulate the temperature inside.

A single house remains from the community, and it is located just south of the cemetery on Jane Street. This style of architecture is known as Edwardian and was built sometime between 1901 and 1910. It is also sometimes referred to as “four-square” because of the four windows on the front of the house.

The former community of Edgely has been almost completely erased from the landscape and is being replaced by high-rise condos. Fortunately, the cemetery is still there to mark the hamlet and a few buildings are being preserved at Black Creek Pioneer Village.

Related Stories: Ghost Towns of York Region, Black Creek Pioneer Village, Elizabeth Stong, Pioneer Cemetery Cairns

Google Maps Link: Edgeley

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Toronto’s Model T Factory

Sunday, November 13, 2022

The Model T was the first mass produced automobile, and it changed the way people lived and travelled. A steam powered vehicle had been created as early as 1672 but the first gas powered vehicle wasn’t tested until 1870 when a small motor was placed on a cart. Carl Benz created the first gas powered automobile in 1885 and produced several copies. Henry Ford started the Ford Motor Company in 1903 and assembled a few cars per day with a team of two or three men building a complete car. He soon perfected the concept of the assembly line where each man did a few small tasks as the line carried the automobile past their workstation. He sold a few hundred copies per year of several models during the first couple of years. In 1908 he invented the Model T which would go on to sell 15 million copies over the next twenty years. It was the first automobile to be mass produced on an assembly line and the best selling car of all time until it was surpassed in 1972 by the Volkswagon Beetle.

Soon his factory wasn’t able to get the manpower needed to keep up with demands and so sales to the international markets began to be assembled in other countries. Canada got four of the new Ford assembly plants. One each in Montreal, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Toronto. The assembly plant in Toronto was built at the corner of Dupont Street and Christie Street.

The five-story building was purpose-built with heavily re-enforced floors to support the weight of the automobiles that were being assembled inside. The ground floor was the showroom while the second one was for shipping and receiving. The third and fourth floor were used for assembly while the fifth one had the paint shop on it. At this time, Ford cars were only available in black. The roof had a small track that was used for testing the cars.

Loading docks were located on the second floor facing the CPR railway tracks. Parts were brought in by train and finished automobiles were then shipped back out on railway cars to be sent to various markets around the country and the British Empire. This facility also built the right-hand drive cars for India, Australia and New Zealand, among other British colonies. The close up in the image below shows the heavy concrete transfer pads (just below the graffiti) that formed the floor and were designed to carry the weight of the incoming and outgoing shipments.

Parts for the Model T were shipped to the facility as kits from contracted suppliers who were required to package the components in very specific sizes of crates. This was because the crating material was designed to be used in the construction of the floors of the automobiles. In 1924 the building was sold, and production was moved to a new facility on Danforth Avenue. This was done because the introduction of a new Model A Ford required more room for manufacturing. Several food companies occupied the building until 1948 when it was bought by Planters for packaging peanuts. Planters Peanuts stayed until 1987.

The archive photo below shows the assembly workers putting together a row of Model T automobiles.

The first-floor showroom was designed to dazzle prospective buyers and entice them to purchase one of the automobiles. The car sold for $360 in 1927 when the factory closed, which is equivalent to $5,616 in today’s currency.

A Model T can be seen in the window on the second story of the building.

Faema Caffe now occupies much of the lower floor of the building and has a Model T on display as well as a sign board showing a brief history of the car and building. This one was a convertible while the one upstairs is a hard top.

The front view of the car shows its simplicity compared to the modern cars that can be seen outside in the parking lot. However, it also lacked a lot of the features and comforts of the modern automobiles, as well as the hefty price tag.

Toronto once had several automobile manufacturing plants but this at least has not been demolished. Not yet anyway.

Google Maps Link: Model T Factory

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Jokers Hill

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Jokers Hill is a large, forested tract located just west of Newmarket and south of Highway 9. It covers 889 acres of the Oak Ridges Moraine and has multiple hiking trails. I decided to check it out and took advantage of the free parking just off Bathurst Street. In the 1950’s this property was bought by General Churchill Mann and his wife Billie. She was the daughter of the founder of General Motors, Canada and was looking for a country retreat to house his many horses.

Churchill personally designed an equestrian course for his horses that covered a 12-mile cross country course with 50 miles of groomed trails. The property features a wide variety of habitats including wetlands, regenerating farmland and virgin forests. The picture below shows one of the sandy hills in the area near Bathurst Street.

Billie Mann named the property after her prize horse, Joker, who used to run to the top of the highest point, nearly 1,100 feet above sea level. They would eventually build their home at this spot to overlook the surrounding countryside. The Manns used to host the North York Hunting Club and allowed Olympic contestants to practice there. The 1956 Olympic medalists Elder and John Rumble attributed their bronze medal to the use of Jokers Hill.

In 1964 the Manns sold the property to Brian and Nancy Benitz who held it for about ten years. The elevation of the trail changes multiple times as you make your way through the forest. When you reach the lowest point on the trail there is a couple of small wetlands to cross. This little boardwalk has become less than ideal but if you navigate carefully, you can get through without getting mud on your pant cuffs. Better luck next time, lol.

In 1974 Murray and Marvelle Koffler, founders of Shoppers Drug Mart, bought the property. There weren’t very many fungus species to be seen this late in the season but some of the polypores could still be found on the trees. These Tinder Polypores are useful as tinder to start a campfire quickly if needed. They also have been used traditionally by indigenous people to cauterize wounds that won’t stop bleeding.

Jokers Hill hosted celebrities over the years including Prince Phillip and Princess Margaret as well as Pierre and Margaret Trudeau. In 1995 the Kofflers decided to gift the property to the University of Toronto. It is now used as the Koffler Scientific Reserve and research is conducted there in a variety of fields including climate change, ecology, migration, genetics and environmental science. As you follow the white trail you will come to a mysterious collapsed building in an open area of the woods. Upon investigation it reveals itself to be a former sugar shack where the sap of maple trees was made into maple syrup.

The area around the former sugar shack has a number of PVC collection pipes and tubes still attached to trees or lying on the ground. If you look carefully, you can also find the small round holes that are the scars left on maple trees from them being tapped over the years.

There was a distinct lack of wildlife on this day even though it is a prime spot for white-tailed deer, pileated woodpeckers and a host of other birds. The majority of people I met along the trail had dogs with them, many of them off leash. This will usually scare the wildlife away. Jokers Hill is a primary wildlife study area with up to 35 study projects going on at the same time. This suggests that there is plenty to be seen and those that visit often can likely attest to this. I saw a Hairy Woodpecker, two Blue Jays, a couple of Cabbage Butterflies and this beetle who was a lone late-season insect.

I came across a few Halloween pumpkins that had been thrown in the woods. There are many posts online encouraging people to do this to feed the wildlife. However, wildlife experts discourage this practice because it can be harmful and can encourage rats. Halloween pumpkins often have foreign objects in them such as candle wax which can cause serious health issues or death if eaten by an unsuspecting animal. They also bring groups of wildlife together which can lead to the spread of disease. Instead, people are encouraged to compost their pumpkins or take them to a drop off location.

Following the blue trail will bring you to Thornton Bales Conservation Area. If you’ve ever been to Niagara Falls and seen the impressive drop of the falls, you can hike a greater change in elevation here. The locals call this the “99 steps.”. I counted 100, but such is my ability to exaggerate.

The trail map shows the variety of loops and other trails that are available to hikers and dog walkers. I followed the red trail to the blue and white one that leads to the red oak loop and 19th sideroad and then returned the same way.

There’s lots to see on the Jokers Hill trails and I suspect that a wide variety of wildlife can be observed at various times. The variation of forest types likely presented a wonderful example of the fall colours a couple of weeks ago.

Google Maps Link: Jokers Hill Trail Parking

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Watson’s Mill – Manotick

October 30, 2022

My job as self-employed inspector under contract to various government inspection agencies gives me the opportunity to travel all over the province of Ontario. This past week, I spent 3 days working in the Ottawa area. During my travels I drove past the Watson Mill in Manotick and stopped to check it out. This mill continues to operate at select times and can be seen grinding grain which it sells as flour, along with baked bread. It wasn’t open when I was there, but you can take a virtual tour of the inside by clicking here.

Following the War of 1812 there was a general fear that the Americans would invade Canada again and so plans were put in place to create an inland military transportation route to supplement the St. Lawrence River. The construction of the canal brought many labourers and stone masons into the area and for the next few years most immigrants also came to the area via the canal. Moss Dickinson was 10 when the canal opened in 1832 and he saw the opportunity to commercialize the river and canal system. In 1858 a wooden dam was constructed at the future mill site using wood beams that were fastened to the rock with steel pins. The original dam can be seen in the archive image below.

In the late 1850s, Moss K. Dickinson and Joseph M. Currier owned a sawmill on the Rideau River, and they contracted Thomas Langell of Ottawa to build a grist mill to add to their growing industrial operations. It opened in 1860 with four runs of grinding stones which were powered by turbines that had been manufactured in Ottawa. In 1862 they added a woolen mill to the complex and the need for labour drew people to the area and the town of Manotick began to grow around the mills. In 1863 Dickinson bought out his partner and the mills remained in the family until 1929, operating under the name of The Long Island Mill. The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority purchased the mill in 1972 and restored it along with the Dickinson house and drive shed.

The construction of a sawmill, grist mill and carding or woolen mill provided the locals with the three basic necessities of life without the manual labour that had previously been required. The sawmill provided cut lumber for the construction of shelter, the grist mill provided flour for food and the woolen mill provided clothing. Alexander Spratt owned the mills after the Dickinson family and his family operated them until after the Second World War. Harry Watson bought the mill in 1946 and promptly changed the name to Watson’s Mill. He rebuilt the dam out of concrete in 1956 and today you can walk across the top of the mill to Long Island. A crane on wheels and rails was installed to raise and lower the stop logs that control the water level behind the dam.

Milling operations would cease in 1963 but the mill and dam remained as the most recognizable feature in the town of Manotick. From the middle of the dam the view upstream shows the slow-moving water behind the dam. Most of the fall colours had disappeared from the Ottawa region by this late in October but the scenery was still very beautiful.

In 1963 the National Capital Commission entered into an agreement with Watson to restore the mill and keep it as a functioning water-powered grist mill. In 1972 Watson sold his interests in the mill to the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority on condition that the mill remain known as Watson’s Mill. They completed the restoration and opened the mill as a tourist attraction in 1974.

Looking downstream you can see the cut-stone foundations from an earlier bridge across the Rideau River.

The view from the river side of the mill shows the Georgian symmetry of its three floor, five-bay construction.

Watson’s Mill in Manotick is one of only a few water-powered mills that still produce flour in all of Ontario and it is worth stopping for a visit if you are in the Ottawa area.

Google maps link: Watson’s Mill Manotick

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Kensington Market

October 23, 2022

Saturday, October 22 was a beautiful day for late October and a perfect one to explore some of the small shops in the Kensington Market area of the city. George Taylor Dennison had served in the Canadian Militia in the War of 1812 and purchased an estate lot west of the town of York (Toronto). In the 1850s the former Dennison Family estate was divided into several narrow streets and over the next couple of decades was built up with small affordable homes. They were originally occupied by British workers but as this first group of residents prospered and moved out, they were replaced with a wave of Jewish immigrants. The small Victorian homes were converted into businesses by making shops out of the ground floor of the units and for several decades the area became known as the Jewish Market.

Following the Second World War, the area became home to new Canadians from Italy, Portugal, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean and Asia. They each brought some of their culture to the area as they integrated into the fabric of the neighbourhood. Today, the mix of foods and shops reflects the diversity of the people who have called these few streets home. While graffiti can be seen on many of the buildings, there’s also some pretty creative artwork on display.

The Kensington Market Garden Car has been a fixture in the area since 2006. Originally, supporters paid the parking meter to keep it there, but the city soon approved it as a tourist attraction and allowed it to stay, provided that it is insured and also removed every winter to allow for snow clearing. Some consider it to be the smallest park in the city.

The mid-Victorian row houses that formed the community can still be seen behind the store fronts

Dolce Gelato has used some colourful artwork to draw attention to their location in Kensington Market. This is one of three locations they operate in Toronto that serve authentic Italian Gelato.

There is a theory that Kensington Market is one of the most photographed areas in the city and it was designated as a National Historic Site in 2006. With Halloween just around the corner, there’s several buildings which are all decorated for the season.

Bellevue Square Park has a couple of historical plaques and a map of the area. The park was formerly used by Dennison as a parade ground for his volunteer calvary group when the area was still his estate. His volunteer group participated in putting down the Rebellion of 1837. Today there’s a small but vibrant park on the site of the former parade grounds.

Narrow streets, lack of parking and the volume of pedestrians make this an area to avoid driving in. There’s plenty of parking under the Dragon City Mall at Spadina and Dundas which will leave you free to wander around and investigate the area.

There’s a lot of little stores and markets in the Kensington Market area and tons of places to eat a wide variety of foods. It’s also just a short walk away from Chinatown where there’s another whole variety of places to investigate or find something to eat.

Google Maps link: Kensington Market

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White-tailed Deer

October 16, 2022

White-tailed deer can be found throughout the GTA, and they are quite comfortable with the human presence, partially because they don’t experience the hunting season that their country cousins have to survive. Between Canada and the USA, the population is estimated to be over 710 million animals. Local populations and food sources are used to determine the number of animals that can be culled during hunting season so that the remainder can be healthy and thrive. While hunting deer may seem horrible to some of us it allows for a healthier herd that doesn’t suffer and die from starvation.

The life cycle starts in late May or June in Ontario when fawns are born. They are born earlier in the colder environments so that the young have the advantage of a full summer to get larger and stronger before the challenge of the next winter comes along. A yearling doe will have a single fawn in her first year and she’ll leave it alone while she forages in the first week of its life. She returns to nurse it 4-5 times per day until it is old enough to forage for itself. The newborn fawn in the picture below is well disguised among the branches and leaves.

Fawns have white spots in their fur when they are first born which they lose over the course of their first year.

The doe will take care of the fawn for the first year and they are very paternal and caring. The doe in the picture below is giving her fawn a lick on the top of the head.

In return, the fawn is very fond of the mother and shows signs of affection. The fawn in the cover photo was walking up to us to check us out but was called back by its mother who was concerned about how close it was getting. When she snorted the fawn immediately responded by returning to her. The fawn will become sexually mature in about six months if it is a female but will usually not mate until it is in its second fall. The males take about 1.5 years to become sexually mature.

A female will have a single fawn in her first year of reproduction but can have up to three fawns in subsequent years. These two fawns were following mama deer across the Credit River in Mississauga until she spotted us and called them into a retreat to the far shore.

Deer will molt twice per year, spring and fall, although the fawns will only molt in the fall of their first year. They will lose their spots in their first molt and the fawn below is seen part way through that process.

White-tailed deer will live between 6 and 14 years on average but can survive up to 20 years. A female will weigh between 88 and 200 pounds while the males typically will reach 150 to 300 pounds. They can reach 4 feet tall and 8 feet long.

Adult deer can run at speeds up to 64 kilometres per hour (40 miles per hour) and can jump up to 2.5 metres (8.2 feet). They rut (mate) in the fall between October and November and the female can come into heat every 28 days until she becomes pregnant. The normal gestation period is about 200 days while the animal passes through the winter.

Male deer are known as bucks and grow a set of antlers every spring which they cast off after mating season each year. They are the fastest growing tissues in nature and are made of bone, nerves and cartilage. They are covered by velvet which has small hairlike structures that allow the buck to feel their antlers and prevent them from getting damaged during the growing phase.

Growing antlers can take 3-4 times the nutrients that are required to grow the rest of the skeleton. For this reason, a male will have larger antlers after 4.5 or 5.5 years when the skeletal structure is finished growing. Dropping testosterone levels cause the antlers to be cast off in late winter or early spring.

Antler size and growth potential increases with the age of the animal. When they are 1.5 years old their antlers will only be 55-60% of their later potential. At 4.5 years they will have reached about 90% of their potential. The availability of food, severity of the winters and drought will determine whether a male reaches 100% of its antler potential at 6.5, 7.5 or 8.5 years of age.

The bucks tend to spend most of their lives alone except during the mating season when they use their antlers to fight other bucks for the right to mate with the local does. The females may mate with more than one male in the effort to become pregnant. Deer eyes have more rods than cones which means that they actually see better at night.

White Tailed Deer can be found in all of the ravines in Toronto and most of the larger parks. In the city they have become accustomed to people and are easier to spot while outside of town they tend to vanish at the first scent of humans.

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Peterborough Lift Lock

October 9, 2022

On a business trip to Peterborough in July I had a few minutes to stop and watch the operation of Lock 21 on the Trent-Severn Waterway. The waterway is 386 kilometres long and was first travelled by a European in 1615 when Jacques Cartier explored the region using long standing indigenous routes.

The canal was originally surveyed as a military route with the first lock being built in 1833 as part of a commercial venture. Three more locks were under construction in 1837 when the Rebellion broke out. It was determined that the canal would have too many locks to be used for rapid troop movements and so the three locks were completed, and progress was suspended. With the canal incomplete and no outlet to a major lake it was connected to other travel routes by toll roads, plank roads and eventually by railways. The image below shows the side view of the lift lock in Peterborough,

It was restarted in the late 1880s by the government of Sir John A. Macdonald, but little progress was made, and it was generally used as a political tool to get votes from the communities along the route. In the late 1890s it was undertaken with a new commitment, and it reached Peterborough and Lake Simcoe in 1904. The First World War slowed progress again and it didn’t reach Trenton until 1918 and Georgian Bay in 1920. By this time the ships had grown too big for the canal system and railways were carrying most of the commercial traffic. It became a pleasure route and eventually would be declared a National Historic Site of Canada and be used as a linear park. The image below shows the lift lock with the left hand side elevated and the right side being loaded for the next lift.

When it was completed in 1904 it was the highest hydraulic boat lift in the world and the largest concrete structure in the world. The vertical lift was 65 feet (20 metres) while most conventional locks had a lift of 7 feet (2.3 metres). The system consists of two identical caissons that sit at the level of the river at their lowest point. They each sit on a 7.5 metre diameter ram. In the picture below the lift is half completed and the two caissons can be seen beside each other.

When the lift reaches the top, it stops 12 inches below the water level in the upper reach. The gate is opened and water flows in to equalize with the level of the river in the upper reach. This causes the upper caisson to increase in weight so that it is 1844 short tons compared to the lower one which has 1700 tons of water in it. When the system is ready to reverse the valve between the two rams is opened and the extra weight in the upper caisson pushed the ram of the lower caisson up until the positions are reversed. The system requires no external power as the weight of the water is enough to operate the system.

Just below the lock is a swing bridge that allows the Canadian Pacific Railway to cross the river. When not in use by the railway it is moved out of the way of boat traffic on the river.

The Peterborough Lift lock was declared a National Historical Site in 1979.

Related stories: Newmarket Ghost Canal, The First Three Welland Canals.

Google Maps Link: Peterborough Lift Lock

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National Air Force Museum

October 2, 2022

On a recent business trip to the Trenton Airforce Base, I stopped and took in the collection at the National Airforce Museum of Canada. All of these photos were taken from outside the fence as I didn’t have time to go in and review the collection properly before my next appointment. There are other aircraft located inside the storage building which tends to house many of the older planes. The museum opened on April 1, 1984, on the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Royal Canadian Airforce.

P-140 Aurora – This long-range patrol aircraft was put into service in 1980 and remained active until 2017. It has a range of 7,400 kilometres and has been used for rescue missions as well to combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking. After being in storage for a year it was brought to the museum and re-assembled for display.

CC-115 Buffalo. This aircraft was built by De Havilland in Downsview and completed on August 27, 1967, after which it went into service as a transport plane. In 1975 it took on a dual role as a Search & Rescue craft until it was retired in September 2020 after over 50 years of service.

CC-144 Challenger. This aircraft was put into service in April 1983 in Ottawa to provide transportation for VIPs. It got a new assignment in 1995 when it went to Nova Scotia to serve as a training plane for pilots in electronic warfare. Five years later it was back in Ottawa flying VIPs around. It was in Florida in 2012 when it struck a large bird and was damaged requiring extensive repairs. In 2014 the Challenger fleet was reduced from 6 planes to just 4 and this one was retired. It found a new home in the museum in 2015.

CL-28 Mark II Argus. This is one of 20 Mark II aircraft purchased in 1958 and used for maritime patrol. It was stationed at Summerside P.E.I. in the 415 Maritime Patrol “Swordfish” Squadron. It flies at 463 kilometres per hour and was in service until 1982 performing patrols as part of anti-submarine warfare.

CH-124 Sea King went into service on May 14, 1964, performing surveillance and anti-submarine tasks. It has a compact design with rotors and tail that fold up allowing it to land on the smallest warships. It is also amphibious and can make landings in water. This one served in The Gulf War in 1991 as well as East Timor in 1999-2000. When it was retired in 2018 it had the most air-hours of any Sea King having racked up 17,775.3 hours.

The F86 Mark V Sabre is a fighter craft, and the model was purchased between 1948 and 1958. The one in the museum was in service until 1969 serving in Chatham, New Brunswick until it was placed in duty as an instructional airframe. This model of fighter can achieve speeds of 973 kilometres per hour.

CH-147D Chinook was originally a USA army helicopter beginning in 1969. The Canadian Government bought it and five others in 2008 to deploy to Kandahar in Afghanistan. It has been part of the museum collection since 2016.

F-18 Hornet. This aircraft is capable of flying at Mach 1.8, 2,200 kilometres per hour at sea level. The one in the museum was put into service in 1982 as a training craft in Cold Lake, Alberta. All training on the Hornet was conducted at Cold Lake. This airplane was donated to the museum in 2009 as part of the celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of flight.

The Spitfire Mark IX was one of the primary fighter crafts of the allied forces in the Second World War. It was in service between 1940 and 1950 and could fly at speeds up to 586 kilometres per hour. This example was donated to the museum in 2001.

Ch-118 Iroquois was a combat support unit which performed search and rescue operations. It was in service between 1968 and 1995 when all Iroquois were retired from service. This machine was then used at CFB Borden and then CFB Trenton for aircraft battle damage repair training. It was placed in the museum in 2007.

Code named “Fishbed” by the Allies, this Russian fighter jet was never flown by the Canadian Military. It was officially known as a MiG-21 and was first put into service in 1959 and was able to fly at 2,230 kilometres per hour. The specimen in the museum was put into service in 1975 in East Germany. After German Unification in 1990 it was soon withdrawn from service and was donated to the Canadian Government in 1993. It has been in the museum collection since then.

The CF-116A Freedom Fighter in the museum was in service from 1968 to 1995 and entered the museum in 1997. It was used at Cold Lake, Alberta as a tactical fighter and training aircraft. In 1976 it was transferred to the 419 Moose Squadron where it was painted red and white like the Canadian Flag.

This is just a sampling of the 37 aircraft in the museum, several of which are housed in the indoor facility. At some point I would love to spend the time to go through the museum properly and see the full exhibit including all the other memorabilia that is on display.

Related Stories: Downsview Airforce Base

Google Maps Link: National Airforce Museum of Canada

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