Saturday Feb. 28, 2015
It was a bright sunny morning starting out at -17 without a wind chill. With only 3 weeks left until the first day of spring it is unusual for it to be so cold, but the sun had a nice warming effect on the skin. We parked on Sherway Drive, formerly known as Middle Road, where it now dead-ends at the 1909 Middle Road Bridge. In the 1880’s the property belonged to James Alderson who sold half an acre in 1864 for the construction of the Weslyan Methodist church. His daughter married into the Silverthorne family who were founders of near by Summerville. Today this area is known as Etobicoke Valley Park.
The single lane bridge in the photo below at one time served as a main route between Toronto and Hamilton. The Etobicoke Creek is frozen solid as it passes under the old bridge.
Crossing the bridge we followed the old road for a short distance before returning to the west side of the creek and heading north. Middle road’s lamp posts are fading into the bushes along side of what was once a busy highway.
The Etobicoke Creek was frozen solid and many animals and humans had been passing over freely. As we walked up the west side of the creek we heard the yip and howl of coyote in what sounded like a multi-animal attack on some poor beast. Curiosity led us to back track and eventually cross the river to see if we could see what was happening. We came to a site that had a lot of snow trampled down, urine all over the place and spots of blood. An area of fur chunks, some glistening with fresh blood, told a different tale. Female coyote come into heat for 10 days, only once per year. This season runs from the end of January until early March. Coyote are monogamous but if she isn’t in heat, she will fend of her partner with teeth and claws. With the cold weather running late this year the breading season may be a little late as well. It is likely that we had heard, and were now looking at the aftermath, of this seasonal encounter.
Just north of the Queensway bridge the Little Etobocoke Creek joins the Etobicoke Creek. There are a lot of old metal objects along the valley of both creeks. Among them was this door from a 1978-1982 Chevy Corvette. We identified the year range and model from the part number on the tire inflation label on the end of the door.
The foundations of an old bridge on Little Etobicoke creek may mark the site of what appears to be an old mill on the 1971 aerial photographs.
Even though it wasn’t plugged in this 1958 RCA Custom freezer was working perfectly. Everything inside it was frozen solid. Retailing at $388, and still working after 57 years, it looks like it was quite a bargain. It was a pretty cool find on a cold day.
After hiking up Little Etobicoke Creek we returned to where it empties into the main flow of the Etobicoke Creek. The view below is taken from standing in the middle of Etobicoke Creek looking back up Little Etobicoke Creek.
Just south of the Queensway bridge on our return trip we found this round hole in the ice. Based on the chewed up trees and the little trail of footprints leading down the embankment and across the ice we concluded that it is an access hole for a beaver family.
When Europeans realized that North America was not the spice rich orient they set their sights on other natural resources. The beaver numbered up to 200 million and in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s the demand for fur top hats made beaver pelts a valuable resource. The Hudson’s Bay Company was founded in 1670 and incorporated four beavers on a crest for their logo. Under the crest was written “Pro Pelle Cutem” (Skin For Leather). During the peak of the fur trade 100,000 beaver pelts per year were being shipped to Europe. Much of the fighting in early Canadian history was over control of the fur trade. Fortunately, silk hats came into style just in time to prevent beaver from becoming extinct. Just down stream we found a beaver near a storm drain entrance where the water was being kept ice free.
In 1851 Sir Sandford Flemming was asked to create a design for Canada’s first postage stamp. He chose the beaver and the stamp has become known as the three pence beaver, as seen in the cover photo for today’s story. It was the first animal stamp issued anywhere in the world and today one in fine condition is worth $120,000. In 1937 when Canada was updating it’s coins the beaver was chosen for the 5 Cent coin. In 1975 the beaver was finally chosen as the official symbol of Canada. This beaver doesn’t seem to mind the cold water and perhaps that’s why their fur made such popular hats.
Along the trail heading back to the car someone has set up a number of stolen newspaper boxes. At the time the Sun box was stolen a daily newspaper would have cost you ten of those little coins with the beaver on them.
Winter hiking often reveals places that show great promise for discoveries when the snow is gone. This is one of those places.