Monthly Archives: September 2016

Hiking the GTA #200 – Greatest Treks 2

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Hiking the GTA made it’s initial post on April 20, 2014, as a way of organizing and commenting on my photos from that day’s hike.  As the number of stories grew, so did the number of readers.  When we reached 100 posts we paused to look back at the fifteen most popular stories in an article we called “Greatest Treks”.  With its brief summary, picture, and link for each story it proved useful in helping people look for places to explore.  Today, we mark our 200th post with Greatest Treks 2.  Following the same format, here then, are the fifteen most popular stories from our second 100 posts.

15. Gore & Vaughan Plank Road  Jan. 14, 2016

The Gore and Vaughan Plank Road Company was established in 1855 to build a plank road along Dufferin Street.  The planks for the Gore and Vaughan Plank road were sixteen inches wide by 8 inches thick and sixteen feet long.  Planks were held together with four foot long spikes that were driven in, two feet apart, in opposing directions, one of which is shown in relation to my shoe in the picture below.

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14. Rice Lake’s Sunken Railway  Jul. 26, 2016

The first train from Cobourg to Peterborough ran the 45.8-kilometer track for free on December 29, 1854, to show off the new railway.  The route crossed Rice Lake and when completed at the end of 1854 the trestle was nearly 5 kilometers long making it the longest railway bridge in North America at the time.  By 1861 the trestle was abandoned but the part below the waterline still remains in Rice Lake.

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13. Cache Lake Trestle  Ju. 17, 2016

In the spring of 1896 work began on driving pilings into Cache Lake for the trestles that would cross two bays.  The first freight train from Parry Sound to Ottawa ran on October 9, 1896.  This trestle was abandoned in 1933

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12. Gates Gully Scarborough  May 7, 2016

Gates Gully runs from Kingston Road to Lake Ontario and provides one of the few places where there is access down the side of the Scarborough Bluffs.  Over the years it has been home to natives, smugglers, soldiers, and rebels.  The Bellamy Ravine Creek flows through the bottom of the ravine where it makes a 90-meter drop from the tablelands to the lake.  It also features one of the few houses that is currently falling over the bluffs.

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11. The Haunted Hermitage  Nov. 15, 2015

The two-story house that would become known as The Hermitage was built in 1855 using hammered limestone for the front and side walls and field stones for the rest.  It has been in ruins for years but the remaining walls have been recently restored.  Widely sought by paranormal seekers it is said to be haunted by the ghost of William Black.  This picture shows the remains of the building that housed the laundry.

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10. The Devil’s Punchbowl  Dec. 26, 2015

The Devil’s Punchbowl, along with the Lower Punchbowl, is one of the few places where you can see all the geological layers of the Niagara Escarpment.

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9. La Grande Hermine  Sep. 16, 2016

The wrecked ship that sits along the side of the QEW near St. Catherines is featured in this short story.

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8. Camp Calydor Gravenhurst  Aug. 2, 2015

Known as Camp 20, Calydor was a P.O.W. camp in Gravenhurst which housed German officers.  Previously a tourist resort and then a tuberculosis sanitarium, it was used as a resort again before being closed for good.

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7. The Vandalized Memorial  Dec. 13, 2015

Taras Shevchenko was born in Ukraine in 1814 in the feudal system of the era. He was orphaned at the age of 11 and went on to become one of the country’s most prolific writers composing over 1000 works. Some consider him to be the Ukrainian version of Shakespeare. His memorial was opened in Oakville in 1950 but has been vandalized on multiple occasions.

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6. The Ghost Town Of Sixteen Hollow  Sep. 12, 2015

The area known as Sixteen Hollow was home to an industrial community that became a ghost town by the 1880’s.  Today there is not much left except the church and a few remnants including the remains of a former bridge across the ravine.

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5. Bronte Creek’s Haunted House  Jun. 25, 2016

Bronte Creek Provincial Park covers almost 2000 acres of land or about 10 land grants.  Created in 1975 it sits along Bronte Creek between Burlington and Oakville.  The park includes the homestead of Henry Breckon who, some believe, still haunts the house he built in 1899.

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4. Horseshoe Curve Rail Disaster  Jun. 12, 2016

When the train left Markdale on Sep. 3, 1907 making a special run to the Exhibition in Toronto everyone anticipated a day of fun and not the horror that would leave 7 dead and 114 injured.  This post looks at what remains of the site today including the curve that can still be seen in the field pictured below.

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3. The Longhouse People Of Crawford Lake  Nov. 21, 2015

Crawford Lake is one of a handful of meromictic lakes in Ontario and this fact led to the discovery of a pre-contact native village.  An ungrooved axe or celt had been found here by a previous land owner and it is now part of a 10,000 artifact collection that has been uncovered between 1973 and 1989.  The post holes for the frames of 11 longhouses have been discovered and three of these have been reconstructed.

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2. Lotten – Cawthra Estate Mississauga  Jan. 31, 2016

In 1926 Grace Cawthra-Elliot and her husband Colonel Harry Cawthra Elliot built a new home on the family property near Port Credit using bricks covered with plaster.  The old dirt road that accessed the home has since been named Cawthra Road and widened to 6 lanes in places.  The property has been protected from development because it is also the habitat of Jefferson Salamanders, a species seen to be at risk.  Grace called the property Lotten because it was lot ten.

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1 The Gap  Nov. 14, 2015

In 1962 a quarry blasted a huge gap in the Niagara Escarpment and set off a chain reaction that led to the escarpment being declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.  The gap in the escarpment can be seen from the 401 which is 3 km away.  This hike explores the Gap and the history of the quarry behind it.

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Here’s a link to the post: Greatest Treks which looks back on the 15 most popular stories of our first chapter.  Thanks for taking the time to read some of our stories or enjoy the pictures and perhaps we’ll cross paths on a trail somewhere down the road.

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The Grotto

September 12, 2016

A week of holidays in September is ideal because there are less tourists and, chances are, the weather will not be too hot for hiking.  Many years ago I visited the southern cairn on the Bruce Trail at it’s location in Queenston.  My Bruce Trail Guide Book has many stretches of the trail highlighted as completed but it had never worked out for me to visit the northern cairn in Tobermory.  Well, today was the day, but first a trip around the Big Tub Harbour to check out the lighthouse at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula.

Charles Earl and Abraham Davis were Tobermory’s first settlers and the town grew quickly in the late 1800’s as it was established as a major fishing community.  Tobermory has two harbours, both shaped like a bath tub and known as Big Tub and Little Tub.  At the top end of Big Tub Harbour Charles Earl maintained an oil lantern on the end of a high pole to guide ships into the safety of the harbour.  This job paid him $100 per year which was a considerable salary in that day.  In 1885 a hexagonal lighthouse was built on the site and political sway landed the job for Abraham Davis who was Earl’s rival.  Four lighthouse keepers held the job until 1952 when the light was automated.

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The lighthouse keepers at Big Tub had a small cottage just behind the tower.  The foundation remains lie hidden in the trees and can be seen in the picture below with the outline of the lighthouse in the background.

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In the 1930’s a small wooden vessel named Kagawong began ferrying vehicles from Tobermory to South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island.  Two other ferries operated on this route and on September 10th, 1974 the Chi-Cheemaun made her maiden voyage.  Having just celebrated her 32nd year in service on the previous weekend the ship, whose name means “big canoe” in Ojibwa, has now carried over 100,000 vehicles and 250,000 passengers across Lake Huron to connect with the next section of Highway 6 on Manitoulin Island.

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The Bruce Trail is the oldest marked hiking trail in Canada.  Extending for 890 kilometers from Tobermory to Queenston Heights Park it also has over 400 kilometers of side trails.  The cairn in Tobermory was unveiled in June of 1967 as part of the celebrations of Canada’s Centennial.  It is located right on the waterfront in Tobermory’s commercial district and all the local parking has a two hour limit.  This makes it hard to park near the cairn and go for a lengthy hike to start out your end-to-end journey.  There is free parking at the Visitor Information Centre a short distance away from which you can set out on an extended hike.  Inside, they suggested a more scenic hike would be found out of the immediate area of town where the trail winds along the coast of the peninsula.

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Cyprus Lake, in Bruce Peninsula National Park has access to the Bruce Trail as well as others for the price of parking ($11.75 at this time).   The parking lot leads to Head of Trails where you can choose from several hikes including a 5.2 kilometer one around Cyprus Lake.  Three other trails lead to the shore of Georgian Bay.  According to the person at the park entrance the trails vary in difficulty with Horse Lake (1.2 kilometers) being moderate, Georgian Bay Trail (1 kilometer) being easy and Marr Lake (0.8 kilometers) difficult.  The Bruce Trail along this section is listed as very difficult.  I decided to take the Marr Lake Trail which is accessed from the Cyprus Lake Trail. The picture below shows Cyprus Lake and an Inukshuk that someone has built quite a distance out into the lake.

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Marr Lake is separated from Georgian Bay by a boulder beach.  This beach is visible on the other side of the lake in the picture below.

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This photo shows the boulder beach which must be crossed as you connect the Marr Lake Trail with the Bruce Trail that runs along the shore of Georgian Bay.

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The Bruce Trail to the right leads to The Grotto.  A grotto is a cave that has been created by water along a shoreline.  Natural grottos are a type of karst topography and usually occur in limestone like the Niagara Escarpment.  Carbon dioxide mixes with rainwater to form a weak carbonic acid that slowly breaks down the limestone or dolomite and turns small cracks into large caves.  The grotto in the park can be climbed down into and makes a great place to explore.  The cover photo also shows the grotto and reveals the beautiful colours of the water in the little cove near the cave.  People were swimming here as well as jumping from he cliffs which is banned in the park.  Being caught can lead to a fine and eviction from the park.  Miscalculating and hitting a boulder or shale ledge could be much worse.

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Another five minute walk along the Bruce Trail will bring you to Indian Head Cove.  This scenic spot is much more easily accessed than the grotto.  There are many places where you can climb up and down the escarpment to reach the cold, clear water or ascend to a spectacular view of Georgian Bay.

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After leaving the cove, the Horse Lake Trail can be taken to go back to the parking lot.  The Bruce Peninsula National Park has so much more to offer than just the small section that was explored in this visit and could be the subject of several future adventures.  Here is a final look from the top of the escarpment down into the cove in front of The Grotto.

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Google Maps link: The Grotto

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La Grande Hermine

Friday September 16, 2016

If you have driven the QEW to Niagara Falls you have likely noticed the abandoned ship that sits in Jordan Harbour near St. Catherines.  Having spent one of my holidays in Niagara exploring the falls and several historical sites I decided to stop for a few minutes on the way home and get some pictures.

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Built in 1914, La Grande Hermine (The Big Weasel) spent 77 years in service as a Quebec ferry and cargo ship.  In 1991 the 140 foot hull was outfitted with a wood veneer that converted it into a replica of La Grande Hermine the largest of the three ships Jacques Cartier used when he explored Canada. This ship is not the same one that was outfitted as La Grande Hermine and used as a floating restaurant and bar in Expo ’67.  That ship was moved to Quebec City.

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The vessel was later decked out as a pirate ship that was used at Halloween to raise money to support a children’s hot-lunch program.

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Unpaid dock fees led to the ship being moved from Montreal in 1997 and it was brought to Niagara with the intention of converting it into a casino.  While the paperwork was caught up the owner died and the ship was left abandoned in Jordan Harbour.

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It had become a playground for kids and in January of 2003 the ship was destroyed when a fire got out of control.  The ship now leans to one side as it half floats and half rests in the weeds of Jordan Harbour where it has become something of a local attraction.

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This stock photo below shows the La Grande Hermine looked like when it arrived in Jordan Harbour.

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There’s no real hiking involved with a visit to La Grande Hermine but it is a pretty cool place to stop for a few pictures.

Google Maps link: La Grande Hermaine

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Cabot Head Lighthouse

Monday September 12, 2016

The waters of Georgian Bay hide the hulls of countless shipwrecks, at least nine of which lay near Cabot Head.  During the 1850’s shipping traffic on Georgian Bay was increasing and on Dec. 11, 1856 the first known shipwreck in the area of Cabot Head was recorded.  It was a small schooner owned by George Newcombe of Owen Sound.  In 1863 a 10-ton schooner Pioneer was sunk in the entrance to Wingfield Basin.  Three more schooners were lost Son & Heir (1869), Shannon (1884) and John R. Bentley (1886). A steamer named Kincardine was lost in 1892 and finally in 1895 the Government decided to take action.  They called for tenders to build a lighthouse and fog horn station at Cabot Head.

Being on holidays I was Hiking the GTA (Giant Toronto Area) which this day included the Giant’s Rib known as the Niagara Escarpment on the Bruce Peninsula.  On my way home from Tobermory I decided to take a side trip to see the Cabot Head Lighthouse.  The road through Dyers Bay passes by this cairn with a large steel propeller on it.  It was found in Wingfield Basin in 1986 and rescued a year later.  No one knows what ship this came off of but it was manufactured in Saginaw Michigan.

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In 1963 a road was built from Dyers Bay to the Cabot Head Lighthouse.  Prior to that all supplies were either brought in by boat or carried by trail from Gillies Lake.  The road is about 9 kilometers long and hugs the shoreline for a very scenic drive.  You’ll have time to enjoy the view as you creep along trying to avoid the giant potholes.  The worst ones are hiding in the places where trees shelter the road.  These shady spots don’t dry out making them more prone to potholes.  As an added bonus the shade makes the holes harder to see, so be careful.

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The lighthouse went into operation on May 18, 1896 with William Campbell as the first lighthouse keeper.  The original lighthouse as well as the automated light tower can be seen in the cover photo.

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The lighthouse incorporated a house for the keeper to live in.  On the main floor there was a kitchen space with bedrooms and closets on the second floor.  In 1958 a cottage was built for the keeper to live in.  Being a lighthouse keeper was a well paid and prestigious job.  It involved the maintenance of increasingly complex technology and normally provided secure employment in spite of the hardships that went with the isolation. Cabot Head lighthouse had seven different keepers in the century between 1896 and 1987 when the job was made obsolete.

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Atop the lighthouse keeper’s residence, 80 feet above the lake, sat a red octagonal lantern.  In the beginning the lantern was lit with flat wick kerosene lamps.  These were reflected using parabolic metal reflectors called catoptric.  The light from these could be seen 16 miles out into the lake in clear weather.  Kerosene lamps and later electric light changed how the job was conducted.  In 1968 the automated tower seen in the cover photo was added and the light pictured below was installed.  It flashed once every 15 seconds to warn sailors of the shoreline.  It was later replaced and then the automated tower was converted to solar power in 2005.  The original light from the automated tower is stored on the third floor of the lighthouse tower.

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From the top of the lighthouse the view across the lake seams quiet enough.  Looking out the depth ranges to about 20 meters for the first two kilometers.  Then it suddenly drops to 90 meters, which is equivalent to the height of the bluffs above the shore.

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When the lighthouse was built they also constructed a foghorn to alert ships during foggy weather.  Also built in 1896, it used a steam driven horn for the first ten years. A Toronto company invented the Diaphone in 1903 and one was installed at Cape Head in about 1906 or 1907 following a fire to the fog horn building.  This device created a noise using compressed air and a cylinder that could be heard for ten miles.  In 1971 the fog horn was replaced with a electronic signal coming from the new tower.  The foundations are all that remain of the fog horn station.

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According to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001,  every vessel in Canadian waters must carry nautical maps or charts issued by the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS).  In 1964 they mapped this part of Georgian Bay under the guidance of Captain A. J. Kerr.  They set up rock posts as markers to locate features during their survey.  This one was found lying on its side about 150 meters south of Cabot Head and was moved to the fog horn foundations in 2012 with the permission of CHS.  Today hydrographic features are located using GPS information.

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A set of concrete steps leads from the lighthouse to the fog horn base.

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A new display at the lighthouse commemorates the native people who originally found this area to be ideal for fishing.  A twenty minute walk from the lighthouse brings you to Wingfield Basin which has a small mouth opening onto a protected 1/4 mile diameter basin where small boats can find refuge during storms.  A commercial fishery was established here in 1900 but over-fishing and the introduction of lamprey eels destroyed the fishing and it was closed.  Today the main fish that are caught commercially are splake and whitefish.

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As you drive back out to Dyers Bay road take note of the change in the rocks along the shore line.  An extensive stretch is covered with boulders that have been rounded over the years by being pounded together.  There is an odd section that contains flat pieces of shale instead of the rounded boulders.  Adjacent to this place the limestone of the escarpment face is exposed in the only place where it comes close to the shore.

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The lighthouse is manned by volunteers who have worked hard to turn it into a museum.  Maintaining the building and grounds costs money and is solely funded by donations.  This is an historic landmark that is well worth the drive and the donation!

Google Maps Link: Cabot Head Lighthouse

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Humber Heritage Trail Bolton

Saturday Sept. 10, 2016

The town of Bolton has an interesting past that developed along the Humber River when the mills began to arrive.  To help commemorate this they have developed the Humber Heritage Trail along the river.  The trail extends from the Trans-Canada Trail at Humber Station Road near Albion Hills Conservation Area through to Kleinberg.  It will cover 33 kilometers when it is completed and there is free parking in Dick’s Dam Park.  Even after the mill pond was no longer required the dam in this park used to have the boards inserted every summer to create a fishing and swimming hole.  This practice continued into the 1970’s.  From this park the trail extends in both directions however it has no discernable marking.  If there are coloured slashes I was unable to find them anywhere along the trail.

The trees in the park are full of empty Tent Caterpillar nests.  Placement in the tent is critical because the caterpillars emerge during the cool of spring.  They must elevate their body temperatures above 15 degrees Celsius in order for digestion to occur.  They move between layers of the tent to regulate themselves.  It is common for the temperature of the mass of caterpillars to be as much as 30 degrees Celsius higher than the surrounding air on a cool sunny morning.

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The Humber River was a source of water power and when the counties were surveyed it was the responsibility of the survey team to record the locations of suitable mill seats.  The stretch of river around what would come to be known as Bolton had several suitable places as the river drops quickly in elevation between Glasgow and Bolton.  James Bolton arrived in Upper Canada in 1819 and spent two years building mills around Southern Ontario.  He decided to settle down and farm and bought a 100 acre lot just north of Bolton.  In 1821 George Bolton emigrated to Canada and bought a mill site on the Humber River near his relatives.  James helped George build a grist mill and soon the community of Bolton’s Mills was established.  Black Walnut trees are no longer used for food like they were in the early days of settlement.  Pioneers used to set aside as many sacks of these nutritious nuts as they could for the winter.  These days Persian Walnuts are much easier to remove from the shell and have taken over the market.  Black walnuts are growing in several places along the trail and the green fruit balls are dropping to the ground.

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Although George started the mill he never married and it is James’ six sons who were prominent in village history. In 1842 one of them, also named James, bought the mill from George.  James moved the grist mill to the north side of the river and added a saw mill.  The first general store and post office was run by another of James Bolton’s sons, this one named George.  As can be seen in the picture below the clusters of wild grapes along the trail are ripe..

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The Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway arrived in town in 1870.  With access to other markets the town prospered and new industry was attracted to the area around the mills.  A cooperage for making barrels and a blacksmith shop were added and new homes sprang up to house the workers.  By 1872 the community had grown to the point where it was incorporated as a town.  Dick’s Agricultural Works opened in 1869 and quickly became a major producer of quality agricultural implements.  Dodd’s Carriage Works and Plumber’s Foundry added to the growth of the town and led to it becoming the largest community in Caledon township.  Bolton Mill Park sits on top of the filled in mill race from Bolton’s mills.

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The mill passed out of the Bolton family’s control quite quickly as James sold it to Edward Lawson in 1855.  Lawson had it for 5 years before selling to John Gardhouse.  In 1881 he sold it to Andrew McFall who had to add steam power due to falling water levels in the Humber River.  The McFall family operated the mill for 46 years.  In 1899 Andrew added a rolling-chopping block so he could produce livestock feed.  The town of Bolton got it’s first electrical power from McFall’s generator in 1905.  McFall built a new dam just downstream from Bolton’s dam.  This 1912 concrete dam was built in response to another of the towns major floods, the second in two years.  Around 1984 the tiers were cut off of the dam reducing it to water lever to prevent the flooding that the dam was causing in the spring when ice got wedged behind the tiers.  Recently a channel was cut in the dam to allow fish to pass through.  The remains of McFall’s dam are featured below and in the cover photo.

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The mill changed hands several more times and finally ended up in the hands of the Woodbridge Farmer’s Cooperative in 1952. It had stopped using water power the previous year. In 1968 the mill was closed and then demolished to make way for Humber Lea Road.  The remains were set on fire for the local fire department to practice on.  A diversion channel was created in 1983 to carry the river away from the town core to try to reduce the damage caused by ongoing floods.

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In other places the river has been given a hard shoreline to reduce erosion.

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Black Eyed Susan flowers are out in full bloom.  These ones are sharing their space with this member of the sunflower family that is known as a White Swan or White Coneflower.

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The Humber Heritage Trail is a nice place to explore and it would be a great idea of they would mark the trail so people could follow it more easily.

Google Maps Link: Bolton

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Bond Lake

Sunday September 4, 2016

Bond Lake is a 55 acre, spring fed lake, just north of Richmond Hill on Yonge Street.  Perhaps it’s location has been the key to the various uses the lake and surrounding lands have had over the years.  I decided to explore the lake and surrounding trails and so I parked at the end of  Trish Drive where a pathway leads to the Oak Ridges Trail.  This trail extends the length of the moraine and is listed at 260 kilometers long.  The 1877 county atlas below has been marked in brown to show approximately where Old Colony Road and Trish Drive are today.  The route of the hike around the lake is shown in red.

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Before I had walked very far along the trail I came to a large stand of sumac trees.  Experience has shown that these often hide signs of habitation and this was no exception.  The foundations for a barn can be found in this bush.  This is likely the barn from the Walker Estate seen on the map above although the Whitney & Morton barn should also be in the same area.

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From the earliest days Bond Lake was used for recreational purposes and the first settlers in the area used the lake for fishing, swimming and boating in the summer and curling in the winter.  The Metropolitan Railway extended north from Richmond Hill in 1899 and built an electric generating station at Bond Lake to supply the line north of there with power.  The fact that the lake was already in use for leisure activities led the Metropolitan Street Railway to buy the 200 acre farm around the lake from William Bell.  Along with landscaping the grounds they also set about building the railway sidings and platforms for the tourists they hoped to carry to the lake.  The picture below from the Toronto Reference Library shows people arriving at stop 35, Bond Lake, on June 20, 1924.

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The park proved to be a real money maker for the railway when 60,000 people went through the gates in 1901 alone.  The vast majority of these also paid fare on the railway to get there.  It was a popular spot for couples to go for romantic dates and more than once an engagement would take place at the pavilion in the park.  Church and company groups as well as families flocked to the park for it’s clean water.  The railway advertised the health benefits of the lake, claiming that it was cleaner than Lake Ontario because it was 720 feet above the level of the larger lake.  No doubt at the start of the 20th century Lake Ontario around Toronto was pretty dirty with raw sewage.  Another odd claim in the railway literature is that the lake’s cool breezes meant that guests didn’t need to worry about mosquitoes.  The trail continues for about 2 kilometers until it reaches Yonge Street.  The fields throughout here have been replanted with rows of young trees.  Before too long this area will all be a new forest.  Signs of the fall are in the fields and trees where the bright greens of summer are giving way to yellows and reds of fall.  Rows of newly planted trees can be seen in the background of the picture below.

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After the success of the  1901 season the company invested in a concert pavilion and baseball fields.  They kept a boat called The Gypsy to carry passengers around the lake, delivering them to various wharves.  Row boats could be rented for those who wanted to casually explore the lake.    The remains of the electric power generating station are close to Yonge Street and both the substation and the foundations for the generating building have been presented in two previous posts.  The Toronto & York Radial Railway and the Electric Railway Generating Plant describe this site in greater detail and with many pictures.  The foundations for the power house remain but the building itself has been removed.  The archive photo below shows how the power house looked.  Today, just the cut stone blocks of the foundation remain and they are being taken over by the forest.

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A car repair barn was constructed near the generating facility but not much remains other than the corner of two walls.

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Sticking to the side of the lake the trail becomes little more than a footpath after leaving the formal trail.  Along this little pathway, not far from the substation, is an old pump house.

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The park was the first “electric park” in Ontario meaning that it was the first one to have electric lighting and later a merry-go-round.  The foundations for the gatehouse and station can still be seen along the trail.

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Hopefully you won’t be needing the washrooms as they look like they need a serious cleaning.

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In 1936 Robert Clifford and Edith Gamble built a cottage on the lake.  It has been abandoned and is starting to decay.  There was a front porch but it has since collapsed.  It is just one of many buildings that were along the lake shore.  Bond Lake Inn and Stables are also now long gone.  The first pavilion, wading pool and merry go round have also all disappeared.  The second pavilion has been moved and is now in use as a three-car garage.

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The construction of this log cabin illustrates a skill in dovetailing.  This woodworking technique likely predates recorded history as examples have been found in First Dynasty Egyptian tombs (around 3000 B.C.) and in ancient Chinese Emperor’s tombs.  A series of trapezoid pins on one part match with tails cut on the mating part.  Once set, a dovetail joint has a very high tensile strength, or resistance to being pulled apart, and requires no mechanical fasteners.  Pioneers created log homes with dovetail corners that are still standing 200 years later.

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Another sure sign of the coming of autumn is the yellow of goldenrod in the meadows.  There are about 120 species of this plant and they are often blamed for hay fever.  In reality the pollen is very heavy and sticky and isn’t windblown.  Ragweed, which blooms at the same time, is the normal problem for most people.  The young leaves can be eaten and goldenrod is used in herbal tea.  The plant is a prime source of nectar for bees, flies, wasps and butterflies.

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There are many other foundations and ruins at Bond Lake but it appears that more time should be spent when there are no leaves on the trees.  This is a very interesting place to explore.

Google Maps link: Bond Lake

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Toronto & York Radial Railway

Sunday Sept. 4, 2016

The Metropolitan Street Railway Company of Toronto was incorporated on March 2, 1877 and began service with animals pulling railcars up Yonge Street in 1885.  On Sep. 1, 1890 electrical power was used for the first time, however, this didn’t last.  Animal power was re-instituted within a few weeks and left in use until May 1891 when the electric service was resumed.  In 1893 the name was simplified to Metropolitan Street Railway Company and then in 1897 to simply Metropolitan Railway Company.  On October 26, 1896 the contract to build the 16 kilometer line from Hoggs Hollow to Richmond Hill was given to a Pittsburgh company who had only 24 days to complete the task.  Three hundred men worked in 3 crews and finished with three hours to spare.  The first train rolled into Richmond Hill on November 19th with the official opening coming on January 27, 1897.  Service was extended to Aurora and Newmarket by 1899 and the Metropolitan continued until Nov. 1, 1904.

On Nov. 1, 1904 the Toronto Railway Company acquired the line and it became the Toronto & York Radial Railway.  The City of Toronto bought the line in August 1922 and between January 1927 and March 16, 1930 it was operated by the TTC.  When service was suspended the municipalities got involved and contracted the TTC to run it for them.  On October 9, 1948 they were finally forced to admit that the service had been made obsolete by the personal automobile.

To accommodate passengers and freight the railway created a series of stops and constructed a variety of waiting rooms and stations.  The picture below shows one of the simple waiting rooms, this one originally on the west side of Yonge Street at Royal Orchard Boulevard in Thornhill.  It has been restored and moved just south to Cricklewood Park.  Other, more substantial stations survive, having been converted to other uses.  Queensville and Willow Beach Stations are now private residences.  Keswick is a law office while Sutton has been converted to use as a real estate office.

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The railway expanded north from Richmond hill and in 1899 it built a generating station at Bond Lake.  The stonework for the boilers and furnaces remains on site but they are getting overgrown and there are well established trees in the rows between the furnaces.  The substation was built from brick but by the mid 1950’s it had been covered over with aluminum siding and was in use as a private residence.  It has since been abandoned and has two large holes in the roof.  Unlike other artifacts from the rail line there appears to be no interest in preserving this one.  There are many more pictures of this site that were presented in a pictorial called Electric Railway Generating Plant.

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A former bridge abutment in Aurora marks the original route of the railway into town.  It is located just east of Yonge Street off of Industrial Parkway.  It was built in 1899 to support a trestle across the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR).  The 9 foot column of limestone blocks was abandoned in 1922 when the trestle was removed.  The radial line was relocated next to the Yonge Street underpass for the GTR.

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Newmarket was becoming the economic centre for a large area and in 1883 they decided to build a new town hall.  The Italianate Style building housed a successful farmer’s market on the first floor and  the town offices on the upper one.  The train entered Newmarket along the side of the town hall and had it’s station and freight sheds where the parking lot is across the street.

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The railway made it’s way north toward Queen Street via Raglan but it’s not possible to walk through there anymore.  You can go to Church Street where you will see the house pictured below.  The Newmarket Historical Society has done a great job of identifying homes in the old town core and placing a plaque showing the original owner, their occupation and the date of the home.  This Late Victorian home was built in 1894 for a painter named Ernest E. Groome.

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The tracks followed Queen Street across Main Street to the GTR tracks where it departed from the street on it’s own trestle.  The abutment still remains on the side of the tracks along with a smaller one that can be seen through the arch.

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In 1909 the railway built the parabolic arch bridge that still spans the Holland River.  It was one of the first concrete arches built in Canada and supported the trestle that crossed the river here and the GTR tracks above.  It spans the river at 15 meters wide and rises 7 meters above it.  Newmarket also has the very unique remains of an abandoned canal that proposed to connect the city with Lake Simcoe using the Holland River.  When this portion of the railway was abandoned in 1930 the trestle was demolished.  The arch has been recognized for it’s historic value and is being preserved by the city and the South Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority giving the city a second unique piece of transportation history.  The arch is also featured in the cover photo.

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By 1850 there were over 9,000 miles of railway track in the United States and only 60 in Canada.  On October 15, 1851 a sod turning ceremony was held in Toronto to mark the start of the city’s railway era.  The Ontario, Simcoe and Lake Huron Union Company made it’s first business run on May 16, 1853 going as far as Machell’s Corners (Aurora), 30 miles north of the city.  Construction continued north in 1853 reaching Allendale later that year.  After a series of mergers the GTR acquired this line in 1888.  By 1900 passenger and freight traffic was still increasing and so a new station was built.  It is a simple one story wood frame structure with wood cladding.  The style is Queen Anne Revival that was popular between 1880 and 1910.

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The North York Registry Office was built in 1884 to replace an 1863 building that sat on the lot to the immediate south.  The building was designed to house the records of land titles, births, deaths and marriages in the County of York, except for the Toronto jurisdiction.  It was intended to hold the county records for a period of 50 years.  In the end it served until 1980, just shy of a century.  It was built in a style that was mandated by the Ontario Department of Public Works in 1868.  Today it houses a museum.

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Feb. 14, 2017

A fire at Yonge and St. Clair destroyed the Badminton and Racquet Club building in one of the biggest fires in recent history.  Until 1920 this had been the site of the car barns for the railway.  The TTC was consolidating assets and the building was found to be redundant. There were seven courts laid out in the old car barns and it is said that tracks could still be seen buried in the floor of the racquet club.

Here is the link again for the Bond Lake Generating Station.

Google Maps link: Newmarket Radial Arch near Queen Street and Wellington.

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Highland Creek

Saturday August 27, 2016

Highland Creek marks the eastern limits of the Scarborough Bluffs and very nearly the county itself.  The community of Highland Creek grew around the place where Kingston Road crossed the creek.  The presence of water and the road made this one of the first places to be inhabited in Scarborough township.  There is some parking on Beechgrove Drive and the trail to the bottom of the ravine enters from the south east corner at Lawrence.  The trail does a couple of hairpin turns as it winds it’s way down the side of the ravine.  The county atlas below shows the community of Highland Creek and the trail that this hike follows (red).

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Highland Creek (blue) flows through a ravine that was cut during the retreat of the last ice age.  Like the Credit, Humber, Don and Rouge Rivers the water volume was much greater during the melting of the 1 kilometer thick Wisconsin ice sheet.  The creek averages about 20 meters across but the ravine is 100 meters wide and 30 meters deep.  This formed a natural barrier that prevented major development of the eastern side of the county.  The long span bridges that cross the ravine today didn’t exist until 1937 when the one on Kingston road was built.  Ellesmere Road and Lawrence Avenue didn’t get their bridges until the 1960’s.  The long span bridge across the ravine at Lawrence Avenue is seen below and it gives a perspective to the depth of the ravine.

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It is easy to think of Kingston Road, or Old Kingston Road (purple), as the early route between York (Toronto) and Kingston when the latter was the military capital of Upper Canada.  When the British set off the gun powder magazine and abandoned York to the Americans during the War of 1812 they retreated to Kingston to save the troops for battle another day.  The only bridge across Highland Creek at the time was north of here on the appropriately named Military Trail (green).  Just south of the bridge over Lawrence Avenue (yellow) is a large water pipe that crosses the creek high above.

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Muskrats are the only species in their genus but are related to 142 other species of rodents, including moles and lemmings, of which they are the largest.  In spite of the name they are not related to rats. They are semiaquatic and can be found in wetlands over a wide range climates.  The name likely comes from the Algonquian name for the animal which means “it is red”.  They can weigh up to 4 lbs and reach over 2 feet long but the length is half tail.  The tail is their primary means of propulsion while swimming even though the hind feet are partially webbed.  In addition to being a food source for people, muskrats also are used for their fur in clothing.  RCMP winter hats are made from muskrat.  In 1976 The Captain & Tennille performed their hit “Muskat Love” for Queen Elizabeth II.  Some thought a song about muskrat sex to be a little racy for the occasion.

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The ravine also became a barrier to the Toronto and Scarboro’ Electric Railway, Light and Power Company.  In 1904 this electric radial line had been merged with the Toronto & York Radial Line and was expanding eastward.  When they reached West Hill, on the west table lands of the creek, they had to end the line.  The street cars were not able to make the grade where Kingston Road entered the ravine.  The ravine continues to be a shelter for wild life even as the surrounding lands have become developed.  There are 360,000 people living in the watershed and 85% of the area has been developed.  This makes it the most developed watershed in the GTA.  The sand along the edge of the creek shows the foot prints white tailed deer.  At least two different generations have been passing in each direction.

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Highland Creek was home to Atlantic Salmon until the late 19th century.  Dams at mills blocked migratory routes and pollution degraded the habitats.  Atlantic salmon became locally extinct in Lake Ontario and were replaced with Chinook which are not native.  Due to the highly developed nature of the watershed rainwater runs into storm drains and causes flash floods and poor water quality in the creek.  Because of this, only the hardiest fish remain in the creek.  It is now home to White Sucker, Creek Chub, Blacknosed Dace, Longnose Dace and Fathead Minnow.  There were schools of these  little fish in the creek as can be seen in the picture below.

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Erosion is a serious problem because of the rapid flooding that can occur when it rains hard.  The layers of sand have been washed out from under the trail causing the path to be rerouted a little farther away from the river bank.

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Stinging nettles grow in several places along the trail.  The leaves and stems of the plant are covered with a fine hair-like mess of fine needles.  These little hollow tubes spread a chemical on your skin that causes an immediate stinging sensation.  It will pass in just a few minutes, unless you rub it.  In that case you will spread the chemical into your skin and the burn could last much longer, possibly for days.  Stinging nettles lose the chemical when cooked and can then be eaten.  They are also used in arthritis and fibromyalgia pain management.

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There are plenty of places along Highland Creek that the city seems very far away.

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These woodland sunflowers are one of three varieties of sunflowers that grow wild in Ontario.  They bring a nice splash of yellow to the woodlands as the summer winds into fall.

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The mouth of Highland Creek is crossed by the CN tracks as well as a pedestrian bridge.  The original tracks were the Grand Trunk Railroad in 1856.  They built the cut stone bridge pier pictured below.  A more recent addition is the steel and concrete ice breaker that has been built around the base of the pier.  The pedestrian bridge is on the Pan-Am Path, an 80 kilometer pathway that links the Humber River with the Rouge river.  Parts of this path also serve the Waterfront Trail.

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Just before the rail bridge are the old telegraph and electrical poles which obviously carried many more wires in the past.  The glass insulators are remarkably intact.

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Walking down the beach toward the west will bring you to East Point Park while a trip to the east brings you to Port Union.  Can I see the Pickering Nuclear Generating Plant in the distance?  Candu!

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There are plenty of areas along Highland Creek north of Lawrence Avenue that beg to be explored someday.

Google Maps link: Lower Highland Creek Park

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Electric Railway Generating Plant

Tuesday Sept. 6, 2016

An electric railway extended up Yonge Street all the way to Lake Simcoe and then on to Sutton.  Electric railways had to have a continuous supply of electricity and so they built generating stations along their route.  The Toronto & York Radial Railway reached Aurora and Newmarket by 1899 and they built a power generating station at Bond Lake just north of Richmond Hill.  The railway was abandoned in 1930 but soon resurrected until October 1948 when it was finally closed for good.  The need to generate power had ended years before and the facility was no longer needed for it’s original purpose.  The Toronto Public Library has the following picture from April 13, 1955 which shows the substation in relation to the foundations of the steam generating plant in the foreground.  The foundations include the furnace section to the right.  A transmission pole stands near the foundations.  Bond Lake can be seen in the background.  This picture was likely taken from Yonge Street.  The substation is in use as a private residence at this time.

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The front of the substation as it exits in 2016.  The siding is peeling off showing the original brickwork.  The front porch is missing as are all the add on sections to the right in the picture above.  It has been some time since this building served as a home.

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From the rear the old steel substation roof can be seen under the shingles that were not present in 1955.  Two gaping holes in the roof suggest that there isn’t much time left for the historic structure if no one intervenes.

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Notice in the archive picture how the entire area was sparsely treed in 1955.  Now the forest has regenerated around the substation.

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This photo shows Bond Lake as seen from behind the generating station.  A pipe still extends out into the lake.

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The foundations of the steam generating station are seen in this second 1955 photo from the library.

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A similar picture today shows the advance of nature on the station over the past 60 years.  Trees are growing between each of the chambers and it is only a matter of time before they will begin to slowly topple the remaining structures.

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The entrance to one of the furnaces in the steam generating plant can be seen in the following photo.

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The structure is mostly made from cut blocks of limestone as was common for the railway just before the turn of the last century.

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The foundations to the left in the picture of the full site were clear of any trees.  Today there is a young forest around them and they are overgrown with vines.

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This set of wires and poles lays beside the generating plant.

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In 1912 the town of Richmond Hill made a contract with the Toronto & York Radial Railway to buy excess power that they were generating at their Bond Lake plant.  On December 30, 1912 the electric streetlights came on in Richmond Hill for the first time.  Commercial use in stores and homes began at the same time.  A lone transmission pole stands near the generating station.

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In 1899 The Metropolitain Railway purchased the property of William Bell to create a park on the shores of the lake.  It was Ontario’s first electric park with the power being supplied by the railway generating station.  Later, Eldorado Park would build upon the same model.

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More pictures and details of the Toronto & York Radial Railway as well as Bond Lake will be featured in upcoming posts.

Google Maps Link: Bond Lake

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Guelph Radial Trail – Acton East

Saturday August 27, 2016

The Toronto Suburban Railway (TSR) line was closed in 1931 but parts of it have been resurrected as the Guelph Radial Trail.  Much of the trail runs on the old railway right of way but large parts are also on trails granted by local landowners.  Hiking the GTA has crossed paths with the TSR several times during our wanderings in and around the GTA. The TSR schedule shown below illustrates the two hour trip from Guelph to Toronto.

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Access to the trail can be made off of the corner of 25 and 25 just south of the town of Acton.  Side Road 25 has some parking just before the intersection with Regional Road 25.  A previous hike starting on Mill Street in Acton led onto the Guelph Radial Trail and ended at 25 and 25 and so a continuation east from there seemed to be in order.

The trail follows the fence line east across the field.  The wild grapes are ripening in clusters where the vines are taking over the bushes and trees.  Wild grape, unlike moonseed, has climbing tendrils.  They can be seen in the picture below wrapped around one of the branches to the left of the cluster.  If in doubt on the identification of wild grapes versus the poisonous moonseed you should eat a leaf.  Grape leaves will taste like grapes.

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At the back corner of the field the trail turns and enters the woods.  There is some kind of a hunter’s blind built into the trees where it can look into two fields.  It is not uncommon to find some sort of fort or tree house on an exploration but this time there was far more wooden structures than is normal.  There were two of these blinds in different fields.

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At the foot of this one is an old rectangular structure made of concrete.  Livestock needed water and farmers had to provide large amounts for cows and horses.  They had several options, including creating a pond by damming a creek on the property.  Some landowners were lucky enough to have a spring which could feed into a watering trough.  Others would install windmills to drive the pump needed to bring water from a well to a trough.   There are a couple of pipes on the ground beside this abandoned trough that brought water from somewhere else on the farm.

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The trail leads through an area of young growth trees.  The forest floor through here is covered with large stumps of burnt trees.  Canada has about 10 percent of the world’s forest cover.  Each year in Canada about 8,300 fires burn and they consume an average of 2.3 million hectares annually.  These fires are essential to forest renewal because they release nutrients that are trapped in the plant matter on the forest floor.  They also open up the forest canopy so that light reaches the floor and gives new growth an opportunity to get started.  Older, often diseased, trees are cleared out giving the forest a chance to grow new healthy ones.  The cones of the jack pine tree don’t open and release their seeds until they are heated in a fire.  They actually require a fire to reproduce, and the older ones get out of the way!

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Crown Coral fungus is a member of a group of fungi species which, though not related, are grouped together as coral fungi.  The crown coral, or crown-tipped coral, is distinguished by the little crown shaped tips on the end of the fruit bodies.  They tend to grow on decaying wood and have a peppery taste that disappears when cooked.

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A hand-painted sign announced that we had found a tree fort but it’s possible we would have identified it even without the sign.  This two story tree fort had been covered with tarps but they have since started to come loose.  The steps to climb up into the fort, as well as the height of the rooms suggest that this was not built to be used by children but rather by teenagers.

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The trail runs along the south side of a small creek until it meets up with the abandoned rail line.  The trail follows the railway corridor to the right but it needed to be investigated a short ways to the left.  The berm is very obvious even though it has been covered with forest on both sides.  The berm rises above the surrounding fields which are also over grown with forest through here.

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The railway crossed the creek on a short trestle which has been replaced with an improvised foot bridge in the bottom of the creek ravine.  Just beyond the creek crossing the berm runs through an open field and is clearly visible in Google Earth shots.

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After following the railway for a short distance it was time to return to the trail and follow it out to where it intersects with the third line.  Along the side of the trail is the most fully realized tree house I have ever seen.  It has several rooms some with sitting or sleeping provisions. It can be seen from the rail berm and is featured in the cover photo.  It even includes a library, complete with Ghost Rider, a book by Rush drummer Neil Peart.  A note welcomes everyone to use the place provided they take care of it.

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At the third line the abandoned railway ran parallel to the active line and a short distance in from the road lies what appears to be an old railroad sign.

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The Guelph Radial Trail runs for 33 kilometers and is best enjoyed with two vehicles parked on different sideroads.  This allows you to go twice as far because you don’t have to back track like was done here.

Artifacts from the Toronto Suburban Railway that have been featured in previous posts include:

Google Maps Link: Acton

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