Monthly Archives: December 2018

Iroquois Shoreline Woods Park

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Lake Ontario has been in a constant state of change since the end of the last ice age.  When the ice was melting about 12,000 years ago the lake was much larger than it is today.  That lake had a shoreline that was farther inland that today’s.  The larger lake has been named Lake Iroquois.  The Scarborough Bluffs are part of the old shoreline as is the rise in land on Spadina near Casa Loma.  At the west end of the lake, the old shoreline is visible in places like Iroquois Shoreline Woods Park in Oakville.  There is a small parking lot and forest access on Joshua Creek Drive but it is gated at this time of the year.  There are also several places where you can park on the street and access the park, including Edgeware Road.

The old Iroquois shoreline is one of the major geological land forms in the GTA.  When Lake Iroquois covered the lower part of the park, the lake was at the largest it has been in recent history.  Suddenly, the lake drained away through the Hudson River leaving a much smaller lake known as Lake Admiralty.  This lake sat in the basin of modern Lake Ontario.  Over time the lake has slowly been filling back up so that it has reached the shoreline we know today.  Iroquois Shoreline Woods Park was one of the last large undisturbed Carolinian forests in the area.  Carolinian forests are climax forests and consist of red oak, white oak, various maple, hickory and beech trees.  The picture below shows the rise in land that marks the old shoreline.


Several staircases provide access to the park and these all seem to be in a good state of repair.  The park had been shut down due to the condition of the forest but efforts to restore it have been successful and there are five sites where significant new plantings have taken place.


Joshua Creek sometimes forms the border between Oakville and Mississauga and has headwaters just north of the 407.  The forest around the creek has been thinned out considerably by the removal of ash trees to deal with the problem of emerald ash borers which have killed almost all ash trees in the GTA.  Controlled burns in the park have also left a scattering of burnt tree stumps.  All the stumps and downed trees have been left because they form part of the ecosystem in the forest.


Witches’ Butter is a golden jelly type of mushroom that can grow all year.  It appears on warmer days in the middle of winter but in the summer is found in cool places, usually at higher elevations.  It is considered edible and is sometimes added to soups but in my opinion it looks better on the stump than it would on my plate.


Along the way we noticed the family in one house has added indoor rock climbing hand and foot holds on the back of their shed.


Sheridan Valley Park connects the upper and lower sections of Iroquois Shoreline Woods Park and contains this extensive stairway that allows access to the park from the subdivision.


Puffball mushrooms are named for the way in which they spread their spores.  These purple spored puffballs have developed a small hole on the top where the spores are released when the ball is hit by heavy rain drops.


The short video below shows the spores being released from the opening on the top of each puffball.  Hitting the balls with a small stick created a cloud of spores which may serve to start another small colony of puffballs next year.


Iroquois Shoreline Woods Park is large enough, and has plenty of trails, making it an ideal place to visit multiple times.

Google Maps Link: Iroquois Shoreline Woods Park

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Abandoned Baby Buggy

Sunday, November 25, 2018

E T Seton Park runs all the way from Eglinton Avenue to the Lower Donlands and the Ontario Science Centre backs onto the park at the north end.  Near here I came across an old baby buggy that has become ingrown in a small tree.


For as long as mothers have been having babies they have needed a method of carrying them around.  The first modern stroller was invented in 1733 in Devonshire and was intended to be pulled by a goat or donkey.  By the 1840’s preambulators, or prams, were becoming popular in England and production was beginning in America.

The buggy may have been placed in the tree or the tree may have grown up under the buggy.  It does appear that at some point someone decided to bend the front axle around the tree.  It has been a few years since this happened as the tree is enclosing the steel.


Part of the mounting bracket can be seen where the baby seat was once attached.  Newer versions had a detachable carrycot while modern ones become a car seat when removed.


The main frame of the carriage has been in this tree for many years as the tree has fully grown around it.  This may have already been well enclosed when the front axle was wrapped around the tree.


A childhood rhyme was used to tease each other about liking someone.

“Jack and Jill sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G, First comes love, then comes marriage, Then comes Jill with a baby carriage.”  Someone forgot to tell them not to leave the carriage in the tree.

The carriage had a simple braking system.  By pressing the wire pedals under the carriage the end of the wire was pressed into the rubber of the wheel.


Only one of the wheels still has the white rubber but it has split in several places and may not last another season of freezing water expanding in the gaps.


E T Seton Park is a significant green strip along the Don River and will quite likely have a full length post one day.

Google Maps Link: Ontario Science Centre

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Old Finch Avenue


Saturday, November 24, 2018

Until 1954 Old Finch Avenue crossed The Rouge River on a steel truss bridge.  Hurricane Hazel demolished the bridge on October 15, 1954 and shifted the cut stone abutments to the point where they were no longer usable.  The quick solution was to install a temporary bailey bridge which we decided to visit.

The river has cut steep embankments through this area of sand and gravel that can be seen from Google Earth.  The capture below is taken from there.  The blue line roughly shows the areas we hiked.  There is parking for The Meander Trail at the turnaround on Old Finch Avenue beside the bailey bridge.

Old Finch Ave

The bailey bridge is 130 feet long and was constructed by the 2nd Field Engineer Regiment in just 3 days.  The Field Engineer Regiment dates back to January 14, 1876 when the unit was created.  They are based in Toronto and continue to parade at the Denison Armoury at Downsview Park every Friday night.  Following the hurricane, which claimed 81 lives, there was a need to rapidly repair infrastructure to keep people from being isolated from food and medical needs.


After crossing the bridge we made our way into the bush on a worn trail that turned toward the river pretty quickly.  The picture below shows the river looking upstream toward the only suspension bridge in Toronto which is around the next bend on Sewell’s Road.


It was a day for finding dead animals and we were surprised to find a dead deer that looked like it had been well scavenged.  It turns out that even small birds that eat suet at your feeder will pick at a deer carcass.  Within a couple of feet of each other we also found a dead crayfish and a dead salmon.  The salmon must have been one of the last of the fall spawning run.  It too has been well scavenged as nature feeds nature and nothing is left to waste.


At the end of the last ice age, about 12,000 years ago, all of Toronto’s ravines were full of rushing melt water from the retreating glacier.  Ice had been a kilometre thick over the area and our extensive system of ravines was created as it melted.  Ravines and embankments were eroded that are way out of scale for the size of rivers that currently flow through them.  Where The Rouge River turned corners around this hogs back it carved the large embankments that can be seen in the Google Earth capture above.


After we  had followed the river around we arrived back at the bailey bridge.


It is an odd feeling standing below the bridge as a car rattles past overhead.  The bridge decking is in good condition and looks like it has been replaced at some point.


This picture, as well as the cover photo, show the extent that the abutments were thrown out of alignment by the hurricane.  Bridges over the rivers in Ontario have gone through several phases with the early wooden ones lasting for only an average of ten years.  Later steel truss bridges were built on cut stone abutments which were themselves often replaced with concrete abutments and new bridges early in the twentieth century.  Old Finch Road wasn’t so old when the cut stone abutments were placed here but traffic and maintenance costs never mandated a new bridge prior to 1954.


Looking from the inside of the abutment you can see why the military decided the abandon the stonework and install a temporary bailey bridge.  The field engineers who built it likely never expected it to last more than about 20 years, let alone nearly 65.


Before returning to the car we made the quick walk around a short trail that is part of Rouge National Urban Park.  The Finch Meander Trail runs for 250 metres and lets you have a closer look at the river near the bailey bridge.  From here we went to the site of  Hillside Church and cemetery on Old Finch Road.  The church opened on November 18, 1877 as a part of the Scarborough circuit of the Methodist Church.  This meant that it didn’t have a permanent minister at that time and one would come for Sunday services.  The property was donated in trust to several local men for the purpose of the church and cemetery.  Among them was John Sewell (Sewells Road with the suspension bridge), Peter Reesor (Reesor’s Road) and George and James Pearse (Toronto Zoo property).  In 1925 they became part of the Mount Zion United Church and today the building is still the same inside and out as when it was first opened.


The church cemetery is the final resting place for many of the early settlers from the community.  This includes members of the Pearse family who owned the house that is now the nearby visitor centre at Rouge National Urban Park.  You can read more about them and see the house by clicking here.


The community of Hillside has become a vanished village where a few homes and the school remain along with the church.  Perhaps we’ll return one day for a Ghost Towns of the GTA feature.

Google Maps Link: Old Finch Avenue

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