Monthly Archives: February 2019

Graffiti Alley

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The idea of graffiti is not a new one.  When they uncovered Pompeii they found graffiti written on the walls from prior to the destrution of 79 A.D.  “Gaius was here, Oct. 3, 78 B.C.”, or at least the equivalent, was found as well as “Lucilla made money from her body”.  In modern urban centres it has been the bane of property owners who often pay to have it painted over only to find that they created a clean slate for the next vandal / artist.

One alley just south of Queen Street has become famous for the graffiti that runs for the entire length.  In 2011 the Queen Street West Business Association fought to have the stretch of alley between Spadina and Portland recognized as a legitimate street art exhibit.  A street sign on Spadina announces Graffiti Alley and the first painting lets you know you are at the start.

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Every so often there is a 24-hour legal painting session held in the alley and the city has initiated a program called StART (Street ART Totonto) that is mapping legitimate street art.  The Islington Village Murals are a colourful example of community art projects.

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Some of the paintings are quite a bit of fun like the lobster DJ below.

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Some are a little more abstract and leave you wondering what the heck that guy is eating.  In other places along the alley we find people eating sandwiches, a popular motif in Toronto graffiti.

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And then there is the pointless, like the blue circle around the window above the alley.  I guess the objective was to show it could be done.

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Popular Toronto DJ Son of S.O.U.L. passed away in his sleep September 1, 2015, at the age of 44.  Toronto rapper King Reign died of a heart attack in 2016 at the age of 40.  The two of them are commemorated in the painting below.  The artist has asked for respect from others to keep from having it painted over.

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These horses struck me as looking like carvings.  They seemed fitting as horses were originally the prime users of the lane way.  Shop keepers on Queen Street would keep their delivery wagons and teams in the alley behind their stores.

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Once you cross Augusta Avenue the alley changes names and becomes Rush Lane.  Having grown up listening to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band, I was hoping to see a portrait of Alex, Geddy and Neil but there wasn’t one.  The 1880 Goads Fire Insurance Map shows this as Rush Lane so I guess we can forget about it being in honour of the band.

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A little way down Rush Lane there was a colourful building painted with a full mural on one side.  Painting the building appears to be an effective deterrent as this building has not had recent tags.  The north face is painted in one large aquarium scene that extends across the window sashes and glazing bars.  The cover photo also shows this building.

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The west end of the same structure contains a mural of Toronto.  There’s a lot of neat little things in this painting and a considerable amount of Canadian content.  I especially like the little Sam The Record Man sign.  Rob Ford features prominent in the mural as his name will be linked to graffiti in Toronto for a long time.  When Rob was the mayor he led a concerted effort to eliminate graffiti in the city.  The effort was, obviously, unsuccessful but it cost property owners a small fortune repainting their buildings to cover it up.

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Parts of Rush Lane are less attractive, at least to me.  For some reason I have a hard time picking out the words in the typical graffiti writing style.

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Mike Kennedy was a graffiti artist in Toronto until he passed away in September 2017.  His dog is featured in the mural as well.

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I wonder how many cans of spray paint have been spent in this alleyway over the years.  It is too bad that some of the people who paint in this area end up leaving their dead spray cans on the ground.

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Rush Lane ends at Portland Street which can be followed to Toronto’s oldest burial site which is hidden beneath Victoria Memorial Park.

Google Maps Link: Graffiti Alley

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Bruce Trail – Hilton Falls Side Trail

Saturday, February 2, 2019

When we previously visited Hilton Falls we followed the trail from the sixth line.  Today we decided to complete the other portion of the trail from the main parking lot north to the falls.  The history of the falls can be read in our previous post Hilton Falls.

Although the snow was deep making hiking a lot of heavy work, we decided to add the Philip Gosling Side Trail.  This short trail takes you to the main Bruce Trail, completing a partial loop around the reservoir by the time it connects with the Hilton Falls Side Trail.

Hilton Falls Conservation Area opened in 1967 and the dam and reservoir in 1973.  We followed the lower trail from the parking lot toward the Bruce Trail.

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Philip R. Gosling was awarded the Order of Canada for his role in creating the Bruce Trail.  Gosling had a vision of a trail that could be passed down to future generations and worked tirelessly to make it happen.  A short section of side trail has been named in his honour.  We noticed that most of the trees on both sides of the trail have been marked for removal.  I’m not certain if this is for emerald ash borer or for trail maintenance and widening.

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This side trail connects the parking lot with the main Bruce Trail and then carries on part way around the reservoir.  You can’t see the reservoir from this trail as it is hiding behind the ridge of land in the picture below.

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Small rodents often dig holes in the snow to stay warm and avoid inclement weather.  Tunnels and open pockets of air form under the snow where they can remain for extended periods, feeding off the grasses and insects there.  This is known as the subnivean (Latin for “under snow”) zone and with 6 to 8 inches of snow it can remain around the freezing mark, regardless of the outside temperature.  Air holes will be dug as needed to provide ventilation and access from outside.

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There are about 35 kilometres of trails in Hilton Falls Conservation Area.  In the summer half of these trails are for bicycles only but at this time of the year the trails are taken over by cross country skiers.  It also turned out to be perfect conditions for snow shoes.  In spite of the deep snow we saw several people walking their dogs while others were slowly walking along the trails.

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When you reach to top of Hilton Falls there is a campfire burning there.  People can warm themselves or food and a general party mood prevailed.  A set of stairs leads down to a small viewing platform.  As can be seen, many people did not stay on the platform and the frozen falls was difficult to photograph without people in the shot.

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However, close ups were still available.

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On the opposite side of the creek stands the old wheel housing from the saw mill.  The arch allowed water to return to the creek after being used to turn the water wheel.

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At one time a 40-foot wheel spun in this cut stone wheel housing.  The mill was abandoned in 1967 and the wheel housing has deteriorated in height since then.

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After turning the wheel in the housing, the water joined Sixteen Mile Creek again and continued downstream.  The creek has cut a fairly narrow exit compared to the size of the bowl around the waterfall.

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The return hike passes through a mature forest along the western side of the reservoir.  When we were within sight of the parking lot we had the option to turn and follow the roadway along the top of the reservoir dam.  From there you can see how the reservoir is set in the ravine and on the south side of the dam you can get a sense of the depth of water.  This is a favourite place for fishing.

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There are still plenty of trails at Hilton Falls that we have yet to explore but along with our previous Hilton Falls hike we have covered off all of the Bruce Trail side trails.

Google Maps Link: Hilton Falls Conservation Area

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Cedarena

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The community of Cedar Grove used to be home to seven mills.  To power the mills Little Rouge Creek was dammed in three places to create mill ponds.  In the winter, these ponds made potentially dangerous hockey rinks for the young men in town.  A suitable place for a land-based rink was identified on property belonging to Arthur Lapp who agreed to allow the local men to put up a set of boards.

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The rink opened on January 29, 1927, with a hockey game.  Ten days later the town held a carnival to promote the rink and from there it became a popular place to spend winter days and evenings.  Adults could skate on Tuesday evenings from 7:30 until 10:00 and everyone was welcome on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.  Sunday skating was held in the afternoons, from 1:00 until 4:00.

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The clubhouse was built in the 1950’s and provided change rooms and washrooms.  Music was played for the skaters and the place always kept the nostalgic feeling with music from the 1940’s to the early 1960’s crooners.  Where Cedarena was once brightly lit at night, now the clubhouse has no bulbs left.  The lights still hang on overhead wires above the skating surface.

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The Cedarena ice rink as seen from the deck of the clubhouse.

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Ice was made using water pumped out of Little Rouge Creek.  Volunteers cut a hole in the ice when the creek was frozen.  In recent years there have been several problems with the ice due to warm spells that melt the ice causing the men to have to flood it again when the temperature drops.  In seasons where the road crews use a lot of salt, the creek can become very saline and the water won’t freeze properly to form the rink.  The pump house stands beside the creek, just outside of the windbreak.

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Cedarena is one of the eeriest places we’ve visited because it is just like they packed up and never returned.  Nor did anyone else.  There is no graffiti, the buildings haven’t been broken into and there are no obvious signs of garbage thrown around.  The rakes that would be used to clear the leaves before the 2015 winter season still waiting for someone to come and make use of them.  Likewise, the brooms that kept the ice clean are collecting snow of their own.  Dog Strangling Vines have grown up the handles of the rakes and the push broom as the invaders start to take hold.  This place doesn’t deserve to be over-run or vandalized and so I’m not revealing the exact location other than to say it is private property.  Please respect it.

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Gone are the days when the slap of hockey sticks on the ice preceded the smack of a frozen puck on the boards along the sides of the rink.  Naturally, some of these pucks would fly over the boards to be lost in the snow.  Someone has collected quite a few of them, perhaps in the summer of 2015, and left them along the outside edge so they could be used by future players.

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Unfortunately, the rink is starting to show a need for repairs in at least one section of the northern wind fence.  The flooding and pumping systems are also in need of costly repairs and upgrades.  This highlights at least one of the issues that have led to the closure of the rink.  The land is owned by the Toronto Region Conservation Authority and the building is owned and operated by Cedar Grove Community Club.  The City of Markham is working with TRCA to try and bring Cedarena back into the control of the city.  At this point, no one wants to spend money on the rink because ownership is up in the air.

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Meanwhile, trees and raspberries have taken over the space between the windscreen and the boards on the north side of the rink.  Goldenrod and other tall grasses are growing on the former skating surface.

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Access from the parking lot was obtained by means of a short trail down the side of the ravine.

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In 2008 Joyce Lapp was carrying on a family tradition having spent the previous 12 years collecting $5.00 from every adult and $2.00 from everyone 15 and under before letting them in.  It was common to see around 400 skaters on a nice day.  Once in the clubhouse benches were provided so you could put your skates on and a stove let you warm up after your skate.  Hot chocolate was for sale in the concession stand.

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The entrance has been boarded over and the ticket window looks permanently closed.  The sign on the door says that Cedarena won’t be opening this season and that there were many factors involved in the decision.

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Cedarena has been closed for the past four seasons with no hope for an opening any time soon.  There are no longer swarms of children buzzing around the ice surface, but from the looks of one of the old light sockets, the place is still a hive of activity.

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Here’s hoping that one season soon Cedarena will once again be alive with the sounds of music playing and children laughing.

Here are the links to our two previous stories on Cedar Grove:

Cedar Grove – Ghost Towns of the GTA and Lapps Cider Mill

This is a link to a video shot at Cedarena.  https://vimeo.com/161690732

Google Maps Link: Cedar Grove

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