Bruce Trail – Ray Lowes Side Trail

October 26, 2019

Although it was late in the season we decided to head out to the Royal Botanical Gardens to do some hiking and see if there were still any interesting fall colours.  There are three free parking areas along the route we chose.  We selected the one on Valley Road.  The 1877 county atlas map below has been marked to show roughly the route we walked, including the return up York Road.


Ray Lowes was born in Saskatchewan in 1911 and moved to Hamilton in 1936.  The escarpment was pretty impressive after the prairies and he soon began to worry about preserving the area from development.  In 1959 he first proposed the theory of a continuous trail along the escarpment from one end to the other.  The 3.5 kilometer side trail that we followed has been named after him.  At the intersection of the main trail you have a choice to carry on toward Borers Falls or choose the Ray Lowes Side Trail.


It was a beautiful fall day and the trails were covered in leaves.  This looks nice but unfortunately it means that the wildlife know you are coming with plenty of time to hide.


Mushrooms have no opportunity to run and hide so they can still be seen if you keep your eyes open.  We found a couple of Blue Mycena which is a mushroom that has two seasons.  One crop will grow in the spring and a second in the fall.  This mushroom is similar to hallucinogenic mushrooms except that it doesn’t bruise blue as they do.  Since there were only two we didn’t damage them to make a positive identification as we may have done if there were several others.


The Great Western Railway was built in 1853-1854 connecting Niagara Falls to Windsor via Hamilton.  It was taken over in 1882 by the Grand Trunk Railway and is now part of the Canadian National Railway network.  The line is double-tracked and the bridge over York Road was busy as we saw three separate trains while we were in the immediate area.  The bridge at this crossing is set on concrete abutments which dates it after 1900, likely replacing an original wooden trestle.


When the railway was built the small creek that flows along side of York Road was of little consequence as it flowed under the wooden trestle.  Rather than maintain wooden trestles they were often filled in by dumping rocks and soil from rail cars above.  Prior to doing that the creek required a culvert and a cut stone one was built just west of York Road.  This was likely done sometime around the time the line was taken over by the Grand Trunk, perhaps with their influx of capital.


The inside of the culvert has been lined on the bottom with wood which was laid down during the construction of the culvert.  When we investigated the two stone culverts in Caledon we found similar wood flooring in the one on the Humber River.  That culvert has the date 1889 in the keystone at the top of the arch.  That is a similar time frame to the construction of this culvert.  You can follow this link for the story of the Caledon Stone Culverts.

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The oncoming train in this picture illustrates the height of the berm with the old trestle hidden inside.


Wild asparagus plants stand out in the fall with their bright yellow colour and distinctive leaf shape.  There were several clusters of asparagus along the trail but very few berries on the plants.  Upon inspection we found two dried up berries on one of the plants while several others had none.


William Rasberry built this house in 1860 and it has been enlarged and altered several times since.  By 1877 when the county atlas above was drawn the farm had passed into the hands of John Rasberry.  McMaster University owned the land in 1950 when the Royal Botanical Gardens acquired it.  It has since been renovated and is used by the RBG and Bruce Trail Association.


Ontario farms shifted from wheat production to livestock and dairy in the 1870’s.  The 1870’s and 1880’s were a period a barn construction for the animals to shelter in as well as silo construction for storage of feed for the animals.  Early silos were built out of stone collected from the fields.  Later silos were increased in height and replacements were built of concrete after 1900.  In the late 1880’s the Rasberry Family built a barn and a silo near their house.  The barn is long gone and so is the wooden cap to the silo but the stone structure remains.  As can be seen in this picture and the cover photo, the silo has developed a significant lean.


Dodge entered the muscle car market with the Charger in 1966.  The car came with a 426 Hemi engine and fastback styling.  We passed a house with on one the front lawn which appeared to be painted for Halloween but wouldn’t have been my first choice for the rest of the year.


The Royal Botanical Gardens covers 2,422 acres and was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada on January 1, 1994.  We’ve previously visited The Berry Tract on one of our trips to Borer’s Falls but there’s a lot left to be explored in the RBG.

Google Maps Link: Valley Road

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