Author Archives: hikingthegta

Greenwood Conservation Area – North

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Greenwood Conservation Area is 283 hectares and after seeing a visitor post from #hikingblogto about it, we decided it was time to check it out.  A quick look told us that there are three parking areas, all of them free.  The park is split in two by the fifth concession and we decided to start with the section north of it.

We decided to start with the trail that follows Duffins Creek and along the way we saw several of these nests hanging from the forked branches of trees.  These nests are carefully woven of twigs and branches as well as pieces of paper wasp nests.  Nests like this are likely from Red-eyed Vireo.


Ever since Groundhog Day we have had a series of snow storms and very cold weather.  This isn’t the time of year that you expect to see spider webs but we found several funnel spider webs on the underside of a large tree branch.  The warmer weather of the past couple of days has woken the spiders up but I’m not sure they will have found too many insects to break their fast on.


From the trail you can see a straight line in the trees which always indicates a man-made object.  Upon closer inspection we found a foundation for farm building.  A old roadway is visible running from the foundation back toward the fifth concession.


The park is well posted to inform pet owners that dogs are welcome but must be on a leash.  We saw several people walking dogs but not one of them was on a leash.  From the looks of things, this trail will be quite a mess in the spring when the snow melts but the poo doesn’t.


Duffins Creek flows through the conservation area and the ice has broken up a few times previously.  The creek was full of Atlantic Salmon when the Europeans arrived in the area.  Atlantic Salmon were also one of the first species to disappear as a result of human activity.  The Duffins Creek watershed is being restocked in an effort to revive the species.  The creek meets the waterfront after flowing through Alex Robertson Park where there are multiple enchanted carvings.


There are a couple of places along the trail where someone has decorated trees for Christmas.  I find this to be in very poor judgement.  It may look cute for a short time leading up to Christmas but unfortunately, no one comes back to clean it up.  The ornaments get broken and become so much litter in the woods.  There are a couple of broken ornaments on the tree pictured below.


Trails in the park are multi-use.  There are several kilometres of mountain bike trails and The Great Trail passes through the middle of the park.  As with all multi-use trails it is important to respect the other users.  One of the key ways of doing this in the winter is to allow cross country skiers to have their own trail.  Don’t walk where they ski as it makes it very difficult to ski.


The snow was gently coming down as we made our way through the forest.  Winter hiking can be quite enjoyable but by this time of the season we begin to get a little tired of white and brown blogs.  We received 63.4 cm of snow in January 2019.  This was the most in a single month since February 2014 when we got 65.3 cm.


The trail leads toward Highway 7 where we came across several buildings elated to Pickering Museum Village.  This is the largest pioneer village in Durham Region.  There are close to twenty buildings in the village which tell the story of life in the area prior to about 1910.  The Puterbaugh House has been made over to represent a one room school house similar to the ones that Pickering children would have been educated in during the early 1800’s.


With the village closed for the season, we decided to return via another route.  This time we passed the shell of an old barn.  The side panels look to have been scavenged because the frame and roof appear to be in pretty good condition.  The outside of the barn can be seen in the cover photo.


We followed the upper trail on the return trip along several different bike trails.  We came to the other end of the road that leads to the foundations we had seen on the way in.  It’s always interesting when the guard rail closes a road that can no longer be seen because of the new growth on the right of way.  This road can still be seen from the creek side trail as a straight line through the woods.


Downey Woodpeckers are the smaller of the common woodpeckers on Ontario.  They very closely resemble the larger Hairy Woodpecker but are not related to them.  These little birds are among the more common woodpeckers in the area.


Greenwood Conservation Area is large enough that it will take several visits to explore the whole park.  It also seems that a trip to the Pickering Museum Village might be in order.  You can see some pictures of early Pickering in our post Duffins Creek.

Google Maps link: Greenwood Conservation Area

Like us at

Follow us at

Dundurn Castle

Saturday, February 23, 2019

This post is technically GTHA (Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area) as it takes us to Hamilton.  For those who live in the west end of the GTA, Hamilton is only a short drive and it shares some of our War of 1812 and Rebellion of 1837 history.  Dundurn Castle is linked to both.  The property originally belonged to Richard Beasley who owned it from the early 1800’s.  It then belonged to Allan MacNab from 1833 until 1862 when he died.  The 1877 map below shows it as Donald McInnes who bought it in 1872.  When he was finished with it in 1899 it was given to the City of Hamilton.

Dundurn Map

When Richard Beasley’s farm was commandeered during the war of 1812 the military built earthworks to hide their canon behind.  Burlington Heights gave a great view out over the bay and was a strategic point at the western end of Lake Ontario.  Since the war, maple trees have been planted down both sides of the berm and the area has become known as maple walk.


In 1833 Allan MacNab bought the Beasley property and started to build his own estate home on the site.  He believed the future should be built on the foundations of the past and so he had the new house constructed to share the basement of the former house.  The house ended up being narrow as a result but is spread over three floors.  The servants lived and worked in the basement except the male servants who were housed separately.  The house was designed so as to impress those who would see it from the bay.  When MacNab brought the railway to Hamilton in the 1850’s he sold the strip of property along the waterfront, cutting himself off from it.


One interesting building facing the lake is the cockkpit.  It was likely built to give the gentlemen of Hamilton a place to engage in the “sport” of cock fighting.  There is no record that it was ever used for that and may have just provided a conversation piece or a place to escape for awhile.  There was a fashion in the early 1800’s of adding fake Romanesque ruins in the gardens of great houses to make them look more historic.  This building really was abandoned and had fallen into ruin.  A great restoration has been done to return it to a more original state.


Dundurn had always been intended to be seen from the bay and the rear faced York Boulevard.  Allan MacNab became the Premier of the Canadas between 1854 and 1856, during which time he led a coalition government of moderates.  In 1855 his daughter Sophie was to be wed and so he decided to spice up the home and added a colonnade facing York Boulevard.  MacNab hadn’t referred to his home as a castle until this addition was made.


MacNab built a dovecove at the castle to raise doves.  These were kept for their eggs and meat and the droppings were collected and used for fertilizer.  It may have been used for doves but it was undoubtedly built to show MacNab’s status as Laird of Dundurn.  The dovecove features a severed head over the doorway, which is the family crest.  It is a reflection on the historic feud with the clan MacNeish.


The coach house and stables were built of wood and housed the male servants, with the exception of the butler.  He was the only male servant to live in the main house.  The coach house was destroyed by fire and in 1873 the new owner,  Donald, McInnes, built new ones of cut stone.


Battery Lodge was built on top of earthworks left from the war of 1812 and was in place prior to the Rebellion of 1837.  William Lyon MacKenzie led the rebellion which came to an open battle on Yonge Street at Montgomery’s Tavern.  MacNab was supportive of the Family Compact and gathered men to cross the lake in support of Sir Francis Bond Head.  MacNab led the loyal forces up Yonge Street to engage in the successful battle.  Battery Lodge was later used as a guest house and a home for the live in teacher.  Today it houses the Hamilton Military Museum.


In preparation for Sophie’s marriage in 1855 the house was upgraded and new gates were erected at the entrance off York Boulevard.  The gates were built for George Rolph who was a prominent reformer and political opponent of MacNab.  It was alleged that MacNab was one of the Tory faithful who tarred and feathered Rolph in 1826.  If so, MacNab likely felt some sense of irony when he passed through the gates.


The castle gardens were instrumental in helping the house be self sufficient.  Milk was collected and dairy products produced by the servants.  Gardens were laid out to grow food and herbs for use in the kitchen. Plants with medicinal properties were also grown, especially those that would help ease Mary MacNab when she was suffering from what was likely tuberculosis.  Both Sophia and Minnie had their own garden plots to help keep them occupied during their mother’s illness.  The gardens are still operative and a small garden shed stands at the west end of the garden.


The grounds of Dundurn Castle also feature several historic plaques as well as cannon placements.  Admission to the house is $12 for adults but you can wander the grounds and visit the gift shop for free.

Google Maps link: Dundurn Castle

Like us at

Follow us at

Lakefront Promenade Park

Monday, February 17, 2019

Family Day in Ontario seemed like a good opportunity to get out and walk around Lakefront Promenade Park.  The park is operated by the City of Mississauga and Credit Valley Conservation Area.  It is 40 hectares in size and has marinas with slips for 170 boats.  Just to the east of the park was the Lakeview Generating Station.  It was commissioned in 1962 and operated for 43 years.  After it closed in 2005 it wasn’t long before it was demolished.  The four chimneys were known locally as the four sisters and they were demolished on June 12, 2006.  On June 28, 2007 the rest of the building was demolished.  The image below was taken from Wikipedia.


The site of the former generating station is now undergoing restoration which will eventually allow it to be developed.  A mixed use community is planned which could contain up to 20,000 people as well as having employment, commercial and parkland uses.


Barn swallows traditionally nested in caves but have adapted quite well to human built structures.  They became very common in barns throughout the province.  Now that the number of barns has been greatly reduced, the barn swallow has been listed as a species at risk.  The park has constructed these mini barns to encourage nesting because the swallows are important in controlling the mosquito population.



Lakefront Promenade Park has a splash pad for the children to enjoy on the warmer summer days.  It didn’t seem to be too popular on this sunny afternoon.  The water is activated when kids are under one of six play spouts and then is drained into a nearby wetland.  This allows the water to be filtered naturally before being released into the lake.


Waterfowl are far more likely to spend the winter in the GTA than they were twenty years ago.  The open water attracts swans, geese and several types of ducks.


Several times we observed  flocks of seagulls all in neat rows.  Of interest was the fact that they all stand facing the same direction to take advantage of the sun.  The seagulls in this picture are mostly asleep, their heads tucked up underneath their wings.



This flock of seagulls was standing on the end of the dock where Canada Customs operates an inspection station.  These birds had all been facing the same way and when they flew, they all took off in the same direction.


The trees around the shoreline were coated with a layer of ice from the spray coming off the lake.


Barn swallows build simple cup shaped nests out of mud.  They like to attach them to course wood surfaces.  These nests can take up to 1000 trips to build, carrying a small amount of mud in their beak each time.  All this work makes it practical for the birds to return to an old nest for another season.


Looking to the west you can see the Ridgetown, a ship which is partially sunk in the Port Credit harbour.  It forms the outer portion of the break wall at the mouth of the Credit River.  The story of the Ridgetown can be found at this link.


The walking was often tricky because there was a hard layer of ice below a couple of inches of loose snow.  We found a group of people taking advantage of a small slope to slide downhill on their boots.  Just past the final parking lot there is a short break wall that protects the marina.  As we approached the break wall we found a lady on the ground.  She had slipped, fallen and was convinced that her leg was broken.  Her husband was waiting in their vehicle and so my brother went first to retrieve him and then returned to the parking lot to direct the paramedics.  Meanwhile I waited with her and called 911.  Due to the ice underfoot it took all five of us to get her onto the stretcher.


The marina is being kept open by use of under water pipes that keep the water moving.  It keeps the water from freezing over and makes an interesting pattern on the surface.


The break wall that extends out from the east point is quite long compared to the western one and has a small light house on the end.


We watched a swan that was sitting on the ice in the bay.  As we watched it took flight and came toward us.  The cover photo shows the swan as it prepares to land.  The picture below is the very first point of contact as it touches down.


We often think that places we visit would be nice in another season so perhaps we’ll return to this one some day.

Google Maps link: Lakefront Promenade Park

Like us at

Follow us at


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Rush Lane

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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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

Like us at

Follow us at

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


However, close ups were still available.


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.


At one time a 40-foot wheel spun in this cut stone wheel housing.  The mill was abandoned in 1867 and the wheel housing has deteriorated in height since then.


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.


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.


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

Like us at

Follow us at


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.

Google Maps Link: Cedar Grove

Like us at

Follow us at

Lapp’s Cider Mill


Saturday January 12, 2019

The community of Cedar Grove has become a ghost town compared to the former glory days in the 1800’s when it was a industrious mill town.  All four saw mills and both grist mills have disappeared leaving only the cider mill.  Peter Lapp erected the building in 1872 with the idea of taking advantage of the abundant local apple crops.  Lapp started making apple cider but soon added other products such as cider vinegar.  Lapps Cider Mill is considered to be one of the earliest and biggest examples of this industry in Markham.   The building is starting to show signs of disrepair after sitting vacant for years.  The front canopy has begun to droop badly and several boards have fallen away.  However, a steel roof has been added in the recent past indicating that someone had plans for the building.


Two small dormers with six over six windows lit the upper floor of the mill.  These small glass panes are mostly intact with one just small fracture.  Just below the main roof line a small set of windows is broken out which lets the weather into the building.


The elevator shaft had three doors, one for each interior floor.  Small lightning rods can be seen on top of the elevator and the corners of the roof.  Lightning rods are designed to carry energy from a potential lightning strike through a wire and into a ground rod where it can dissipate harmlessly.  The north face of the building has a frame construction with tightly spaced boards.  On the west side of the building a layer of Insulbrick has been added.  This was likely done in the 1920’s when this asphalt siding was at the height of popularity.


The west side of the building reveals something quite interesting.  The larger north end section appears to be a later addition.  This is suggested by the foundation which is made of precast concrete blocks that would not have been available in 1872.  This means that this end of the building was either raised onto the foundation or added after 1900.


Ironically the plaque that announces this building is historically designated is attached just below the business sign that can only be partially read. Many of the letters have fallen off.  At Markham Museum there is another building known as Lapp’s Cider Mill.  It is a drive shed that was moved from a different Lapp property in Cedar Grove.  Lot 3 on the south side of Little Rouge Creek belonged to James Lapp who was the town blacksmith.  His blacksmith shop is now also on display at Markham Museum.  The press and other inner workings were moved from this building to the one at the museum where they are once again operational.


The length of the hoist over the loading doors suggests that full orchard boxes of apples could be transferred from a truck into the mill.


Two levels of loading doors with a provision for a hoist provide yet another access for snow and rain to enter the building.


There is a set of ground level doors are at the south end of the building and once again we find more broken windows on the upper floor.


It is truly a shame that this building appears to be slowly decaying.  You can read more about Cedar Grove in our story Cedar Grove – Ghost Towns of the GTA.

Google Maps link: Cedar Grove

Like us at

Follow us at