Author Archives: hikingthegta

Midland Railway

Friday October 4, 2019

While in the area of Port Hope on a vacation day I decided to check out the remains of one of the first railways in Ontario, then known as Upper Canada.  Port hope had originally intended to build a rail line to Peterborough but was beaten by Cobourg who launched the Cobourg and Peterborough Railway in 1854.  The remains of this rail line can still be found in our post Rice Lake’s Sunken Railway.  The plans were changed and the Port Hope Lindsay and Beaverton Railway was born.  In 1869 the name was changed to the Midland Railway.  Passenger service ended in the 1950’s and most of the line was abandoned by 1970.  The conversion of the line to a hiking trail marks one of the earliest rails to trails projects in Ontario.  Part of the old main line is now used as the Ganaraska Hiking Trail.

My exploration began in the Port Hope Conservation Area.  One of the hiking trails following the north side of the river follows the old right of way for the railway.  As you walk along the trail you will see that you are following a berm that is occasionally replaced by wide embankments where the rail line cut through small hills to create a level roadway.  Material taken from the cuts was used to build the berm through the hollows.  The picture below shows some of cut embankment on the right of the shot.

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Corbett’s dam stands on the site of an earlier dam that was built in 1889 by Doctor John Corbett.  It was expanded in 1893 to produce electricity which it continued to do until 1912.  A fish ladder was added in 1973 to facilitate to migration of Rainbow Trout in the spring and Salmon in the fall.  On the day that I visited there were countless salmon in the river all trying to make their way up the fish ladder.

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As the railway continued downstream it passed the industrial heart of Port Hope.  Some of the earliest enterprises in many communities were the lumber and grist mills.  The grist mill in Port Hope is one of the few surviving examples of post and beam construction of a mill.  It stands on a foundation of river rock.  In 1851 John Molson wanted to expand his brewing empire into Upper Canada and so applied to Toronto for a permit.  He was rejected due to local competition and so he looked to the second largest port in the province which was Port Hope. He purchased a piece of property on the river about a mile outside of the downtown area.  The purchase included a grist mill, saw mill and a stave factory.  The mill had six runs of stones and was capable of producing 300 barrels of flour per day.  The mill operated until 1924 when it became a studio of Group of Seven artist J. W. Beatty.

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The Canadian Northern Railway also followed the Ganaraska River into Port Hope.  The line opened in 1911 and crossed the river on a series of concrete piers with steel truss bridge spans.  The bridge has been removed but the poured concrete piers still stand on the far side of the river.

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Cavan Street was home to much of the early industry in Port hope because of the easy access to water power supplied by the Ganaraska River.  The old Globe Factory building at 121 Cavan Street is perhaps the best remaining example of a large scale operation.  Several others exist but have been reduced to single buildings.  The Globe Manufacturing Company started in Port Hope as early as 1830.  The first section of this building was constructed in 1853 and is the middle section.  Later additions were made as the building continued to be a manufacturing site until 1976.  Various tools were produced here including files and related hand tools.

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After crossing the Ganaraska River the railway tracks ran up the middle of Ontario Street where they passed the front door of the Ganaraska Hotel.  This was just one of 13 hotels that were in town at the time of the arrival of the railway.  Many of the other ones can be seen in our companion post Port Hope – Historic Hotels.

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The rail line crossed Walton Street and followed a lane that was granted to the rail line.  The name Lent Street is quite appropriate and remains to this day.  Lent Travel now operates from the small building south of the old rail line while a branch of Scotia Bank leases the historic building that stands to the north.

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There is a little train station that was built around 1855 and is believed to have been a whistle stop for the Port Hope, Lindsay and Beaverton Railway.  The station was later moved to where it stood beside the Grand Trunk Railway for years.  It was later moved for an employee to use for personal storage.  The building eventually became slated for demolition  but was given to the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, Port Hope Branch.  They restored the building and moved it to its present location on Lent Street beside the right of way for the Midland Railway.

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Sitting behind the old town hall is an object that looks like an old tomb stone at first glance.  In 1878 there was no access to drinking water in the town market.  The mayor was William Craig and he paid for the erection of a water fountain on the condition that the Market Committee provide the connection to the water source.  Water flowed from each of the lion heads on the four sides of the fountain for the benefit of the townspeople and their horses.

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The right of way followed Lent Street as it approached the harbour area.  There are still some sleeper ties that are rapidly becoming overgrown along the old rail bed.

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The Midland Railway was crossed by two further rail lines as it neared the harbour.  A single track on concrete piers stand in the front of this picture while the Grand Trunk Viaduct supports a passing train on the old Grand Trunk Line.

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There are so many things to see in Port Hope that it almost begs a return trip to this community on the eastern edge of the GTA.

For additional blogs on the area check out Port Hope – Historic Hotels and Wesleyville Ghost Town

Google Maps Link: Port Hope

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Culham Trail – Eglinton to Burnhamthorpe

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Culham Trail runs along the Credit River through Mississauga.  The trail will become part of the Credit Valley Trail when it is completed.  The Culham Trail runs for 12 kilometres but as I had a day off work it seemed like a god time to explore part of the trail.  I parked near Barbertown in a free parking lot at the foot of the bridge that carries Eglinton Avenue across the Credit River.  Barbertown is the site of a ghost town that once served a milling empire in the south end of Streetsville.

From this parking lot I headed south along the river through Hewicks Meadows.  I was quickly treated to the sight of a grey squirrel drinking from a pool of water beside the trail.

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There were several great blue herons on the river and this one was putting on a display for me.  It was pruning its feathers and making funny faces and head motions as if it was trying to make me laugh.  It worked.

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It will soon be time for snakes to prepare to hibernate for the winter.  This common water snake was taking advantage of the nice weather to soak up a little heat and some vitamin D which is used to keep its bones strong.  Snakes will lie in the sun and then move into the shade to regulate their body temperature.  If they get too hot or cold they become sluggish and some body functions, such as digestion, cease to function.

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It was a great day to view herons along the river.  There is a small outfall near the power corridor that carries water from the storm drains in the subdivision above.  As I approached, a small black-capped night heron flew out.  A great blue heron remained in the water as he was more concerned with getting lunch then with me and my camera.

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As I made my way along the side of this outfall I saw the reason for the herons to be hanging out here.  The pool at the mouth of the outfall was full of small fish just waiting to become someones dinner.

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It was a beautiful fall day with the leaves turning colour a little slower this year than normal.  There still seems to be quite a bit of green in the forest.  There is no formal trail through this section of Hewicks Meadow and one can follow the sidewalk through Credit Point subdivision until it enters the park again.  For those who don’t care for sidewalks there is also a path along the side of the river where you can make your way toward the bridge for the 403 and join the formal trail again.

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After you pass the 403 you enter Riverwood Park which includes the former Zaichuk Property.  Several old pieces of farm machinery are scattered throughout the fields and trees.  The house known as Riverwood is the centre piece for the park and this former estate included the first swimming pool in the area that would become Mississauga.  The house was built with stone that was carried up from the river below.  There is a set of old stairs that lead up to the back of the house.  They make an interesting climb but you will find a fence at the top.

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Salmon are making their way up the Credit River in their annual spawning run.  The salmon spend at least three years maturing in the cold deep waters of Lake Ontario.  Then in September or October they make their way back into the river or stream in which they were themselves spawned.  They return to the same spawning beds where they hatched and lay their eggs.  The salmon stop eating when they enter the rivers and expend all of their energy getting back upstream.  After they spawn they have no energy for the return trip and so they die.  Seagulls were feasting on the bodies of dead salmon in the river and other scavengers are attracted by the smell of rotting fish.  There were several turkey vultures circling over the river and a few were resting in the trees along either side.

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As I was making my way back toward the car I saw a Police vehicle at the base of the Burnhamthorpe Bridge.  Three officers got out of the car and made their way toward the river.  I thought this was a little unusual and wondered if someone had been lost or had fallen from the bridge.  I carried on and was surprised to see another Police vehicle at the 403 bridge.  This car had three more officers who were busy inflating a raft.  As there were no incidents on the Police reports for the day it is likely that this was some kind of a training exercise.

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Across the river from the trail is the Croatian Parish Park and there was another great blue heron on the grass.  It was going along and picking up sticks that were in the grass and carrying them over to the river bank where it would drop them on the stones.

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It was nice to see that the local animals help to keep the place tidied up.

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The Culham Trail is an interesting place to explore and it will only become better as the Credit Valley Trail is completed.  An extended look at the trail can be found in our post Culham Trail Mississauga.

Google Maps Link: Hewicks Meadows

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Port Hope – Historic Hotels

Friday, October 4, 2019

The 1840’s and 1850’s were a prosperous time for the town of Port Hope.  With steamers coming into the harbour and then the arrival of the Grand Trunk Railway and the Port Hope Lindsay and Beaverton Railway in the 1850’s there was a great need for accommodation in town.  The business directory of 1857 lists 13 hotels or inns for the thirsty traveler to choose from.  Several of these historic hotels are still in town and are listed on the roster of Heritage Buildings.  While visiting town I set out to look for a few of them.  Most of the downtown is composed of original architecture and it is a great place to explore.  You can do so on foot after parking for free near the town hall on Queen Street.

1825 – The Marsh Inn served as a stagecoach inn between 1834 and 1854.  It is one of very few original stagecoach inns that have been preserved.  The veranda is not part of the original inn and draws attention away from the door which was the original focal point for the building.   The door appears to have molded columns but these are actually ten inlaid panels that are placed in a detailed surround.  The door has a full-width fanlight that is partially hidden by the veranda.  This inn is on the former Danforth Road, now known as County Road 2, just west of Welcome.  I checked it out on the way into town by going north at the Wesleyville exit from the 401.  A brief side trip south on the same road brings you to the ghost town of Wesleyville.

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1837 – The Ganaraska Hotel was originally opened and was named the Railway Hotel from 1856-1857 when the Midland Railway ran down Ontario Street and past the front door.  Starting in 1864 it went through a series of owners who each applied their name to the hotel.  In 1947 it once again became the Ganraska Hotel and it continues to operate after 182 years.

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1844 – The North American Hotel was built in a prominent position on Walton Street, intended to be the focal point at the end of Queen Street.  It served as a hotel until 1911 also providing stagecoach and livery services.  The stables were kept behind the hotel and could be accessed via the alley between the hotel and the building next door.  The hotel was converted into a pair of street level stores with apartments on the upper two floors in 1919.

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1845 – The piece of land that the Waddell Hotel was built on was formerly an island in the middle of the Ganaraska River.  After the river was diverted into the single channel the area of Mill Street was infilled from marsh land to form another access route to the harbour.   The building originally had retail on the ground floor and a two story hotel above that was reached through a central door off Walton Street.  A Bank of Montreal and a Toronto Bank were located on the Mill Street side of the block.  It remained with the Waldell Family until 1899 and was later converted to residences above ground floor retail.  It has a unique feature in the lantern on the roof top that served as a lighthouse for the harbour.

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1845 – The British Hotel is extremely narrow at just twenty-four feet wide encompassing the three bays.  The front has been altered several times over the years including the fact that the original openings were two stories tall.

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1845 – Midland Hotel was erected in 1845 but as only the first three bays on the right hand side of the building.  When the Midland, Lindsay and Beaverton Railway passed behind the hotel in the 1850’s a second wing with three more bays was added to the north.  A carriage way with another unit above it was used to connect the two sections.  The railway never made it to Georgian Bay so it failed to produce the ridership expected and with the advent of personal automobiles the hotel industry faded from prominence.  In 1917 the hotel was converted into three apartment units.  The carriageway was covered up and forgotten until renovations in 1984 revealed its presence.

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1853 – St. Lawrence Hotel Block is perhaps the largest hotel structure to survive as it is four stories tall and seventeen bays long.  One interesting architectural feature is the detail in the cast iron window heads which changes with each floor level.  The entire block was damaged in a fire in 1965 and was nearly demolished.  In the end it was restored and is now in use as apartments.

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1870 – The Walton was originally named The Queens Hotel when it was built and was a single story tall.  A second story was added in 1876 and a third one in 1907.  Today the hotel is closed awaiting renovations into residences.

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Port Hope prospered because of the railways that passed through town and a companion post will soon be published on the history and relics of the Midland, Lindsay and Beaverton Railway.  A post on the local Ghost Town of Wesleyville can be found at the link.

Google Maps Link: Port Hope

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Google Maps Link: Port Hope

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Wesleyville – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Friday, October 4, 2019

A Friday off work is a good excuse to go exploring.  With a plan in mind to visit Port Hope to look for the remains of the Midland Railway, I decided to stop off the highway one stop earlier and visit Wesleyville to photograph the old church I knew was there.  To my surprise I found an abandoned village as well.

In 1797 Jonathan Brown became the first settler in the town.  He was quickly joined by others and early church service were held in the home of the Barrowclough family.  Soon the family donated land for a church and cemetery and a frame building was constructed.   The present brick church was built in 1860 to replace the frame church.  The Wesleyan Methodist congregation became part of the United Church in 1925 and this church held services until the late 1960’s.

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Wesleyville was a growing community in the 1860’s when it had attracted various tradesmen including a blacksmith, a tavern owner and machine shop operator.   Like many early communities there were a few name changes before the coming of the post office.  When one was opened in the hotel the name was established as Wesleyville in honour of the Wesley Methodist Church.

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The cemetery records show 107 burials between 1860 and 1935.  Burials continued until the 1970’s when the town was abandoned.

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Thomas and Selinda Oughtred arrived in town around 1850 and lived as tenants until 1855 when Selinda was granted 65.5 acres of land.  It is unclear why she received the grant and not her husband.  The house was likely built in 1858 and has a unique design where the front door is set between two angled sections.  The main portion of the house extends to the rear giving it a unique Y shape.  The house was used as the local post office from 1911 until 1944.  The house was sold to Ontario Hydro in 1978 and has been empty for the past forty years.

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Ontario Hydro constructed a large oil-fired generator on the edge of town after purchasing nearly 2,000 acres of land in the 1970’s.  The generator was never finished and has never been put into service.  The OPEC energy crisis hit just in time to ensure the project never got off running.  It stands behind a tall fence topped with barbed-wire.  The Oughtred barn stands on a foundation of field stone behind the house.

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The first school was further west along Lakeshore Road and was a one room log school house.  In 1866 the old frame church building was relocated to the school site which had been purchased for $20.  This old church building served as the school until 1899 when it burned down.   It was replaced with the existing building that served as a focal point in the community until it was closed in 1967.

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John Barrowclough purchased 100 acres of land in town in 1847 and his family continued to farm here until 1992.  The property was then sold to Ontario Hydro and the house has sat empty since then.

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Several outbuildings remain behind the main house, one of which was used as a blacksmith shop.  The Barrowclough family lived here for several generations and was active in the church as well as occasionally serving as teachers in the school.  There was a period of time when the post office was located in the house but in 1911 it was moved to the Oughtred house.

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The Barrowclough barn is quietly rotting away and large sections of it have already collapsed.  It may be too late to save this structure.  The town of Wesleyville has been abandoned for so long that most of the buildings have disappeared.

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The Friends of Wesleyville have done a great job of preserving the few remaining buildings in the town.  The church has been restored and the school is under renovation as well.  It remains to be seen what will happen to the two houses.

Google Maps Link: Wesleyville

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The Caledon Aerial Tramway

October 2015

It has been four years since we presented this story and today it would no longer be possible to visit the site.  The current owners have elected to clearly post it.  We present this for it historical value because it is rather unique in the early development of Ontario. – October 1, 2019

In 1863 a survey discovered Medina sandstone in the Caledon hills and soon a plan was put together to market it. The Credit Valley Railroad was chartered in 1871 with the purpose of building a line to access the mineral wealth in the area. The CVR was completed in 1879 along with several spur lines to reach local quarries.  By 1883 the CVR was absorbed into a growing network of rail lines belonging to the Canadian Pacific Railway. Along with spurs, sidings and rail bridges a railway station was built near the hairpin curve on the Forks of the Credit road. To gain access to the stone located in quarries on the Cox Property and the surrounding area,  the railway undertook to construct an aerial tramway. Large pieces of cut stone were lifted off the hill top quarries and carried to the rail line near the station. The Caledon Aerial Tramway opened in 1900 and was in operation for only about 10 years. After the quarries closed the hills were allowed to regenerate with forest cover.

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In the late 1800’s The Big Hill Quarry opened on the east side of the Credit River on the top of the escarpment. The quarry site covers 66 acres overlooking Dominion Street. It was an active quarry until about 1910 and was the site of one end of the aerial tramway. The picture below shows the stone pads where the tramway was constructed. Steel anchors can be found throughout the area. To the left is the steam boiler that generated the power that moved the lift on the two inch steel cable.

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Holes mark the openings where the smoke stack and steam chambers used to stand on top of the steam boiler. As can be seen in the cover photo most of the flue are still in place inside. The boiler is similar to ones used in locomotives built around the same era and the CPR simply employed it’s existing technology in another use. This boiler is a rare example of late Victorian Era technology resting in situ.

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Six steel anchor bolts, in two sets of three, remain just to the right of the boiler.

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Various steel hooks, eye bolts and anchors remain in the stone around the pond that formed in the old quarry.

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A large steel post remains set in the stone near the steam boiler.

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This picture from 1890 shows one end of the aerial tramway.  Our Health and Safety people would have a field day with the guarding on that machine.

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The remains of the Caledon Aerial Tramway are hidden away on private property, at least for the moment.  Here’s hoping another property owner could allow a trail to visit the site.  The receiving end of the tramway was on The Cox Property and you can see some of the two-inch thick cable that we found over there.

Google Maps Link: N/A

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Bruce Trail – Hockley Valley

Saturday, September 21, 2019

The Bruce Trail and several side trails wind their way through Hockley Valley Provincial Nature Preserve.  We decided to investigate using two cars.  One was parked at the Bruce Trail lot on Hockley Valley Road.  The second car was left on Dunby Road in another official Bruce Trail parking location.

The trail that leads south from Dunby Road is restrained by fences on both sides.  Along these fences there is extensive Virginia Creeper growing.  It is a member of the grape family but the Greek name for the plant means “Virgin Ivy” from which the name Virginia Creeper is derived.  It can reach heights of up to 30 metres climbing by the use of sticky tendrils sometimes completely covering the tree that is supporting it.  It is one of the first plants to start showing red leaves in the fall.

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Hockley Valley Resort was a small operation in 1985 when it was purchased by the Adamo Family.  Under their management the 28 room hotel was transformed into a world class resort, spa and ski facility.  There are 15 runs and from the start of the trail we had a good look across the valley at them.  As we returned to the car at the end of the hike we found that we had made it almost all the way to the resort.  Some of the ski runs can be seen in the picture below.

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The Gem-Studded Puffball has a a dual layer of spines on the fruit body, one shorter and one longer.  The longer spines detach easily leaving a scar on the surface of the mushroom.  The base is often elongated and sometimes looks like a stalk.  This little fungus looks kind of scary but is said to be a choice edible.  Like any puffball there are look-a-likes that are not edible.  The test is to cut the mushroom in half and ensure the flesh inside is undifferentiated and that there is no sign of gills.

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Yellow Tuning Forks grow from August until November and have a gelatinous texture unlike the brittle corals that look similar.  These jelly fungi are also known as yellow false coral and grow on primarily on pine logs.  They can reach up to 10 centimetres in height which is tall for a slime mushroom.  They can be eaten but their texture and lack of taste make them unattractive for foragers.

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Northern Tooth Fungus grows primarily on sugar maples.  It gets into the heart of the tree and rots it from within.  These shelf fungus grow annually until the tree is hollowed out and is blown over in a strong wind.  These polypores have long tubes underneath that disperse the spores.

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Dead Man’s Fingers has to be one of the most unusual names for a mushroom.  Sometimes they grow in small clusters which look like a hand reaching up through the ground.  They grow on stumps of maple and beech trees and are whitish in the spring becoming hard and black as the summer progresses.

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Coho Salmon are native to the Pacific Ocean but have been introduced to Ontario and are now naturalized here. When the Europeans arrived in Ontario the salmon crowded the rivers every year.  They spend most of the year in the cold waters of the Great Lakes and return to the rivers and tributaries every year to spawn.  It didn’t take long to destroy the habitats with pollution and to block the spawning routes with mill dams.  The salmon population was decimated and in 1969 it was decided to stock Lake Ontario with Coho Salmon.  Since then all the Great Lakes have been stocked with Salmon and each fall they can be seen fighting their way through the shallow waters of the streams to reach their spawning areas.

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The trail winds through the woods following a couple of ravines.  There are several little bridges that it uses to cross tributaries of the Nottawasaga River.  The largest one carries the water that has come over Cannings Falls which we didn’t visit because it is on private land.

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Wolf’s Milk Slime is similar to a small puffball in the method of spore release.  They will develop a small hole in the top for the distribution of their spores when they are ready.  When this slime first appears it has the consistency of paste but it becomes powdery as the spores mature.  It is also sometimes called Toothpaste Slime.

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Nearly 2 kilometres from Hockley Valley Road are the remains of a 1939 Chevy Sedan that are being slowly disassembled and removed.  The property belonged to Dennis Nevett who owned and farmed it until 1974 when he sold it to the government for the creation of the Hockley Valley Provincial Nature Preserve.  The family used the sedan from about 1951 until 1959 when it died.  Over the next year or two it was towed to the back corner of one of the fields and left to rust away.

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Pretty much everything that can be removed has already been stripped off of the car.

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The Jeju Olle walking trail is the most popular hiking trail in the country of South Korea.  It has over 200 kilomtres of trails that work their way around an island up to the brim of an extinct volcano.  In September of 2011 a section of the Bruce Trail in Hockley Valley was twinned with the Jeju Olle Trail.  To mark the start of the twinned section there is a blue pony which is the marking system used on the Korean Trail.

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This trail promises to be very beautiful in the next few weeks when the fall colours are at their best.

Google Maps Link: Hockley Valley Provincial Nature Preserve

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Lakeview Park

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Lakeview Park is part of the remediation plans that are being implemented at the site of the former Lakeview Generating Station.  The park as well, as a new community, will replace the generating station which was demolished in 2006-2007.  The new Lakeview Village is expected to be home to as many as 17,000 residents.  The old industrial site is now a brownfield where the soil is full of toxins.  Lakeview Community Partners are using sunflowers to absorb the toxins as they are phytoremediators which store the toxins in their stems and leaves.  Twenty-five pounds of sunflower seeds were planted in five areas covering 71 acres.  These seeds have produced over 1 million sunflowers which have become a major attraction for pollinators and photographers.  To check it out we parked in the free lot at 800 Hydro Road in Mississauga.

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Each sunflower can have between 1,000 and 1,400 florets which, if pollinated, can turn into seeds.  That means there could be over 1 billion sunflower seeds in these fields.

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The sunflowers are growing in in random rows and other meadow flowers have sprouted up in between them.  Purple asters, as well as the field thistle in the cover photo, are attracting all kinds of butterflies including Painted Ladies.

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The Painted Lady on this sunflower shows how the upper wing pattern differs from the under wing pattern seen in the picture above.

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This clouded suphur was one of many we saw in the grasses along the edge of the sunflower fields.

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There were lots of butterflies and that provides food for the praying mantis who loves to dine on their larvae.  The mantis will eat almost any caterpillar including the toxic larvae of the monarch butterfly.

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The monarch butterfly population in this area looked pretty good except that the ones we saw were almost exclusively female.  The male monarch has a set of spots on the hind wing that represent scent sacs used to attract the females.

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The common blue damselfly is just one of the varieties of damselflies and dragonflies that abound in the park.  Damselflies can be distinguished from dragonflies in the position of the wings during rest.  The damselfly will fold its wings up while a dragonfly leaves them extended.

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Although there is a loss of honey bees in general there was no shortage of bees in the goldenrod in the park.

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We walked down to the lakeshore and along the Waterfront Trail for a short distance.  Several swans were swimming in the lake near the mouth of Cooksville Creek and we noted that they had not been tagged.

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The Ridgetown can be seen where it is half sunken at the mouth of the Credit River in Port Credit.  The view across the harbour is nowhere near as attractive at the one behind us in the park.

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Lakeview village will be developing over the next few years and it will be interesting to see what the final community looks like.  For now, it is alive with insect life.

Google maps link: Lakeview Park

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