Category Archives: Hiking GTA

Hiking The GTA – A 2015 Monthly Review

January 1, 2016

Hiking the GTA was able to visit 86 different places in 2015 where we were able to see some truly amazing things.  Each season has it’s own beauty and there are always things to be discovered. Over the course of the year more people became aware of the stories we were publishing and readership increased dramatically.  Therefore a David Letterman “Top Ten” list would really only focus on the more recent stories.  For that reason we present a review of the year 2015 by looking at the most popular post from each month.  A brief outline of the story, a picture from it and a link are provided below.  Thanks to everyone who read one of our stories this past year.  I hope some of you were able to get out and enjoy some of these sites yourself because they are all interesting in their own way.  Plus, you never know what wild life you’ll encounter.

Graydon Hall was released on January 10th.  It visits a former millionaire’s estate finding plenty of evidence of it’s past usage.  The abandoned pump houses featured below are part of the former irrigation system.

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The Arsenal Lands was released on Feb. 7th.  The abandoned water tower and rifle inspection building along with the former rifle range made this an interesting hike.  One of the baffles from the rifle range is featured below.

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Military Burying Grounds was published on March 22 and re-posted for Remembrance Day. This hike visits the two nearly forgotten places where our early military dead are buried in downtown Toronto.

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Originally published on April 19th and recently given a Throwback Thursday release Guildwood Park where the inn is currently being restored.  The post looks at the Guild Inn and it’s history along with several preserved pieces of early Toronto architecture.

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May saw the release of Dufferin Creek which featured the remains of a 150 year old plank road that ran up Dufferin Street near Finch Avenue.  It is related to Garbage Park which was a post featured in The Toronto Star.  The spikes in the planks from the old road are 2 inches thick and 3 feet long.

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The first day of summer saw the release of our most popular post of all time.  The Newmarket Ghost Canal features the remains of the nearly completed but long abandoned attempt to link Newmarket to Lake Simcoe by a canal.

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In July we completed our first 100 posts on Hiking the GTA and issued a review called Greatest Treks.  One of the most interesting hikes of the month was The Stonecutter’s Dam.  We visited an old dam near the Forks of the Credit which is made of blocks of cut stone.  It also sports a rare stone penstock as seen below.

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On August 15th we checked out Kerosene Castle in Oakville.  The castle was built by Richard Shaw who was refining coal into kerosene in a factory across the street on Sixteen Mile Creek. Until it blew up, that is!  When we got looking at the pictures we saw that one of them appears to have a large face in the oriel window.  It doesn’t show up in any other pictures we took that day.

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September 12th we visited the Ghost Town of Sixteen Hollow to see what remains of the formerly thriving mill village on Sixteen Mile Creek.  There is plenty of history here but all that remains of the original village is the church and the some newer bridge structures.

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October featured a discovery related to the Caledon Aerial Tramway which made for an interesting hike.  On the 24th we found the 2 inch steel cable on The Cox Property. The underground chamber for the cable is seen below.

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in 1962 a quarry blasted a gap in the escarpment near Milton.  We visited The Gap on Nov. 14th in a hike that went on to become the second most popular story so far.

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December was a busy time but it was an interesting month of hiking as well.  We were back in Oakville on Sixteen Mile Creek on Dec. 13th when we visited The Vandalized Memorial to Taras Shevchenko.  The museum was burned down, the monuments stolen and the site abandoned.

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Thanks again for reading Hiking the GTA in 2015 and we hope you all have a great 2016 and enjoy the trails!  We’re looking forward to many great hikes this year ourselves.

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Toronto Ice Storm Dec. 22, 2013 – Looking Back

Dec. 22, 2015

On December 22, 2013 an ice storm hit Toronto and surrounding areas.  27 deaths were blamed on the storm and over a million people were without power, some for several days.  In all the storm caused over $200 million in damages.  Here is a look back at some pictures taken a few days later.

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Following the storm I went for my own little discovery walk to see the extent of the damage was.  Hydro wires were pulled down by trees and still not repaired four days later because of the extent of the damage to the electrical system.

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Side streets were littered with tree branches and in some places where access could be gained from either end there were trees across the road for a week.  The street in the shot below has a tree across just before the stop sign.

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Falling trees crushed cars and insurance companies had a lot of fun blaming God.

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In a park near Yonge and Lawrence the tops were stripped off of all the trees.

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Burke Brook was closed to through traffic because of trees that had fallen across.  One of the trunks of a fallen tree was carved into a bench when the work crew came through.  It remains as a rest stop for people along the side of the trail.  It can be seen in the Burke Brook post.

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And a robin who totally wishes he’d left last week to go south.

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York Mills – Ghost Towns of Toronto

Saturday, Oct 18, 2014

When Yonge Street was cut through the forest by The Queen’s Rangers in 1796 it opened up the area for settlement.  Small towns formed at almost every intersection.  An intersection such as Yonge Street and York Mills Road where a river passed through with good mill sites was assured of attracting industry.  This area is known as York Mills after it’s post office but is also well known as Hoggs Hollow.

I parked on Mill St. in the parking lot on the east side of the West Don River.   It was overcast and 7 degrees.  The first mill was opened as early as 1804 by Samuel Heron.  Millford Mills was opened in 1817 and supplied the first name to the town.  This mill was bought by James Hogg in 1824.  In 1856 a subdivision plan was developed for Hoggs property by his sons which was to be called Hoggs Hollow.  Only a few houses were built at this time and the lots were not all built upon for over 100 years.  James Hogg built the York Mills Hotel in 1857 and it is one of only half a dozen remaining original buildings in the community.  Having changed hands many times, today it serves as the Miller Tavern.  Hogg added a general store beside it on the south.  He also had a tannery and a distillery.  The general store served for awhile as a change room for skaters using the York Mills Skating Rink which was formed each winter on the site of today’s parking lot.  The cover photo shows the tavern and the general store, turned change room, as it appeared in the 1950’s.  Today the tavern has been restored to it’s original brickwork and the old store is gone, having been destroyed by fire.

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The York Mills Presbyterian church was built on the east side of Yonge street on land provided by James Hogg.  When the family developed the subdivision plan the church was moved across the street on the hill side, directly opposite of the tavern.   The church was closed and demolished in 1889 and the cemetery was eventually forgotten.  It was rediscovered in 1955 when the area was being developed for residential use.  Twenty five graves were uncovered with two of them belonging to members of the Hogg family.  A historical plaque marks the spot today.  In the 1877 Historical Atlas the church is marked by “Pres” right below the name York Mills.  Their cemetary is marked with an asterisk just above it.  Too bad no one checked the old map before they dug.

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The Yonge street bridge in Hoggs Hollow was destroyed in 1954 during Hurricane Hazel and was replaced with a wider one a year later.  The archive photo below shows the bridge following the hurricane.

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North of York Mills road are two of only three mill worker cabins that were built in the Hoggs Hollow subdivision.  They have been preserved and moved to their current location on Yonge Street where they guard the entrance to a fancy restaurant.  Ironically, it is a place the original inhabitants of these homes likely couldn’t have afforded to eat at.

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On the east side of Yonge just north of York Mills Road is the old walkway up the side of the hill to St. John’s Anglican Church.  The church was started in 1816 and the present building was erected in 1843.  The church has the only active cemetery in York Mills there are many prominent early settlers buiried there.  I saw one grave marker dated 1820.  This church is marked as EC in the historical atlas for England Church and an asterisk marks it’s grave yard.

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Walking through the cemetery brings you to the Lychgate.  A lychgate is a roofed gate found on traditional English churchyards.  The word lych come from the Saxon word for corpse.  The corpse would rest under this roof while part of the service was read before advancing into the grave yard for burial.

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When Yonge street was built in 1796 it was thought that the valley was too steep and so the old road runs across the eastern rim of the valley.  When Yonge street was straightened a few years later this became known as Old Yonge street.  Turning to the right will bring you back to York Mills road.  Just to the east is the former site of the York Mills Baptist Church erected in 1833. The church was closed in 1945 and demolished in 1948.  The cemetery was just to the east of the church and it remains today, tucked in a small lot behind a hedge.  The church is marked as BC in the atlas and has the usual asterisk to mark the graveyard.  The gate has a unique old latch that drops over the gate post.

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The church built a manse for their pastor’s family in 1840 on the lot to the east of the cemetery.

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Returning to old Yonge Street you can follow it back to Mill Street where the name changes to Donino street.  A couple of short blocks later is a memorial to the towns milling past.  The grinding wheel from the last mill to close in the valley (1926) is preserved here.

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A time capsule has also been buried in the parkette.  It is set to be opened in 2040.

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As you return to the car you reach the house of George Pratt.  George ran a mill in the area of York Mills park.  He built this house in 1886.

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The old mill dam is almost under the Mill Street bridge.

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Old photos show a large wooden dam in Hoggs Hollow.

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Hyde Mill Streetsville

Sat. Sep. 20, 2014

A beautiful morning for the final Saturday of summer.  We parked on Mill street in Streetsville. Taking the little trail that heads north on the west side of the Credit River we passed through and area where the young bushes were cropped off a foot off of the ground.  Deer had grazed as they made their way along the river bank.  We followed them toward the walls of an old mill we had seen when we were in Riverside park a couple weeks ago.

At the mill site water was diverted from the stream or mill pond to the water wheel by a small stream that was usually man made.  Where the water was brought to the wheel was called the head race.  The water wheel, or later a turbine, was used to transfer the energy from the falling water to turn the gears inside the mill.  This would drive the grinding wheels in a grist mill or the saw blades in a saw mill.  The water was then returned to the river by means of the tail race. We found the tail race to the mill and knew that it would lead us there.

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The remains of an old vehicle, likely a late 1940’s or early 1950’s, lay at the bottom of the hill. This car may have been here for quite a long time as it is damaged beyond identification.

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A second car lies decaying in the same area.  This car is in much better shape although it has been stripped clean of every usable part.  The trunk lid still contains an old decal showing how to use the tire jack.  From the part number on the decal we were able to identify this car as a 1977 Ford Galaxy 500.  These two vehicles must have been dumped down here before the trees grew up on the embankment above.  They may have been stolen and dumped down here or just abandoned here by their owners.  Either way, it is hard to see why they were left here and not removed by the city.  There is now a new acronym for those wishing to make fun of Fords. (F)ound (O)n (R)iver (D)rowned.

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The car in the foreground of the picture below shows what the Galaxy 500 would have looked like when it was new.

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Heman and Mary Hyde ran a large inn at Church and Main street for 40 years and this, along with proceeds from their saw mill, placed them among the wealthy in early Streetsville.  Their son, John “Church” Hyde, built his own little merchant-miller empire.  By 1840 he had built a mill on the west side of the river near the end of Church street.  The mill expanded into a saw and grist mill, cooperage and stave factory.  Staves are the thin wood boards which were used by a cooper to make barrels.  He also built quarters for his workers at the mill site.  In 1906 the mill was converted to produce hydro electricity for the town of Streetsville.  It was Ontario’s first municipally owned power plant.  The plant continued to be the source for power for the town until 1943 when Streetsville joined Ontario Hydro.  The plant continued to provide auxiliary power until 1960 when it was shut down.  In the photo below are two tunnels under the building where water was used to turn turbines.

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There are two holes where shafts from the water turbines came up from these water tunnels below.

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A steam pipe like the one below helped us to locate the Millwood Mills during a hike back in June.  This also helps to identify this part of the mill as being of the newer 1906 construction.

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The mill is designated as a heritage site because of the remaining door and window frames which can be seen in the cover photo.  Since it is now intended to be preserved I find it odd that the interior of the mill is allowed to become overgrown with small trees. In a few years these trees will push over the walls and ruin this historical building.

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When the mill was restored in 1906 a new dam was built across the Credit River.  The foundations remain in a pattern of squares on the river bed.

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Fall would officially begin a day later, but there was a hint of colour coming in some maple trees already and the sumac trees are bright red.  Fall’s showcase of beauty is about to begin.

 

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As we had hiked up the west side of the river we had seen the remains of yet another mill, this one on the east bank of the Credit river.  Hmmm….

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Google Maps link: Hyde Mill

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Abandoned Pottery Road

Sunday Aug. 10, 2014

I parked in the Loblaws parking lot at Bayview and Moore Avenue.  Another beautiful, sunny day, around 22 degrees.  Perfect for a hike.  If you look carefully you notice a sign on the laneway between the Pharma Plus and the Loblaws.  It says “Pottery Road”.  It seems out of place as there is another Pottery Road that runs down the hill from Broadview Ave. to  Bayview Ave., right past Todmorden.

The interesting thing is that, until about 55 years ago these pieces of Pottery Road were connected.  The picture below, from 1947, shows pottery road (in red) wiggling up the middle of the picture and crossing the CPR tracks  near the centre.  The CPR tracks run almost straight up the middle of the photo.  This section of the road is now abandoned.

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Pottery Road likely started off as part of an east-west Indian trail that  crossed the city along the present route of Davenport Road.  Today only about a third of the original Pottery Road remains.  The portion going south from Loblaws has been taken over as an access route to a new construction site.  I walked down it but it is a dead end now.  Along the way, parts of the old road can be seen sticking through the grass.   This is a dead end now and you will have to go back to Bayview Ave and walk to Nesbit Street.

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There is a little trail just off of True Davidson Drive just before the bridge that leads down to the old rail line.  The old road crossed the now abandoned CPR tracks that lead to the Half-Mile Bridge and descended along the edge of the Cudmore creek.

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I missed the connection to the roadway and so I tried to find it from the south end of True Davidson Drive.  I ended up in Rosedale Valley Ravine at the top of a 130 foot point of land.  I found this shelter someone had built into the side of the hill.  A place to sit in the sunshine, or retreat in the rain.

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Inside they were using part of an old metal chute as a large scoop to dig their little hide-away.

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There appeared to be no going down the side of the ravine (even the coyote only had two places he would go).  There was a rope tied to the trees just behind the fort and a series of steps were dug into the hillside.  I decided to go down the hill using the rope to steady my decent.  At the bottom I found my way across Cudmore Creek and onto Pottery Road.  It has deteriorated badly in the four years since I first walked through here.  With the erosion and new growth of trees it is hard to see that vehicles once roared up and down the hill here.

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In places the old road is washed out 3 feet deep.  Under the pavement is a mess of broken bricks.  The Don Valley Brick Works, owned by the Taylor brothers who were running Todmorden Mills in the 1890’s, is just south of here.  Any broken or defective brick had to be discarded and so they litter the Don river and every hillside in the area.  It appears that they also formed the base for Pottery Road.  I guess that when they paved over the bricks it was “Goodbye Red Brick Road”.

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Closer to the Bayview  Extension the old steel posts for the guard rail stand like sentinels along the side of the old roadway.  Their wooden facing has dropped off and is rotting on the ground.

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When the Bayview extension was built in 1959 Pottery Road was cut in two and the portion that climbed the hill along the Cudmore creek was cut off and abandoned.  Today as you drive up Bayview avenue it is hard to pick out the location of the former road.  Just at the end of the guardrail there is a chain with a red flag hanging on it.  This marks the old roadway.  It would have come straight across and connected with the bridge over the Don river.

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The 1928 bridge lies behind the newer one in the foreground.

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At the top of the hill the road currently curves to the south as it climbs the hill.  The road originally went straight up the hill and met Broadview Avenue where Charles Sauriol Parkette is today.  Broadview Avenue was built in 1798 by Timothy Skinner who ran the mills at Todmorden and was originally known as Mill Road until 1884.  The name was changed to reflect the “broad view” from the crest of the hill looking over the mills in the valley.  There is a Dairy Queen at the top of the hill which proved to be a distraction that kept me from getting to the parkette to take a last photo.

Google Maps link: Pottery Road

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Todmorden Mills

Sunday August 10, 2014

It was sunny and warm, a beautiful day for a hike.  I parked at the top end of Pottery Road in the Loblaws parking lot.  I also hiked along the old abandoned roadway of Pottery Road but that will have to be described separately due to length.

When Governor Simcoe arrived in 1793 to build his town of York (Toronto) he needed a large supply of sawn lumber.  The only other mill at the time was the King’s Mill (now Old Mill) on the Humber River.  As it was a government run mill it was unreliable and went through many changes of millers due to crazy rules that made it impossible to recoup your investment.  Simcoe brought Isaiah and Aaron Skinner in and granted them 200 acres of land in the Don River valley.  They built a sawmill in 1794 and a grist mill in 1795.  The Skinners sold the mills to Parshall Terry in 1798 and when he drowned in 1808 the mills passed to Timothy Skinner who ran them until he was killed in the war of 1812.

Terry built the older portion of the Terry House, that part at the back which was made of logs.  The front part with the two chimneys was a later addition.  Taxes were levied on the number of chimneys you had, so having three fireplaces was a luxury.

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This picture shows the back end of the paper mill.  The mill race ran down the left side of the mill and this is where the mill wheel would have been.  The tall chimney was added about 1900.  In the cover photo the chimney is contrasted with the urban towers of Toronto in the distance.

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In 1822 Colin Skinner came into a partnership with the idea of chasing a bounty for being the first paper mill in Upper Canada.  They didn’t win the bounty but did become the first mill to install paper making machinery.  Eventually the paper mills spread into three locations and became a major industry in early Toronto.  When the mills closed down they were used for awhile to stable the horses from the brick works.  Later they were the home of Whitewood’s Riding Stable.  The word “White” remains on the side of the old mill.  Also, note the old mill stone mounted on the lawn just outside the door.

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When the Don Valley parkway was built the Don River was re-routed so that the large curve that used to pass through Todmorden and power the mills was cut off by the berm of the highway.  The river was straightened to run along side the railway line.  The part that used to flow under the bridge still has water in it and backs up from the river down stream when there is flooding, providing some flood control.  The picture below is taken from the bridge looking east.

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In 1821 the mills were sold to Thomas Helliwell Sr. and John Eastwood.  Helliwell Sr. came from Todmorden in England and it is because of him that the name of Don Mills was changed to Todmorden Mills.  One of the first things Helliwell did was erect this building as the brewery and distillery.

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Thomas Helliwell Jr. built this house in 1837 out of bricks made from clay he dug out of the hillside behind the house.  The bricks were not baked but only sun dried and so they would crumble easily.  For this reason a protective coating of stucco was applied.

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The portion of the house at the rear has the notable characteristic of no windows breaking the roof line that suggests it was originally a log home.  The two story brick and stucco addition on the front was likely framed and then veneered with bricks and stucco.

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The old flag pole still stands on the front lawn of the Terry House.  Note the wooden cradle mount at the bottom of the pole.

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When Thomas Taylor died in 1880 the mills were handed over to George Taylor’s son’s who added the Don Valley Pressed Brickworks to their empire in 1891 just across the river from Todmorden.  The Don Valley Brickworks produced many of the bricks for the construction of Late Victorian Toronto.  Broken or defective bricks were dumped in the valley all around Todmorden.  The road leading to the bridge over the former Don River is made of bricks but is itself built on several feel of broken bricks.  The blue line on the bricks in the picture below shows the one time bank of the don River.

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A little up stream is old Todmorden dam.  This is a very quiet place to just sit and contemplate the people who made this city out of the woods around them.

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The Don Station was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1896 near Queen Street and the don river.  Between 1969 and 2008 it was on display at Todmorden before being moved to it’s new home in Roundhouse Park.

Google Maps Link: Todmorden Mills

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Claireville

Saturday Aug. 3, 2014

It was cool, at least to start with, at only 17 degrees.  We parked in the Humberwoods Community Centre and hiked north on the west side of the Humber.  Just south of Finch Avenue is a little park that has been developed as a bird flyway.  There are dozens of nests and things to attract birds and this is a great little park for bird watchers.  In the picture below are a couple of the many odd shaped nesting places that have been constructed there.

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The groundhog is a member of the Marmot family and is a type of ground squirrel.  They are one of the few species that enter true hibernation and they sleep until March or April. In the wild in Ontario they are always sleeping on groundhog day, and therefore, actually never see their own shadow.  After mating in the spring the pair stays together until the young are about to be born in April or May.  The male then leaves the burrow and the parenting to the female.  She gives birth to between 2 and 6 hairless blind kits. The young groundhog below was scared of us but didn’t try to run away.

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It was early in the morning and the dew sparkled on the spider webs.

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When the 427 was built plans were already in place to expand the highway by adding lanes between the North/South lanes.  As we went under the highway we could see the supports for the expansion that were built at the same time as the rest of the bridge.

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Claireville Dam was one of the flood control dams built in response to the damage caused by Hurricane Hazel.  in 1959 The Plan For Flood Control and Water Conservation was released.  Since 1960 over 40,000 acres of land has been acquired and 3 of the originally proposed 15 dams have been built.  Claireville dam was the first one, built in 1964.  The dam allows the Conservation Authority to collect water from heavy rains and release it slowly after the storm has passed.

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Indian Line started off as an Indian trail along the shore of the Humber river.  When the land survey was made it was part of the border between Peel County and York County. When hwy 427 was extended north it became part of an off and on ramp to the highway. In 1992 when the highway was further extended it was closed off and abandoned.  Parts of it now form hwy 50 north of Steeles ave.  Indian Line campground used to be accessed from just south of the river off of this road but is now accessed off of Finch Ave.  The picture below looks up the old roadway to the bridge that crosses the CN tracks.  When this bridge was built in the 1960’s this was an important road and it was made wide enough for 4 lanes to be opened one day.

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Claireville was a community that started in 1850 on the estate of Jean du Petit Pont de la Haye at the intersection of Steeles and Indian Line.  He named the town after his daughter Claire.  A third road ran diagonal through the property and was originally known as Claireville Road because that was the location of the toll booth along the road.  Early roads in Ontario were known for their mud (an early nick-name for Toronto was “Muddy York”) and were covered over in planks as soon as possible.  Plank roads required continuous maintenance and this was paid for through tolls collected by the road keeper. A horse and rider would pay 1/2 pence and 20 hogs or sheep cost 1/2 pence.  A wagon was 1 pence if drawn by a single horse but 1 1/2 pence if drawn by two.  When the Claireville road was planked a toll house was established.  Of all the houses which once stood in this town only a few remain.  There is a white two story house which remains and this was originally the toll house.  Since the 1950’s the town has declined and is now mainly an industrial neighbourhood.  The picture below shows the town as it was in 1947.

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This picture has nothing to do with this hike but is a follow-up to last week’s move.  As I was cleaning the apartment I swept deep under a baseboard heater and out popped a little round black disc.  At first it didn’t look like anything but I could see that there was some writing on it.  I placed it in Coke for a few minutes to remove some of the gunge on it.  King Christian 7 ruled Denmark from 1668 to 1808.  The 1 Skilling Danske coin I found is in poor condition but still has a value of about $10.  Thank You to the previous tenant in my unit who lost this coin.  Don’t worry, it has found a good home in my collection.  It is interesting to me that Toronto was founded in 1796 at which time this coin was already 25 years old.  I find a lot of older things out hiking, but the oldest one so far was right under my heater for the past 8 years!

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