Embracing Microadventures: Exploring Jack Darling Park and Rattray Marsh Conservation Area

Every year as the fall rolls in, we find it more and more difficult to get out of the city. School, work, homework, extra-curricular activities, Halloween costumes, piles of tests for my husband to grade, somehow these activities take up more and more space and all of a sudden we can’t go camping every other weekend anymore. But it is not necessarily a bad thing because it frees up a lot of time for local explorations. Lately, I realized that quite often when I think about nature and adventures I cast my eyes far beyond the horizon to places up north or parks south of the border. Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle and The Last Child in the Woods, calls this phenomenon ‘place blindness,’ a tendency to overlook the beauty of nature close to home. Don’t get me wrong, I still need my quiet and solitude that can only be found in remote places. However, by embracing microadventures, I discovered that lots of beautiful natural spaces can be found close by, even in a big urban area like Toronto.

View of Lake Ontario at Jack Darling Park in Mississauga

Last Sunday, together with our son we set out on one of our microadventures. We headed to Jack Darling Park in Mississauga. Our friends introduced us to the park over ten years ago, and it remains one of our favourite green spaces in the Greater Toronto Area. The park is located on the shore of Lake Ontario with an omnipresent CN Tower looming on the horizon.

view of CN Tower across Lake Ontario from Jack Darling park in Mississauga   view of CN Tower across Lake Ontario from Jack Darling park in Mississauga

In the summer, the park is bustling with activity: people enjoying their picnics, children running through sprinklers and having fun at the playgrounds, joggers and dogs getting some exercise. While the park was considerably quieter on the weekend, fabulous weather and gorgeous fall colours still attracted a good size crowd.

Our favourite part of the park is the adjacent Rattray Marsh Conservation Area. While small in size, this provincially significant wetland protects a wide range of plants and wildlife, including more than 200 bird species. Not that we saw any, except for ubiquitous Canadian geese and gulls.

interpretive board at Rattray Marsh in Mississauga

Canadian geese   Canadian Geese

There are several walking trails running through the conservation area: part of the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail, Knoll Trail, Meadow Wood Trail and Meadow Trail. A combination of boardwalks and wood paths, they total to no more than three kilometres.

map of Rattray March conservation area in Mississauga   Rattray Marsh in Mississauga

Rattray Marsh in Mississauga

walking trail at Rattray Marsh in Mississauga   walking trail at Rattray Marsh in Mississauga

walking trail at Rattray Marsh in Mississauga  walking trail at Rattray Marsh in Mississauga

We covered them all at a leisurely pace making frequent stops to enjoy the sun sipping through golden foliage and the beauty of small things.

Rattray Marsh in Mississauga

Fall foliage   fall foliage

fall colours   fall colours

Rattray Marsh in Mississauga

fungi   milkweed

dragon fly   dragon fly

driftwood   driftwood on Lake Ontario

And, of course, no walk by the lake can be complete without some stone skipping.

skipping stone in Lake Ontario   skipping stone in Lake Ontario

As we were leaving, I saw a lone kayaker on Lake Ontario. I watched him wistfully, longing to be on the water. Then I realized that while we have paddled all sorts of bodies of water, big and small, around Canada and the United States, we have never actually tried canoeing or kayaking on Lake Ontario even through it is mere steps away from our home. I guess that is our next microadventure right there.

kayaker on Lake Ontario

19 thoughts on “Embracing Microadventures: Exploring Jack Darling Park and Rattray Marsh Conservation Area

  1. I can relate to “place blindness.” These days limited time, money and a dislike of driving has forced me to discover small, beautiful nature treats close to home. The Brisbane area actually has many lovely reserves and parks for urban dwellers to escape so I’m quite lucky. Jack Darling Park and Rattray Marsh Conservation Area look lovely and as usual your photography skills showcase what’s on offer. Stunning! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • From reading your blog, I can see how beautiful the Brisbane area is! Toronto and area has lots of wonderful green spaces as well: parks, ravines, rivers, not to mention Lake Ontario. When we first moved here and didn’t have a car yet, we spent way more time exploring local, public transit accessible spots. Trying to revisit some of those places and explore new ones we haven’t visited yet.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Christina! Yes, there are a lot of wonderful spaces around Toronto and area. We are quite lucky that way. However, I must confess that even though we have travelled far and wide, there are a lot of great spots close to home that we haven’t visited yet, like Scarborough Bluffs or waterfalls around Hamilton. So we are trying to see more of those local spots.

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  3. Oleksandra, I agree with you that micro-adventures can be our salvation when times are busy: they can often be my mainstay when life as a single-mother often leaves little space for gallivanting around in true wilderness. Have you read “The Wild Places” by Robert Macfarlane? A fantastic read, and one that changed my perspective on what a ‘wild place’ can mean. If we are willing to change our minds just a bit about what ‘wildness’ should look like, we can find it appearing in so many more places than we would otherwise have imagined. There is a quote in the book, which is as follows; “There is wildness everywhere, if we only stop in our tracks and look around us.” – Roger Deakin 🙂 Thanks for sharing your lovely photos with an inspiring write-up. 🙂 Leah

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    • Thank you for a wonderful comment, Leah. No, I haven’t read “The Wild Places”. Will definitely put it on my reading list. I agree that we have to stop defining “wilderness” as something that is far away and separate from us and start looking for it in our everyday lives as well as inside ourselves since we are part of nature and wilderness, something we often forget. Thanks again for stopping by. Having conversations like this with like-minded people across the globe is the best part of blogging.

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  4. Pingback: Rethinking Wild Places or Search for Trees in the City | Gone Camping

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