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