It is a beautiful November afternoon. We are on our way to Scarborough Bluffs, one of Toronto’s famous natural attractions that I have heard so much about but never got time to visit. As we drive through the east end, my friend and I listen to Queen and talk about our cell phone obsessed culture and Toronto’s diverse neighbourhoods. My son falls asleep in the back seat. It is a long drive. Sometimes it feels we are in a different city altogether.
We finally turn onto Brimley Road South. It winds its way downhill through the fall-coloured parkland, half of the trees already spot bare branches. We round another turn, and the blue waters of Lake Ontario come into view. I can hear my friend gasp next to me. I must admit that even though I knew the lake was coming at the bottom of the road, this inundation of open space and water is startling.
After a quick snack of spanakopita and our balcony-grown tomatoes, we head towards the Bluffs. We can see them looming up ahead. They remind me of giant sand castles complete with towers and turrets.
After a short walk along some hidden trails and one particularly muddy road, we find ourselves on a small beach, sheer surface of the Bluffs on our right, vast expanse of Lake Ontario on the left. With the swish-swash of the waves and a salty smell in the air, it’s hard to believe we are still in Toronto. Something about this landscape reminds me of the coast of Great Britain or, at least, the image that lives in my head since I’ve never been there. (Interestingly enough when I started researching Scarborough Bluffs for this post, I learned that the Bluffs were named after Scarborough in North Yorkshire by Elizabeth Simcoe, the wife of John Graves Simcoe, the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, because they reminded her of the limestone cliffs located in that part of England.)
Sun makes an occasional appearance through the cracks in massive clouds ferried across the sky. At one point, the sky turns an ominous shade of dark blue. It creates opportunities for some dramatic shots, but results in nothing more than a short drizzle. As we try to decide what to do, the rain stops so we continue with our walk. We marvel at the steep wall of pressed sand wondering how it all holds together.
While this landscape looks so un-Toronto-like, traces of civilization are everywhere: a crumbling water pipe sticking out in the middle of the Bluffs, large chunks of concrete in Lake Ontario, an old rusty bicycle propped up against the sandy wall.
Eventually we retrace our steps back to the parking lot. My son chooses to walk through the muddiest parts of the road innocently claiming that he didn’t realize how fresh the mud was. By the time we reach the car, most of his pants and shoes are covered in splotches of grey sludge. We laugh at his mostly unsuccessful attempts to scrape off some of the mud, which include crawling on all fours, and conclude that this development significantly limits our choice of eating places later.
We drive back to the top of the Bluffs. There is a railing running along the edge but no one seems to take it seriously, maybe because you can’t really see much from behind it. In spite of numerous warnings about the danger of falling, we see lots of people trying to ‘outselfie’ each other right at the brink of the Bluffs.
We stand quietly for a while taking in the view. There are sandy castles extending both ways. The lake and sky, separated by a thin strip of light, are a study in different shades of blue and seem to go on forever. CN Tower is nowhere to be seen. I have to remind myself again that I am still in Toronto.
Scarborough Bluffs are located in the east part of Toronto and span 15 kilometres along the shoreline of Lake Ontario from the Eastern Beaches in the west to East Point Park in the east. At their highest point, the Bluffs rise 90 metres above the coastline. There are several parks where you can enjoy this incredible geological feature. We visited Bluffer’s Park that provides access to the base of the Bluffs and Scarborough Bluffs Park for views from the top. For more information about Scarborough Bluffs and the parks, visit the City of Toronto website.