Our younger son turned 12 about two weeks ago. Usually, his birthdays are elaborate affairs that he plans himself. He picks a theme, comes up with activities and then chooses a cause that will get half of his birthday cash. The party usually has something to do with his hobbies. So in the past, we’ve done an art class at Neilson Park Creative Centre (the theme was “Starry Night at the Museum” and we even had Van Gogh’s Starry Night cake that we made all on our own) and a nature party at Humber Arboretum where kids hand-fed chickadees and did some container gardening. Last year, he wanted to show what it was like to be a vegetarian since he was often teased about it (well, technically we are pescatarian since we occasionally eat fish, I am sure you’ve read about our post-camping tradition that involves fish & chips) so we had a cooking party at High Park’s Teaching Kitchen where kids made veggie burgers, sweet potato fries and chocolate-zucchini cupcakes.
This year was supposed to be all about geocaching, of course. After unsuccessful attempts to find a GPS unit rental place in Toronto, I was tasked with developing our own treasure hunt in High Park. While the birthday boy would have loved to be involved, it wouldn’t have been much fun for him on the day of the party. The invitation was all ready to go when all of a sudden he decided that he was too old for parties and just wanted to go geocaching instead.
So no different from our usual Saturday microadventures. Except, of course, the location had to be chosen with care to make the birthday boy happy. After vigorous research, we decided on Crawford Lake Conservation Area. With 19 geocaches within its boundaries, our chances looked good.
Crawford Lake is one of Conservation Halton parks that we haven’t visited yet or at least not during our recent microadventures. It is famous for its reconstructed 15th century Iroquoian village and at some point almost every kid in the Toronto area comes here on a school trip. A few years go, I visited it as a volunteer with my younger son’s trip.
Because our goal for the day was geocaching, we decided to forgo the trip to the village (see more about the village at the end of the post) and maple syrup activities that were happening on the day and hit the trails. Crawford Lake has 19 kilometres of trails, including part of the famous Bruce Trail and Nassagaweya Trail that leads all the way to Rattlesnake Point. We chose to do a big loop around the park, hiking along the Nassagaweya Trail until it connected with Bruce Trail, following Bruce and then looping back along Pine Ridge and Woodland Trails, finally ending up at the Crawford Lake Boardwalk.
Our trip followed the biggest snowstorm of the season so there was quite a bit of snow on the ground. In fact, it was a perfect winter day with some light snow twirling in the air, then a bit of sunshine later in the day. But spring was already in the air, biding its time, waiting to unleash its transformative powers upon the world.
Along the way we came across some remnants of a farm: dilapidated buildings, long stone hedges and apple trees.
Crawford Lake itself is a rather interesting feature. It is a rare meromictic lake: it is deeper than it’s surface area, which means its lowest levels are very rarely disturbed, and little oxygen reaches all the way to bottom. So whatever falls to the bottom remains well preserved.
Our final stretch of the hike lay through the Hide and Seek trail, which featured beautiful carved sculptures of endangered species, which, of course, had to be touched and sat on.
All in all, it was a great microadventure, one of our best so far. And the final geocache score? Drum roll please! We found fifteen geocaches, including one travel bug, quite a jump from our previous record of five. The birthday boy was definitely happy. Add to that a sushi dinner in the evening, and the 12th birthday celebration was declared a success!
Note on the Iroquoian village: I am usually wary about all sorts of indigenous locales and programming. Quite often they romanticize indigenous peoples and their traditions, while relegating them to the past and completely glossing over the most painful chapter in Canada’s history. Recently though, with growing awareness around indigenous issues, more efforts have been made to look into how indigenous people are presented and where the information comes from. As you can see, this information panel at Crawford Lake acknowledges that the village is constantly updated based on consultations with First Nations scholars and elders, and encourages people to continue learning about diverse indigenous peoples that live across Canada today. I really hope everyone who comes to Crawford Lake follows the advice and turns their visit to the Iroquoian village into a jumping board for unlearning and then relearning about indigenous peoples and ongoing impacts of colonization in Canada.