Our latest microadventures had three things in common: snow, Bruce Trail and lime (as in construction material, not fruit). Why lime? Well, with easily accessible deposits of limestone in the Niagara Escarpment, the Halton Hills area not far from Toronto became a hotspot of industrial development in the 1800s. At the beginning of the century, the land was surrendered by the Mississaugas Nation (now known as the Mississaugas of the New Credit), and the lime production boom began. It was the remnants of the lime industry that we got to explore during our trip to Limehouse Conservation Area and Hoffmann Lime Kiln Ruins near Devil’s Pulpit.
Devil’s Pulpit and the Hoffman Lime Kiln Ruins
Devil’s Pulpit is a cliff along the Bruce Trail in Caledon. The name is well deserved, I must admit, as the climb from the valley floor to the top with an added challenge of fresh snow cover was a bit hellish but the views of the Credit Valley were magnificent.
We started our hike at the Forks of the Credit Road. (Devil’s Pulpit isn’t part of any park or conservation area, which means no designated parking but there is some space available on the south side of the road near the river).
It was a bit chilly that day but we quickly warmed up. The trail is only 2.6 kilometres long but with a 100-metre elevation change it is a non-ending series of upward climbs and stairs.
Somewhere halfway we came across a Ring Kiln Side Trail and turned right. The trail descended back down, which felt like a waste of a climb just half an hour earlier, but it was a beautiful hike through snow covered woods.
The ruins emerged through the trees: ancient-looking, moss-covered walls with echoes of the past hiding in the cracks between massive boulders. They were fun to explore and we even found one geocache, which had entries dating back to the year our son was born, something he got very excited about.
We then retraced our steps back to the intersection with the Bruce Trail and continued our hike up to the Devil’s Pulpit. The trail was almost level but not for long. Eventually we were faced with a climb through large rocks and boulders, and the final stretch consisting of stone stairs and a steel cable to hold on to.
Our attempts to find a geocache at the top were unsuccessful, so we turned back. By then the clouds had parted and the sun added some sparkle to the forest.
You’d think the hike down would be easier than going up, but slippery rocks and slopes presented a different kind of challenge. Luckily, we arrived back to the car with all our limbs and backsides unharmed.
Limehouse Conservation Area
A week later we were ready for another adventure. We decided to go to Limehouse Conservation Area to continue with exploration of lime kilns. We’ve never been to this park, although we visited other Credit Valley Conservation Areas in the past.
The park gets its name from a small town of Limehouse, which was once a busy industrial community that produced lots of, you guessed it, lime, as well as lumber. It features remnants of old lime kilns, a powder magazineand a stone bridge across Black Creek.
A part of the Bruce Trail runs through the park, as well as two other short side trails so our plan was to hike the Bruce and then loop back via the Black Creek Side Trail. Unfortunately, our younger son had hurt his foot during his karate practice the week before so we had to scale down our plans. We decided to hike to the kiln ruins and then come back the same way.
It was a beautiful winter day. The temperatures were hovering around zero so it was pretty warm, and after a week of snowing there was a thick white blanket all around. With all the snow, the trail wasn’t always obvious. Luckily, the Bruce Trail system is very well marked so we just followed the white and blue markers.
At one point we seemed to have lost it until we realized we had to go down the ladder into a crevice known as the Hole in the Wall. That was our favourite part of the hike.
Once we got down to Black Creek, the trail got level.
Along the trail we came across the biggest cedar tree we’d ever seen. Usually, these cliff dwellers don’t grow tall because of their life on the edge with insufficient nutrients and continuous exposure to the elements. It’s not unusual to see hundreds-years-old trees that look no bigger than seedlings. Their tenacity and persistence is admirable, though, the way they push their way through cracks, hang by the side of the cliff, their roots firmly wrapped around rocks. This tree, however, was huge, which just shows that with sufficient resources, the sky is the limit.
Eventually we got to the bridge over Black Creek and the ruins. The powder magazine looked much better preserved than the kilns. I won’t go into historical details. If you’d like to learn more about lime production, you can go to the Lime Kiln Society website or, better yet, visit Limehouse Conservation Area.
By then a mix of rain and snow started coming down so it was time to head back. While we had less than a kilometre to cover, with our son hobbling along and making stops for snow showers it took us a bit of time.
In the end, it wasn’t much of a hike but we got to enjoy a magnificent forest dressed up in white.
Plus we got a bit of a history lesson. Although to be completely honest, my main interest in ruins isn’t their historic value. They give me hope. I know it sounds weird but when I look at all these remnants of once active kilns, now overgrown with moss, trees shooting out of cracks, nature taking over, I try to imagine modern industrial projects a hundred years from now.