Today I realized it’s been almost two months since I posted anything on the blog. And sure, I could blame it on colder weather and fewer camping trips. But that, of course, is not the main reason. Connecting with nature, after all, doesn’t require days of paddling or backpacking. Nature can be experienced anywhere: during our weekly microadventures, a brief walk around the neighbourhood or even on my balcony in the middle of Toronto. This dry spell is not so much due to a lack of new locations but rather scarcity of new ideas. So here I am sitting in my bedroom, bathed in November’s late afternoon light, listening to a boisterous bickering of sparrows on my balcony, and attempting to tackle this writer’s block the way I would normally tackle a trail – by putting one foot in front of the other or, in this case, one word after another.
Today’s post is going to be about one my favourite microadventure destination – Boyne Valley Provincial Park. Our microadventure tradition started years ago, born out of recognition that we were more familiar with far away parks than places close to home. Since then, almost every Saturday, unless we were camping, we would pack snacks and drinks and head for a hike somewhere within an hour drive from Toronto. One by one, those stories made it onto these virtual pages, some places more than once. All but Boyne Valley.
What are the first signs of spring you usually look for? Tree branches swelling with buds, dainty flowers poking their delicate heads through last year’s leaves, that cheerful bird twitter in the morning. How about rushing waterfalls? Or better yet ankle-deep, thick mud. We certainly encountered a lot of the latter on our most recent microadventure.
Spring, when rivers are at their fullest after the snowmelt, is the best time for waterfall chasing. And with Hamilton, the waterfall capital of the world, located less than an hour away, finding one is never a problem. (Although deciding on which of its 100 tumbling water features to visit can sometimes present a dilemma). Then, once we enjoy the sight and sound of rushing water, we find Bruce Trail or one of its tributaries, which are always bound to be somewhere nearby, and set out on a hike.
Our most recent microadventure took us to Smokey Hollow Falls, also known as Grindstone, Waterdown or Great FallsContinue reading →
Recently, I’ve been guilty of allowing myself to fall into the same home-work cycle, at times feeling like an android host in Westworld, going through the same narrative loop and desperately wishing for the writers to introduce a new twist to my story. Weekend microadventures slowly gave way to other engagements and fickle spring weather. The month of April got compressed into a blur, and no matter how much I tried to grab at its edges to stretch it out just a little bit, it kept slipping away leaving me craving greenery and silence. So when a work event came up in Hamilton, I used the opportunity to stay behind and do some hiking.
What is the first thing that springs to mind when it comes to fall? I usually think about change. Not only the obvious fall colours but also the way nature slows down and the hush that coats the earth as it prepares for winter slumber.
Getting outside in any season comes with lots of rewards but spring offers a special kind of magic. In the spring, the forest looks like a giant colouring book and every day nature fills it in with more colours. Sure spring adventures can be a messy affair, quite literally. But if you focus too much on the mud under your feet, you risk missing the fascinating transformation happening around. And as we return to the woods every Saturday, I savour the colours splattered around where nothing but grey contours were seen the week before. All to the glorious bird song reverberating through the trees.
I love snow. I love it when it falls softly, inaudibly, in large cottony blobs and blankets the whole world. I love how the world slows down almost to a halt, spellbound, as if trapped in a giant snow globe. I love how it muffles all sounds, softens sharp edges and turns even the ugliest urban landscapes into works of art. I love how the snow cover sparkles and squeaks under my feet on a crisp sunny day. I love to walk through a fresh layer of snow, testing its depth, drowning in its soft whiteness.
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.
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.
Officially, it’s winter here in Canada. Although you wouldn’t say it as we’ve been wearing light spring jackets and running shoes for the past three days and the temperature is expected to rise to 15ºC on Christmas Eve. Sometimes, I feel like we overslept and woke up on the first day of spring. On Saturday, however, we saw winter’s slight attempts to establish its reign. A few flurries caused a lot of excitement, at least for me. My husband has a slightly more ambivalent relationship with snow since he has to do more driving. We had a lengthy discussion about merits and disadvantages of winter on the way to Mount Nemo, our microadventure destination for the day. We had observed it from Rattlesnake Point a few weeks ago and decided it was time to take a closer look.
A few days ago, Facebook reminded me that Toronto had a major snowstorm around this time last year and as a proof, pulled out a picture of my son, knee-deep in snow, playing soccer with his friend while waiting for a school bus (I captioned the photo “‘Snowccer’ Before School”). These days, with temperatures hovering way above zero, snow seems like a distant memory. This transition between fall and winter feels like a drawn-out pause filled with restlessness and longing for the crispness of a frosty day. With all the colourful foliage now turned into uniform brown mash under our feet and snow nowhere close on the horizon, landscapes around this time of the year may seem boring and lifeless. And the temptation to stay indoors, especially on a gloomy, overcast day like last Saturday, is quite strong.