Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ontario's Hiking Trails

As you have read in my last post I am proposing a hiking trail along Wilmot Creek in the town of Clarington, On. For those of you who still like the old names, Clarington consists of Newcastle, Bowmanville, Courtice, Orono and numerous other small hamlets. In doing some research on trail development I was somewhat impressed by the number of hiking trails currently present, or in development in Ontario. It made me proud of those countless individuals who have given of their time and energy to build, and maintain these trails so that all of us can use them. I also felt thankful to all of those private landowners who were receptive to the vision of hiking trails and allow them to cross their lands.
This post is basically a rundown on some of the trails that are available to us Ontario hikers.
I will start with the best known, and the first, lengthy hiking trail developed in Ontario, the Bruce Trail. As I stated in the last post I was a child when the Bruce Trail was under development, as a Centennial project, and my father was one of the people recruited to bring the trail to fruition. The Bruce Trail was the brainchild of a man by the name of Ray Lowes, a metallurgist by trade, for Dofasco in Hamilton. On his free time he wandered the Niagara escarpment, hiking the trails that were present. He envisioned a trail stretching the length of the escarpment in Ontario, from Queenston Heights on the Niagara River, to Tobermory, at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. In the beginning most of it was private land. With the trail project the escarpment was spotlighted and its signifigance became became recognized. The escarpment is now a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and there have been many land acquisitions by various bodies so that much of it is permanently protected. The website for the Bruce Trail has all kinds of info for you to peruse.
The next trail I will talk about is the Ganaraska Trail. This trail runs from Port Hope on Lake Ontario, to north of Lake Simcoe and then west to Georgian Bay. A side trail links with the Bruce trail near Collingwood.
Sticking in the same geographic area a relatively new trail is the Oak Ridges Trail, which, surprisingly, follows the Oak Ridges Moraine from Rice Lake to Newmarket, just north of Toronto.
In Eastern Ontario the Rideau Trail runs from Kingston to Ottawa through Smith Falls and Perth.
In the Lake Superior region the Voyageur Trail runs Sault Ste Marie to Thunder Bay along some of the ruggedest terrain in Canada. Some of this trail is still undeveloped but there is over 500 km of hiking available!
In south central Ontario the Grand Valley Trail Asociation has developed a trail that runs along the Grand River from Rock Point, on Lake Erie, to the town of Alton, near Orangeville.

These are just the larger hiking trails in Ontario. There are numerous smaller trails that may take a few minutes to a few hours or even a few days to complete. for info on some of them check out Hike Ontario and the Ontario Trails Council.
For those of of us who love the outdoors, the beauty of these trails is that they are always open, in all seasons, in all weather and in most cases they are free to use. If you are into hiking at all you may want to buy a membership in the local association for the trail near you, and a guidebook is never a bad investment.
When you are out hiking on these trails take a moment to think about the men and women who have, and continue, to work hard to provide these trails for all of us. Respect the land and the users code. Say thanks to the many private landowners who unselfishly allow the trails to cross their properties.

Hiking is one activity that almost everyone can enjoy at some level. So take your sons and daughters for a hike. Maybe not today but someday they will thank you in some way for introducing them to the joy of the outdoors. If you have the chance, take someone who has never hiked before on a trail nearby. Once, someone probably did that for you.

To end his post, TAKE A HIKE, EH!

Top of Page

Friday, November 20, 2009

Outdoor Skating Marathon?

OK, I know the water is still good for paddling, and I have been walking around in shirts, with running shoes on my feet. I am getting ahead of myself with this post but there is a method to my madness! Bear with me!

Last January I wrote a post about a skating Marathon that the town of Portland ON, hosted. Basically what they did was drive a Zamboni out onto the ice of the lake next to their town to create a skating track, and for the past six years, have had marathon races on the ice. Skaters of all levels could enter and try their hands(legs?) at skating races of various distances. This might be the nearest to the canals of Holland that most of us Canadians ever get. I should tell you right now that I have not participated in this event. Life gets in the way sometimes!

I grew up in the days of outdoor rinks and pond hockey. There were occasions when the streams flooded and froze and we could skate for miles on what were, normally, foot wide creeks, in what is now suburbs of Niagara Falls, ON. OK, I am showing my age. The point is that there isn't anything more 'Canadian' than skating outdoors on the frozen ponds and lakes. These days most of the kids in Southern Ontario have not seen the winters consistently cold enough to merit a backyard rink let alone to make the ice on the local lake, or pond safe enough. What the people of Portland did was put a bit of fun back into the Canadian winter.

One of the points that I made in last January's post was that other towns should copy the idea of Portland. I still think that if every town with the resources and a nearby suitable, safe body of ice were to do this we might soon see a whole circuit of skating races. For sure we would see a lot of simple outdoor family fun. If I lived in Toronto, and took the kids to a lake like Scugog, for example, for a day of outdoor skating, chances are I would take them to lunch and visit a few of the shops in the town as well. That was the gist of my post last winter.

Well this week I looked up the website for the Portland skating marathon and was sad to read that the volunteers that ran this event have decided to take this year off. I have to say I understand their point of view as volunteers. Six years is a long time and Portland is not a big town with a vast pool of volunteers to draw from.
However this leaves the same challenge out there for the small lakeside towns in southern Ontario looking for a way to draw in some tourist dollars in the coldest months of the winter.
I live in Bowmanville and we don't have a suitable lake next to us. Lake Ontario doesn't count! The nearest lake that would fit the bill is Lake Scugog and that is why I picked on Port Perry last year. I still think Port Perry should really look into this idea, but there are other towns with a lake beside them that could also do this.
And now here is the method to my madness. Now is the time for organizing. Get your town council moving and warm up the Zambonis. String the lights around the ice surface and lets get some outdoor skating going in southern Ontario again. As to the races, they would be the icing on the cake. Or might that be the icing on the ice!!

Top of Page

Friday, November 13, 2009

Proposing a Hiking Trail

In the last few months I have spent a bit of time in the Wilmot Creek area, from the Nature Area at the south end, to the Orono Crown Lands in the north, and this has me thinking. In this post I am proposing a hiking trail along the creek, from the Lake Ontario shore, north to link up with the Oak Ridges Trail in the Leskard area.

First I am going to give you a little ancient history. When I was a small child my father, Gus Yaki, was involved in the creation of the Bruce Trail. He was the first president of the Niagara section of the trail. What this meant to me was that as a kid I spent many an hour building trail, (or at least accompanying the adults who built the trail) along the Niagara escarpment from Queenston Heights to Grimsby. This involved painting blazes on the trees, building bridges where needed, cutting back limbs,etc. The real work, however went on in the kitchens of landowners, and involved the negotiation of the permissions to route the trail through private properties. The work done by the early Bruce Trail association has given us, 40 years later not only the 885 kilometre Bruce Trail, but paved the way for the Ganaraska Trail and the Oak Ridges Trail. Untold numbers of children and adults have been awakened to the beauty of the outdoors and nature through a walk along the Bruce Trail.

In the Clarington area the Waterfront Trail follows Lake Ontario's shoreline, and the Oak Ridges Trail follows, well, the Oak Ridges Moraine. At Port Hope, the Ganaraska Trail runs from the lake north, crossing the Oak Ridges Trail and carrying on for another 400 kilometres ending at Georgian Bay. I am proposing a much more modest venture, a trail running along Wilmot Creek, from the mouth at Lake Ontario to at least as far north as to meet with the Oak Ridges Trail. We would have an advantage in that a fair percentage of the land along the Wilmot Creek is already in the public domain.

Existing trail in the Orono Crown lands.

Also, at the municipal government levels there is much more acceptance of the idea of trails as a plus for communities than there was 40 years ago.
What I am suggesting is a simple walking trail, not a multi-use trail as much of it will be on private land. Also the environmental impact of a hiking trail will be much less than a trail with mountain bikes, horses, etc. It will follow as close as is possible to the main branch of the Wilmot Creek with potential branch trails into Newcastle and Orono. For example in Orono one branch could follow the fork of the creek that goes into town and the other could follow into the Orono Crown lands with both branches joining up again north of Orono.
Since the area is rich in history a number of plaques could be erected at notable spots along the trail. The local historical society would be ideal participants in that aspect.
Similarily the local natural history clubs should be recruited to help with display boards explaining signifigant natural features such as are already present in the Samuel Wilmot Nature Area.
As the trail will pass through agricultural lands, and many of the trail users may be urbanites with little farm knowledge an opportunity for education exists there as well.

Below is a first draft, proposed route of


View Wilmot Creek Trail in a larger map

The red line is existing trails on public lands while the purple is on private land and does not yet exist. Obviously the exact route is subject to change and anyone who has done a map on Google will know that drawing lines that don't follow roads is inexact at best. However, that is the gist of my proposal. If you have any input on this idea or would like to help out in any way email me putting Wilmot Trail in the subject line, or comment using the option below this post. Future posts will update progress on this project. Stay tuned!!

Top of Page

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fall's Splendour!

It seems that in any given year we get the same amount of great weather. We might have a lousy spring and a great summer or a lousy winter and a good fall. Rarely can we say that all four seasons have been great in a given year. Besides someone who skis might like a snowy winter while those that don't would prefer one day of snow on December 25th and green the rest of the year. I enjoy the outdoors and generally accept whatever weather we have. Having said that I like the spring and fall the most and if pressed will tell you that fall is my favourite season. I like that the air is cooler without being cold, and the lack of bugs, and the sound of the fallen leaves beneath my feet.
With that as my preamble I have to tell you that this past week has provided us with some glorious weather. I almost regretted hanging the canoe for the winter! However since the canoe was put away we have had the chance to do some biking and some hiking. I have been exploring the Wilmot Creek area this past while and have spent a few hours hiking at Samuel Wilmot Nature Area. This is a nice little area that is bordered by the Wilmot Creek retirement subdivision on the west and the Port of Newcastle subdivision on the east. I imagine in the spring that the migrants coming over the lake will flock down into this pocket of nature. As the years go by much of the area that is now open field will regenerate providing a larger target for those migrants and it may become a birding hotspot similar to Thickson's Woods.
Just to the north of the Nature area is an MNR Fishing Area. This protects the both sides of the creek from development pretty much from Lake Ontario to the 115 Highway.
The fishing area has limited trails as most of the fishermen are walking in the river with waders seeking out the Rainbows and Salmon that use Wilmot creek for spawning. A few miles north the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority's Thurne Park is a little used area along the Wilmot. The forest here is dominated by cedar but again the main attraction is the fish in the creek. In the fall the salmon are everywhere and with the creek being only ten feet or so wide the viewing is great. At this time of year the creeks are crystal clear unless there has been recent heavy rains. Just a mile or so north of Thurne Park is the Orono Crown Lands. This is the largest chunk of public land in the Wilmot creek watershed. I visited this area twice in the last week and enjoyed it immensely both times. On the first ocassion I was alone and followed the trail off the Station St parking area straight in to creek itself and then followed the creekside trail south to the fifth concession and back. The parking lot was full when I left and I saw a few groups in the first fifteen minutes but once I got onto the creek trail I saw only one other couple. Along the creek the forest is dominated by Cedars again and some of them are quite large by Southern Ontario standards. There were a few signs of Pileated woodpeckers with the rectangular holes in the side of the trees. Along the stream I would occasionally see the skeletal remains of a dead salmon. I am always amazed that wild animals aren't scavenging these fish more often. As I returned up to the parking area I watched a trout hiding under the edge of the old railway bridge structure. It looked like a rainbow to me and it was about 10 inches in length!
On sunday Lianna and I and the boys returned to Orono and hiked north through the pine plantings. The ground was covered with pine needles and the air was scented with that north woods piney smell. We were pushing Jake in his jogging stroller and he was loving the sights of the forest. Isaiah was making "walking sticks" with any dead branches that fit his specifications, and practicing his pole vaulting. The trail to the north is quite wide and makes me look forward to the x-country ski season as it would be a great little loop for skis or snowshoes.
Tuesday afternoon the weather was still holding and I went for a ride in Stephen's Gulch. Here the forest is more deciduous and the ground was thick with leaves. There is something about the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot or under your wheels that makes you wish it was autumn all year long!
I guess the whole point of this post is that you really don't need to travel far to find that outdoor activity. Chances are there is a conservation area or park nearby. Get out there and kick up some leaves!

Top of Page

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Last Paddle of the Year!

The Pigeon river

Ok so I haven't posted much this summer. In fact I haven't posted at all. I have been busy with a variety of projects and haven't done a lot of my usual summer outdoor activities to the level that my wife and I enjoy. No camping at all! A few reasons for that but mostly because Jake, our youngest has been getting us up every couple of hours at night. The burden for this has fallen mostly on my wife and I marvel at her ability to function on the broken sleep she gets. However it is one thing to have a baby awake in a multilevel house and quite another to deal with one in a tent or trailer. Next summer will be different.

Jake's first paddle!

Anyways to make a long story short we did day things when we could and did get Jake out for a kayak ride. He isn't impressed with wearing a life jacket! He'll learn to love it!
Yesterday the weather looked good and who knows how many more days we will get like that so I threw the canoe on the roof of the car and drove up to the Pigeon River. I had heard from a coworker that the section near Golf Course Rd. east of Highway 35 was a wild stretch of river. His words were that it felt like you were "way up north!"
I had never been to this place so I went to Google Maps and found the intersection of Golf Course Rd. and St. Mary's Rd. On Google Maps it shows a place called Mt. Horeb. Here the Pigeon River shows up on the map as it flows northeast toward Omemee. This is about a half hour drive from my place in Bowmanville, and when I got to the place there wasn't a single house, nor any mountains so I don't know what the Mt. Horeb refers to! There was a small wooden bridge over the Pigeon River and on the southeast side of this bridge was a place to launch a canoe. There is not much in the way of parking though. The road has deep ditches on either side and no real pulloff, so you have to be careful parking. On the plus side there is not much traffic in downtown Mt. Horeb.

The bridge on St. Mary's Rd.

The river is about twenty feet wide at the bridge and widens as you go downstream. As you can see on Google map or satellite it is a meandering stream with lots of curves.

The Pigeon River southwest of Omemee

The river runs through a swampy forest and there is no sign of humanity to be seen. As I rounded one of the myriad of bends I flushed a group of about ten or so Wood Ducks. Other than that though there was very little in the way of life to be seen. There were lots of small fish to be seen in the river, species unknown. It would be very different in the spring time though as swamps are generally very full of birdlife and wildlife in general. I did see a single frog(Leopard?) that was so cold he could barely move. He should have been in hibernation already, I think. After about a half hour of paddling downstream I decided that I didn't want to go to far and have to fight the current on the way back so I headed back toward the bridge. As I got nearer I was followed by a Great Blue Heron that passed over my head at about 20 feet and settled on the side of the river about forty feet ahead of me.

Great Blue Heron in flight

I think he was looking for that frog! Upstream from the bridge the river is smaller but still plenty navigable by canoe. I continued upstream for about twenty more minutes and the river is still twenty feet wide at least. The terrain is very similar and the only sign of man is the bridge on St. Mary's Rd. I will definitely be back to explore this area more in the coming year, but I will probably put in at one of the crossings farther downstream on Mt. Horeb Rd. and paddle back upstream until I get tired and then float back down to the put in with the current. Hopefully the parking may be better as well.
When I got home I hung the canoe back up in the rafters of the garage until next year. For now, the water is cold and there is lots to do on land and snow! I might even post a little more regularly!!

Top of Page

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summers Botanical Jewels

One of the great things about being out and about in the outdoors of Ontario is the beauty that you tend to happen upon on a regular basis. In fact if you are outdoors and have your eyes open you run into beauty everywhere. It can be fireflies along a stretch of swampy road, a doe and spotted fawn in the forest near the trail, or a beautiful bird in the bush or tree in front of you. This post is about the wildflowers that adorn this provinces' woods and meadows. Obviously, Ontario has thousands of species of plants, the majority of them flowering, so to narrow this down I am selecting a few "spectacular" species. Who decided what is spectacular? Hey, I am writing this, so I get to choose! The choice is purely arbitrary and really the list could go on and on! In fact I have chosen only a few for this post but may revisit this subject down the road.

Butterfly Milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa

The number of truly orange flowers in Ontario is surprisingly low and this speccies of Milkweed is the showiest of the oranges. It is found across Ontario in areas that have dry sandy soil and can be seen from the 401 in places. The Pinery is a good spot, the area around Camp Borden, the Oak Ridges moraine in various spots. It will grow to about 2 ft tall but is usually shorter and can be in open woodlands or open fields. I will admit this is a sentimental favorite of mine and therefore it goes first!

Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata

As a canoeist I love seeing this close relative of the butterfly milkweed growing along the shorelines of lakes and streams as well as in wet spots and some ditches. This species gets up to four feet tall. This photo was taken along the Nonquon River in Seagrave, ON. This particular specimen was occcupied by a Monarch. Monarch caterpillers feed almost exclusively on the milkweed family.

Fragrant Water-Lily, Nymphaea odorata

Who doesn't love this one seen in all our quiet rivers and lakes. The water lily, white or yellow is a spectacular flower and a delight to paddle among!

Black Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta

Ok this is a common roadside flower over much of the province. I still think it is one of the nicest roadside flowers going. It is a ray of sunshine as you drive along!

Cardinal Lobelia, Lobelia cardinalis

This one is definitely not your average roadside flower. This beauty is found along wooded streams. I have seen it in the Niagara region, along the Nonquon and in Bon Echo park. This photo was taken at Bon Echo, along the road to Joe Perry Lake. Can be 1 to 4 feet tall. One of my all time favorite wildflowers!

Harebell, Campanula rotundifolia

This is one of those delicate little beauties that often go unnoticed in the sunny forest floor. I like it because of its delicate blue color and because it seems to be to delicate to survive, and yet it does in some way survive in heavily used campgrounds such as the Pinery where this one was taken

Showy Ladies Slipper, Cypripedium reginae

This is our largest, showiest, native orchid, found in swampy areas and wet woods. It is not a common sight but there are places to see it. Purdon bog is one area that is famous for the massive show of these beauties. They are found in other parts of the province including the Bruce and Manitoulin. This is one of those plants that prove it pays to keep your eyes open when driving the backroads. I took this photo today just outside of Port Hope, ON, at one of two colonies that I found within five miles of country road.

Top of Page

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Nonquon Visit

Friday was a nice day in the morning so I threw the little canoe on the roof and drove up to Port Perry with Isaiah. We launched our canoe in the Nonquon River on Old Simcoe Rd. just south of Scugog Line 10. The Nonquon goes under Old Simcoe at this point and there is a little area where you can safely launch with out fear of your vehicle being a traffic hazard. Isaiah is just four years old and has his own paddle so I put him to work paddling us downstream! His paddle blade spent a great deal of time in the water, and some times it even was moving us forward. He has an idea of what he is doing and at this stage that is all I care about. Amazingly, the entire hour and a half that we were out he never dropped his paddle once. The Nonquon is about fifteen feet across for most of the section we paddled and not far from roads, but for the length of our paddle we didn't see another boat or person or man-made structure. What we did see was beaver lodges, Canada Geese on their nests, Red-winged Blackbirds, Blue Winged Teal, and Great Blue Herons. As we were launching we heard the kidik,kidik call of a Virginia Rail. It sounded to be only a few feet into the marsh grasses. At a point where a beaver had built a dam at some point in the past, there was a small riffle that dropped about three inches. To Isaiah this was whitewater canoeing at its finest. I am sure he felt like an early explorer did crossing America in the eighteen hundreds. To a four year old it was grand adventure, and best of all we shared it together. I like to think he will remember these times together for the rest of his life. If you have kids go exploring together somewhere outdoors with them.

As we neared the end of our paddle and were returning to the launch site a Sora Rail stood on the bank about five feet from us and watched us go by. I was impressed, as you don't see rails very often. Isaiah was just as impressed by the Barn Swallows and their nests, under the bridge at Old Simcoe Rd. It really doesn't matter to a child how rare a site is to the rest of us, he is as happy with the barn swallows up close as a Sora Rail. What really matters is the shared experiences that will turn your child into an outdoors person. So this weekend, grab your kids, and your canoe,pack,bike,whatever and find a patch of nature to share with those you love.

Top of Page

Friday, May 1, 2009

Spring has Sprung

White Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum

It was a beautiful day for walk in the woods and I even took my camera with me. For me the Trillium is one of the highlights of spring in Ontario. There are five or six different species of trilliums in Ontario but only two that are widespread and common. The white trillium is the one we all know and it is is the one that will carpet the hillsides in deciduous forests. I had passed this woodlot a couple of times lately, and saw the splash of white on the hills. I decided it was time to explore the woodlot and these are a few of the photos!

A hillside of trilliums

A "flock" of trilliums!

Red trilliums and white trilliums

Red Trillium, Trillium erectum

Early Meador Rue, Thalictrum dioicum

Large Flowered Bellwort, Uvularia grandiflora

The woodlot had a variety of other spring flora with good showings of Wild Ginger, lots of May-Apple, and some Jack in the Pulpit. This lot was right in the city of Oshawa, beside a major road. The next few weeks will bring lots of other spring flora out for your viewing pleasure. There is nothing on TV!! Go for a walk in the woods!

Top of Page

Monday, April 13, 2009

Orono Crown Lands

A couple of months ago I visited the Orono Crown Lands and posted here about the visit and about the area. Today I recieved an email from the chair of the Orono Crown Lands Trust advising me of a couple of upcoming events regarding the Crown Lands.

On May 7 they are holding their Annual General Meeting, featuring a silent auction and an interactive raptor presentation. There will be owls and hawks from the University of Guelph.

On August 29 there will be a corn roast and BBQ at the Ochonski Rd parking lot.
For details on either of these events check the website

Feedback is a wonderful thing when blogging! If you have comments or suggestions regarding any of the posts on this blog please email me!!

Top of Page

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Float your Fanny

April 11, 2009 and thousands of people and hundreds of dogs are enjoying the beautiful spring day along the banks of the Ganaraska River in Port Hope, Ontario. There is entertainment for the kids, and music to enjoy, but the main event is this years' Float Your Fanny down the Ganny. This yearly river race is open to every type of non-motorized craft. Depending on the river levels, there is a lot of whitewater and this years' race was delayed a week due to high water. It was still to quote one participant “whitewater from start to finish”. At the finish line the first to arrive were canoes and kayaks.

Some even had people in them. Onlookers held their breath and helped the unlucky but undaunted.

The crowd cheered every one on as the craft got crazier and crazier. I will post a video of the race in the next couple of days showing some of the other crafts.


OK, so it is Monday at noon, 2 days after the race, and here is the aforementioned video pared down to meet the 100 mb limit imposed by Blogger. If you see yourself or someone you know in this video and want some video, I may or may not have more of that particular clip that got left on the "cutting room floor". Email me if interested.

Port Hope is about an hours drive east of Toronto, it is a fun day for the whole family and today was enjoyed heartily by the participants and the thousands of spectators. This is one of Ontarios outdoor activities that you want to mark on your calendar for next year. This is outdoor dad signing off

Top of Page

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Rivers of Rainbows: Part 2

Part 1 of this subject left me with a mystery on my hands. I had gone down to see the trout climb the fish ladder at the Goodyear dam a week ago and they had disappeared. Well I still haven't solved it. I was back down with Jake and Isaiah this morning and did see quite a few fish jumping. There was no where near the volume that we had seen ten days before. I did manage to remember my camera and got some video.

As you can see the water level is quite high and in fact is much higher than it was on the thursday of my original post. However the time of day was the same as the friday when I saw nothing. We have had substantial rain in the last few days and that might be a factor. With the high water the only fish visible today were the big ones at least two feet in length. If there is anyone reading this who knows something about what makes them climb the ladders some days and not the others please post a comment or email me.
On the fence at the fish ladder is a bunch of poster boards informing the public about the ladder and the dam and how they are in the process of studying improving the fish ladder. Thats all great but it sort of begs the question; Since Goodyear no longer uses the dam for its industrial purpose, why keep it there at all? A stick of dynamite would take care of the dam and eliminate the need for the ladder completely. Just a thought. There are probably good reasons for not doing it. Again comments or emails are welcome.

Top of Page

Canoeing Season is coming!!

This is just a quick note to let you know about a couple of canoeing events coming up in Ontario.

April 19 is the date set for the longest canoe race in Eastern Ontario. This event is a little farther afield, just north of Cornwall, ON. It is the Raisin River canoe race and it is approximately 28 km in length. Their website has more details on what looks like a worthy event if you are in that end of the province or up for a drive.
May 3 is the day for this years Paddle the Don. This event is run by the Toronto Region Conservation Authority and promotes the regeneration and the cleanup of the Don River watershed in Toronto. OK, so it is a lot cleaner than it used to be!! This years event is full so you can get on a waitlist or make plans for next year. Visit the website for more details.

Top of Page

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Float Your Fanny Postponed

Ganaraska River conditions have postponed this popular race!!

Due to DANGEROUS RIVER CONDITIONS as a result of recent rainfall this years race has been postponed to April 11, 2009. For updates check the website

Top of Page

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Something to Live By

My wife, Lianna, was reading one of her magazines the other day, and came across this quote. She loved it and showed it to me. We feel that this says in 100 words or so what should be the creed of everyone who has an affinity for the outdoors. It is by Edward Abbey, the American writer best known for Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness.

“It is not enough to fight for the land; it is
even more important to enjoy it. While you
can. While it’s still here. So get out there
and hunt and fish and mess around with
your friends, ramble out yonder and explore
the forests....climb the mountains, bag the
peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that
yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while
and contemplate the precious stillness,
the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space”

Edward Abbey

Top of Page

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rivers of Rainbows

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon friday as we picked up the eldest son from his preschool and as we had nothing particularily pressing we decided to take the boys for a short walk along the trail in the Bowmanville Creek Valley. Valleys 2000 along with Clarington and the local conservation authority got together and installed a paved multi use trail from Highway 2 in the north to Baseline Rd. in the south, about 2 kilometres worth. It is a nice little walk close to home in Bowmanville, and being paved it is great with the youngest in a stroller. About halfway along the trail you come to the Goodyear Dam. Goodyear rubber, which still operates on the east side of the creek once dammed the river for some purpose or another and the dam is still there. On the west side a fish ladder has been installed. As we walked along the trail we saw a few people gathered near the dam watching the river. Fish were jumping at the fish ladder! The Bowmanville Creek is used by Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Coho Salmon and Chinook Salmon. The only one of these that spawn in the spring is the Rainbow Trout. There were a lot of fish attempting to get up the ladder friday. They varied in size from about a foot long to a few giants that looked about three feet long. Watching these fish jump time and again only to be swept back by the strong current makes one marvel at the force driving them upstream. To the right of the fish ladder was evidence of how difficult this journey is for these fish; a half dozen lay dead on the cement shelf of the dam. Every few seconds the sound of a fish colliding with the structure around the ladder could be heard above the noise of the rushing water. Of course I did not have my camera with me!!
Soo.... saturday morning I bundled up Jake(my 4 month old son) in his stroller and went back down to the creek with my camera and tripod to document this wonder of nature, and lo and behold....not one fish was jumping!! So the question is what was different? They were both sunny days and about the same temp. It was less than 24 hours later so I don't think all the trout that were migrating had passed the dam. My best, somewhat uneducated guess is that the time of day makes the difference. Friday 4 pm, Saturday 12 noon. Maybe the angle of the sun doesn't let the fish see what they jumping at? I don't know! Anyways I did take a few photos. It was a nice sunny spring day! I will be back at different times of the day to attempt to figure out this fishy mystery and will report back!

The Goodyear Dam

The entrance to the fish ladder on the left

Dead Rainbows lying on the shelf beside the fishway

Most kids these days may learn about Salmon running upstream to lay their eggs in Science class, but if they are anything like myself, it really didn't impress me until the first time I saw it live. For me, that was on the Humber River in Newfoundland and the fish that were jumping were Atlantic Salmon. Not many will get the chance to travel down east or out west but most of us here in southern Ontario could get in a car on a weekend and drive to one of our local fish ladders to let our children see the show. Kids that learn about the outdoors are the ones who will care about the outdoors and use the outdoors.

The fish ladder at the Goodyear dam is accessible by the trail from either end of the Bowmanville creek trail. This will open a Google map of the valley.There is a parking lot at the south end off Baseline Rd. and one at the north end at the intersection of Highway 2(King St) and Roenigk Dr.
Another good spot to view these fish is at the fish ladder in Port Hope. This ladder is at Corbetts dam on the Ganaraska River. It is accessible from Cavan St just south of where it underpasses the 401.

Top of Page

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Orono Crown Lands

Have you ever driven by a forest that is an old pine plantation with row upon row of Scots pine? Usually there is nothing in the undergrowth and the plantation is basically a monoculture. It is as interesting to walk through as a corn field. There may be a parking area and a sign indicating some facility or other. You drive by without another glance or thought. Such is the case on Taunton Rd. just west of Orono, ON. I see a sign for an Outdoor Education Center and for the Orono Crown Lands, but the trees around it are the monoculture of pine. I have driven by these lands a hundred times and never stopped. However a few weeks back while hiking at Stephen's Gulch a man I met suggested it would be worth visiting. Today I did just that. It was well worth it. I entered the area from the parking lot at the corner of Station St and Ochanski Rd just west of Orono. I walked a couple of hundred feet straight into the forest to the head of the trails. Here were some birdfeeders, and today, there were numerous chickadees, a few siskins, goldfinches, and at least one of each, red-breasted and white-breasted nuthatches. In the immediate vicinity I heard blue jays and saw crows as well.

Chickadees at feeder

The trails are quite extensive and have obviously been used for cross country skiing in recent days. With gently rolling topography I can see it would be a very nice place to ski and will definitely be back out in the near future with my skiis. Farther in to the area I saw tracks of a variety of animals including coyotes and deer. Red squirrels chattered at me. The sun was shining bright on the snow and there was very litle wind. All in all it was a beautiful winter afternoon.

Deer Track through the forest

The forested areas are a mix of plantation conifers and deciduous second growth with rolling hills and small streams cutting through the area. This is all part of the Wilmot Creek watershed.

To look at the map at the entrance the area generally runs north south along the creek and is quite extensive with links across a few of the roads. It is large enough so that if you got turned around you might walk for an hour or two before coming out to a road. The main entrance sign had a pocket for trail maps but it was empty today. I would suggest you print one before leaving home. The map is one of the pages in the website run by the Orono Crown Lands trust.

This area looks to be great for mountain biking, hiking, and birding and in the winter skiing and snowshoeing. As it is only ten minutes from my house I will definitely be back!

Top of Page

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Best job in the world

OK so this is shameless self promotion, but here goes! About a month ago Tourism Queensland in Australia advertised for the "best job in the world". Basically they want someone to go and live on the Great Barrier reef and blog about it. I have entered the competition. Here is the link to the site

Go there and rate me 5 stars

Top of Page

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Whitewater Canoe and Kayak Festival

For those readers into whitewater canoeing and kayaking one of the first events of the spring is coming up. M.A.C.K. Fest or the Marmora Area Canoe and Kayak festival is being held this year on April 18 and 19. The Marmora area is blessed with a half dozen rivers, which during the spring runoff provide some exciting whitewater. MACKfest has no competition or anything like that. Basically it is a gathering of whitewater enthusiasts spending the days on the rivers and the evening in entertainment. All the details of the entertainment are not worked out yet, but the website has details about a variety of runs in the area as well as camping info. If you are into whitewater or would like to watch some kayaking check it out. Marmora is about a half hour drive east of Peterborough on Highway 7.

Float your Fanny down the Ganny

On a different but similar vein, another whitewater event that is coming up sooner is this years Float your Fanny down the Ganny. The date for this years run is April 4th. This annual race is a float trip down the Ganaraska river in full spring flood. Canoes, kayaks, bathtubs, anything that floats is welcome. There is a whole class for Crazycraft. After the race check out the town of Port Hope for shopping or dinner. For details on this "race" see the website.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Snowy Winter

Yes, the snow is deep outside right now and as I write this more of it is coming down. I have to say that I cannnot remember a winter in recent memory when we accumulated as much snow as we have this year and January isn't even finished yet. The snow bank at the end of my driveway is seven feet tall. I know because I am throwing shovelfuls of snow over it two or three times a day lately. The snow is so deep in our yard we had the snowshoes on just to walk around the house!!!

Lianna on snowshoes in our yard in Bowmanville

Every season brings treats to us in Ontario and winter birds are one of the things we look forward to. Siskins, redpolls, crossbills and grosbeaks are a few of the visitors that we don't see except in the dead of winter when they will come south and visit feeders. From the tundra we get Rough Legged Hawks in varying numbers most winters and every few years we will get irruptions of owls. A couple of years ago Great Gray Owls were turning up over much of southern Ontario. Cranberry Marsh in Whitby had some and a few kilometers east in Ajax there were as many as six. Usually this kind of influx is the result of food shortages in the normal wintering grounds of the owls. That was the case with the Great Grays 2 years ago.

This year the owl that is everywhere is the Snowy Owl. Reports of Snowy owls on the Niagara frontier, Burlington bay, the Leslie street spit in Toronto and Holland Marsh to name a few have been common. Farther afield there has been a Snowy owl seen in Tenessee, the first in 22 years. These owls are rare south of Ohio but his year there have been reports in Kansas as well as Missouri. One also showed up in Virginia.

Most influxes of snowies are the result of population crashes of Lemmings, the owls main food source. Lemmings tend to have cyclical populations. Apparently this influx is not due to a crash, but the opposite. This summer the lemming population was very high and as a result the number of snowy owls successfully fledged was very high. Because Snowy owls have their own hunting territories, the large numbers have resulted in an influx into southern Ontario this winter. So if you would like to see one where do you go? Probably the best spot to see Snowy Owls this winter (or most winters) is Amherst island. Amherst island is in Lake Ontario just south of Millhaven, which is about 20 miles west of Kingston. You need to catch a ferry over to the island, so check the schedule. Also there are no gas stations on the island. Driving the roads and keeping your eyes open should get you a few sightings. The counts have varied from 5 to 15 owls seen this winter.
Another good spot is the area around the Holland marsh, where 4 were seen yesterday with a fifth known to be in the area.

You might get lucky and see one closer to home. There was one in the GM plant grounds in Oshawa earlier this winter. My mother in law spotted one between her home in Newtonville and Port Hope, along Highway 2, just after Christmas. So as you are out and about this winter, keep your eyes peeled for these majestic visitors from the arctic tundra.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Nonquon River

Ok, so the snow is ten feet deep outside and the canoe is hanging from the rafters in the garage. However if you are anything like myself, you are always planning the next paddle. So in keeping with the Port Perry theme, today I am going to talk about the Nonquon River. The Nonquon is a small river that begins just northwest of Port Perry and flows north through the villageof Seagrave eventually ending in the northwest corner of Lake Scugog. It is a gentle paddle at any time, no rapids or high water. You might have to pull your canoe over or around a beaver dam or two but that is it. No five hundred yard portages. No speedboats. It really is an ideal little stream for you to take your kids for a paddle on. The best part is that for most of the trip there is no sign of civilization. Lots of birds to be seen. Great Blue Herons and Kingfishers will fly up as you paddle along. The banks of the stream have lots of wildflowers to look at. Turtles will be up on sunny days. The best part is that it is only an hour or so from downtown Toronto. I have relatives in Seagrave and remember visiting my cousin Parrish Fisher as a kid and paddling the Nonquon forty years ago. It hasn't changed much since then. You still have the chance to see wildlife such as deer, mink, or beaver and flowers like Cardinal Lobelia grow on the banks. In the last few years I have paddled it with my daughters, and son and enjoyed it just as much. It is a great spot to introduce the kids to the canoe
You can put in for your paddle in the town of Seagrave, where there is a boat ramp just east of the Simcoe Street bridge on the north side of the river. Paddle west to go upstream and you can go for a few hours. East and you will reach Lake Scugog in a couple of hundred yards.
The other reason to talk about the Nonquon is to let you know (well in advance) about the 41st annual Canoe the Nonquon. This event is the longest running canoe race in Ontario and is open for all skill levels. You have the option of just the river portion(18 km) or the river and lake(26 km) finishing in Port Perry. The event is a fundraiser for the Scugog Shores museum. This year it is being held Saturday June 6th. I plan to enter in the father/son category with my four year old and do the river portion. See you there!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kilimanjaro: Arrival in Tanzania

Ray, Diane and I arrived in Tanzania via Amsterdam. We flew direct to Kilimanjaro airport which is near the city of Arushu. It was dark when we got off the plane, so we really couldn’t see a lot but the warmth and the smells told us that we were on the equator. Customs and immigration was the usual except there was only the one planeload to deal with. The whole airport was about the size of a small public school. We got our bag and went out to find our driver holding up a sign with our names. His name was Alex. We piled our gear into a large Toyota land cruiser and set off for the Springlands Hotel in Moshi. It was pitch black out so we really saw very little of the countryside on our hour drive to the Hotel. At the hotel we checked in and went to our rooms. It definitely wasn’t the Hilton, but not bad for a third world hotel.

The next morning we got up and went down to breakfast. The gardens in the hotel made it plain we were on the equator.
The first birds we saw were Pied Crows and Red Headed Weavers. We were definitely not in Kansas anymore!
Just about at that time one of us looked up and realized that what we were thinking was clouds wasn’t. Looming way up in the sky was our mountain. It was massive!!! We debated who’s silly idea this whole thing was, while we took in the shear magnitude of the task ahead. The fact that we still had a safari ahead of us before climbing the mountain allowed us to eat our breakfast. The food was an odd mix of eggs, European sausages, fruit and African style cereals and toast. It isn’t on your Gourmets list of places to go but we weren’t going to starve either. After breakfast we piled our stuff into the Land cruiser and set off for a couple of nights on Safari. I won’t go into that on this post other than to say if you ever have the chance to do a safari in Africa, do it!! You won’t be disappointed.
A couple of days later we returned to the Springland to prepare for our climb. That evening we met our guides who spelled out exactly what we should take and gave us our weight limits. They have a scale in the courtyard and your bag doesn't leave the hotel until it meets the limit!
They gave us the evening to pack and repack our bags. All evening small groups were carrying their bags to the scales, and then tossing a couple of pairs of underwear and/or bags of candy bars, whatever to make the weight. Eventually we were all satisfied that they would let us and our bags board the van for the drive to the mountain. We retired to the bar for a well deserved Kilimanjaro beer. It would be a while til the next one!!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Winter Wonderland!

Since my last post started telling you about Kilimanjaro, I was reminiscing about some of my training for the climb. As I described in the Kili post I did a lot of spinning for training. However I also did a fair amount of hiking. Most of us will admit to hiking more in the better weather. In fact we all tend to hibernate in front of the TV or, like myself the computer, when the snow starts falling. However lets talk about getting out and about in this snowy winter wonderland. One of the areas that I did some training in prior to Kili was the Durham forest/Glen Major/Walkers woods complex.This area, just south of Uxbridge is less than an hour drive from Toronto. This area is forested, hilly and full of well marked trails. Between the three areas they comprise about 2000 hectares (who knows what the heck a Hectare is?) of wooded area for self propelled recreation. They are well used at certain times of the year, especially for mountain biking. However the shear size of the complex makes it easy to spend hours without seeing anyone other than your own group. On one sunny, cold winter day just prior to leaving for Kilimanjaro, Ray and I spent three hours hiking the hills of Glen Major. We saw some snowshoe tracks throughout the area. This would be a great day trip for all you Toronto snowshoe afficianados. Bring a map and compass and or a GPS because it is a large area and you might feel a hundred miles from the nearest civilization even though you aren't. There are a network of X country ski trails as well. This winters heavy snow fall would make this a good choice for a day outing for anyone looking at nordic skiing. The trails aren't groomed like a commercial ski area but they are free. The last time I went the conservation authorities had not put up any parking fees, but even if they did you would be looking at a couple of dollars for a carload of skiers/snowshoers/hikers. In fact the only people that we saw that day were three X country skiers, well into the interior of the woods. It was really cold that day and we were using the hike to prepare us for the colds at the 20,000 feet. It didn't!! Our beards were covered with ice as you can see in the photos. The remarkable thing about the three skiers that we did meet out on this frigid day was that they were all well into their seventies. They were enjoying themselves! Those people are my heroes! I hope to be as active and unafraid to do things like this when I am their age.

Ray and Myself enjoying the cold!

Other hiking opportunities abound in the winter in southern Ontario. Other training hikes were along the Bruce Trail. If you don't know it it runs from Queenston Heights on the Niagara River to Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce peninsula. It follows the Niagara escarpment and is maintained by volunteers from the Bruce Trail Conservancy. Guide books and maps are available from them by going to their website. The trail originated as a brainchild of Ray Lowes, a metallurgist from Dofasco in Hamilton. His idea became a project for Canada's centennial in 1967 and I remember as a child helping to build sections of the trail in Niagara, and the construction of the cairn marking the southern terminus, at Queenston Heights. In the winter the trail is less crowded and best of all there are no bugs.

Hiking on the Bruce Trail near Grimsby, ON.

You don't have to go that far for a winter hike. Almost all of us have somewhere 'nearby and natural' (to steal someones saying) that we can go for an hour or mores hike. I live in Bowmanville and five minutes from my house is Stephen's Gulch Conservation Area. Last week I was out for a litle cross country ski. I have hiked in the winter and summer and mountain biked as well. I will probably take a quick snowshoe there in the next few days as the snow is
deep right now. The point is that there are endless possibilities for winter recreation. Just get out there and enjoy it!!! We are Canadians after all.