Friday, June 27, 2014

Cutting Through

The long straight line that is the rail trail. One of the most beautiful stretches of the Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail is the section through Dundas Valley. Forests lean over the trail, give way to fields with long views over the distant city, and in my opinion far surpass the landscape of the more utilitarian farmers fields that make up much of the route between Dundas and Brantford.

Smaller side trails entice the curious to divert into the woodland to follow spring creeks in deep valleys.

Welcome, too, are benches placed at intervals, all with a unique view of the diverse nature. I have my favourite perch where I watch clouds drift by, as the crunching sound of moving feet punctuate a quiet afternoon as people walk or jog the rail trail, or the voices of cyclists conversing as they ride provide brief distractions from solitude.

One of the highlights of any week for me is time to sit alone here and think, or just deep breathe to decompress from a stressful week. There's warm sun ,or dramatic sky, a songbird flitting from branch to branch, or maybe a wandering deer grazing nearby to remind me that we are just cutting through as visitors.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Place with No Name?

Some have called it a hidden lake. At some point in time, this wetland received the name Lake Jojo, likely named by the developer who built the surrounding neighbourhood. There's something about the name Jojo that just makes me feel sorry for a place saddled with that pronoun. Maybe it relates to teen singer JoJo, who my kids used to listen to:

Regardless of the name, there is a feature of hiddenness to this body of water, tucked away out of view from major roads except for glimpses from York Road. At one edge a steep ravine drops from the road to the marsh. Hydro towers connect parallel to the north shore. 

For some it is behind the Community Recycling Centre, or accessed by a trail through Martino Memorial Park. Others have access from the Sleepy Hollow subdivision. 

It's a tight spot with the roads and ravines eating at the edges and leaving little space for paths. The existing unofficial trails aren't strictly coherent in a way that an official trail would be. That is, the trail starts strong at the Martino Park, and then gets lost in a small maze of bike tracks and deer paths. There isn't enough space to have a path that would allow for a path around the entire body of water. 

The small wetland area connects to the larger Cootes Paradise and includes the Delsey Wetland, the soon to be improved/naturalized Desjardin's Canal lands now controlled by the Hamilton Conservation Authority, and Volunteer Marsh. It's a beautiful spot, even with the ugly CRC, and a lowprofile waste water treatment plant.

As we scrounged through the scrub, having started on a deer path, we came across a burrow, still in use, with a small animal skull atop the dug out entrance hole. It wasn't until later, further along the trail that we saw a coyote bolt up a hill about 30 metres from us that we figured out it was a coyote den.

Hidden "lakes" - hidden wildlife homes, this is the complexity of urban nature. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Pre-Spring Surprises

The day before this photo was taken it was a balmy 13C and then a major snow storm changed everything back to winter. People bemoaning the loss of the spring-like weather apparently don't appreciate the non-driving winter experience. (Spring isn't officially until the vernal equinox, March 20, so really, it's not fair to complain, is it? Besides, as my dear mom says, we always get snow in April, so please, fellow Southern Ontario residents, steel yourselves for more.)

I enjoyed a short X-country ski with my partner as we skied from our front door, down the middle of the side street and into the historic Hamilton Cemetery, perched so prettily above Cootes Paradise on Burlington Heights.

I'll try and post some April snow pictures here in a few weeks. Wink wink.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A new place to stand?

The Dundas Marsh is frozen through, and covered in several inches of snow. A new platform from which to experience the open sky, and gain a new perspective on the shorelines.

Distance is deceptive when landmarks are lacking. How long will it take to reach the far shore?

The wind, which was at our backs before we turned to trudge back to the Desjardin's Trail, now presses steadily in our faces, and the sun is eclipsed by clouds, the return journey colder.

Over at Princess Point, the distant dark figures of skaters and hockey players silhouetted against the snow is out of time. They could be from a Frank Panabaker painting, and I love that they are there, connecting the city to winter in a tangible and unmediated way.

A cross country skier has left tracks, double lines on a map, connecting north and south shores with their travelling.

Earlier in the winter across the open expanse a friend shot pictures of a coyote eating a fresh killed deer on the ice. Blood, ice, snow. Life. Death.

The frozen marsh provides different kinds of opportunities. Like discovering a new friend, we see everything with eyes wide open, eager for a deeper connection.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


We have been experiencing our first dustings of snow the past couple of days. The air is cold enough and the ground is frozen enough for these first sparse flakes to stay. What I love about being out early(-ish), when the ground is powdered with snow, is the evidence of the invisible, the things and people that have wandered the same ground before me. Things that I don’t usually see leave traces of their progress. The hopping trail of a bird that ends with swishes of disturbed snow to indicate its flight. The jumping pattern that the rabbits and squirrels leave that show their back paws landing in front of their forepaws before bracing for another leap. Tiny footprints and a little tail swish that show a mouse has dashed through. It is a map of each individual’s movements. In a way it is like nature is unintentionally giving up its secrets. So, too, there is something amazing about looking at an untouched expanse of snow knowing your the first one to wander down the path that morning.

(Guest blog by super-multi-talented Deani Sweet, used with permission
Binkley Hollow, Hamilton Ontario

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Worth the Walk in Winter

Sunset over Dundas Marsh
Cootes Paradise AKA the Dundas Marsh at sunset from Desjardin's Trail at the Canal, Hamilton, yesterday at dusk. Within a span of 5 minutes we watched Hooded Mergansers floating on the open water in the canal, a Beaver swim and climb out of the canal to gnaw down a small tree and carry it back into the water, and then a Bald Eagle fly over the the high level bridge at York just above the canal.

Today is supposed to be warm, but the next week looks like temperatures will dip to more seasonable levels. I'm looking forward to a chance to skate on Cootes and play a bit of hockey. Let's have some winter, shall we?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Hunting Trails

The Royal Botanical Gardens has announced the following temporary trail closures:
Hamilton, ON, December 10, 2013 — Royal Botanical Gardens and the Haudenosaunee Wildlife and Habitat Authority (HWHA) have agreed to conduct a controlled harvest of White-tailed deer this December as part of RBG’s deer management.  
The 2013 harvest will be conducted at RBG’s Arboretum, located at 16 Old Guelph Road, Hamilton, Ontario, and will take place between Monday, December 16 and Friday, December 20.

Access to the Arboretum, including the access from York Rd. Trailhead will be closed to the public for the duration of the harvest with the Arboretum reopened at its conclusion. Notices to the public will be provided and posted at property at entrance points.