ends and means

My nine-year-old daughter joined her mother and I for a long walk on area trails to get from Dundas to Christie Lake Conservation Area - the majority of the two-and-a-half hour walk there was on local trails, and spectacular.

We had been to Christie with friends just a day or two before, and by car it took about 10 minutes to get there. But walking is an entirely different experience, one which connects us to the beautiful natural areas that we are fortunate to still have, in a way traveling in a car* can not. Thus, the end (reaching Christie Lake CA for a swim) is still important, but the means of getting there (hiking) becomes an end in itself (and the swim all the more rewarding!).

The Route

We started in town by using the Spencer Creek Trail, from Creighton, and heading westerly. This section of the Spencer Creek Trail makes use of a pedestrian bridge over the creek at the eastern end of Mill Street and then follows the creek through Edwards Park, before leaving the trees for the sidewalks at the Mill Street Bridge - we had difficulty finding the trail markers at this point, but we found the next trail marker (yellow diamond) on Wellington Street, and again on MacNab but then lost track again on Brock - but knowing that at Brock and Melville there is an unofficial link to the Bruce Trail, we went that way.

Here's what the city of Hamilton web site says about the Spencer Creek Trail:

This 2.5 kilometre footpath runs from Ogilvie Street bridge over the Spencer Creek, and west to the Mill Street bridge. From there, sidewalks link to the Bruce Trail near the CN overpass on Highway 8.

The Trail is, at present, a natural footpath which is not accessible for wheelchairs and strollers

There are signboards at all access points, including McMurray Street and Creighton Road, as well as yellow diamond markers along the trail. Parts of the trail are on private land and the eastern portion of the trail is not yet complete. Across Cootes Drive, the Royal Botanical Gardens trails continue along the south shore of Cootes Paradise to McMaster University, Westdale, and Princess Point.
Once across the train tracks we picked up the Bruce Trail side trail (blue blazes) to Webster's Falls.

The following breaking news is somewhat alarming for hikers like myself - after a man was killed by a train (local media report that he was standing on one track and throwing rocks at a passing train when he was struck by a second train) it appears his poor judgment is (at least temporarily) confounding the route. Here's what the Bruce Trail website posted (http://www.iroquoia.on.ca/news.html):

Spencer Gorge Trail Closure Posted July 3 2008

The Iroquoia Bruce Trail Club has had to close a six-kilometre portion of the main Bruce Trail around the popular Spencer Gorge Wilderness Area in the communities of Greensville and Dundas in Hamilton. The closure was requested by landowner Canadian National Railway Company.

The entire main trail section between km. 59.6, near the intersection of Woodley Lane and King Street/Highway 8 in Dundas at the west, and the point where the Trail crosses Sydenham Road part way up the Escarpment to the east (km. 65.6 on Map 8) has been closed. The 800-metre long “Old Dundas Station Side Trail” which ran east and west parallel with the tracks has also been closed.

The main Trail has been re-routed for 2.5 kilometres through Dundas streets between Woodley Lane and Sydenham Road. This is the route all through hikers must use. White blazes have been posted, primarily on utility posts.

Hikers visiting Webster’s Falls may continue to hike the trail down Spencer Gorge alongside Spencer Creek, but cannot continue down to the railroad property. They must reverse direction. Similarly, hikers may use the Trail east from Tew’s Falls to the Dundas Valley Lookout and the Glen Ferguson Side Trail, but must reverse direction before reaching the railroad property.

The Club hopes this re-route will be temporary, and is actively looking at alternatives that might permit continued use of the Spencer Gorge as a continuous route of the Bruce Trail.

Please check the PDF File for maps.
I hope CNR reconsiders their stance on this.

Back to the trail...

Walking along the rugged Spencer Gorge Wilderness area is sure to thrill, and coming upon Websters Falls from this direction is a magical sight with a white curtain of water streaming down and filling the Gorge.

We still had a ways to go, so we didn't stop but continued up the stairway to upper Webster's Park and headed out of the park at the north western corner. Following Fallsview Road to Short Road, a pedestrian footbridge took us over Spencer Creek and then along the Crooks Hollow Trail, built and maintained by the Greensville Optomists Club (this trail doesn't appear on the city of Hamilton list of trails, for some reason).

This is a lovely footpath, and historical plaques line the way, recalling the area's earlier dominance as an industrial site. Old mill ruins and dams are all that remain of the once thriving industries.
Anxious to get into the water for a swim (and being a little tired) we did not take the side trail to the Darnley Cascade (but it is a recommended site, see above link for photos) and instead opted to continue straight on to Christie, via the Christie Dam. (Note, we have a walk-in pass from the Hamilton Conservation Authority, otherwise, entrance fees apply)

It is still quite a hike around the end of the reservoir to the official swimming area and the concessions, but pleasant trails and the reward of a refreshing swim help us get there.

[we hiked home as well, following a different set of unmarked trails to the Dundas Valley/Bruce Trail - but that's for another post]

It seems that some attention could be paid to improving the connections between trails, with Spencer Creek Trail finding a way to stay with the creek beyond the Mill Street bridge, and in the interim, making sure the trail is well marked; the city should include the Crooks Hollow trail on their listing of trails.

*this comment in no way negates our appreciation for the ride provided by good friends!