Saturday, April 28, 2012

Discovering the Hendrie Valley

An area that I am just beginning to discover is the Hendrie Valley Trails of the Royal Botanical Gardens.

A smaller scale version of Cootes Paradise, this area which includes the 100 hectare Grindstone Creek Valley stretches to the end of Carroll’s Bay and contains the finest collection of floodplain wetlands on western Lake Ontario. Transferred to the Royal Botanical Gardens in 1941 for ecological protection, the area features slopes forested with old growth trees, a 60 hectare river mouth marsh complex, and 4 creeks. Major access points are along Plains Road and include the RBG Centre and Cherry Hill Gate.
On a couple of occasions I have parked at the Cherry Hill Gate entrance which is located on Plains Road in Burlington, but more typically I park at Valley Inn Road where it meets York Boulevard in Hamilton. This road which is now closed to car traffic provides a great way into to this rich hiking area.
Walking this way, you cross under the railway bridge and will find yourself in the Grindstone Marsh area. This is a great spot to see birds and assorted waterfowl. You will see in this area that a large project is underway to create new banks along the water’s edge and also provide a system that works as a natural barrier against invasive carp. This has been facilitated through the re-use of over 100,000 discarded Christmas trees.
Following the trail through the Grindstone Creek Delta, you soon arrive at a spectacular boardwalk that borders Grindstone Creek providing an excellent vantage point to watch nesting birds and observe beavers and other wildlife. This is a great place to bird watch and if you bring some seed along you can have some fun feeding the friendly birds by hand.
On recent walks I have seen incredible amounts of red-wing blackbirds, blue jays and cardinals and even watched beaver collecting brush in the bulrushes which surround the boardwalk.
As previously mentioned, I am just starting to explore the Hendrie Valley and look forward to further hikes through the western trails that border Grindstone Creek and the South Pasture Swamp. You can definitely count on further blog articles on this amazing trail system.

If you haven’t already done so, please visit the Dundas Valley and Beyond page on Facebook.
Visit our page for photos as well as current information on trail conditions and events. Help spread the word!!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Keep An Eye Out For the Turtles

On my commute after work Monday, April 17, 2012 I was nearly home, driving on a country road and thinking about what I might be having for dinner when I swerved to miss what I thought was a large piece of mossy wood in the middle of the road. As I passed it, I saw that what I had mistakenly assumed was a broken branch was actually a very live snapping turtle.
Stopping the car I backed up, put on my 4 way lights and got out to attempt to redirect this turtle out of harms way.

I was always of the belief that turtles were slow and deliberate in their movements, but when I stooped to pick this one up, he spun around surprising me with a level of speed and agility that I was not expecting.
I managed to grab him by the sides of the shell out of reach of his large mouth and carried him back into the woods and swampy area which bordered the road. Putting him down I returned to the car to get my camera so I could take a few photos.
A little research when I got home revealed that roadways are one of the most significant threats to the health and welfare of our area turtles with thousands of them being killed each year province wide. The concern with road mortality is not simply that animals are being killed, but rather that the mortality rate in many places is high enough to completely wipe out populations.
This is especially true of Ontario’s turtles, which have long lifespans (over 70 years in some species) and low rates of reproduction. Consequently, the death of even a few individuals a year on roads will cause populations to decline, as they have sharply in Ontario.
Seven of Ontario’s eight turtle species are already on the Species at Risk in Ontario list.
Dundas is blessed to have a fairly diverse and plentiful turtle population. In the months of May and June and early July turtles can be found crossing roads in search of nesting grounds. Some of these common crossing areas are noted with road signs such as this.
 During these months as well as autumn when turtles are heading to their hibernation sites, extra care should be taken when driving in these areas.

Currently six native species and one introduced species of turtles can be found in Cootes Paradise and the Dundas Valley watershed. The most common being the midland painted turtle and the common snapping turtle. Midland painted turtle can be found in various wetland areas, frequently basking on logs and rocks emerging from the surface of the water. I spotted the following young one last spring in a marshy area bordering the rail trail near the Dundas Valley Trail Centre.
Common snapping turtles, while abundant, are less often observed since they bask infrequently. The largest species of turtle found in Ontario and in fact all of Canada, adult snappers can weigh between 4–16 kg and the carapace (shell) can measure 20–36 cm in length.
Other turtles seen although much less frequently are the Common Map turtle, Blanding’s turtle, Common Musk turtle and Eastern Spiny Softshell.

The red-eared slider is not a native turtle but has been found in the wild as a result of being released by irresponsible pet owners.
Heading home, I was pleased that I had been able to save this turtle at least for today.

Make sure you do your part and take extra care when travelling roads that border turtle habitats.

Don't forget, we’re also on Facebook. Please visit and “LIKE” us!
Visit our page for photos as well as current information on trail conditions and events. Help spread the word!!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Bayfront Park – Hamilton Ontario

Usually when I think of a local weekend outdoor destination, my travels take me into the Dundas Valley or along a remote trail in search of a waterfall or some other natural feature of this area.

On a recent weekend, with the weather being conducive to outdoor activity, my sons inquired about a visit to Bayfront Park in Hamilton. So off we went, our sons and friends looking to explore the rolling wide paved trail by long board and roller blade, and Sally and I in search of local wildlife and views of the bay.
Waterfront development is something that the city has done an excellent job with in comparison to other cities and Bayfront Park is a good example.Built in the early 1990’s, this 16-hectare (40-acre) park found in the West-end of Hamilton Harbour is a great destination for the whole family.
Bayfront Park boasts a number of features perfectly suited to a waterfront setting, including an extensive asphalt pathway; a lower shoreline walk; naturalized areas of shrubs, trees, and wildflowers; a public boat launch; numerous benches and picnic tables; and a natural grass amphitheatre. The park's upper plateau, an expansive lawn area, makes it an ideal location for special events. It is linked to Pier 4 Park by Macassa Bay Walkway.
On this day, we walked the trails along the water edge viewing swans, various species of waterfowl and numerous songbirds. We were impressed by how well kept the park was and it is easy to forget while walking here that you are moments away from the city core.
The highlight was spotting a pair of nesting swans and watching as the mother carefully rotated the four eggs in her care.With rowing teams on the water, people fishing and lots of other activities going on, Bayfront Park is an ideal spot for relaxing and people watching. Additional features include naturalized areas of shrubs, trees and wildflowers; park lighting for evening enjoyment and accessible public washroom facilities across a gravel parking lot (limited hours). Bayfront Park's upper plateau plays host at various times of year to various special events such as Aquafest, Festitalia, and Canada Day festivities, which bring thousands of people to the park every year. Parking is available on-site. The park is fully accessible and is located on Bay Street North at Harbourfront Drive / Simcoe Street West.

Don't forget, we’re also on Facebook. Please visit and “LIKE” us!
Visit our page for photos as well as current information on trail conditions and events. Help spread the word!!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Spencer Gorge Day 2- Lower Tews Falls and Tews Falls

After last week’s hike, which you may recall I referred to as “my favorite hiking trail in the Dundas Valley”, I decided to further explore this area by following Spencer Creek, this time on the east bank and try to find my way to the base of Tews Falls.

Similar to last week I parked on Woodley Lane, by the Dundas Golf and Curling Club and followed the railway service entrance along the north side of the CN railway tracks continuing in an easterly direction towards Spencer Creek.

Again, I must remind you that walking in the vicinity of railway tracks always carries with it some risks. Although there is plenty of space and it is easy to maintain a safe distance, care should be taken regardless.
On this morning there seemed to be a lot of bird activity with a number of vultures lazily circling overhead and a group of robins darting in and out of the sumac trees that border the forest.

I passed the entrance into the valley that I took the prior week, this time continuing until I was on the eastern side of Spencer Creek before turning into the trees.
Within seconds the train tracks were behind me and I was engulfed in the beauty of the Spencer Gorge Wilderness Area. The trail towards the falls is noted by white marks on some of the trees and as I traveled down this trail I had the swirling waters of Spencer creek below me and the rocky walls of the gorge above me.

At the tee in the trail I headed downwards towards Lower Tews Falls. This is a waterfall I have only seen from a distance from the other side of Spencer Creek. Lower Tews Falls is created near where Logie's Creek empties into Spencer Creek and is a twin curtain falls measuring 3.7 metres (12 feet) in height and 6.7 metres (22 feet) in width. Visiting this waterfall is a treat because there is some difficulty and effort required to get here and as a result is visited very infrequently. There is a very remote feel to this location and I stayed awhile taking photos from different angles. Leaving here, I continued upstream, eventually rounding a bend and seeing Tews Falls ahead of me. The view from this angle was amazing. This is a waterfall that is commonly viewed from the trails at the top of the canyon and to approach it from the bottom was something that I had wanted to do for some time. At 134 feet tall (41 metres), it is the highest waterfall in the Hamilton area and is only 40 feet shorter than Niagara Falls. Approaching it from downstream you can really appreciate just how tall it is and I spent quite a bit of time here, just enjoying everything around me.
On the hike out, I stopped to look at Ferguson Falls which unfortunately was almost completely dry due to the lack of winter runoff. This is one I need to come back for, perhaps after a good rain. While sitting and enjoying a drink of water here I noticed this salamander that was in the rocks and damp earth near the base of these falls.
Walking the rail line back out, I turned back to admire the Dundas Peak above me, making a mental note to add that to my list of forthcoming hiking destinations.Happy Easter to you and yours!

Don't forget, we’re also on Facebook. Please visit and “LIKE” us!
Visit our page for photos as well as current information on trail conditions and events. Help spread the word!!