Friday, May 25, 2012

Bruce Trail 50 Year Anniversary Hike

On April 14, the Hamilton Spectator featured a terrific article written by Jon Wells that described the famous Bruce Trail and the fact that it was now 50 years old. The article also contained a couple examples of trail sections that were particularly interesting and worth visiting. One of these, the section of trail that starts by Great Falls in Waterdown is one that I visited for the first time this past winter and is a trail that I found to be very scenic. So not needing much of an excuse to revisit, I headed out a few weekends back accompanied by Dave, a fellow hiker and photographer extraordinaire.

Parking by Great Falls, the lookout that has been built at the crest provides a great vantage point of the falls and the valley beyond. From here you can also see remnants of the original mills that harnessed the waters of Grindstone Creek over a century ago.

Rather than take the Bruce Trail that leaves from here, we opted to instead hike the north crest of this valley on a virtually non-existent trail but one that provided spectacular views of the Grindstone Cascade below.

Stopping by a very active fox den, we observed countless remains of small mammals that had met their unfortunate demise by becoming dinner to this obviously well fed group of foxes.

We continued along, following the creek and eventually crossing by way of a fallen tree and linking back up to the main trail. On this day, the trail was surrounded by trilliums and spring flowers and the stone walls that line the trail providing stunning detail as to the geological make-up of the escarpment.

Although this is just a small section of the vast 885km long Bruce Trail, it provides great examples of our rich local trail systems and is a trail that I would highly recommend that you pay a visit to.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Mothers Day with Donkeys

I don’t recall how the tradition started, but for quite a number of years now, Mothers Day has brought with it a family trip to The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada.
This special place which has been operating since 1992 is a refuge for donkeys, mules and hinnies who have been neglected or abused, or who can no longer be cared for by their owners.

Contained within its 100 acres of tranquility are clean barns, rolling pastures and a team of passionate volunteers all committed to fulfilling the mission of the Sanctuary to ensure that the animals that come to live out the remainder of their lives there are surrounded by love, dignity, and the respect they so richly deserve. The Sanctuary Farm is run as a not-for-profit charity and is funded entirely by private donations.
When we visited there this past weekend, we were greeted by the friendly volunteers and quickly noticed the enhancements to the facilities that had taken place since our last visit. These included fenced paddock areas and a new barn. My youngest son Liam was quickly on the hunt to find Werther, a resident sheep and one that Liam has visited with and groomed each time we have visited in the past.

With approximately 60 assorted donkeys and mules on the premises along with a few assorted goats and sheep, there is plenty to see and the calm demeanor of these animals make them enjoyable to visit with children. There is a relaxing picnic area overlooking a small pond and a number of hiking trails to explore.

The Donkey Sanctuary is open Wednesdays and Sundays, from 10am to 4pm, from May to October. To get there travel towards Guelph Ontario. From Hwy. 401, take Exit #295 (Hwy. 6 N). Go north to the second road, Puslinch Concession 4, turn left and proceed to #6981.

I would recommend a visit anytime, but if you wish to be a part of their upcoming fundraiser day, consider visiting on June 10 for their Donkey Day 2012 event. Please see the poster below or visit their website at for more details.

Happy Mothers Day to my amazing wife and to all the great Moms out there!!

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Red Admirals Have Arrived!

If you’ve done any hiking recently, you’ve likely noticed a lot of orange and black butterflies flying about. If you’ve been wondering if the quantity that you are seeing is higher than normal, you would be correct.
Southern Ontario is experiencing what is known as an irruption, a sudden increase in the population of red admiral butterflies. It seems that a wave of these brightly coloured flying insects have arrived from their overwintering grounds in south Texas and Florida. A large migration of this size has not been seen since 1981.
Over the weekend after noticing quite a number in the backyard, I headed down for a walk through the Dundas Valley to see if any photo opportunities presented themselves.
I was not disappointed and soon I was snapping away, trying to capture a few images as these bright butterflies flitted from plant to plant feeding on the nectar of dandelions and other wild plants.
With a wingspan of about 45 to 50 millimeters, Red Admirals are considered mid-size for the butterfly world. They are easy to identify thanks to their striking patterning; the black forewings feature prominent orange bars and white spots.
The undersides of their hindwings are delicately patterned with brown and black, which provide excellent camouflage when they are roosting on tree trunks. They typically seek out stinging nettles to lay their eggs but will feed from a variety of plants.
On this day, we were joined by a pair of turkey vultures, another species that has been seen in abundance this year. This one seemed to watch us with great interest. I wasn’t sure if he was interested in Rosie or was questioning my ability to be able to successfully hike back home. Although rather ugly by bird standards I find these large carrion feeders captivating and enjoy watching them lazily circle overhead.
The incredibly long migration flight of butterflies is truly fascinating and I am looking forward to the return of the monarch’s which are expected to return in the next few weeks.

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Spring Hike on the Bruce Trail – Sherman Falls to Canterbury Falls

With the mild winter we had, there were very few weekends when getting out and exploring was impossible. It was fun exploring new trails and on quite a few of them I made a mental note that I had to return in the spring or summer.

Starting on that theme this past Monday, the last day of April brought with it an opportunity to get out for an hour or so in the late afternoon. So with an overcast sky and the chance of rain looming, I headed out for a short hike.

I figured that Sherman Falls would be a good place to start so I drove down Old Dundas Road and parked where the road meets Lions Club Road. From here you can already see the beautiful 17 metre high Sherman Falls through the trees and within a couple of minutes I was there and able to take a few photos. Due to the rain that had been happening on and off all day, the water flow was strong and made for some good pictures.

After a few minutes I continued on, following the trail that continues back downstream, but now on the other side of the stream. Following the trail up the steep rock, I was soon at the top and walking through the woods deeper into the Canterbury Hills area.  My previous hike here had been in the winter on a day after a light snow so on this day the area looked much different with everything turning green and spring flowers in bloom.

Hearing a noise to my left I stopped and stood motionless as a group of about 14 deer entered a clearing beside me. They stopped to graze, looking up anytime I made even the slightest movement or sound but continued to move closer to where I stood.

 Eventually when they were about 20 feet away and I am sure hearing the sound of the shutter on my camera, they ventured off; looking behind periodically to be sure I wasn’t following. It is scenes like that that keep me coming back and exploring these trails at every opportunity.

Within a few minutes I came upon this young raccoon climbing a tree. Although he was about 25 feet off the ground, the raised trail that I was on put us directly in front of each other. We stared at each other for a few minutes and as I didn’t want to add any stress to him, I continued walking after taking a few photos of course.

Rounding a bend I approached Canterbury Falls.  The Canterbury Falls area really has two waterfalls, both of them being fed by a tributary of Sulphur Creek, which is also sometimes referred to as Canterbury Creek. On this day, Little Canterbury Falls which is a 5 metre (16 feet) tall ribbon cascade was almost dry with just a trickle of water flowing.

The second and larger of the two is Canterbury Falls which is a 9.5 metre (31 feet) high terraced ribbon cascade with a crest width of 3.3 metres (11 feet). It features a wooden footbridge across the creek right at the crest of this waterfall and on this day the water was flowing nicely.

All things considered, this is a good trail to try when a short hike is on the agenda. Pretty, with lots of wildlife and water, it is definitely worth a visit.

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