Friday, June 29, 2012

The Griffin House – History in the Valley

Often, when thinking about historical significance in the Dundas Valley our thoughts turn to the interesting history of the Hermitage. Although this is probably the most well known, there is another important site just a short walk away.
Parking by the Hermitage Gatehouse on Sulpher Springs Road in Ancaster last Saturday morning, I stopped to check out the Hermitage Cascade, a beautiful 13 foot high waterfall located directly behind the gatehouse. I had not visited this waterfall since the winter and so enjoyed how it looked surrounded by summer vegetation.

I then headed west on Sulpher Springs, continuing on Mineral Springs Road for the short walk to The Griffin House, a site that I had seen photos of but never visited before.

The Griffin House, built circa 1828, sits atop a hill on Mineral Springs Road overlooking the Valley. Originally, the farm was part of a 200 acre lot granted to David Cummings in 1798. In 1834 it was purchased, along with the surrounding 50 acres in by Enerals Griffin who purchased it from George Hogeboom, a local contractor.
Enerals Griffin along with his wife, Priscilla had crossed the border probably in the Port Stanley area in 1829, to escape slavery in the United States, possibly making use of the Underground Railroad. For the next 150 years, their descendents lived and farmed here.
In 1988, the property was sold to the Hamilton Region Conservation Authority by the estate of the last owner, a descendant of Griffin.

The small one and a half storey house is significant both from an architectural and historical point of view. One of the few remaining clapboard homes from the first half of the 19th century in the Ancaster area, it represents a modest working man's farmhouse. Its intact condition with few alterations makes it a significant architectural structure. In addition, the house and site are one of the earliest surviving homesteads in the province.
Archaeologists have unearthed over 3,000 artifacts on this small site including stoneware, porcelain, clay pipes, and masonry. Between 1992 and 1994 the house was restored to its early 19 century time period and in 1995 it was officially opened to the public.
This site now managed as a joint project between the Hamilton Conservation Authority and Fieldcote Memorial Park and Museum, was designated a National Historical Site by the Minister of the Environment, the Honourable John Baird, in 2008.

Standing alone in the shade of this humble yet important structure I tried to imagine what life might have looked like back then. A beautiful piece of history, The Griffin House is certainly worth a visit.

Thanks for the ongoing support and dialogue. Happy Canada Day!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Father’s Day Hike to the Dundas Peak

One of my favorite weekend activities is hiking the many trails of the Dundas Valley and some of my favorites are the ones in and around the Spencer Gorge Wilderness area. So when Fathers Day morning arrived and my oldest son suggested starting the morning with a hike, I couldn’t think of a better destination.

The Spencer Gorge Wilderness Area is part of the Niagara Escarpment, declared by the United Nations (UNESCO) as a World Biosphere Reserve. This unique geological formation contains a few of Hamilton’s best waterfalls, one of its best lookouts, and hundreds of species of wildlife living in this Carolinian forest.

On this day we decided to head to the Dundas Peak to enjoy the amazing view from this point. The most common route to get here is to park at Tews Falls Conservation Area which is located on Harvest Road in Greensville. From there the well marked trail takes you to two different look-out points that provide views of the spectacular 134 feet tall (41 metres) waterfall and then proceeds along the gorge perimeter.

This trail although well groomed is right on the edge of the gorge and at times the drop off beside it is shear. It is important to stay alert and watch your footing. At various points where the trail has narrowed there have been protective barriers placed to aid in hiker safety. The views into the gorge below continually change and are amazing.
When we arrived at the peak we found that we had the place to ourselves and it was great to enjoy the panoramic views of Dundas below and the rocky outcroppings of the gorge walls.

If you are looking to hike to this point but are looking to shorten the walk, consider this little known shortcut: Leaving Dundas by going up the Sydenham hill, turn left on Fallsview Road. At the second curve, you will see a trail going into the woods on your left side. There is room to park on the shoulder here and the trail that you follow will quickly connect to the main trail. Turn left at this point and you will reach the peak in about 20 minutes.

This visit was certainly a great way to start my Father’s Day. Spending time with my family and enjoying the beautiful outdoors of this area always serve to remind me just how blessed I am.

Have you visited the Dundas Valley and Beyond page on Facebook yet? Check it out for photos and more hiking info.
Thanks for the ongoing support and dialogue. Happy hiking!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Getaway to Inverhuron Provincial Park

Although exploring the trails of the Dundas Valley is one of my favorite pastimes, the summer season brings with it the opportunity to venture out into other parts of Ontario as well. Last weekend we spent a few days on the sunny shores of Lake Huron at Inverhuron Provincial Park.

One of Ontario's best kept secrets, Inverhuron Provincial Park is quite small with fewer than 200 sites. It is located in the hamlet of Inverhuron which is between Kincardine and Port Elgin.

This park features a nice sandy beach, biking trails and large private campsites. In addition to the spectacular beach and dunes, Inverhuron includes wetlands and a young hardwood forest.
The diverse habitat nurtures rare plants and protects many woodland animals and birds. The park is also steeped in history.  Aboriginal people roamed here for thousands of years. In the 1800s, a small town was located in what is now part of the provincial park.
We camped in the Gunn Point section of the park, a location that we have visited before as it provides excellent access to the rock beach. I always enjoy getting one the sites that back onto the beach as getting one of these sites will ensure that you are lolled to sleep to the sound of the rolling waves on Lake Huron.

The waterline here is fascinating, rocky and rugged and with a feel that nothing has changed in thousands of years. For me, there is nothing better than sitting here with the first coffee of the morning and watching the day get started. In terms of hiking opportunity most of mine on this trip entailed walking the Scenic Drive Trail which is approximately four-kilometres long and follows along the Lake Huron shoreline cutting through parklands back towards the park office. This a great trail that provides for a continually changing view as it follows the shoreline.

There is a unique feature in the park, that being an old family cemetery that is like stepping back in time. This is within cycling distance of all camp sites and is worth a visit. You can’t help but be aware of how infant mortality rates have improved since the turn of the century when you see how many of the stones in the cemetery are for children under the age of seven.

All in all, we had a great time. We had one night of rain but other than that we enjoyed the camp fires, spectacular Lake Huron sunsets, well maintained private camp sites and the quiet. If you are looking for a quiet park with great views, I would highly recommend this one.

Have you visited the Dundas Valley and Beyond page on Facebook yet? Check it out for photos and more hiking info.
Thanks for the ongoing support and dialogue. Happy hiking!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Deer in the Valley

For any of you that hike the Dundas Valley with any frequency, you are aware of the large deer population in the area. It is rare while walking the trails here to not stumble across a group of these beautiful animals as they graze and travel about.

Recently my sons had a memorable experience that I wanted to share. With their friends they have buit a small fort hidden away in a quiet section of the valley. Here they hang out and can enjoy the outdoors out of the view of nosy parents.
One day last week while visiting there after school, they had this young fawn wander into their camp. It walked right up to them, totally fearless and then proceeded to join the boys. They laid out a small blanket and eventually the very young deer took that spot as his own, resting there and watching the young boys conversation.

Doing the right thing, the boys made the decision to leave hoping that the mother deer would return for her fawn. So after taking the following pictures with a cell phone they left the fawn alone at the camp.
Returning  the following day, the day was gone, hopefully safely back with its herd.
A great experience and one they won't soon forget, it's just another example of the great natural features that make up this area.

It looks like its going to be another sunny and warm weekend. Why not get out and enjoy a trail?

I greatly appreciate all of the new “likes” on my Dundas Valley and Beyond page on Facebook.
Thanks for the ongoing support and dialogue. Happy hiking!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

If It Walks Like a Duck...

I am continually amazed by the diversity of wildlife in this great area and always enjoy spotting new animals or birds as I hike and explore here. Recently, in a marshy area near Carlisle I came across a group of Muscovy Ducks. These very unique looking birds are known to inhabit forested swamps, lakes, streams and nearby grassland and farm fields, and often roosts in trees at night. Interestingly, their feet have strong sharp claws and are built to grasp, so that they can perch on branches.
Doing a little research, I discovered that the Muscovy Duck is a large duck native to Mexico, Central and South America. Small wild and feral breeding populations have established themselves in the United States, particularly in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, as well as in many other parts of North America, including southern Canada. Feral Muscovy Ducks have also been reported in parts of Europe.
Although the Muscovy Duck is a tropical bird, it adapts well to cooler climates, thriving in weather as cold as –12°C (10°F) and able to survive even colder conditions.
They are a large duck, with the males measuring about 76 cm in length, and weighing up to 15 pounds. Females are considerably smaller, and only grow to 7 pounds, roughly half the males' size. The bird is predominantly black and white, with the back feathers being iridescent and glossy in males, while the females are more drab. The amount of white on the neck and head is variable, as well as the bill, which can be yellow, pink, black, or any mixture of these. They may have white patches or bars on the wings, which become more noticeable during flight. Both sexes have pink or red wattles around the bill, those of the male being larger and more brightly colored.
Muscovy ducks feed on the roots, stems, leaves and seeds of aquatic and terrestrial plants, including agricultural crops. They also eat small fish, reptiles, crustaceans, insects, millipedes and termites.

The group that I spotted consisted of 3 birds and I was able to get quite close as the foraged along the edges of the marsh.

This area is rich in species of waterfowl but the unique appearance of this breed made it particularly interesting to watch.

I greatly appreciate all of the new “likes” on my Dundas Valley and Beyond page on Facebook.
Thanks for the ongoing support and dialogue. Happy hiking!