Saturday, October 18, 2014

Enjoying Fall by Kayak

I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that this years paddling season was over. That is until my friend and fellow explorer James Kempf messaged me with an offer to hit the waterways one more time.

An overcast Saturday morning and favourable temperatures made the offer irresistible and so it was that I found myself enjoying the fall colours from the comfort of my kayak.

This area is blessed with numerous locations of which to explore by water and the added benefit of the waters reflection just makes it that much more spectacular.

We enjoyed the sight of geese and other birds, the quiet and the brilliant colours and crisp clean air that makes Autumn my favourite of the seasons.

Don't miss out. Before we know it winter will have arrived so be sure that you get out and explore. Whether by mountain bike, on foot or by water it is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the amazing scenery that surrounds us.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Fall in the Valley

As we say goodbye to summer we are treated to the spectacular beauty that is fall in the valley. If you haven't yet been out to walk the fall trails, now is the time. The colours are not at their absolute peak yet, but they are getting awfully close.

Walking the trail to the Dundas Peak yesterday, I met many walkers along the way, all out enjoying the views and the clean crisp air. 

I never tire of the view from the peak. With the town I love down below and the Spencer Valley on display, it is a beautiful sight at any time of year, but particularly right now.

If you haven't yet gone out I would encourage you to. You can thank me later. 😄

Monday, September 1, 2014

Exploring Carroll's Bay

I spent time this weekend paddling through sleepy little coves. I saw dozens of turtles sunning themselves on logs and watched countless fish jumping in the calm water.

Regal looking Osprey watched me from their lofty perches and on a couple of occasions, flew past me with fish wriggling in their razor sharp talons.

Great Blue Herons stood as silent sentries along the shoreline or flew lazily overhead while everywhere around me, ducks, geese and swans went about their business seemingly oblivious to my intrusion.

What may be surprising to some is that in spite of being surrounded by all of this natural wonder, I hadn't even left the city and in fact was only minutes away from downtown Hamilton.

Carroll's Bay is located on the northwest side of Hamilton Harbour at the mouth of Grindstone Creek. The protection and oversight of this area is provided by the Royal Botanical Gardens. Their restorative efforts have been ambitious and have had an immensely positive impact on the return of Bald Eagles to this area as well as on the protection and sustainment of many other endangered and at risk species.

There is something magical about silently paddling into a protected cove on a calm foggy morning and discovering a couple of sailboats anchored there. Somehow it evokes a simpler time, a time of slower travel and lazier summers.

Pushing through, a large group of cormorants glared disapprovingly at me, vulture-like from atop their treetop perch. I left the water, tired and happy from a great work out and with the feeling that I had discovered yet another great local destination in the Hamilton area.

A special thank you to photographer Bryon O'Neill, who I had the privilege of meeting at Carroll's Bay. Please see more of his work at
His photos shown above are used with permission.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Lights, Camera, Action!!

What is it about the combination of coloured lights and waterfalls that is so appealing? People flock from around the world to be awed by the sight of Niagara Falls lit up in colour each night, while here in the Hamilton area a similar phenomenon periodically takes place.

The City of Waterfalls initiative under the leadership of Chris Ecklund does an amazing job of promoting the many waterfalls of the area and the night time illuminations of these various falls is always worthwhile.

Perhaps more of an adventure than Niagara Falls in that getting there involves navigating the trails in the semi-darkness while hearing the sounds of rushing water increasing in intensity, a worthwhile experience in itself. When you eventually reach the falls the view is amazing as the light typically picks up nuances in the stone and water that may have gone unnoticed under regular daylight conditions.

I have had the opportunity to join Chris at many of these illuminations and last nights lighting up of Sherman Falls was like all those before it, a fantastic experience.

A good sized group of photographers, families and nature enthusiasts made it out and by all accounts, enjoyed every minute of it.

Keep an eye on the City of Waterfalls Facebook page to find out when the next illuminations are taking place. A worthwhile evening out, I promise you won't be disappointed. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why The Tews Falls Trail Is My Favorite

As luck would have it, I received 2 different requests to hike the Tews Falls trail in the last couple of weeks, one by my brother and one from an old friend. As this is probably my favorite trail in the entire Dundas trail system, I was happy to oblige to both requests.

In both cases, we started the hike where the railway tracks cross highway 8 in Dundas. Following the rail line until you get to the east side of Spencer Creek, you are treated to a great view of the Dundas  Peak above, another very worthwhile hiking destination.

Entering the forest, the terrain is immediately hilly and the coolness of the valley noticeable. Following the trail keeping the creek to your left and the canyon wall to your right, it is easy to imagine that you are enjoying the same sights as those that were enjoyed by the early settlers to the area.

As the trail starts to descend downward, you soon arrive at Lower Tews Falls. This classic waterfall is an ideal spot to rest and snap a few photos and just fully appreciate the beauty of your surroundings.

This Lower Tews Falls image was captured by my brother Ryan Goede and is one of my favorites.

After a short break, we move on, eventually arriving at Tews Falls. At 130 feet, this is the tallest waterfall in the area and a treat to see from the base. The mist coming off the falls makes this area much cooler and it is a refreshing and cool place to enjoy after the hike in.

Overall, this trail is reminiscent of the kind of natural, untouched and rugged trails that you would find in much more remote regions. From rocky moss covered trails to sky scraping canyon walls to stunning waterfalls, this one has it all. All of those reasons contribute to the fact that this trail has become my favorite in the area.

Count on a good hour and half to two hours to complete this one. It will be time well spent.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Change, It's Always Good

Over the past few weeks, I've had the opportunity to get out and hike and paddle in some great areas from Lake Erie to Letchworth State Park in New York to my personal favorite mental rejuvenation location; Algonquin Park. On top of the obvious benefit of being immersed in absolutely breathtaking surroundings, these trips also provide ample time for thought and quiet reflection.

Part of my time away I devoted to reflecting on this blog; what works, what I'd like to change and strategizing on how I can shake it up and freshen it up a little. Like the seasons, change keeps things interesting and hopefully a few tweaks will make it a better resource for you as well.

A couple changes to note:

1. A new name. Dundas Valley Outdoors for me is a better reflection of what I'd like to focus on. As kayaking and cycling trips are added into the mix, the common element remains a focus on enjoying the outdoors in this area, regardless of activity.

2. A new look. A green background will represent a focus on our precious environment and my commitment to sustainability and conservation.

3. A new Twitter feed. @DundasOutdoors will feature photos and trail updates as well as related news. I hope to add this feed directly into this blog in the near future.

There are a few more changes in the works so stay tuned. Your suggestions are always welcome and as always, I graciously thank you for your support.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Paradise in the City

We have some pretty amazing gems right here in our own backyard. From spectacular waterfalls to breathtaking trails, the natural areas around Dundas and Hamilton have lots to offer.

An area that I am just beginning to discover is Cootes Paradise. 

Cootes Paradise is the largest wetland at the western end of Lake Ontario and is on the west side of Hamilton Harbour.  It is owned and managed by the Royal Botanical Gardens and is a National Historic site, a Nationally Important Bird Area (IBA), and a Nationally Important Reptile and Amphibian Area (IMPARA).

Rising early this morning, I launched my kayak at Princess Point and headed around the point, then west going behind Cockpit Island and Sassafras Point and exploring the various inlets along the way. The silence was often interrupted by jumping fish and the swans, ducks and geese were plentiful. 

On a couple of occasions I was treated to the sight of large blue herons perched in the trees or lazily flying overhead, their massive wingspan reminding me of schoolbook illustrations of ancient pterodactyls.

Crossing over towards Bulls Point I was able to watch numerous waterfowl including some low flying trumpeter swans and a couple of mergansers that did low flyby's for my benefit, just skimming the water as they passed.

On prior occasions I have seen the pair of bald eagles that nest along the northern shore but unfortunately not this morning.

I enjoyed the site of the water plants and the shoreline, impressed that this level of nature and plentiful wildlife can be found so close to a major city.

I crossed back over heading back towards Princess Point. This area of the bay is one where I often like to pause when kayaking to enjoy the sunset and reflect.

On this morning I simply pushed through, heading back to the dock and making myself the promise to return again soon to this little bit of paradise in the city.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

You Can’t Hike the same Trail Twice

There are a few local trails that have over time, become my “go to” destination when I am feeling the urge to get out for a few hours. These are not necessarily the most spectacular of our local destinations but for me there is a sense of familiarity and comfort on these trails that have made them my place to re-charge, my Fortress of Solitude, so to speak.

In spite of visiting often, I am learning that the trail, much like us, is constantly changing, evolving through the changing seasons, growing and dying and never appearing quite the same way twice.

I have also learned that these local and easy to get to destinations can contain
within them those same unique experiences and surprise glimpses of wildlife as what we would expect to see in a far more remote area. The lesson here is that a visit to a trail that is close to home can often be as rewarding as one that takes hours of driving and months of preplanning to get to.

There is room for wonder everywhere as long as you are prepared to open yourself to the opportunity. The changing of the seasons that we experience in our climate play a significant role in this and the sights, sounds and smells on the trail can vary dramatically week to week and based on changes in the weather, even day to day.

I particularly like to explore immediately after a rain or during a light snowfall. I also find that an early morning hike provides a vastly different feast for your senses than one enjoyed at dusk.

Even a familiar trail approached from an unfamiliar direction makes the experience seem fresh and new. 
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.”

I believe that this philosophy applies equally to the trail. Because as long as I’ve opened myself to be aware, it’s not the same. To the uninitiated it may appear to be the same trail but it’s still different: different light, different feel, different colors, different sounds, different smells and ultimately a different experience.

I can sense that since my last visit, it has changed, and so have I.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Winter Hike to Tiffany Falls – Ancaster

When considering a destination for a short winter hike in the area, it’s tough to beat Tiffany Falls. The trail is short and the reward at the end is a view of a waterfall that is amazing to see in any season.

Tiffany Falls is a 21 metre high (70 foot) cascade waterfall and has water flow all year, although at this time of year you only see it in spots. You can still hear it though as it falls behind massive sheets of thick ice.

Tiffany Falls Conservation Area is an amazing gem in the area and is considered to be a site of importance from a geographical perspective.  Its bedrock exposures are considered an Earth Science Area of Regional Significance.  The central feature of the conservation area is the two waterfalls within it, Tiffany Falls and Washboard Falls, formed by Tiffany Creek.

Last Saturday, I headed in for a visit accompanied by my daughter Julia and our dog, Stella. Although the trails were icy, we were able to navigate them with reasonable ease and soon were standing at the base of this beautiful waterfall. On this day we were also treated to the site of ice climbers as they bravely scaled the thick ice. 

Tiffany Falls is located at the Tiffany Falls Conservation Area in Ancaster.  To get there from Hwy 403 take the Lincoln Alexander Parkway exit and keep to the right to merge onto Rousseau St. At the ‘T’ intersection turn right onto Wilson St. E. Park at Tiffany Falls Conservation Area and follow the trail to the waterfall.

Don’t forget, for more photos and hiking information, you can visit my Facebook page at:

Friday, February 28, 2014

5 Reasons to get out Hiking this Winter

This winter feels like its been extraordinarily long and cold but even with that there have been many days when getting out and exploring a trail have been not only possible but very worthwhile.

Besides the obvious advantage of no bugs, here are 5 benefits to getting out hiking in the winter:

Fresh Perspective.

Even trails that you frequently explore look different under a fresh layer of snow. Streams and trees look different and waterfalls take on a whole new and spectacular look.

Less People

If peace and solitude are an important component of your hiking experience, then winter is the ideal time to get outside.

More Wildlife

The combination of less people on the trails and significantly less leaf cover mean you can see further distances. The obvious benefit is that you can spot more wildlife. Deer are easy to find in the valley and woodpeckers and other birds are plentiful. Bring some seed along and some of those friendly birds are likely to get very close in exchange for a snack.

More Exercise

Added winter clothing and snow covered trails add resistance to your movement and with that comes additional health benefits.  You can improve your strength and cardiovascular health while at the same time relieving stress and eliminating the winter blues. Hiking is proven to aid in weight loss and helps to protect against heart disease, diabetes and depression. The extra work involved in hiking in the winter burns more calories and provides you with fitness benefits sooner.
Plus staying active and and fit during the winter months ensures that you'll be in top shape when the regular season begins.


Improved Mental health

It's been said that it is impossible to be in a bad mood and be in the woods at the same time and I can certainly attest to that. Try walking a trail on a sunny winter day with a light snow falling and you instantly feel the happy effects of endorphins combined with fresh crisp air. Scientific studies have long supported the benefits of nature and hiking on mental health and there is no doubt that it is an effective stress reliever and a great way to clear your mind.

So take advantage this winter. Bundle up and explore, I promise that you will be glad you did.

Just a reminder that more photos and trail information are always available on my Facebook page at:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Today I Wandered

Today I wandered. 

With some time to myself and no clear destination in mind, I headed into the valley and was quickly enveloped  in the quietness of the forest now freshly covered in snow.
I let Stella determine the direction and based on her whim and the scents that caught her attention we followed the Spring Creek trail. At various points we paused to admire the creek as its open water and frozen sections intertwined creating random patterns of light and dark. We would stop and then continue to wander.
Deer tracks crossed over the trail at many points, an indication of the large number of them that call this section of the valley home. At one point a red tailed hawk caught our attention as it flew from tree to tree like a sentinel announcing our presence. The trees were alive with other birds as well, mostly cardinals and woodpeckers and we stopped to watch them too. We would enjoy for a minute and then, you guessed it, continue to wander.
That's the great thing about wandering without a clear destination in mind; we had the time to stop and take in each view as well as change direction whenever we wanted.

At some point  I was reminded of the Henry David Thoreau quote: "The scenery, when it is truly seen, reacts on the life of the seer.  How to live. How to get the most of life... How to extract its honey from the flower of the world."

I stopped and pondered those words, smiled, and feeling like I had gained some new understanding, continued my wander.