So far, I have chronicled my walk along Taylor-Massey Creek, a tributary of The Don River (see here). Following on from this, I then walked south from the confluence of the creek and The Don River, to where the river empties into Lake Ontario (see here).
On Wednesday 15th April, I started from the same spot from where I had begun in my last post: where Taylor-Massey Creek enters The Don. This time, however, I would head up-river, to the north.
The Don River is formed from two branches, imaginatively named The East Don River and The West Don River. The split is actually just a few hundred yards away from where Taylor-Massey joins the East branch, and where I finished my first hike.
This hike was all a bit last minute, really. I had the day off work, but had a couple of errands. One of them involved a visit to the passport office at Scarborough Town Centre, and anyone that has had the misfortune to face this particular strain of torture knows that the time taken to have an application form transcribed by a stern and yet somehow glaze-eyed operator, can take anywhere between 45 minutes and 45 hours. I didn’t really plan ahead, and when it only took an hour or so to wade through the treacle that is City of Toronto corporate entropy, I just drove straight to the river.
First problem: There was no marked trail
Second problem: There was no marked trail
I know that this is technically the same problem written twice, but I feel that it was such a issue, that it deserved repeating.
When I parked my car, I took a look at Google Maps on my useless Samsung S4 and its freezing issue that takes hold at the most infuriating moments, and I immediately noticed the lack of the tell-tale little grey pathway that I assumed would be beside the river. I double checked the maps on my Garmin GPS, and my fate was sealed.
Oh well. I got out of the car and walked up to the river bank and pointed my face on a northerly course. While there was no marked trail, people had trod a path in this direction, and so I followed it. At least, I did for about ten minutes. And then the path died. The river was a ‘proper’ river. It meandered. I had walked further south along The Don a week or so earlier, and most of the banks were man-made slabs of concrete meant to prevent erosion, but not very pleasant to look at. Here, the environment was commanded by The East Don and so was the trail.
It didn’t help that railway tracks ran through the area. These damn tracks would continue to haunt me throughout this trek, starting now. I didn’t like the tracks. I didn’t know what they were used for, and as a Brit, the very last thing I wanted was for a Go Train to appear from nowhere, with its thunderous air-horn blaring into my skull announcing to everyone in the greater Don Valley area that I was the biggest prick in the locale. It’s telling that looking like a prick is a bigger concern than being hit by a train.
As mentioned, this trip was not planned. As such, my cellphone/mobile was only half-charged and whatever energy that remained would be pissed away by my phone’s insistence on heating up like a cinder block in my pocket. So it was with fleetness that I looked at various map sources to figure out the exact purpose of the tracks I was walking along thus which train it would be that filled my final moments. I was left unilluminated, so at least the type and colour of the train would be a surprise. I traversed the tracks a few more times, become more keenly aware that I hadn’t seen a train for almost an hour and so one must careen through at any moment.
A couple of times, the trail just completely disappeared. I was left almost literally bush-whacking. I lost sight of the river on two occasions and suddenly became aware of how easy it is to lose your orientation when you are surrounded by trees. This was only a small area, but I still needed to pull out my Garmin in compass mode to figure out where the hell north had gone. Without a compass, I would likely have given up thinking that I had reached a dead end. In reality, I was facing east without realising it. What I actually needed to do was to cross those damn tracks again.
The trail had started at just north of Don Mills Road and St. Clare Avenue, and it continued in this vein until just south of Eglinton Avenue…. at which point, my ability to follow the river became even harder. This was the first example of private enterprise ruining my plans, and it wouldn’t be the last. Something that annoys the hell out of me is that in Canada, it’s actually not that easy to point at a geographically interesting feature on a map and then just make your way to it and walk around it. Most of the time, the land is private and there is no access. To UK readers, this probably sounds crazy and Canadian readers are likely thinking, “Yes, and?”. In The UK, there are a collection of lawful acts, which essential boil down to the fact that you pretty much have the right to roam.
Donalda Golf Club greedily monopolises the land surrounding The East Don River, starting just south of Eglinton. This was not too much of a problem to begin with, as I stuck to the east, and the golf course was to the west. Although it did require navigating a rickety, elevated BMX stunt course. (Twice, because it just led to a swamp). I had to return and follow the lethal train tracks, again, this time under the bridge carrying Eglinton Avenue, where there were no places to escape a train. I closed my eyes and ran.
North of Eglinton, there was a more obvious (but still unmaked) trail, which I think was probably made by BMXers. This was the most awesome part of the trail where I almost felt like Stu the Don Valley Pioneer. I didn’t see or hear a single person until I hit Lawrence. The terrain was varied, the river was always close by, and this is exactly the kind of hike I love. The river continued to meander, and there were some great views. To celebrate, I took the opportunity to eat my Oatmeal Raisin cookie from Tim Hortons.
A little south of Lawrence, the unmarked trail I was walking, joins a tarmac’d trail that runs through the Charles Sauriol Conservation Area. This is a park area owned by the city with a variety of habitats and a few posted information signs about the fauna.This was a pleasant area and a work in progress, but considerably less profitable than a golf course, I can imagine.
North of Lawrence, everything started to go wrong. There was no obvious trail to follow. Donalda Golf Club swallowed the entire river. “No Trespassing” signs were posted liberally and without shame. I was forced to walk along Lawrence Avenue and then north on Don Mills. Multiple times, I tried to re-join the river, but each time I was greeted by “THOU SHALT NOT PASS” signs, God forbid that a retired member of the gentry should pause his drive. But where is the money in allowing the hoi polloi the walk through the course? As I approached York Mills Road, traversing the residential streets of the area, it was clear that the one thing that wasn’t in short supply, was money.
My hike petered out at this point. I was stuck on road filled with cars and a beating sun. I didn’t have a bus token or the correct fare in my pocket and I, quite exhausted, dragged myself to Fairview Mall at Don Mills and Sheppard so that I could break a $10 bill. I took the bus back to my car.
Below is a video showing my route. You can see me double back a couple of times where I either lost my way or reached a dead end. The GPS turns off near highway 401, which is where I will leave off from in part two.
Note: Some browsers prevent the video from showing. If you can’t see it, click here.
Total distance covered was 22km/13 miles. Around 27,000 steps.
Part two to follow.