Where: Toronto – Lytton Park, Lawrence Park, Hoggs Hollow, Armour Heights, Upper Avenue
Duration – about 2 hours, about 9 km
Weather – cloudy and dry, about -3C
Today was a get-back-on-the-horse walk. I’ve been out of sorts the past couple of weeks, between lousy weather and demands of work. It’s put my walking out of kilter and as a result I’ve felt cooped up and restless.
Since there is still a fair amount of ice on sidewalks and trails, I decided to get a longish walk in by sticking to main roads. From our place near Avenue Road and Roselawn, I headed north and east through the Lytton Park neighbourhood to pick up Yonge Street at Glengrove. Then it was straight north along Yonge, through Lawrence Park, past Yonge Boulevard, and down into Hoggs Hollow to Wilson Avenue. There I turned west and climbed the Wilson Ave hill to Armour Heights at Avenue Road. Another left and it was south all the way down Avenue Road through Amour Heights and the Upper Ave, back to Roselawn.
For the most part, it was an easy walk. The sidewalks on the main roads are mostly clear of ice, and the weather wasn’t too bad compared to the past couple of weeks. The hill up Wilson to Armour Heights is not too steep – it’s a steady climb on a moderate slope though it does go on and on.
In the other seasons it’s a more pleasant walk, particularly around Yonge & Wilson. The West Don River flows south-east under Wilson and across the south-west corner of Yonge & Wilson, then under Yonge and into Hoggs Hollow at the site of the historic York Mill, in what today is known as Jolly Miller Park. It’s named after a pub called the Jolly Miller that was a hang-out in my college days, though today it’s been renovated into a much swankier place called the Miller Tavern. There are some lovely trails here and Hoggs Hollow is a bit of a fancy neighbourhood, so house-snooping as you wander the streets is good fun.
In winter, with mounds of grey snow/frozen slush along the streets and park trails closed by ice, the trees bare and the grass brown, with traffic sounds magnified by the lack of vegetation, the area is not at its best. Today it was just hills to climb.
Still, walking up Yonge and down Avenue Road always offers people watching opportunities. I passed a young couple who were so perfectly matched – beautiful faces, slim, petite build, similar features, similar hair – that it made me think, how often do you see couples like that? There’s the old saw about partners growing more alike as they age, but these two were young. Even then, most of us don’t look that much like our partners, and let’s face it, most of us are pretty ordinary. It reminded me of the convention that in a typical couple, one partner has settled up and the other has settled down. You know what I mean – one partner is usually the looker compared to the other. Not these two – they were walking examples of another old saw, that like attracts like. More power to them, whomever they are. It’s pleasing to know that the world has beauty in our collective gene pool.
There is also the retail landscape – having lived near these neighbourhoods for more than 30 years, I’m always watching out for familiar places. There is a grocery store at Yonge & Bedford just north of Lawrence, and it’s been there for decades – it was the nearest one to Glendon College when I was there in the early 1980’s, and it was also open 24 yours a day. I’d often walk over and late-night-shop for cheap eats to eke out my food money. Then there’s Gamberoni’s restaurant on Yonge – I haven’t been there in probably 20 years, but early in our marriage we celebrated birthdays and anniversaries there with close friends over several consecutive years, and seeing it still thriving brought a smile and memories of laughter – cheers Paul. I bet the pasta is still the same.
On Avenue Road in the Amour Heights/Upper Ave neighbourhood it was more of the same – there’s been a lot of change and turnover amongst the old standbys. The old Lobster Trap restaurant is gone now, renovated into a steak place. The old Steak Pit restaurant is gone too, with a condo is going up in its place. But the Copper Chimney is still there where we order our Indian takeaway, and the Safari Bar & Grill where I’ve played many a game of pool with the lads. It’s like finding new clothes in the closet amongst well-worn favourites.
A walk in February reinforces that sense of change – winter is mid-way, soon to surrender to spring. Pristine fresh white snow changes to dirty ice and then to meltwater & slush. Cold grey skies change to sunny blue. And neighbourhoods change as homes are sold and families move. I passed at least a half-dozen real estate open house signs, and a dozen more for-sale signs. February now marks the start of the spring home-sale period, an earlier harbinger than the return of robins or the start of spring training baseball. Just a couple of weeks from now we should get our first spring thaw and a blast of warm air, and that’s always something to look forward to.
Walking is visceral that way – you get a good look at your neighbours and passers-by, at their homes and shops, and at the parks, gardens, and streets of your community. It triggers memories and the free association of ideas, past mingling with present and plans for the future. John Lennon once said that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. For me, walking is what happens when living my life.