Gear – Zamberlan Boots

Over the past couple of years of walking I’ve gone through a fair amount of gear, so I thought I would share some feedback for stuff that’s tried and trusted. Hope it helps.

What are they?: Zamberlan Sequoia GTX hiking boots. I don’t believe this particular model is on the market anymore, at least not in Canada. I bought them at Mountain Equipment Co-op in 2017 and when I checked their site in 2020, there was a similar but updated model available, the Zamberlan Vioz GT Gore-Tex hiking boot.

How much?: About $300 CAD, before tax.

Where, when, and how I use them: The boots in the picture have well over 1000 km on them, in fact I think it’s closer to 1500 km. They are nicely broken in, as they say, and I think they have another 500 km in them at least. The soles and lugs are still solid and grippy, the interior lining is barely worn, and the leather uppers are supple but still supportive.

I’ve worn them on a number of long walks, mostly around Toronto though as it happens, I bought them in 2017 because we were going to Ireland and I wanted a proper pair of boots for bog-hopping and climbing. This pair has climbed hills, splashed through many puddles, streams, and bogs, and trudged through snow, slush, and mud.

In addition to hiking, they’ve become my day to day winter boots as well. I keep them rubbed and conditioned with dubbin, and that keeps the salt from eating the leather. They are GoreTex lined so they keep my feet dry, and they have Vibram soles which give good grip on icy surfaces.

I did think about wearing them on my 200 km TONotL walk, but in the end decided on a different set of footwear. While I think they would have worked really well on the first 3 days covering the Bruce Trail portion of that walk, I was also doing 3 days of walking on paved trails and I thought that heavy running shoes would have more cushioning for that. I couldn’t take 2 pairs of footwear, so I went with the running shoes.

I am planning on doing some more of the Bruce in future, and for that I think I’ll use these. It’s what they’re made for – backpacking and hiking on off road terrain.

Would I buy them again?: I like them and when I wear out this pair I will probably get another set. They look good with a pair of jeans or a pair of hiking shorts. They are indestructible, at least so far, and have worked well for more kms than any other footwear I’ve used.

That said, they are not the lightest things out there, having leather uppers and a lot of structure to them. The Goretex lining also means that they don’t breathe as well as some lighter materials might, so your feet get warm which can lead to excess sweating which can lead to blisters.

That said, they are exactly what you’d think they are just looking at them – tough, hard-wearing, and comfortable once you break them in. I recommend using merino wool socks with these, and if I am doing really long walks I’ll use Vaseline on my feet too.

One caveat is that I wear custom orthotics, which are fairly thick. Finding boots that work well with these has always been a challenge. That means I don’t know how they would feel using the regular supplied insoles.


Disclaimer: This is not a “review”. I don’t go around sampling things, instead this is a summary of my own experience with a product I have used a lot. All opinions contained in this post are my own. I offer no warranties or assurances for your experiences with the same product. I bought the gear with my own money and have not received any form of compensation from the manufacturer. Take my feedback as given – caveat emptor.

TO Places – St. Lawrence Market

Part of a series on my favourite places to go for a walk in Toronto

Hey Toronto, remember to practice Physical Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic! Restrictions placed by either the Province of Ontario or the City of Toronto may limit what you can do. Check the links for the latest info.

And now on to the regular post …..

The area around St. Lawrence Market includes nearby Corktown and the Distillery District, and it’s a fantastic intro to Toronto – downtown, close to hotels, shops, and transit, full of history, and even more full of good things to eat. If you have just one day in TO, then come here.

Location: St. Lawrence Market itself is at the corner of Front and Jarvis Streets. My personal definition of the more general Market neighbourhood is the area between Church Street in the west to Cherry Street in the east, and King Street to the north down to the Esplanade in the south.

Public Transit: The nearest subway is King Station, on Line 1. The St. Lawrence Market is about a 5-7 minute walk from there. You can also take the 503 or 504 Streetcar east from King Station and get off at Jarvis Street – the Market is just a block south from there.

Why I like it:

First of all, there are a lot of memories for me here. When I met my soon-to-become wife in 1987, she was living in the area, just off the Esplanade. Since she had a much nicer apartment than my basement bedsit, I moved in with her and we lived there for the 1st year or so of our marriage. We also lived just north of here in the early 2000’s and spent many hours walking the neighbourhood pushing a stroller to get our son to sleep.

When we were young and, let’s call it non-affluent, we would hit the market at the end of the day, when vendors were selling off their unsellables. As our budgets expanded, and as we travelled, we starting looking for things we’d tasted in Europe – the cheese, the olives, the fish, the meats. Then when we became parents, a Saturday at the Market became an easy way to keep young one entertained and fed with interesting snacks. And always, it’s been a place to take visitors to the city, who never fail to be wowed by the scents, the sights, and the sounds.

Over the 30+ years since we lived nearby, we’ve always made a point of visiting the Market whenever we can, regardless of where we’ve lived in the City (or elsewhere – we would always try to squeeze in a visit when we came home while we were living in London). There is so much to see and do any time of the year, and if we’re feeling a bit bored by food-shopping we can always explore the rest of the area, especially east over through Corktown and the Distillery District.

There are actually 2 markets, the red brick South Market which is open 5 days a week, and the now-temporarily-in-a-tent-for-the-next-few-years-and-confusingly-named North Market, which is currently located south of the South Market. The North Market, which used to be on the north side of Front Street across from the South Market, is open on Saturdays as a farmers market and on Sundays as an antique market. The City is building a new structure to house it, and it will eventually return to its rightful North Market location.

Sights:

Since this area is one of the oldest in Toronto (at least, what passes for old in the sense of European settlement), there are many historical sites and features. But for me, the starting and ending point is the Market itself. I always get a tingle of anticipation whenever I visit, thinking of what I’ll find and what I’ll cook and, most importantly, what I’ll be tempted to eat while I’m there.

It’s also one of the great all-season places in Toronto. Spring is about new flowers and days just warm enough to sit out at a picnic table. Summer overflows with vendors on the sidewalks, with fruits and veggies from all around Toronto. Autumn is my favourite, when the harvest season brings those crisp blue-sky days that make wondering so much fun. And winter is great too, especially around the holidays, when the market is bursting with shoppers and carollers and cheer.

Outside the Market, the shops along King and Front Streets are interesting too. It’s become a bit of a furniture/design destination. There’s also George Brown College just east on King, so there’s a student vibe that’s fun. And of course, over at the Distillery District, there are tons of shops and funky laneways to wander and browse.

Holiday Market at the Distillery District

If you need some green space, there’s that too. The park next to St. James Cathedral is always green and welcoming. There are also a series of parks along the Esplanade (including one that’s in the opening shots of Kim’s Convenience), and at the east end of Corktown there’s the fabulous Corktown Common.

Winter at St. James is beautiful too

There are probably other things in Toronto that some might find more fun, but for me, spending the morning shopping at the Market, then picking up a picnic lunch and going for a walk through the neighbourhood to end up at the Common where I can sit on the grass and eat my feast, all followed by a coffee at Balzac’s in the Distillery – that’s a perfect day.

Summer at the market includes flowers

Food & Refreshment:

There are just too many to choose from – if you want to sample the multi-cultural variety of Toronto, you can start here and cover a lot. There’s down-home Canadian (Paddington’s Pump’s famous back bacon sandwiches!), pizza and pasta, souvlaki, sushi, chow mien, crepes, cheeses, smoothies, sausages, pates, pickles, breads, pretzels, sweets, fruits, veggies, spices, salts, herbs, oils, flavourings, and so much more, and that’s just in the Market itself.

Breakfast at Paddington’s Pump

When it comes to food, you have options. You can view it as a giant, full-on grocery store and pick up the ingredients for a feast. You can look at it as a great take-out place, from any of a dozen or so places that range from avocado toast to zaatar-spiced treats. Or you can sit down in a more restaurant-like setting (across the street at Market Lane) and enjoy a meal and a glass of wine at one of the places there. And of course, you can do all 3 the same day, as we often do.

Along King there are many more restaurants and bars, and if you time it well you can try some budding chef’s talents at the Chef’s House restaurant run by the George Brown College catering school.

Finally, the Distillery District has its share of wine and dine options, along with coffee, tea, and chocolate treats.

Come hungry and you’ll be fine.

Diversions:

  1. I’ve used the Market in the past as my jumping off place for long walks. To the east at the Common, you can pick up the Lower Don Valley Trail. To the south, you can join the Martin Goodman Trail. Either way, fuelling up at Paddington’s Pump is a great way to start a long walk.
  2. Just west of the St. Lawrence area, at Yonge and Front Streets, there is the Hockey Hall of Fame – what could be more Canadian, eh?
  3. While this isn’t the official Theatre District, you can find your share of the arts here. There’s the Meridian Hall (formerly the Hummingbird Centre for the Arts), the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, Young People’s Theatre, and the Canadian Opera Company’s St. Lawrence space, all within a few blocks of St. Lawrence Market.
  4. Throughout the year, there’s live music and festivals galore, everything from buskers and Buskerfest to BBQ fests to Toronto’s own Holiday Market. Check sites like Toronto.com or BlogTO to see what’s happening.

Gear – New Balance 990 running shoes

Over the past couple of years of walking I’ve gone through a fair amount of gear, so I thought I would share some feedback for stuff that’s tried and trusted. Hope it helps.

What is it?: New Balance 990 v5 running shoes.

How much?: about $250 CAD including tax

Where, when, how do I use them?: The ones in the picture are a brand new pair, my 2nd. I just got them and am in the process of breaking them in. I wore out the first pair over around 350 km – 400km of road, sidewalk, and trail walking around Toronto (and Bermuda).

I wear them for probably 8-9 months of the year, switching to boots in the winter. Otherwise they are my go-to everyday footwear. Since I’m now mostly retired, I don’t need to wear anything fancier most days, and they’re comfortable enough to wear all day long.

I got the first pair on the recommendation of my podiatrist. The 990 model has a pretty defined/stiff structure for a running shoe, and I need that given that I wear custom orthotics. At the same time, they have a lot of cushiony give in the sole, which makes walking on pavements much more comfortable.

Would I buy them again?: Yes – like I said, this is my 2nd pair. I wish they would last more than 500km but then everything wears out eventually. They’re comfy, they fit really well with my orthotics, they breathe well so they’re cool in summer, and when worn with good socks I haven’t had any blister issues.

I can’t think of any cons, other than they are expensive compared to some other models and brands of running shoes. If you don’t need all the structure and you’re looking for lightweight and low cost, then you can definitely find something for less. That said, you get what you pay for, and the bottom line for me is that they work and they’re comfy.


Disclaimer: This is not a “review”. I don’t go around sampling things, instead this is a summary of my own experience with a product I have used a lot. All opinions contained in this post are my own. I offer no warranties or assurances for your experiences with the same product. I bought the gear with my own money and have not received any form of compensation from the manufacturer. Take my feedback as given – caveat emptor.

A Walk to a Beginning

On Thursday this past week, our son turned 18, and on Friday he graduated from high school. It prompted a different kind of walk, memories instead of miles.

My wife was pregnant and fighting bouts of nausea that we thought were food poisoning before we learned it was morning sickness, on the morning of September 11, 2001. And now, at the other bookend of his 18 years, our son is graduating into COVID-19.

Both events have changed the world, and it only begs the question about what the next 18 years of his life will bring. We had been planning to head to Halifax in the autumn to deliver him into the arms of university life at Dalhousie University. Now, that’s on hold – he will still start classes in the fall, but online, with dorm life at the residence of Mom and Dad. Not what he or we had expected, but the new normal for his fellow graduates.

So what do you do with these kinds of situations? You learn from them, I think. In many ways, his journey through life till now has had more emotive and socially-changing events in it than I remember experiencing at his age, and I can only see more on the horizon.

It also means that the plans my wife and I had are changing too. We won’t get to walk the Gaff Point Trail this autumn, as we had planned, but we’re hoping we can do it next year. Maybe he can start in residence in Halifax in January. Maybe it will be September 2021. But in the meantime, we learn and we grow and we move on. All roads come to a fork sooner or later.

Happy Birthday Rowan. And congratulations. Now comes the fun part.

Walkers vs Dog-Walkers

Walkers walk. Walkers of dogs let pets take them for walks, a significant difference.

My preferred routes often take me through the local streets, parks, and ravines of Toronto. While many of these parks have off-leash dog run areas, I grew up in a small town in rural Southern Ontario so when I was young everywhere was an off-leash dog run area. Today we fence in our pets, and designate park plots for pooches to poop.

Don’t get me wrong, I do like dogs. It’s just that I cannot always say the same for walkers of dogs, aka dog owners. I do make an exception for dog-walkers, aka the pro’s. In my neighbourhood there are lots of families that own dogs and who employ professional dog-walkers to exercise Fido during the day. Generally speaking, these folks are just that, professionals, and keep their charges under control. Sharing the path with them and 4-5 bounding terriers is tolerable.

Walkers of dogs, however, are like amateurs in many things – long on enthusiasm and short on technique. In normal times, on weekends there would be the unleashing of the hounds as the walkers of dogs came out, families with their pets. In today’s COVID times, this is a daily occurrence. In many cases, these non-professional dog walkers fall short of the standards set by their workaday employees. Let me count the ways

  • Poochie is precious; all my attention must be on him
  • Poochie is rambunctious; isn’t he cute!
  • Poochie is curious; ooh, what have you found in that man’s shoe?
  • Poochie is poopie; over there Poochie, poop over there!
  • Poochie is ignored; can’t you see I’m on my phone!
  • Poochie is in my way

Come on folks – share the space and smile at your neighbour. Poochie and just want to walk.

Little Scenes: Life Observed While Walking

One of the great things about walking, whether it’s in my neighbourhood (maybe especially in my neighbourhood), elsewhere in the city, or just out in the country on a trail, is that you continually see little scenes that register mentally but somewhat unconsciously as I wander along.

You can be in a kind of tuned out zone, just walking and not really aware of what’s happening around you, and then some little detail will catch your eye or your ear. These little scenes fascinate me. Shakespeare said that all the world’s a stage, so I think of these as life’s little paragraph plays upon that stage, unconnected on one level and yet part of the world-weave that includes each of us.

I keep meaning to write down these scenes as the impressions register, but it’s a pain to type them into my phone as I walk and when I get home I’ve often forgotten them. Occasionally, something will jog that hidden memory, and over the past few months I’ve been collecting these little postcards until I had enough for a post. Et voila.


I overhear a woman as she gets out of her car and goes into her house, keys jangling as she gestures with one hand while talking into a phone held with the other: “I told you, that’s too much”. And I wonder, what is too much?

A squirrel runs down a tree to the edge of the road, and hesitates, hesitates, hesitates, and then dashes part-way across, sees me coming, stops, turns, turns about again, hesitates, and then sprints the rest of the way to climb a tree, spiralling so that it says hidden from me as I pass. Do bold squirrels live longer, or is it the cautious ones?

I’m walking by the lake, in winter, and there is a thin skim of ice just formed along the shore. As a light breeze disturbs it there is a faint crunch as the ice breaks up, and an almost imperceptible squeak.

I walk past a magnificent magnolia in bloom, just as a gust of wind cascades pink flowers across the sidewalk. Spring snow.

A woman pushing a stroller walks past, oblivious to me and to the child as she talks into her phone, and the child looks over at me and smiles, unnoticed by its mother.

A little guy riding his bike with his mom says “I’m sooooo tired” as he passes me, in just the tone that brings the image of our 3 year old instantly to mind.

On a little side street, 3 gardeners in a row are lined up like life-size gnomes with their colourful gloves and hats, each kneeling and digging amidst their early spring flowers and each oblivious of one another, and of me as I pass.

On side streets all round my neighbourhood there are little monuments, signs, and tokens. COVID-19 has people hunkering down, and at the same time looking up for once, to see the many people who work day in and day out to do the little things – stock grocery store shelves, clean hospitals, prepare and deliver food. I think, when this is over, will new-normal mean old-normal for the cleaners and the shelf-stockers – out of sight and out of mind?

I’m walking on one of the first nearly hot days of late spring and a young woman jogs past – early 20’s perhaps. I see the literal bloom of youth on her cheeks, long legs and easy grace, and think to myself, youth is beautiful. Can I appreciate that she’s gorgeous, purely on an aesthetic basis, now that I’m old enough to be more than her father? (Don’t say grandfather!) Like the girl from Ipanema, she doesn’t see me. And then the moment passes – steady on Nabokov, I think. Don’t get purvy.

Walking in Glendon Woods, my mind goes back to when I attended the school and walked these same paths. There are new leaves and shoots all around me, and the only sound is the West Don River mingling with the birds. It’s warm but not hot, earth-rich scented. There’s no one around. I could be alone in a forest 1000 km from here. Where did 40 years go?

Favourite Toronto Walks

After looking back, I realized that I’ve written a number of posts about favourite Toronto walks, and I wanted to collect them together in one place so that you could find them.

Favourite Toronto Walks -Martin Goodman Trail

Part of a series on my favourite walking trails in Toronto.

Hey Toronto, remember to practice Physical Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic! As part of its COVID-19 strategy, the City of Toronto has closed the parks noted below. The Trail itself is open for walking, but the parks and their facilities are not.

And now on to the regular post …..

The Martin Goodman Trail winds along the shore of Lake Ontario, from the Humber River in the West, past Sunnyside Beach, Ontario Place, and Queen’s Quay, crosses the Don River and loops down around Cherry Beach, and then follows Lakeshore Road through Woodbine Park onto the Beaches Boardwalk to end at Balmy Beach. If you want summer, follow this path.

And if you’re not in summer, walk it anyway – the autumn colours, the spring flowers, and the natural ice sculptures of winter all offer sights to keep you interested.

And for people watching, this is Toronto hanging out in its backyard – the whole city makes an appearance at some point. It’s endlessly entertaining and changing to fit the seasons and your mood. Go walk it, and take the time to hang out and chill.

Length: roughly 18-19 km end to end, so 4-5 hours depending on stops. The Martin Goodman Trail is also part of the much longer Waterfront Trail, which within the City of Toronto itself runs from Mimico Creek in the west all the way to the Rouge River in the east. It’s around 50 km across the city, and I’ve walked that as part of my Crossing Toronto Big Walk.

Surface: paved the whole way, though you can walk on boardwalks too at Sunnyside and in the Beaches

Public Transit: to start (assuming you’re going west to east) take the subway Line 1 to either Queen Station or Osgoode Station. Catch the 501 Streetcar heading west to either the South Kingsway (east bank of the Humber River) or the Humber loop stop (west bank). From the streetcar, walk south to pick up the trail on the east side of the Humber Arch bridge At the finish, walk from Balmy Beach north up to Queen Street to catch the 501 Streetcar at Neville Park to head back west to Queen Station on subway Line 1.

Route: The Trail is strait-forward and well marked. It officially starts on the east side of the Humber River just past the Humber Arch Bridge, though there are also several km of waterfront trail on the west side of the river, between Mimico Creek and the Humber.

The Humber Arch Bridge

Strictly speaking, there are actually 2 parallel trails, one for bikes and one for walkers. On weekends especially, the bike trail can be busy with speeding spandex, so keep to the walking trail.

There are lots of park benches along the way, and in Sunnyside Park and in the Beaches, there are also lots of comfy Adirondack-style chairs. On a weekday morning, they’re heaven for resting tired feet.

The path follows the lake pretty closely with many little diversions through side gardens. There are a couple of street crossings to negotiate, near Bathurst Street, at Cherry Street, and near the Beaches. Otherwise you really can’t get lost – just head towards the CN Tower from the west end, and towards the Ashbridge’s Bay chimneys once you’re past the CN Tower.

Sights: There are lots of little joys along the trail. You might see a mother goose and her goslings trailing obediently. Or stop to take in the flowers and the visitors at one of the little butterfly gardens that dot the parks. Or there’s the site of planes taking off from Billy Bishop Airport on the islands (even more spectacular during the Toronto Airshow).

The view from the Humber Arch Bridge looking east

As you walk along the trail, there’s also many spots to take in the Toronto skyline. You may not realize it, but you are starting a bit south of the city when you are over by the Humber. As you walk towards Queens Quay, you’re walking north and east, and the many condo and office towers compete with the CN Tower and Rogers Center to dominate the view.

At Sunnyside Beach looking back west towards Mimico

Then as you move past all the shops along Queens Quay itself, and cross the Don River channel at the docklands to head to Cherry Beach, you enter a more relaxed area with sand and trees. It’s a great spot to stop for a picnic.

Cherry Beach
The trail heading east from Cherry Beach

Continuing on, the beach vibe takes over completely past Ashbridges Bay. The sand will tempt you in any weather, and in summer it’s our own version of Venice Beach. I once came across a movie shoot in progress, across the path from a step aerobics class, and alongside grandparents walking with grandkids slurping ice cream who were staring at muscle-shirted beach volleyball players.

The Beaches Boardwalk at Woodbine Beach
Balmy Beach on a not so balmy day …

Food & Refreshment: The Trail has several places for food and drinks, though most are open only during the Canadian summer – Victoria Day to Labour Day. Outside those months, the Trail has dozens of spots that are perfect for a picnic with may picnic tables, benches, chairs, shady spots under trees and sunny spots on sand.

The Sunnyside Pavilion Cafe is a lovely spot for coffee or something stronger.

There are many options around Queens Quay, especially on a summer weekend when there’s usually a festival or market of some kind.

And of course, when you get to the Beaches, a short walk north from the trail takes you to Queen Street with its many shops, restaurants, and bars, not to mention Beaches institutions like Ed’s Real Scoop Ice Cream.

There are a number of public toilets along the trail, at Sunnyside Park, at Queens Quay, Cherry Beach, Woodbine Beach, and Balmy Beach. These are only open between May – October, however. Outside those months, your best bets more or less on the trail are the shops at Queens Quay. Otherwise you’ll need to leave the trail and head towards the shops on one of the parallel shopping streets. Or just walk fast and drink lightly.

Diversions: Because the Trail runs though and nearby to many fun neighbourhoods, like Queens Quay, and especially the Beaches, there are many ways to change the route around.

  1. Shorten it and just walk from the Humber to Queen’s Quay, or from Queen’s Quay to the Beaches.
  2. West to east is fun for me because I like to end at the Beaches, but going east to west is also good. In that case, starting off with a great breakfast at a Beaches joint like the Sunset Grill sets you up to hike away.
  3. As mentioned, the walk changes character dramatically when you go off season. For a number of years, we liked to walk the Beaches Boardwalk on New Year’s Day, and often the wind off the lake is particularly icy. It’s still fun though, and when he was small our son liked to throw snowballs into the lake.

Favourite Toronto Walks – The Beltline

Part of a series on my favourite walking trails in Toronto.

Hey Toronto, remember to practice Physical Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic!

And now on to the regular post …..

The Beltline is one of Toronto’s best known and favourite walking trails. There are actually two, connected Beltlines – the York Beltline which runs from just north of Eglinton near Caledonia Road over to the Allen Expressway, and the Kay Gardiner Beltline which runs from the Allen to the Don Valley Brickworks.

Length: about 15 km for the full length, approximately 3 hours

Surface: about 50/50 gravel and paved. The York Beltline is paved and the Gardiner Beltline is mostly gravel with some paved sections in Mount Pleasant Cemetery

Public Transit: To get to the start, take the Eglinton 32 bus west to Caledonia Road from either Eglinton or Eglinton West/Allen station on the Line 1 subway. From the finish, walk up Yonge from the north-west corner of Mount Pleasant Cemetery about 300 m to Davisville Station on the Line 1 subway.

Route: The start of the York Beltline is a few blocks north and west from the intersection of Caledonia Road and Eglinton, near the Canada Goose outwear factory. It follows a well-marked paved trail east roughly parallel to and just south of Castlefield Avenue. At Marlee Avenue, you have to leave the trail, walk north about 50 m to cross at the traffic lights, then follow Elmridge Drive over the Allen Expressway. Just after you cross the bridge over the expressway, turn right (south) onto a trail that runs parallel to the Allen, and just off that pick up the trail again, walking east on what is now the the Kay Gardiner Beltline Trail. Follow that east all the way to Mount Pleasant Cemetery, just past Yonge.

Just after you cross the bridge over Yonge, there is an entrance from the Trail into Mount Pleasant Cemetery. You can follow the marked Beltline path within the Cemetery, where the Beltline is marked by painted lines on the road. Alternatively, you can walk along the Beltline Trail outside the cemetery east to Mount Pleasant Road, where there is another entrance into the Cemetery that joins the marked path on the road.

Follow the Cemetery road markings east under Mount Pleasant and then south to exit the Cemetery on Moore Avenue, crossing that road to enter the Moore Ravine. Follow the trail downhill towards the Brickworks. You can divert or end here, if you’d like, or you can just make a quick pit stop and then keep going.

The Beltline Trail proper runs just to the west of the Brickworks and heads toward Bayview Avenue. There is an entrance to the Brickworks trail network at the northwest corner of the Brickworks property, and another entrance further south off the Trail, opposite the main buildings. Use either entrance to pit-stop here.

Leaving the Brickworks, walk past the parking lot on the southwest corner to pick up the trail as it bends around to the west parallel to Bayview Avenue. It then climbs up a little hill, then turns northwest and drops down into the Yellow Creek ravine.

Follow the trail north until you come to Mount Pleasant Road. Cross carefully! The traffic always seems to be doing 10-20 kph faster than the speed limit and there is no formal crosswalk. If you’re nervous, turn south when you come off the Trail at Mount Pleasant and walk about 100m to climb some stairs up to Crescent Road. This crosses Mount Pleasant on an overpass, and on the other side you can then descend back to Mount Pleasant and walk north to pick up the Trail again at the entrance to David Balfour Park.

Here the Trail keeps going north through the Yellow Creek ravine. The official trail climbs out of the ravine just south of St. Clair Avenue on Rosehill Avenue (on the northeast corner of the Rosehill Reservoir), but you can follow the rough unofficial trail under St. Clair along the west side of the creek. This takes you to a gated entrance back into Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Follow the road up out of the ravine and wind your way back to the northwest corner of the Cemetery. Leaving the Cemetery here takes you back to the Beltline Trail and completes the loop. Congrats, you’ve walked it!

From here, take the stairs down onto Yonge Street, then turn right and walk north a few hundred meters to Davisville Station, or else south and walk about 1 km to St. Clair Station.

Sights: I love walking the Trail at any time of the year. My favourite time is probably in the early autumn, just after the trees have started to turn colour, on one of those blue-sky, crisp days we get in October.

Summer is great as well, with wildflowers, shaded lanes, grasses, and laughing children along the way. And then a clear winter’s day can be gorgeous as well. And of course, spring is great when you’re itching to get out and the birds are singing everywhere.

Each season brings its own sights and sounds and smells. They’re all fantastic, and that’s probably what makes the Beltline the busiest Trail in the city. Mid-week is lighter traffic than weekends, but if you like people-watching than any holiday weekend with decent weather will bring out the crowds.



Food & Refreshment: On the Trail itself, there are several water fountains along the way: near Walter Saunders Park; at the entrance to Mount Pleasant Cemetery; and in Mount Pleasant just before you cross Moore Avenue. These are available from May to end of October.

Just off the Trail, there are several food options. There are pizza, fast food, and coffee options on Eglinton near Caledonia Road, at the start of the York Beltline. There are similar places near Davisville Station at the other end. There are also several coffee places on Castlefield, parallel to the York Beltline. Finally, there is the Saturday farmer’s market at the Brickworks, and the everyday option of Cafe Belong, also at the Brickworks.

Diversions: There are several ways to vary the walk, including:

  1. Walk it in reverse, from east to west
  2. Shorten it, by starting and ending at the northwest corner of Mount Pleasant cemetery and just walking the loop through the Cemetery, the Moore Ravine, and the Yellow Creek/David Balfour Park portions.
  3. Shorten it even more and just walk from the Cemetery to the Brickworks.
  4. Just outside the Brickworks, on the west side of the Trail, there is a linking trail up out of the ravine to Chorley Park in Rosedale. Climb that to get a fantastic view east over the ravine – spectacular in the autumn.
  5. Instead of following the Yellow Creek Trail to David Balfour Park, take Milkman’s Lane up out of the ravine into Rosedale, and then wander through there over to Yonge. Depending on your route, you’ll probably end up near either Rosedale or Summerhill Station.
  6. Incorporate portions of the Trail into other walks, such as what I call the Midtown Cemetery Walk.

The Trail is a great way to explore Mid-Town, get some exercise, and explore Toronto history. Enjoy!

When Will I Stop Walking in a Pandemic?

I guess the title of this post has two meanings. When will I stop walking? Will it be because I get sick? Will it be because my wife or son or someone I’ve been in contact with gets sick, so that I have to go into self-isolation? Will it be because the province or city completely locks everything down?

And then the other meaning is broader – when will this epidemic end? When will restrictions lift, and some normalcy return? When do I have to stop criss-crossing the street, doing the the covid dance to keep my 2m separation from anyone else?

So which comes first – me being shut down or the epidemic ending? It’s what everyone is thinking. It looks like we’re talking months for all restrictions to be lifted, and probably at least a few more weeks here in Toronto before even a slight loosening. Recent briefings from the Ontario government talked about being prepared for 2nd and 3rd waves that stretch out 18 or even 24 months from the start this past March, and for a gradual, step-by-cautious-step return to what we hope is the old normal over that time. We’re in this for a longish haul it seems.

So when you look at it like that, a certain fatalistic, carpe diem attitude is likely. Remember that Bobby McFerrin song? – Don’t Worry, Be Happy

And can I just take a moment to remind you about some dos and don’ts about walking while we’re in the middle of this:

  • Do – keep 2m apart while making space for others by stepping into a driveway or off the curb onto the roadway if you need to
  • Do – try to walk on the left side of the street so that if you have to step into the road you can see the traffic coming towards you
  • Do – give extra space for someone who might be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19
  • Do – smile at your neighbours and fellow walkers 😉 – we’re all in this together

  • Don’t – walk about in 2s, 3s, and 4s crowding others off the street
  • Don’t – forget to look up from your smart phone
  • Don’t – ignore the birds, flowers, sunshine, and SPRING! now that you can actually hear, smell, and appreciate them
  • Don’t – be that person who’s so self-absorbed that they actually think this epidemic is all about them and how they’re the only ones inconvenienced by it all

Just Keep Calm and Carry On

And oh by the way, let’s hope we keep that idea once this finally settles, because waiting in the wings there’s climate change to be tackled, not to mention paying back the $billions borrowed to fight COVID-19. We’ve got a challenging decade in front of us. If the 1920’s were known as the Roaring ’20’s, then this coming decade may come to be known as the Pooring 20’s, or better yet the Soaring 20’s as we not only get back on our feet, we use our new-found resolve to face even bigger challenges. Humans are smart, resilient, toolmakers – 5 million years of evolution have seen to that.

In the meantime, embrace the little things – like a box of Rice Krispies when that’s what you crave.