Change of Plans

Aerial view of St Stephen’s Green
By Dronepicr (edited by King of Hearts) Edit corrects CA and sharpens image – File:Dublin Stephen’s Green-44.jpg, CC BY 3.0, Link

This week was supposed to have seen me complete my TONotL hike, and as I wrote last week, those plans had to change when we made an unscheduled trip to Ireland for a funeral. It’s meant that this past week has been a mixed bag of walks.

Sunday – walking the strand at Portnoo in Donegal.

One of the secrets of Ireland is that while it’s a northerly climate, and it’s associated with soft rains and green pastures, there are in fact quite a few fabulous beaches. Portnoo is one of them – several km of sand and shallow waters that are perfect for sunning yourself or swimming, if you don’t mind the chill.

Monday – city walking in Dublin, wandering favourite neighbourhoods near St. Stephens Green and Marion Square, window shopping and sightseeing.

The trip had been a whirlwind, and we’d given ourselves Monday afternoon and evening in Dublin to decompress after the emotional visit to Donegal. The sun was out and it was a lovely day, perfect to find a little out of the way pub with some outdoor tables and a pint of Guinness. Dinner was equally lovely, enjoying seafood and crisp French wine at Sole. The stroll through St. Stephens Green after dinner capped off our trip, enjoying the flowers in bloom and watching the other strolling couples.

Tuesday – airports and taxis and a quick stroll around the shops back home to pick up dinner. Welcome back to Toronto summer heat.

Wednesday – since I was off work for the week anyway and had planned to spend it walking, it was off for a tour of Lawrence Park and Bridle Path neighbourhoods and on through Burkes Brook and Sunnybrook Parks.

15km of wandering up and down hills, through cool shaded forest and sun-drenched playing grounds.

Thursday – more hiking, this time the full length of the Beltline.

First west along Roselawn and Castlefield all the way to Caledonia to pick up the start of the Beltline Trail by the Canada Goose factory, and then back east on the Trail all the way through Mount Pleasant Cemetery, down the Moore Ravine into the Brickworks, and then back north up through David Balfour Park and into the Cemetery again to complete the loop. 20 km on an even hotter day.

Friday – yet more hiking, this time down to the lake through inner city neighbourhoods – Whychwood, Christie Pits, Palmerston, Little Italy, Parkdale – and along the Trillium Trail through Ontario Place, then back home through stifling city streets heavy with humid heat.

I passed through several of parks that make Toronto a fantastic place to live – Christie Pits, Trinity-Bellwoods, Coronation Park, and more. Without those green oases, the city would bake in the summer. While they were lovely to walk through, 25km on a hot muggy day wiped me out.

Saturday – after that long day Friday, it was time to take it easy, strolling in the neighbourhood and shopping for new running shoes after wearing out my old pair. It was a day to unwind and let my legs and feet rest a bit.

Overall, I did more walking this past week than I’ve done in any previous week in at least a year, and yet I only did about half of the 160 km I had planned on my TONotL walk. If I’m honest, it would have been a tough challenge to finish that walk as planned, given 30C heat and my evident fitness level despite my training walks. Clearly I need to put in more work so that when I try this in the autumn when the weather will also be cooler, I will be ready for it.

Still, a change of plans isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When life throws up the unexpected, the best path forward is to learn from the experience.

Walk Journal – Jan 13, 2019

Location: Toronto – from Sherwood Park to Allan Gardens via the Don Valley trail system

Duration: 3 hours, about 15 km

Weather: Sunshine and blue skies, but crisp at -7C with a -12C wind chill

Today’s walk was about exercise and stretching out on a fine winter day. I wanted to get at least 3 hours or so, and needed to end up at my nephew’s place downtown near Allan Gardens.

I decided to get there via the Don Valley trail system, so from our home in the Avenue Road & Eglinton area I went east on Briar Hill Avenue to Yonge Street, then kept going east on Sherwood Road to Sherwood Park. In the park I took the Burke’s Brook trail east to Bayview Avenue.

Burke’s Brook Ravine trail – doesn’t look like January!

From there it’s safest to cross Bayview at the crosswalk at Kilgour Road, and then I could continue east on Kilgour all the way to its end, where I connected with the access road down into Sunnybrook Park. I walked through the west end of the park past the dog run area to the bridge across the West Don River.

Sunnybrook Park entrance – bridge across the West Don

Then it was east through Sunnybrook Park into Wilket Creek Park, almost to Leslie street, crossing the creek itself at the bridge where it joins the West Don River, and then turned south to follow the trail parallel to the river.

West Don River at Wilket Creek Park

The trail goes under Eglinton Avenue into E.T. Seton Park to become the West Don Trail. At the north end of this park is a disc golf course, and there were a few players out today since there was no snow.

The 1st tee at Toronto’s only disc golf course at the north end of E.T. Seton Park

I kept going south to the trail junction to the Taylor Creek Trail under Don Mills Road and through to the Lower Don Trail, which is where the East and West Don rivers join into the Don River.

Confluence of the West and East Don Rivers
Confluence of the West and East Don Rivers on the Lower Don Trail

The Lower Don Trail continues south along the east side of the river to Pottery Road, and you can either stay on the east bank and follow the main trail, or cross to the west bank and take the side trail along Bayview Ave, which is what I did in order to go to the Don Valley Brickworks for a quick pit stop.

Entrance to the Don Valley Brickworks

I left the Brickworks along the lower Beltline Trail to turn west and north a bit into the Yellow Creek Ravine system, where I connected with the Milkman’s Lane trail up into Rosedale.

Milkman’s Lane climbing up into Rosedale – trust me it’s steeper than it looks

Once up that hill (stiff climb), I connected with Glen Road and went south across the Rosedale Valley on the Glen Road pedestrian bridge and under Bloor street to the south end of Glen Road to connect with Howard Street and over to the west to Sherborne Street, then south on Sherborne to Carlton Street to end at Allan Gardens.

All of that made for a long walk. My pace was pretty good, and I had worked up quite a sweat even though it was a cold day. That’s actually one of the harder things to manage when it’s cold – if you start sweating then you’ll get chilled as soon as you stop walking, so you’re better to wear layers and remove them as needed to stay warm but not sweating. I didn’t do that so by the time I got to my nephew’s I was actually over-heated for this weather.

The great thing about the walk was the weather. I’ve done more or less that same route in summer, and the walk through E.T. Seton Park, in particular, can be brutal when the sun is blazing down. Today, though it was cold it was good walking weather and the trails were dry and free of ice. Walking the Don River trail system covers several of my favourite routes and if I hadn’t had a destination today I would have kept going all the way to Corktown Common.

The history along the way is wonderful. You pass through former country estates (Sunnybrook), former mills and farms (Todmorden), former brick foundries (the Brickworks), and very different neighbourhoods ranging from Rosedale (one of Toronto’s richest) to St. James Town (not one of Toronto’s richest).

As I’ve said before, Toronto’s park and trail systems are amongst my favourite jewels of the city. Do this walk any time of the year, and you might see deer, coyotes, hawks, falcons, ducks, geese, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, skunk, turtles, frogs, and fish. Were it not for the traffic noise from the nearby roads, you could be fooled into thinking you’re out on a country walk. And yet, you can get into any part of this system via public transit. I love it. Walk the Don and find out for yourself.