Tag Archives: Don Valley

Toronto’s Top Bike Trails

20 Jun
Best Toronto bike trails

View from Humber Bay Park

 

It’s Bike Month in Toronto, meaning the place is crawling with cycling evangelists waddling about with their padded bottoms, inciting everyone to get on two wheels.

Whatever their fashion crimes, the wild-haired ones are onto something: This compact, flat city’s ideal for cycling, aside from some inconveniently placed streetcar tracks and spatially challenged supertruck drivers.

As a signed up member of the tribe, with the oil stained calves to prove it, I recently decided to take part in one of the Bike Month events, a group ride around Ward 18.

This involved cycling around Little Portugal and nearby neighbourhoods, stopping off enroute to scoff delicious pasteis de Nata. Anything for the cause, cycling comrades. Photos from the ride have been posted here (spot the lanky cyclist in the fourth picture down).

My unwavering commitment to the right to wear impossibly tight lycra and feel a little superior truly knows no bounds.

So, to further demonstrate my unwavering solidarity, here’s an extra contribution to Bike Month:

My pick of Toronto’s cycle trails, in no particular order.

1. Don Valley-Sunnybrook Park-Edwards Gardens. 17km, 1 hour.

Look out for raccoons and rabbits on the Don Valley, and take some extra time to meander through Sunnybrook Park. Walk your bike round serene Edwards Gardens, admiring the rock gardens and meadow flowers.

Best bike trails Toronto

Don Valley bike trail

2. Waterfront Trail Westwards-Humber Bay Park. 12km, 45 mins.

Keep left when you get to Coronation Park and take the lakeside trail. Pause on Humber Bridge and drift round to Humber Bay Park, through the butterfly meadow and over to a peaceful rocky beach with a fabulous view of the city. Keep an eye out for tortoises!

Humber Bay tortoise bike Toronto

A tortoise I spotted at Humber Bay during a bike ride last Sunday

3. Humber Bay Park-up the river until your legs get tired. Up to 35 km, 2.5 hours.

Ride alongside the river, through a series of quiet parks. The occasional steep hill gets the glutes going. In late September/early October you can spot salmon jumping out of the river.

Best bike trails Toronto

Along the Humber River

4. Waterfront Trail Eastwards-Cherry Beach-Ashbridges Bay Park-Kew Beach. 11 km, 45 mins. Optional weekend detour: Tommy Thompson Park.

Take a detour past urban Sugar Beach, stop to watch kite-surfers at Cherry Beach, then weave around Ashbridges Bay Park harbour before dodging rollerbladers and kids on the path running along the sandy shores of Kew Beach.

Best bike trails Toronto

Cherry Beach

5. Don Valley-Evergreen Brickworks-Moore Park Ravine-Mount Pleasant Cemetary. 10km, one hour.

Gorgeous in the Fall, when the ravine and cemetery are carpeted with auburn-yellow leaves.

Best bike trails Toronto

Moore Park Ravine in Fall

6. ??????

This one’s my all-time favourite. It doesn’t seem to be as “on-the-map” as the others just yet, which works for me. Maybe I’ll reveal all in a future post. Possibly.

Note: Times and distances are approximate and are based on setting off from Union Station. They don’t take account of any detours, wildlife spotting or pausing for photos of the CN Tower in the distance (you can never have too many of those, after all).

Braving the Eastern Front

21 Nov

Just days after we moved to Toronto in an excitable haze, the city saw its worst ever mass shooting, which was to leave two people dead and 23 injured.

The incident in Scarborough, an eastern suburb, sparked a frenzy of newspaper columns and TV reports about Toronto’s inequalities and spiralling crime.

In a city with a reputation as an orderly safe haven, in a country so polite and friendly that a standard email sign-off is “very truly yours”, the shooting was a warning against complacency. It reminded us that Toronto, like any major city, has an edgier side and contains pockets with deep-rooted social challenges.

It also slightly dampened our enthusiasm for exploring eastwards. Besides from crime, any local will tell you that if you travel east of Yonge Street you’ll either lose your soul in a strip mall or fall off the edge of the planet.

But I wanted to try my luck. That’s me all over; I’m a thrill-seeker, a Jane Bond, a…keen cyclist. Yeah, that’s right adventure-shunners, I was raring to strap on my windproof anorak, pack a mean cache of cereal bars and show those suburban bike paths who’s boss.

So that’s what we did on Saturday, and discovered that Scarborough (pronounced Scarbour-o, rather than the English Scarbour-er) really is a world away from downtown Toronto. In the sense that it took seven hours to get there and back, involving a dark, cold evening cycle home, and we didn’t even reach our intended destination. Oops.

Our journey took us up the Don Valley, through the secluded Taylor Creek Park, across a bleak no-man’s-land and up the Hydro corridor:

Hydro corridor Toronto bike cycle

Hydro = Canadian for electrical power

From there, we tried to access Morningside Park, but came up against a slight, watery, problem:

Toronto cycle Morningside Scarborough

Er, how do we get across?

Having conquered the ravine, we were cycling around looking for the trail, when I spied a small, antlered deer weaving through the trees. Ahhhh. Deer in Scarborough?! And not a gun in sight.

The plan was to carry on to the University of Scarborough campus, but it was getting dark and we couldn’t find the trail. So in a strip mall car park, we decided to head home. It was quite a picturesque ending to our trip, I’m sure you’ll agree:

Tim Hortons Scarborough Toronto cycle

At least the coffee was cheap

Despite some temporary numbness to the fingers and toes, we survived our 70km round-trip to Scarborough unscathed.

On the way back, we even saw a raccoon peering from a tree with its bank-robber eyes:

Raccoon Toronto cycle Don Valley

On the pitch-black Don Valley trail. Thank goodness for bike lights!

We probably had nothing to worry about in the first place. This rather neat crime map of Toronto shows there most definitely isn’t a clear east-west divide when it comes to violent assaults.

Clicking on the map shows that in eastern Scarborough there were 17.57 “crimes against the person” per 1,000 residents and workers in 2006, compared with just 3.7 in my neighbourhood. But then, Chinatown has a rate of 20.3 and that’s not going to keep me from my General Tso Pork.

The excellent Toronto Life magazine published a well-researched piece on Scarborough’s demographics, worth a read.

Although the route took longer than we’d planned for and there were gaps in the trail involving some busy roads, it was impressive to see – again – how well set up Toronto is for cyclists, and how quickly you can escape the dense inner city if you want to.

Here’s where we went:

Lost in a cemetery

17 Oct

Yesterday I got lost in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. For nearly two hours.

After 90 minutes of cycling round-and-round this very beautiful, but labyrinthine, vortex of death, the gardeners were staring at me like I was at best a funeral crasher, at worst a pervy grief voyeur.

At one point I reflected on how ironic it would be if I actually died there. “Charlotte would’ve seen the funny side,” they’d say at my wake, clinking glasses mirthfully.

At least, as necrosis set in, I would’ve been comforted by the fact I was in exalted company, close to the resting grounds of Canada’s former prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and its first female surgeon Jennie Smillie-Robinson, along with Métis artist Youngfox and pianist Glenn Gould.

Who wouldn’t wish to spend their dying moments in one of North America’s finest arboretums?

The cemetery was my final stop (nearly literally) on a bike trip through the Evergreen Brickworks and Moore Park Ravine.

It was a typical sunny Toronto day in that the big, blue, Canadian sky had begged me to go and play outside.

Before reaching the cemetery I’d cycled a few laps of the brickworks’ secluded wildflower meadows, which are only just in earshot of city sirens.

Heading north, along the ravine track, I’d marvelled at the autumnal colours of the trees and how the only audible noise was a black squirrel munching on an acorn.

Getting lost in the cemetery kind of ruined my zen.

But I survived to tell the tale and share these iphone snaps of my voyage:

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Here’s a map of my journey. Without meandering through the Brick Works or getting lost, like I did, it’s 12km one way.

Late to the party

10 Sep

“Instagram could have potentially harmed Facebook’s position, which might indicate why Facebook acquired Instagram.” Searing insight from the analysts at Distimo, that.

Possibly even more mysterious than Facebook’s long-predicted decision last week to buy the second most popular social media service in the world is my late arrival to the Instagram party.

As a keen snapper, and someone who leaps onto every social media trend with the caution of a skittish puppy, I was unusually reticent when it came to Instagram.

The photo editing options appealed, and I liked the retro filter effects. It just all seemed a bit, well, “cheaty”.

But during a bike ride up the Don Valley, I decided to give it a go – and was quite pleased with the results – particularly the size of the files and blog-friendly shape of the pictures.

Here’s a picture near the start of the trail:

Bike ride Don Valley

At this point, the grasshoppers buzzing in my left ear were competing with the asphalt roar of the Don Parkway to the right.

After around 30 minutes, the grasshoppers were winning, and I entered an area dubbed “The Projects” by my other half.

Bike ride Don Parklands

Toronto “Projects”

Although I tried my hardest to bring out the hard, concrete tones in the shot, this being Toronto – not Baltimore – the “Projects” had an undeniably pleasant outlook. Still, good effort, Instagram.

I carried on to Seton Park, which was all dappled sunlight and meandering streams:

Bike ride Seton Park Don Valley

Seton Park

Crossing the Seton car park took me, via Sunnybrook Park, to Wilket Creek, cloaked in BBQ smoke and full of families on long picnic tables. Around a week ago, I saw a beaver here too.

Turning right at the water fountain, I cycled along a shady track all the way to Edwards Gardens – a peaceful spot with primary coloured flowers crammed into every possible nook:

Bike ride Edwards Gardens Toronto

Edwards Gardens

You can’t cycle in Edwards Gardens so I wheeled my bike around and set off back home, avoiding the rabbits hopping into the bushes as I passed by.

So, in conclusion, a really varied trail, which Instagram helped me to capture in a way that wouldn’t normally be possible on my iphone. I still maintain that not playing around with apertures, focal length and ISO is cheating, but when you’re on a 34km bike ride in the Toronto heat, this is a pretty good alternative.

Length of cycle ride, according to Google Maps: 17.2km one way

Time: 1.5 hours one way

Tips:

  • Take mozzie repellent for after sunset
  • Due to maintenance on the trail that isn’t due to be completed until December, you reach an impasse before Seton Park. Carry your bike up the steps, then carry on in the same direction until you reach Tim Horton’s. Turn left down the hill, ignoring the sign saying “no bikes” (as I’m in North America, is this the point I should mention some sort of legal disclaimer? At your own peril, etc etc).
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