WET BLUFFS (Scarborough Bluffs, Toronto)

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My region of southwestern Ontario is fairly consistent in its natural offerings. Beyond small towns and modest cities, spatterings of distinctive Carolinian forests dot mostly flat farmland. When I hear of an unusual type of terrain, I’m intrigued to check it out. Helen and I decided to investigate one such area in the midst of Toronto’s bustling metropolis several years ago on an early spring day. The weather didn’t look promising. We don’t mind the overcast skies we often encounter on our outings; nevertheless, the eventual cold rain that day would test us as we explored Bluffer’s Park. I first heard of the Scarborough Bluffs years before from a co-worker who had shown me pictures of her visit there. The unusual escarpment, with its giant, worn spires reaching towards the sky, is made of packed sand and clay, and runs about 15 km (9 mi) along Lake Ontario. Bluffer’s Park seemed a convenient place to see them. I easily veered off Highway 401 onto Brimley Road South, which took us straight there. In the parking lot, Helen and I scrounged for change and fed the self-serve machine the necessary six dollar fee. I was finally getting used to this common type of payment structure - we’ve been caught short in the past. Now, we usually carry an abundance of change when day tripping. I didn’t see any signs anywhere to indicate if our four-legged friends have to be leashed. I attached Tessi’s anyway out of respect for the numerous people dispersed about. Unsurprisingly, in later research, I confirmed dogs must be kept leashed. The park setting is pretty with the bluffs overlooking scattered trees and bushes. We walked along the paved pathway hugging a row of boulders, which blocks off the lake. A light fog hovering above the placid water added a sense of serenity to the day. The feeling was briefly interrupted when we passed a concentration of people in one of the picnic spots. We quickly left them behind as we continued on and eventually diverged to a dirt path leading to the escarpment through a wooded area. This soon opened up to a large pond, with walkways crisscrossing over top. A sign explains that the setup is a stormwater treatment system called “Dunkers Flow Balancing System.” As we walked over the water, Tessi excitedly spotted a goose heading towards us. I found myself straining against a taut leash in an effort to keep her from diving in after the potential prey. Soon a swan arrived to investigate the commotion.  We reached the other side of the stormwater system without incident. The path continued through a bushy section. By this time the rain had started. After realizing it wasn’t going to let up anytime soon, I ran back to the car to retrieve my umbrella – more to shelter our cameras (this was before I bought my waterproof model), as we were mostly prepared in our choice of clothing. Leaving the man-made structures and the bulk of the people behind allowed us to appreciate the pristine scenery in peace. Holding the umbrella while taking pictures proved awkward. Helen and I reached a point where we’d take turns holding it so the other could easily snap away. Regardless of the overhead protection, the cold air and rain bit at our hands anyway, making the effort uncomfortable all around, but the resulting muted, moody photographs were worth it. Following the path through bushes and trees, we eventually came upon a small beach. I let Tessi loose. After chasing away a colony of resting seagulls, she enjoyed some brief sniffing. I leashed her again when I heard approaching voices. Our wander was cut short when the lake met up with the bluffs. By the time we returned to the main paved pathway along the boulder-obstructed lake and photographed the multitude of seagulls flying about, I had had enough. My hands were freezing. I had wanted to find a dog park so Tessi could have a run. Toronto offers many, with a couple in the general bluffs area. By the time we were back on the road, however, the rain had grown into a deluge. On the other hand, having seen what I came to see, I relished the excuse to leave the busy city to return to my quiet home amidst the farmlands of southwestern Ontario. For More Info and Further Reading  

(c) Cheryl Smyth, 2013


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