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2006 09 09
Hiking The Bruce Trail From Toronto’s Condo-Land - Well, Almost

Did you know that the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves include: the Ayers Rock region, the Central Amazon, the Mojave & Colorado Deserts --- and the Niagara Escarpment. There is more -- Great trails of the world include: the Appalachian Trail, Santiago de Compostela, Hadrian's Wall, the West Coast Trail --- and one lying an hour west of Toronto along the Escarpment from Niagara to Tobermory: The Bruce Trail.

Yet, incredibly, most Torontonians aren't aware of these genuinely `world class' attractions in the city's backyard!

Maybe an experiment happening this fall in the heart of downtown condo developments --- on Spadina Avenue by Clarence Square at Wellington Street --- will finally waken Toronto to some true bragging rights.

At 10 am on Sept. 17, Sept. 24 and Oct. 29, and at 9 am on Nov. 19, 25, and 26, volunteers of the Toronto Bruce Trail Club are running day-trip bus hikes to the wilderness which are open to non-members. Places on the 50-seat school bus are first come, first served. Hikers should bring $16 for the transport, bottled water, a packed lunch, hiking boots or comfortable footwear, and cash for caffeine or beer during refreshment stops on the way back (often in quaint towns). (Note: some trips go to conservation areas rather than the Trail itself because of the distance from the Waterfront & Spadina to prime hiking routes.) .

For years, the 4,000+ Toronto members of the environmentalist Bruce Trail Association have been working to link Torontonians with the beauties of the Trail --- and to gain new members for the cause of preserving the Escarpment from development and rampant quarrying.

Bus hikes leaving from the York Mills and Islington subway stations have long allowed car-less Torontonians to enjoy easy walks (Level 1 hikes) or four-hour work-outs (Level II hikes) in the country.

The club is now hoping that the convenience of hikes originating from within walking distance or short streetcar rides of the burgeoning population of the deep downtown will attract many more hikers and environmentalists. (Note for fashionistas: With skinny jeans and leggings making toned legs and butts critical, there's nothing like a Level II hike to noticeably tighten every relevant muscle! And the view from a hiking trail is infinitely better than from a Stairmaster.)

Sarah Harmer (named in Newsweek's July 17 issue as the natural successor to Joni Mitchell) is a superb articulator of what the BTA is fighting for. On April 13, she inspired the Los Angeles Times to note the Trail and Escarpment from afar:

Canada's rugged and rocky Bruce Trail is reputed to have inflicted more blisters and aching feet than any other hiking path in North America, but for Sarah Harmer the physical challenge of the hike was secondary to its symbolism. The 35-year-old singer-songwriter used it to prepare for the recording of her third and most recent solo album, "I'm a Mountain," which is themed around a threatened portion of the land upon which the trail sits.

`"I spend so much time driving and going to shows and being in a van and not seeing enough details in those places, and I thought, I can do a walking tour on the Niagara Escarpment," said Harmer, who spent two weeks last summer hiking a portion of the Escarpment's 480-mile Bruce Trail with her band, performing the folk and bluegrass songs that would eventually become "I'm a Mountain."

"Escarpment Blue". tells the true story of a quarry's recent bid to expandits operations into Escarpment farmlands - farms that border the land Harmer grew up on and on which her parents still live."Salamandre," a children's folk song Harmer sings Edith Piaf style.involved research to show that the land the quarry is seeking is also the habitat of the federally endangered Jefferson salamander.'

Looking forward to posts from people trying out the first Clarence Square hike.'
[email this story] Posted by Cathy Schaffter on 09/09 at 01:00 PM

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