Cycling Fun: Discovering Humber Bay, Toronto

My Humber Bay biking route

When many of my non-Hamilton friends think of Hamilton, they conjure up visions of the steel mills, the smog and pollution, grimy, dirty…visions like this:

Stelco steel mills in Hamilton loom behind neighbourhoods in the east end of the city, Nov. 23, 2005. HANS DERYK/TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO

But after living there for almost thirteen years, I can truly say that Hamilton has some absolutely beautiful locations, awesome parks, and amazing cycling trails!  The bike paths are one of the things I’ve been really missing since my move to Toronto almost two months ago.

As a Hamiltonian, I held similar mistaken beliefs about Toronto.  Not necessarily involving steel mills and the like, but I did think of Toronto as too loud and too busy, not a place I’d want to live. Aside from my friends, I assumed Torontonians were unfriendly and unapproachable. I liked my quiet little corner of Hamilton, a short bike ride away from the waterfront and various biking and hiking trails.

I was wrong about TO.

Downtown of course, where I have spent many hours working, IS busy, loud and obnoxious at times. But when you get away from that, you find little quiet corners, just like my Hamilton existence.

Until last week, I hadn’t had much of a chance to go exploring due to a sprained ankle, an injury I sustained during my move. (THAT is a story unto itself.  Let’s just say I have had many people tell me that breaking it would have allowed for easier healing and I find myself agreeing!)

I have spent over a month babying it, wrapping it in tensor bandages and avoiding any strenuous exercise that would potentially re-injure it.

Last week, though, I *finally* took out my bike! I planned a slow, meandering ride and I wore an ankle support to ensure maximum protection. I was out for a couple of hours and I discovered that not only is my new apartment incredibly close to the waterfront, but there are also nearby beautiful areas in the Humber Bay that are so green and so quiet that I can almost forget that I’m actually in the big city! I discovered beaches that appeared to be almost coastal…all I was missing was the salty air!  (Well, and the amount of sea life that one finds along a seashore that doesn’t exist along the shores of Lake Ontario.)

I have much more exploring to do, but the Humber Bay absolutely blew me away and I found myself taking loads of pictures, trying to capture the experience!!

This was one of the better pictures I could find that shows Humber Bay as I found it the other day

Obviously, I didn’t take that one 😉 but I did take a load of shots while I cycled through the area, from one end to the other!

It was odd to be on this bridge. It is just south of the Gardiner expressway and I passed it hundreds of times during my commute to work. Noticed it often, never thought I’d be spending time on it 😉

My first view of the Humber Bay…

One of the coolest Addams Family inspired bird houses ever!

One interesting area that I didn’t spend much time investigating is the Humber Bay Butterfly Garden.  They have an area of wildflowers and wild grasses, lovely winding paths and benches, along with educational signage about the various butterflies who inhabit the area. Such a beautiful idea!  I definitely have to go back and spend a bit of time there.

Stopping at a second bridge along the way

Mom, this pic is for you! (You too, Deb!)

Initially, I found myself at the marina, which bordered a section of condominiums and other tall buildings.  Although one could argue that the condo section of the trail wasn’t as quiet and relaxing as the beaches and grassy peninsulas jutting out into the lake, the gardening and landscaping was immaculate.  Still worth the trip! 

While I hanging around the manicured section of the trail, I struck up a conversation with an elderly gentleman who was sitting on a nearby bench, enjoying the day. At the same time, there was a nearby sail boat that was prepping to depart the marina and I heard the man in charge telling the group on board that as the day went on, they could take the helm, they just had to ask. It sounded as though he were taking the group out for a sailing lesson, and I admit I was a bit jealous. 🙂

The older man on the bench commenting on the boat as it left the dock, wondering why there was such a good-sized group on board and I told him what I had overheard, adding that sailing was something I would like to try sometime.

He smiled and said in this fragile, wispy voice, “You could probably do that here, if they’re offering lessons.  What would that cost? Probably $5 or so.” 

I nodded and REALLY wished I could learn to sail for such a small amount!

My traditional self-portrait

There are numerous “fingers” such as this one, jutting out into the lake, many of them with fire pits at the tip, like a “fingernail” 😉

 

The first fire pit I noticed. 

From what I can tell via Google, fires are illegal at Humber Bay. Yet, during my two-hour ride, I came across at least half a dozen or more.  Many of them were not hidden, they were built in obvious picnic areas so I assumed they were acceptable.

My first view of Toronto Downtown…Yep, I am definitely far from the downtown craziness!

 

An East Coast shot…this could be a shoreline in Nova Scotia

 

Another nice look-how-far-away-the-city-is shot!

 

Another lovely yet illegal fire pit!

 

 

Daisies!

 

A lovely picnicking area where I scared the hell out of a family of groundhogs! Oops!

 

A good number of swans live in the area. Awesome animals that encompass majestic and awkward all at the same time! 😉

 

One of the few beaches where I saw people swimming.

 

So, here are my thoughts about swimming in Lake Ontario.

I would love to!  To live so close to a large body of water is perfect on hot days BUT in the years I have lived here, I have never swam in the lake. I have walked barefoot in ankle-deep water, but nope, no swimming.

I have read on the Toronto websites that they test the waters at the various beaches every day for pollutants and announce whether they are safe or not.  They even have a phone number you can call to get updates before you head out for a day at the beach, which is incredibly helpful.

But here’s my concern….if the water was too polluted yesterday, and it happens that it’s also not safe to swim tomorrow, why the heck would I swim there today?  Perhaps the unsafe days are few and far between, I don’t have enough experience with the testing and safe/unsafe declarations to know for sure, but that doesn’t make me want to go swimming.  And if one beach at one end of the city is unsafe, are the others down shoreline sometimes declared the opposite?  How so?  It’s the same water.

I once heard a metaphor to explain this whole phenomenon and it made me laugh.  If I went to a pool and saw someone peeing at one end, I’m not apt to jump in the other end thinking “well it’s clean at THIS end”.  It’s the same pool!

I really wish I felt comfortable swimming in the lake but I think for now, ankle-deep is about it for me.

Ok, rant mode off!

 

Lovely!

 

A beautiful compass built in memorial of the 1985 Air India bombing.

 

I had a lovely ride and was beyond ecstatic to find a green sanctuary away from the bricks and concrete that layer our daily life.  I see picnics and relaxing days listening to the waves in my near future!

Taken down by Garbage! (Oh…and Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail pics!)

I am sad to report that I haven’t been cycling in over a week now.  About a week and a half ago, I fell on both my knees…on cobblestone no less.  Needless to say, my knees have been somewhat stiff and sore ever since. Just in case, I had x-rays taken yesterday and all seems well, they’re just taking their sweet time to heal properly, as knees tend to do.

Notice I didn’t explain *how* I fell.  That’s because it was dumb…and  didn’t involve cycling at all!  If it had, I’d be typing up a great adventure with climatic knee damage but nooooooo, all I am able to report is that I tripped over garbage!

….Ok, stop that.

Stop laughing!

Yup, good ol’ Toronto garbage.  A piece of circular strapping was on the ground…I was in a hurry…and all I can guess is that I stepped on the edge of it, anchoring it with one foot and tripping the other.  Definitely a manoeuvre few people could manage…guess I’m special 😉

EVIL Strapping!

So, due to that little spill, cycling has been out for a while.

Today, I came across pictures I took when cycling the Hamilton Rail Trail a few weeks back.  I’ve gone riding on it a few times now and it’s an awesome trail for cycling and hiking.  Mainly gravel, it starts in west Hamilton and heads to Brantford.  From there, you can jump from trail to trail and eventually hit Paris and Cambridge if you were so inclined.  So far, I have only gone to the outskirts of Brantford, about 25 kms one way, but what I have seen of the trail and the landscape has been absolutely lovely!

About 8km in, you come to the Dundas Trail Centre, an awesome place to take a break, sit in the shade, refill your water bottle, purchase a snack, and hit the loo before carrying on.

Two things to note….1) Bring water and some type of food if you plan to head out beyond the Trail Centre because after that, there is no store until Brantford.  2) Watch for deer!  You’ll notice in my slideshow below that I’ve taken many shots of deer along the trail.  They are numerous and not overly skittish, so I tend to slow down or stop to take a peek before continuing on my way. 🙂

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Cycling the Red Hill Creek Recreational Trail – Part 2 (With pictures!)

A friend and I decided to go cycling yesterday.  We planned on a morning ride about 20 km long.  We were out for over 4 hours and rode over 40km instead.  That, in itself, wouldn’t be a bad thing at all, except for the fact that around lunchtime, the temperature shot up above 30 degrees Celsius!  Needless to say, the ride home wasn’t necessarily fun…and the wind we had to fight made it that much more difficult.

Overall, though, we were both glad we went out.  We had a good time and since we planned on an easy, leisurely ride, I was able to stop and take pictures of the ever elusive Red Hill Creek trail, something I didn’t get to do the first time around.

It’s a lovely route to cycle, as long as you keep an eye on the spots of over-saturated gravel.  There are hills to challenge and wonderful scenery to enjoy.

The route we took is mapped HERE.  This map shows our route one way so by the time we had doubled back, we had hit 40km.

Fixing up my bike…

I am really enjoying cycling.  The challenge to go further and further, to attempt steeper and steeper inclines…not to mention the chance to see the city from various unique vantage points…has me hooked!

I am planning a few new routes to try in the next week or so, specifically the Hamilton-Brantford Rail Trail, the Escarpment Rail Trail and the Red Hill Valley Recreational Trail.

I have a cheap bike, a CCM 1800 from Canadian Tire that I bought last year, but it’s getting me from Point A to Point B and, at present, that is what’s most important to me.  My long-term plan is to buy a better bike next year, assuming my love of cycling continues.

In preparation for the distances I plan to travel, most of which are on roads or gravel/paved trails, I decided to change the tires on my bike yesterday. The bike came with these:


They have been fine so far but the deep treads have proven to be a little counter-productive, especially on those crazy hot days when I’m trying to conquer a route that’s entirely on paved roads.

To help reduce the friction that I’ve been fighting against, I decided to replace them with all-terrain tires that have a much shallower tread.  The pictures don’t do them justice, but they are much smoother than the originals.

My friend Chris helped walk me through the tire changing, then I adjusted my V-brakes (which I learned to do from our ever-helpful Youtube! lol).  Aside from enjoying the cycling, I am truly enjoying the repairing as well.  I like knowing that if something breaks, I’ll at least have an idea what’s wrong and how to fix it.  Of course, I’m still traveling up a steep learning curve…but I’ll get there.

I haven’t tried out the new tires yet, but I plan to later on this week as I bike another 30+km route.  Here’s hoping they make a difference! 🙂