Giant Jellyfish!

B and I went put cycling today, specifically to go to the Humber Bay Bridge and look at the new art installation we had noticed from the highway. Squid? Octopus?

Ah! Jellyfish!

Pretty cool and nice to see art out in public locations 🙂

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I should also note that this is my first post done via my new iPhone so, if it’s all wonky, I blame the phone! 😉

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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.

Cycling around the Hamilton Harbour

As I re-cycle this route and perfect it, I am updating this post.  June 7, 2011 was the first time I cycled around the Hamilton Harbour.  June 15, 2011 was the second time.  You’ll find each trip listed below with links to the maps of the various roads and trails I took.

June 7, 2011

Last Sunday, I took my cycling to a new level and decided to attempt a 35km route I had mapped out a few weeks back.  My goal was to tackle the route by the end of June but my cycling had been going so well that I felt ready to try it out now.  It was an absolutely awesome cycling route! Tough hilly areas, gorgeous scenery, lakefront and beachfront views…not to mention a nice mix of city streets, and off-road (gravel and paved) trails.  There were also some issues including major potholes and dead ends that weren’t present on my Google-mapped route…all of which I will share with you in this post.

As I say, I googled the route we would take but unfortunately Google doesn’t know everything (who knew??) and made some errors along the way.

Here is the route we took, errors and all….CLICK HERE

I plan to do this route again, but with some improvements.  A few major errors that Google made:

1) Beach Road – The beginning of this road wasn’t clear.  We crossed train tracks going north on Ottawa St N and immediately saw a sign that said Beach Road.  We both assumed it was the name of this path:

Nope.  The path went for a few hundred metres and then spit us out in a random neighbourhood.  We had to stop and check the map.  Beach Road was a little further north, running slightly diagonal.

2) Google also told us to take Dofasco Road (to Dominion, on to Strathearne and Pier 25).  None of this was possible as it was private property owned by Dofasco, gated and locked.

Once we got to Beach Blvd, all was good.

I plan to take this route again to attempt to perfect it.  I prefer avoiding main streets if I can so I’ll have to explore some random neighbourhoods on the way next time and note the quieter streets.

So, now that I’ve mentioned Google’s errors, let’s back up and start again….I took some pictures along the way but unfortunately I forgot to check my camera battery (which died almost immediately).  So, I took many shots with my Blackberry, not the best camera.

We headed out around 8:30 AM….

Up and at 'em on a Sunday morning!

… and almost immediately jumped onto the Escarpment Rail Trail, taking it as far as Wentworth…quite a lovely ride.

Escarpment Rail Trail

WARNING: At Wentworth, we turned left.  At the corner of Cumberland and Wentworth, on the east side, here is a *deep* dip in the pavement.  It is right after you cross train tracks and just as you’re attempting to single a right turn. Be aware and do your best to avoid it.  I survived but I could see a bike deciding to take a spill there.

We continued on and ended up on Dunsmure, where I took another shot.  It was so quiet.  Sunday morning was a perfect time to attempt this route.  Few people and little traffic on the roads.

Dunsmure

Due to the Google malfunctions, we had to cycle down Barton for a bit of a distance to get to Woodward, where we headed north to Eastport Dr and Beach Blvd.  Woodward has a bike lane most of way north of Barton, but if I had a choice, I would avoid Barton St…perhaps going south a bit to travel on side roads.  Barton St is busy, with fairly fast traffic…not to mention, we had to avoid two needles on the way. :S

So after some U-turns and remapping, we finally ended up on Beach Blvd, cycling along the Waterfront/Beachfront Trail.  I love cycling there.  The Hamilton side of the beachfront trail is paved and it is 16km in length, with each 200 metre section painted on the concrete to allow you to keep track of your distance.

Swans on the beachfront

The Hamilton portion of the trail ends underneath the highway at our ever popular lift-bridge.  At this point you have to carry your bike up the stairs, walk in across the bridge, and down the stairs on the other side.  I was concerned about dealing with stairs but luckily these had grooves so you could roll your bike up and down rather than carry it.

Steps heading up to the lift bridge...the bicycle grooves are at the far left and right.

View as we walked across the lift bridge

The Burlington half of the beachfront trail was just as lovely at the Hamilton side, with picnic areas and grassy areas to stop and take a break.

Along the Burlington Beach Trail

Burlington Beach Trail and baby geese! So cute!

Wood Fungus! B, my love, this is for you! 😉

 Once we arrived in Burlington, we headed west on North Shore Blvd.  I didn’t take any pictures at this point but I think that was my favourite portion of the ride!  (Well, except for the ice cream break that’s coming up! Hehe)  North Shore is hilly, just hilly enough to get your heart going.  I felt as though I was doing interval training.  It was fun and the views were gorgeous!

The end of North Shore spat us out (not literally of course!) onto Plains Road near the Royal Botanical Gardens.  I know the area quite well and I knew that the upcoming Spring Garden Road/Valley Inn Road was going to be the biggest incline of the route.

So….in a case like that…what do you do?  You stop for ice cream!

Sitting at Easterbrooks with a scoop of Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream! Yum!

The interior of Easterbrooks - Don't think it has changed since the 1930s!

After some leisurely ice cream intake…we tackled the hill! I didn’t really get any pictures of this…as I was huffing and puffing my way to the top!

The final obstacle?  Carrying my bike down the staircase on York Blvd, which attaches to the waterfront trail, again a staircase with grooves so not a huge obstacle.  Lots of stairs though 🙂

Heading down the stairs at York Blvd

So, in hindsight, aside from some dead ends and route re-mapping, I consider the trip a huge success!  36 km in 3.5 hrs, including an ice cream break, plus a few other stops along the way to eat a bit and stretch…AND I could walk the next day! 😀  Unlike the first time I took out my bike this season and spent the following two days limping around.

After all was said and done…I arrived home and immediately went out for a treat!

Treats for the tired cyclist!

I definitely plan on doing this trip again!

June 15, 2011

Well, today I cycled this route again with some variations in street choices.  I didn’t take any pictures this time around, pretty much the same as above.

The map for today’s route can be found HERE.

I decided to try using the ‘pipeline’, a paved trail that runs diagonally through residential neighbourhoods between Ottawa/Main and Kenilworth/Barton approximately.  All went well except for….construction!  I suppose it’s the time of year for it so I shouldn’t be surprised but I had to skirt around or through three different construction sites in Hamilton alone this morning.  I also took Melvin Road going east a few blocks.  Turns out Melvin is a busy road with a rough surface and a crappy, bumpy shoulder…even though it’s supposedly a bike route….so I wouldn’t take it again by choice.

Aside from that, it was a great ride.  As you can see on the map, I made a few stops in Burlington…headed to Brant Cycle to buy sunglasses and met a friend for lunch…I also avoided the Spring Hill/Valley Inn Road hill today…by that point, I was really feeling it.  I think stopping for lunch gave my leg muscles a chance to take a breath and say “WTF?” LoL.

Anyway, this route shall be attempted again.  I already have another route in mind…for those who know Hamilton, I’m thinking I will take Lawrence (which runs behind Gage Park) to its end, near the Red Hill Creek Parkway.  Apparently there are a few access points to the Red Hill Creek Recreational Trail around there.

And, as a sidenote, that is a trail I’ve been trying to check out.  A couple of days ago, I biked up the escarpment along the Rail Trail to Albion Falls and planned to use the Red Hill Creek trail to head back down….but I couldn’t find it.  I spent 45 minutes searching for it, asked 6 people …fail.  Perhaps attacking it from the mid-point at Lawrence would be more successful.

Anyway, that’s the future plan, even though today’s route was quite good and straightforward.

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! 🙂

Cycling the Chedoke Radial Trail, Hamilton ON – Well, a bit of it!

This morning I decided to go and cycle along the Chedoke Radial Trail in Hamilton.  I recently discovered that the starting point is quite near my apartment so I figured I would go for a short ride to check it out.  I rode 2km to the starting point and 3km further along the trail…so roughly 10km total back home again.  You can see the route I took HERE.

It was a good workout as heading west on the trail is all uphill.  It’s a gradual incline, so not overly steep or anything, but steep enough that I was winded.  Coming back on the other hand, was awesome!  Coasted most of the way and took pictures of scenery I had seen on my way up.

I hadn’t been able to find much in the way of pictures so I had no idea what the trail would be like.  As a result, I have included a number of shots below (including one for you, B!), so people can see the path quality and know what to expect.  There were many people on the trail, at least more than I expected to see on a Sunday morning.  So many were friendly, greeting me with smiles and ‘good mornings’, I couldn’t help but fall into line and start greeting everyone as well! 🙂

I stopped to chat with a few different people, asking about the trail, how far it goes, etc.  I even took a moment to get a shot of Lady, who I think was having more fun than the rest of us!

A proud Lady...bath bound 🙂

So, onto the sights…..The first couple of pictures are where I decided to stop and turn back….

Shot from the lookout where I took a break

Some random shots of the path I took on the way back down…

During the initial kilometer or two, you cross the Chedoke Golf Course.  I assume I would see rolling hills on one side…well manicured lawns and wee flags off in the distance….which I did see….

Chedoke Golf Course

But I also saw wee flags on the *other* side of the trail….

…and my first thought was “Isn’t that dangerous?  I wonder if anyone has ever been hit.”  On the way back down, I came across this sign which says it all…

That suggests to me that Yep, someone has been hit before.  I mean, no one thinks to put these signs until it happens, right? 😉

At that point, my second thought was…”Caution?  How does one avoid a golf ball barreling towards their head at 90 miles an hour?  You’d be whacked before you even heard FORE!!!”

So, needless to say…heed the sign people…be ‘cautious’.

I also came across some lovely fungus…B, this is for you!!

For you, Lovely!

As well as some unexpected, albeit seemingly man-made, waterfalls.

Finally, I have to introduce you all to the lovely booby-trapped Fountain of Doom!

The Fountain of Doom

To get to the start of the trail, I headed to Dundurn St and biked towards the escarpment.  I was told I would find the trail marker at the end of the street.  Which I did.  Unfortunately, the trail began at the top of a hill…a small hill…tiny hill…that kicked my ass….the teeny-tiny Hill of Doom as it shall be called from here on out.

It forced me into my lowest gears and as I approached the top (wow, it sounds like an actual hill but if I had a picture, you’d see it’s simply a bump in the road…more a speed bump than a hill….lol) I saw a fountain and someone drinking from it.

Excellent! I thought.  I was out of breath, a little tired, and that fountain was a holy grail…the Snickers bar at the end of a marathon! 😉  What I didn’t know was that the fountain is ready to defend itself against the likes of me …

Fountain of Doom spreading its doominess across the land!

A spritz of water about two feet long shot out of that fountain like an unexpected fart (it made a weird noise, okay?) and I almost fell backwards!  (I didn’t…I said *almost*!)  There are benches nearby and you just *know* that people have sat there to have a good laugh.  I know I would! *wink*

Anyway, outside of Killer Golf balls and Fountains of Doom…the trail is spectacular.  I look forward to following it further next time as it actually goes for quite a while…over 30km if I recall correctly.  Definitely go for a jaunt if you’re in the area.  It’s worth it!

Cheers!