As we set off down the trail, under a tall green canopy of mature maples and deciduous trees, the melodious song of a Wood Thrush accompanied us. An American Redstart gave its short, enthusiastic greeting from a nearby shrub, while an American Robin and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak attempted to out-sing each other.
When we left the trail head in Inglewood on the Caledon Trailway Path we saw signs warning that a bridge would be closed for construction in the following stretch, so we were relieved to find the first bridge standing intact. Encouraged by this, we continued on across a second flat wooden bridge over a small, muddy stream.
On the far side of the bridge we found ourselves in the Ken Whillans Resource Management Area. This 217 acre property is managed by the Credit Valley Conservation Authority, primarily for the conservation of fish and wildlife habitat, and for flood management and control. It offers opportunities for anglers to catch bass, perch, and stocked trout. It also supports large tracts of mature forest, and several marshes. Walking through it, we felt like we were in a beautiful green oasis.
When we reached hwy 10 we found another trail closure sign, but the span of dates on this one included today. Oops. As we crossed a very impressive metal pedestrian bridge over hwy 10 we looked down on the five lanes of traffic and felt like we were crossing a freeway. We realized that if the trail ahead was impassable the only choice would be to walk the edge of that road around to the next concession. That seemed like it would not only be extremely hot, but also incredibly dangerous and potentially illegal.
Unfortunately, the trail closure sign was accurate, and there was indeed a bridge out. It was all the way out - as in non-existant. We would encourage everyone to respect trail closures, and to refrain from fording streams where bridges are out, both for your own safety and the protection of the environment. Especially if the river in question has about two feet or more of soft mud on the bottom, and you are carrying a lot of gear. Most especially if you drove your car to the trail and can easily drive around the trail closure. Going around is always the correct and responsible course of action, and what we would recommend. We will skip over what happened next, except to say say that we did not end up walking the shoulder of hwy 10, and that we have some pretty smelly mud in places it may never leave, in addition to Sean loosing his Keen Sandals to the muddy beyond.
When we reached the next concession we came across the beginnings of a race organized by the Canadian Cross Training Club. This club runs triathlon and decathlon events in Caledon, Ontario, which is home to many of Canada's top triathletes. They were running physically distanced start times, and as we hiked we saw different markers for sprinters, Olympic runners, and long-distance events. It was clear from the group of cyclists and runners that these were very serious athletes.
We felt very spoiled as we made our way along the forested trail. At one point we stopped beside a lovely cattail marsh to watch a Green Heron hunched on a snag out in the water. A small group of Mallards paddled in the duckweed below, and an Eastern Kingbird perched on a wire. The soft coos of Mourning Doves filled the air. A little farther along we spotted a small Great Blue Heron standing on a log out on the marsh. Every inch of the bird was focused with complete attention on catching a fish. Suddenly he lunged forward .... and slipped off the log! It must have been a youngster, just learning how to fish.
When we reached the communities of Caledon East and Caledon we came to a beautifully landscaped and treed little park at the side of the trail with a Great Trail Pavilion and a small pond nearby. Best of all, the Four Corner's Bakery was located right beside the shady and peaceful park! This European style bakery had a huge selection of baked goods and deli foods, and the outdoor patio was busy with cyclists and other trail users. Sean ventured inside and selected four enormous raspberry and blueberry scones, and two large iced coffees. They were delicious! As we munched in the park we watched a pair of Midland Painted Turtles in the pond.
The Trans Canada Trail Pavilion in Caledon is dedicated to celebrating Canada's trail building heritage. It points out that Indigenous People used waterways and woodland trails for trade and travel. Later, railways linked the Canadian provinces from east to west. The Trans Canada Highway followed, and today this heritage is continued in the Great Trail, the longest recreational trail in the world.
It is also a special pavilion. Although the dream of the Trans Canada Trail was conceived of in Charlottetown, PEI in 1992, the first section of the trail was approved in Caledon, Ontario in 1995, and the first trail Pavilion was built in Caledon in 1996. This was where the first part of that great dream became a reality.
As the trail continued through the community of Caledon, we crossed over Centerville Creek, which is a tributary of the Humber River. We were walking through neighborhoods, beside a large complex of sports fields, and through a park. There was a beautiful wooden boardwalk through a cattail marsh, and there we spotted our second Green Heron of the morning!
As we walked slowly through the inferno-like morning we passed through open, rolling, farmland. Much of the trail had trees on both sides, but with the sun high overhead, and the wide trail verges, there was little shade.
In the early afternoon we walked past Albion Hills Conservation Area. This forested park is set in the rolling Caledon hills, and offers camping, hiking, and mountain biking opportunities for residents of the GTA. This is where I went on my first-ever camping trip with my Grade 4 class. It rained so hard for three days that our tents had about three inches of water in the bottom. I loved it! In later years we camped here while walking the nearby Bruce Trail with our friend Lenora. More good memories.
As we walked the edge of the Conservation Area today we passed an interesting pond where a Great Blue Heron was fishing. A Caspian Tern was hanging out on a small sand bar, and four Killdeer were running around in the muddy banks. The loud songs of a Northern Cardinal could be heard from a nearby hedgerow.
Shortly afterwards we walked through the community of Palgrave. The trail threaded through treed neighborhoods, and past areas with newly built, large houses on properties with large, empty lawns. There is a lot of construction in the towns we are passing through, and it looks like the mansions are marching northwards as the Greater Toronto Area continues to grow and swallow up farmland.
Clouds had been gathering all morning, and as we passed Palgrave a thunderstorm organized itself in front of us. We were very much hoping for a break in the weather, and wouldn't have minded a thorough soaking one bit. There was a lot of thunder, and we could see rain in front of us, but apart from a few patches of shade, the only effect of the storm seemed to be a sharp rise in humidity.
At this point we had to pick up our pace a little, because we were scheduled to meet Carolyn, our host for this evening, and a group of others at a point on the trail about 5 km farther along, and we were running a bit late. We were grateful for the periodic cloud cover as we struggled to make this final push. The last kilometer or so was through a dense corridor of cedars, and almost dark shade they produced seemed all the more beautiful after a day of walking in the sun.
When we crossed under hwy 9 we stopped to chat with two cyclists as we picked up the Humber Valley Heritage Trail. Shortly after this we met Carolyn and her two wonderful beagles, Joy and Winnie on the edge of Tottenham. She had very kindly and thoughtfully brought us cool water with electrolytes, and had volunteered to walk a few kilometers of trail with us.
Carolyn is a talented and enthusiastic nature photographer with an interest in butterflies, moths, and dragonflies among other things. She had a fantastic eye for spotting these beautiful insects everywhere as we hiked, and it was very interesting to learn about them and see how she photographed them as we went. I would have assumed that walking with dogs would make photographing insects more difficult, but together the three of them formed a wonderful team.
As we walked past a beautiful pond on the edge of the Tottenham Conservation Area we spotted a pair of Mute Swans out on the water. A young woodpecker was foraging for insects at the side of the trail, and a small flock of Cedar Waxwings was collecting berries nearby.
When we arrived in Beeton Carolyn gave us a tour of the town, with its lively looking main street, community center, and central park. This is another settlement that is rapidly expanding from a small town surrounded by agriculture to a larger community as it connects to the GO transit system and the GTA.
We were extremely grateful for the cold shower, opportunity to do laundry, and fantastic meal we shared with Carolyn. We also had a chance to meet Stephanie, a member of city council who is a staunch and passionate advocate of the Great Trail and forest conservation in Beeton.
This evening's conversation was another reminder that every single kilometer of this 24,000 km long trail has a story. Beeton and Tottenham are growing as the city expands, and they are facing many of the same challenges encountered by similar communities across the country. As was evident in Toronto, particularly during the covid 19 crisis, people need green spaces. For expanding communities there is an opportunity to incorporate trails and parks into their town plans before development occurs, but it seems there is often resistance to this from developers, farmers, and taxpayers, all of whom have different visions and agendas.
The Great Trail is currently routed on roads between Tottenham and Beeton, even though the town owns the trail right-of-way, and a lot of the bridge infrastructure is in place to support the trail. Learning about the work that passionate volunteers like Carolyn and Stephanie are doing to try to connect the trail, and to create and preserve greenspace in their community is inspiring and mind boggling. Years of sustained work, determination, perseverance, resistance, and passion goes into making this trail. We are grateful for every minute, and every off-road kilometer.