• rouge national urban park mast trail header
    Hiking,  Rouge National Urban Park

    Rouge National Urban Park Mast Trail

    I like to begin this trail at the northern trailhead located near the parking at Twyn Rivers Road. At the east of the Twyn Rivers parking lot, near the creek, there is a sign for The Orchard Trail. Take this trail initially, cross the bridge, and then The Mast Trail is on your left.

    Ship Masts

    I began by walking along a stretch of an old logging trail where White Pine trees were cut down en masse a couple of hundred years ago. The trees grow tall and straight and so they provided ideal timber for ship masts in Europe. There are no longer many mature White Pines remaining.

    twyn rivers bridge

    As the trail turns I saw large concrete slabs washed over by The Little Rouge Creek. These are the remains of a dam, once used to create an opportunity for visitors to swim when this location was a popular resort. Shortly before entering a wooded area, the trail skirts alongside the base of a hill. This was a popular skiing destination during the 1950s through to the 1970s. There was even a chalet here and a ski-lift.

    During the summer, this meadow area can throw up some nice birds. On a previous hike, I was fortunate enough to see a Scarlet Tanager. Less common than the Northern Cardinal, but the males are as brilliantly red. I smiled to myself at this encounter before spotting a bright blue coloured bird hopping around before flying away a short distance. I pulled out my camera and snapped a few shots with my 450mm lens… then I zoomed in on the picture. I had never seen an Indigo Bunting up until this point – as the name suggests, a rich, deep blue little bird. Many butterflies and dragonflies can also be seen here.

    The Hog’s Back

    hairy woodpecker

    The trail then leads into woodland and it is not unusual to hear the deep drumming sound of woodpeckers within the trees. As I climbed the ridge, nicknamed “The Hog’s back” I turned back and saw a Hairy Woodpecker clinging to a maple tree. They use their long tongue to forage for insects hiding beneath the bark and are great fun to watch. The terrain is moderately challenging during this stretch of the trail, especially if you are still working on your fitness and hiking experience.

    american toad

    Through the woodland, I walked along the ridge. Steep declines either side of me, valleys cut into the land by glacial retreat. Squirrels frolicked and fought, chasing each other around-and-around tree trunks vying for territory. I spotted movement beside a fallen log and amongst what remained of last year’s fallen leaves was an American Toad. Surprisingly, Ontario is home to only two species of toad, the other being the Fowler’s Toad which is considered an endangered species in Canada.

    After a stretch of mixed deciduous and coniferous woodland, with many maple trees that make this walk quite colourful during the fall, “The Staircase” leads partway back down the ridge followed by another smaller descent. After opening up for a while, I crossed a bridge over The Rouge River before reaching the Southern Trail Head at Glen Rouge Campground. Time to head back!

    Conclusion

    Terrain: Moderate-to-Hard
    Length: 2.5km
    Type: Point-to-Point

    Views: Not bad, but a fair bit of tree cover.
    Nature/Wildlife: Lots of Sugar maples which look great in the fall. Fair birding, especially woodpeckers.

    Overall: If you’re looking to work your heart rate, this is a more challenging trail and you’ll enjoy a couple of the climbs. If you are looking for nice panoramic views, some nature, or you just want something more leisurely, I’d recommend The Vista Trail or The Orchard Trail (or both together which creates a loop).

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  • virtual walk across canada brithikesontario
    Hiking,  Virtual Walk Across Canada

    Virtual Walk Across Canada Update 06

    I challenged myself to “virtually” walk across Canada during 2020 – I keep track of how far I walk every day and plot this against a map of Canada. Read more here.

    I didn’t do an update last week, so the progress I have made covers two weeks worth of distance. Also, going forward, I am only going to update my progress on this “Virtual Walk” every month. This is mainly because I hope to do some REAL hikes and better spend my time writing about those!

    In the last two weeks I walked 237km (118km a week, 17km per day). This is a little lower than I was doing because I’m walking a touch less at work, but is better than it would have been because I did some hiking of The Bruce Trail for fun one weekend.

    Here is a zoomed out view of my progress across Canada so far.

    I’m a few km east of Cranbrook, BC and by the next update I should be getting close to Calgary, Alberta.

  • bruce trail welland canal brithikesontario
    Bruce Trail,  Hiking

    Bruce Trail 02b – Welland Canal

    A Year later

    Somehow it has been more than a year since I last visited The Bruce Trail. Perhaps an explanation of my personal circumstances might be in order, especially since, if you read the introduction to this adventure on my main Bruce Trail page, I talked about the issue of mental health.

    After losing a much-loved job and promising career a few years ago I have had, to put it mildly, a hard time of things. The great news, which I eluded to at the end of the previous hike, is that I have found a new job that I greatly enjoy. Despite this good news, and with consideration to what I am able to reveal here, let’s just say that an unexpected and fraught situation towards the end of 2019 had led to a bit of a mental health relapse that also kept me away from this adventure.

    However! I am back and am feeling better than I have for what seems like a very long time. Years, in fact. I’m also considerably fitter. I have lost around 35lbs since I started this adventure. So let’s kick the shit out of this trail, yeah?

    Driving back along the highways familiar to my previous trip last winter, I parked up at Woodend Conservation area and walked a little way to where I last left off at the 11.8km point. Once more, the trail follows the high ridge of The Niagara Escarpment and likes to punish you by occasionally weaving down into the valley before making you climb right the hell back up again. It arcs around the Welland Campus of Niagara College (where you might like to enroll in a course in wine production). Today is Saturday and nobody else was foolish enough to be outdoors in these temperatures.

    This winter, like last, has been relatively warm. This morning was just below freezing with the promise of temperatures rising to around 8°C. The ground was hard and icy where freeze and thaw cycles had melted the snow before re-freezing. I stepped around what I could and waddled over what I couldn’t. Around 3km later, the trail crosses Taylor Road which was thankfully quiet enough that I could safely traverse.

    Next up, we are given permission to travel through Royal Niagara Golf Club. Everyone in the region was sensible enough not to be playing golf today, so I had the place to myself aside from a couple of ladies who I passed heading in the opposite direction along the trail. It was very icy here with the occasional narrow boardwalk. At this time of year, most plants and deciduous trees are bare. A few black coloured berries from Common Buckthorn grew either side of the trail. They are toxic to most animals, including humans. Birds avoid them until they are ripe. Vines of Oriental Bittersweet were also present. This plant is poisonous, but some medium-sized omnivore had given it a go judging by the remains visible in the nearby scat. I’ll save you the photos.

    Skirting the perimeter of the golf course, the trail emerges upon The Old Welland Canal, also known as the Third Welland Canal. When built, this canal would connect two of The Great Lakes, Lake Ontario (which is fed by the St Lawrence River) and Lake Erie to replace earlier versions of the canal and upgrade an important shipping route. Lake Ontario already fed naturally into Lake Erie via The Niagara River, but there was the not-so-small matter of Niagara Falls being in the way. The 3rd iteration of the canal was completed in 1887. Turning left, I walked a short distance along Glendale Avenue until I reached The Fourth Welland Canal, known officially as The Welland Ship Canal, which opened in 1932 and is active today. Well, not literally. It closes late December until late March.

    I crossed The Welland Ship Canal via Glendale Bridge. The entire bridge is raised by two crane-like structures when a ship is passing through. Around 3,000 ships pass through the canal each year, from tankers to pleasure craft. It is 43km (27mi) long and has 8 locks. The difference in elevation along the length of the canal is 326ft. This is where I decided to stop. There is parking here where I could pick the trail up again and the next parking isn’t for another 6km (don’t forget I have to walk back each time!). There was also an inviting bench where I sat and ate some lunch until the windchill became a little too much.

    On the ice, I had lost my footing but saved myself a few times, legs flitting around like a newborn deer. In the golf course I went crashing to the ground and gave my knee a good bang, but managed to roll around gracefully before looking around urgently to see if anyone had seen me. They hadn’t. Today I hiked a measly 6.4km (and back!!!) and I have completed 18.2km of The Bruce Trail. Just over 2%. Oh dear!

    Until next time!

    The Bruce Trail Index

  • virtual walk across canada brithikesontario
    Hiking,  Virtual Walk Across Canada

    Virtual Walk Across Canada Update 05

    I challenged myself to “virtually” walk across Canada during 2020 – I keep track of how far I walk every day and plot this against a map of Canada. Read more here.

    A second week in a row with better distance, I moved 122km (compared to 124km the previous week). Still a bit short of the 25km per day I need (I’m doing about 18km per day), but better than when I started.

    I got a little less walking in at work than the previous week, but did a quick 8km hike on Saturday afternoon to make up some of the gap.

    As you can see from the map, I’ve put some distance between myself and Vancouver and am now just about through The Rockies. I’m just past Skagit Valley Provincial Park. I’m roughly 1/4 of the way to Alberta and about 4% of the way across Canada.

  • virtual walk across canada brithikesontario
    Hiking,  Virtual Walk Across Canada

    Virtual Walk Across Canada Update 04

    I challenged myself to “virtually” walk across Canada during 2020 – I keep track of how far I walk every day and plot this against a map of Canada. Read more here.

    As anticipated, I walked a much greater distance this past week. I managed about 124km. Pretty good. That’s more in one week than I had done in the previous three combined. Although it’s about 18km per day average, which is less than the 25km per day average I need to make it across Canada in a year.

    As you can see from the map, I have bust it from the Abbotsford and Chilliwack area and am now a little south of a place called Hope. I’ve almost made it past The Rockies. I am now about 2% through the route having completed a total of 216km. I should reach Alberta sometime in late February.

  • virtual walk across canada brithikesontario
    Hiking,  Virtual Walk Across Canada

    Virtual Walk Across Canada Update 03

    I challenged myself to “virtually” walk across Canada during 2020 – I keep track of how far I walk every day and plot this against a map of Canada. Read more here.

    It is week three and I have had another fairly inactive week mainly due to some sedate activities at work and the rough snowy weather on the weekends. I’m confident that I’ll make a ton more progress starting with the next update, but until then, let’s just get this out of the way!

    I did just under 38km last week – well below target. I went to the gym a couple of times, else it would have been worse! Not sure if the gym will continue (I’m not a fully paid-up member), but I may not need it as my work is (normally) highly active.

    Anyway, as you can see from the map, I am about halfway between Abbotsford and Chilliwack.

    I don’t want to keep being negative, but this is definitely further behind than I had hoped… Maybe I will be able to catch up? The next update will give a good idea about that. Until then!

  • virtual walk across canada brithikesontario
    Hiking,  Virtual Walk Across Canada

    Virtual Walk Across Canada Update 02

    I challenged myself to “virtually” walk across Canada during 2020 – I keep track of how far I walk every day and plot this against a map of Canada. Read more here.

    In the last update, I had made it from Vancouver to Surrey – about 21km during a short week of 4 days, as the year began on a Wednesday. That’s about 5km per day instead of the 25km per day I need.

    This second update covers Jan 5th – Jan 11th. I managed 44km in 7 days, about 6km per day. Not really close to what I need and I’m falling behind. Maybe this will turn into a two-year challenge!

    The main challenge I have faced is that my assignment at work is a lot less physical than usual. Typically I would walk 20,000-30,000 steps per day, but I am working in a set area and doing only about 5,000 steps per day. That should change in a couple of weeks time. This week went a little better mainly because I have started to accompany a friend and old work colleague to the gym where we do some speed-walking, among other things. I’m going along on a free trial and trying to decide whether I will pay the typically expensive membership fee to keep going!

    Anyway, I have made it far enough to no longer be inside the “Metro Vancouver Area”, the border of which lies a little east of Langley City, BC. As you can see from the updated map below, I am just on the edge of Abbotsford. This will be my first city that isn’t part of the Metro Vancouver Area. The route I am taking is borrowed from a website that makes it easy to track my progress, but the route is a little odd and I cannot change it – so for the next little while it looks like I am walking through random forest! It means that I won’t hit another community until Keremeos, a little village in a valley with a population of 1,500.

  • virtual walk across canada brithikesontario
    Hiking,  Virtual Walk Across Canada

    Virtual Walk Across Canada Update 01

    I challenged myself to “virtually” walk across Canada during 2020 – I keep track of how far I walk every day and plot this against a map of Canada. Read more here.

    This first week is a partial week because January 1st fell on a Wednesday, so it is a 4-day-week. Even so, it hasn’t gone well so far. The route I planned is 8,871km and I would need around 25km a day to make it. Sadly, I came absolutely nowhere close to this. In fact, I only did 21km across 4 days. Eeek.

    map01

    As you can see from the map, I am still in the suburbs of Vancouver, not yet even into Surrey.

    My work usually involves a ton of walking but that hasn’t been the case lately. And I don’t expect much distance for the next couple of weeks, either. Oh dear! Maybe things will improve once the weather warms because I’m not getting out much in my spare time, either.

    It’s likely I might have to alter the route to make it more direct (there’s a couple of extra thousand extra KM on the route I mapped to visit Nova Scotia, for example). Either way, I need to pick it up before the challenge gets away from me. See below for the overview map.

  • virtual walk across canada brithikesontario
    Hiking,  Virtual Walk Across Canada

    Virtual Walk Across Canada

    It’s the start of a new year and a new decade today, Jan 1st 2020. I’m not usually one for new year’s resolutions, probably because I know that the things I ought to do around improving health, or not biting my nails, are destined to fail.

    But I am pretty good at walking more than the average person. It’s tough to find the time to take on challenges at particular places – I wanted to tackle The Bruce Trail, but work makes it tough to get out to the trail. I still intend to pick that up, eventually.

    In the meantime, I thought it might be cool to see if I could walk across Canada “virtually”. Obviously I don’t have a spare six months to do it in person, but I could take the distance I walk each day for all of 2020, and plot it on a map.

    The route I will take will not be a simple straight line, but will roughly follow the route of the Trans-Canada Highway. This adds a fairly significant distance, but is more realistic.

    a walk across canada map

    The route is 8,871km (5,512 miles) and I’ll start on the West coast in Vancouver, British Columbia. I will head East through The Rockies, into Calgary in the province of Alberta, Regina in Saskatchewan, Winnipeg in Manitoba and then into my home province of Ontario. Adding considerable distance, The Trans-Canada Highway heads south into Toronto before heading to the capital, Ottawa. Into Quebec next and Montreal and Quebec City. In New Brunswick I will visit Fredricton and Saint John. Adding a ton more distance, I will diverge from the Trans-Canada to cross The Bay of Fundy so that I can hit Nova Scotia which would otherwise be missed. I’ll swing through Halifax, then head back North through Truro. Back in New Brunswick I’ll follow Highway 11 until I’m back in Quebec. At Matane, I’ll cross the St Lawrence river and finally head back east for a long walk to the border with Newfoundland and Labrador. At Blanc-Sablon I will cross The Gulf of St Lawrence into Newfoundland at Sainte Barb. Via Highway 430, I’ll rejoin The Trans-Canada at Deer Lake to Gander, Conception Bay and finally St John’s.

    Walking aggressively across Canada via a more direct route (about 6100km) takes about 150 days. Driving non-stop takes about 160 hours (7 days).

    I will try to do it in 366 days (it is a leap year). I will need to walk an average of about 25km every day, which I think will be tough, especially if I am sick at any point. My fitbit will log my steps which I will use to plot my progress and I’ll try to update about once per week.

    Updates:
  • red-winged blackbird dive bombing
    Birds

    Dive Bombing Red-winged Blackbirds

    It seems like every year Toronto based media gets into a tizzy about Red-winged Blackbirds attacking residents, with Liberty Village being the 2019 aerial attack hotspot.

    BlogTO says a Blackbird is “terrorizing” the neighbourhood, as yellow police tape cordons off the area. In 2018, CTV News described the birds as a “menace” in their headline about a spate of “attacks”. Some city parks display signs that warn visitors that birds may exhibit aggressive behaviour after a number of people whinged to the 311 city helpline.

    So what is going on?

    Quite simply, Red-winged Blackbird survival and success is reliant upon the territory that they claim. As is the fate with many animals, humans are responsible for removing an ever-increasing amount of habitat.

    In the northern reaches of their range (which would include Canada), these birds are migratory. To avoid our winter conditions they will travel south. They will return to Canada in time for Spring, but the males and females will generally arrive at different times.

    Most people are familiar with the males which are all black in colour save for their red and yellow patches, called epaulets, on their wings. The female (pictured) is a pattern of light and mostly darker browns. She is less territorial and therefore less conspicuous.

    The males arrive first, around early-to-mid March in the Toronto area. A few weeks later, the females will begin arriving and they will be looking for a mate. One of the main criteria for selecting a male is the territory that male has secured during those early weeks. These birds are polygynous and so a male Red-winged Blackbird who is able to defend a good piece of territory may have the opportunity to mate with up to 10 females who are somewhat loyal to him.

    Red-winged Blackbirds prefer wetlands and marshes, where they nest amongst Cattails and rushes. Next time you are dive-bombed by a Red-Winged Blackbird, it might be worth asking yourself a couple of questions:

    Where have all the wetlands and marshes have gone?
    and….
    Where are those 10 lucky females?

    Want more articles like this? Want me to write about more hiking adventures and travels through Ontario?

    Angry Bird Red-winged Blackbird Greeting Card by BritHikesOntario

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