A writer's journal and photography blog documenting 900km of hiking End-to-End on the Bruce Trail from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Tobermory, Canada
Hamilton is such a difficult part of the Bruce Trail to write about. Especially this stretch, which hugs the escarpment from the Red Hill Valley Parkway in the industrialized east, to The King’s Highway 403 in the west, through what is surely the most urban section of the entire trail from Niagara to Tobermory. It is difficult, because there’s no easy way to reconcile the two vastly different vistas that greet you as you look out from the escarpment trail.
The fact is, I can’t reconcile them, and I’m not going to try. These vistas are the reality of what happens when an industrial economy develops in a unique and ecologically sensitive natural area. Think Ayn Rand married to Roger Tory Peterson. Yes, it would have been a disaster, and it almost was, but local people in the Cities of Hamilton and Burlington, and organizations like the Hamilton Conservation Authority, the Bruce Trail Conservancy, The Hamilton Naturalists Club, the Royal Botanical Gardens, the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark, the Giant’s Rib Discovery Centre, and many more, have fought long and hard to preserve, restore, and protect the natural wonder that now surrounds steel town. As industry recedes – which it inevitably will – that good fight will make this area one of the most desirable places to live in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area.
Our hikes — we split this walk in two because of the terrible July 20th humidity, which left me depleted in Sam Lawrence Park, soaked head to toe in sweat and crankier than a Shih Tzu in a rainstorm — threw these contrasts up at us along every step of our route. The hulking concrete overpass of the Red Hill Valley Parkway is softened by cattails, Queen Anne’s Lace, Teasle and Canada Thistle around the storm water ponds below the bridge. The noise of speeding cars is in healthy competition with the flow of water over Albion Falls and down Red Hill Creek. Church steeples and roof tops in the city jockey for position under a vast and healthy tree canopy. The fairway of Chedoke Golf Course Hole 17 butts up against a wall of rare Carolinian forest. The great basilica of the Cathedral of Christ the King claims dominion over the natural wetlands of Cootes Paradise in the background.
At one point, midway through our hike, where the Bruce Trail spit us out above Arkeldun Avenue along a tiny ridge sandwiched between the Jolly Cut and the Claremont Access, I recognized how important the Bruce Trail, the local Rail Trails, and the various sets of Escarpment staircases are in all of this. They bring it all together, ensuring a connectedness for people between the pockets of natural space throughout the city, much in the way that a wildlife corridor ensures the safe passage of animals through the sprawl of suburbia and urban development. I wonder if the founders of the Bruce Trail Conservancy knew in 1964 how precious that might be for people in Hamilton in 2014.
One last word about our hike today. Since it’s officially August, and we’re participating in the Bruce Trail’s Hike-a-Thon fundraiser, we’re logging our mileage from today as 5.5km. Throughout August, we’ll be hiking in support of this fundraising initiative, and encourage our friends and blog readers to sponsor our hikes. Sponsoring us will help the BTC meet its 50th Anniversary goal to secure, steward and make available to the public 5,000 additional acres of Niagara Escarpment landscape containing the Bruce Trail by 2017. Click the image above to visit our donation page. We only need an additional $50.00 to reach our fundraising target.
Until next time, Happy Trails! Louise & Ian