Monday, August 31, 2009

Cycling: Canada's Wonderland

After the Tour of Toronto, I got to thinking that I'd done very little cycling outside the city's boundarys (except along the lake towards Hamilton), and started wondering what the trails were like north of Steeles.

During the Toronto Tour, I came across a sign for the Bartley Smith Greenway, which seemed a good place to start. The trail runs north from Steeles directly across from G. Ross Lord Park, which I'd only biked through once before, so it seemed a good place to start. Using Google Earth, I eyeballed where the trails went and how they connected -- or how to get between them if they didn't connect -- and put together a route that ran north from about the 401/Allen Expresssway interchange all the way up to Canada's Wonderland, then south again by way of Black Creek and the Humber River.

I ended up tweeting the ride again, though without as many photos as the Toronto tour:

11:15 AM Aug 30th: Trying a new cycling route. Let's see how this goes...

The first part of the ride was very familiar: up through Rosedale then along the Belt Line Trail to the Allen Expressway. North from the Allen was moderately familiar -- there isn't really a bike trail there, so it's all residential streets.

12:11 PM Aug 30th: Ok, reached the new part of the route. Time to not get myself lost.

Now I was at Baycrest Park, which I hadn't ridden through before. This was supposed to connect to a series of valley trails that would take me up to G. Ross Lord Park.

12:39 PM Aug 30th: First time through Earl Bales park. Really nice trail - well forested.

This was a great trail. I wish the Don Valley and Rosedale Golf Clubs didn't keep this trail from connecting to the West Don. That'd be a great route.

12:57 PM Aug 30th: Note to self: next time, don't use the trail behind the Jewish Centre on the West Don to get out of the valley...

First big mistake in the plan. Google Earth shows a trail behind the Jewish Community Centre of Toronto on Bathrust. Well, the trail is there... But it runs up a steep climb and is paved entirely with coarse gravel. Completely unmanagable on my recumbent. I ended up walking that climb.

1:18 PM Aug 30th: This is not that helpful:

This is Not That Helpful

This is in G. Ross Lord Park, which has great wooded trails. I have no idea what it's supposed to be warning against.

1:19 PM Aug 30th: This is, though:

This Is Helpful

I didn't see any, though.

1:26 PM Aug 30th: Great creek-side trail in G. Ross Lord park:

G. Ros Lord Park

After a stretch in the woods, the trail moves to a wide-open flood plain. This trip largely alternated between woods, meadows, and streets, in a pretty nice balance.

1:32 PM Aug 30th: Last time I was here, I said I'd have to investigate. So, time to do so!

Time To Investigate

The sign for the Bartley Smith Greenway that I saw during the Tour of Toronto ride. This marks the start of my first real ride north of Steeles (as opposed to those short jaunts into parking lots to grab lunch with in 100m of the street).

1:50 PM Aug 30th: Nice trail:

Nice Trail

The Greenway didn't disappoint, except for being too short. It only ran maybe half a kilometer on a diagonal from Steeles to Dufferin. Fortunately, other trails picked up where it left off. On the west side of Dufferin, the trails in Marita Paine Park and Geln Shields Park actually have tunnels running under the suburban roads so that pedestrians and cyclist barely have to worry about traffic at all.

1:52 PM Aug 30th: First time biking past the 407:

First Time Biking Past the 407

My prefered way of crossing a major freeway on a bike: along a dedciated path underneath.

2:11 PM Aug 30th: This looks less overgrown on Google Earth:

This Looks Less Overgrown on Google Earth

The second major failure in the plan: this looks like a paved path on Google Earth. It's the winding path that runs up between the trees in this view:

It turns out it's kind of abandoned. I could follow the trail for about 200m, but eventually it was so badly overgrown -- and so infested with mosquitos -- that I picked up my bike and hauled it straight through the trees. I just happened to meet the fece for the lot behind the big rectangular building on Basaltic at a point where it was partly collapsed, and I could get the bike over it. Unfortunately, I discovered later that I broke my bell in the process...

2:23 PM Aug 30th: Note to self: when planning a ride using Google Earth, remember that some roads might not exist anymore...

This is important to remember.

2:39 PM Aug 30th: Odd little house:

Odd Little House

All I know about this house is that it's behind a fence at the east end of a wooded area called Cromwell Park.

3:07 PM Aug 30th: Reached the north end of the ride. It's downhill from here!

Reached the North End of the Ride

Actually, this is slightly south of the northernmost end of the ride. But it's the official terminus.

From Canada's Wonderland, I just took Creditstone Road south all the way to the 407. Normally, I'm not that fond of riding on suburban industrial roads, but Sunday was very nicely overcast, which took care of my biggest gripe -- the lack of shade. Throw in almost no traffic and a slight downhill grade, and I just zipped along.

3:44 PM Aug 30th: Crossing 407 again.

Crossing 407 Again

My least favourite way of crossing a major freeway on a bike: on a busy overpasss with a strong cros-wind.

3:53 PM Aug 30th: Back in Toronto: Black Creek Pioneer Village cemetery.

Black Creek Pioneer Village Cemetery

I realized a little after this that I should have gone along Steeles for a block and into the Black Creek valley from Murray Ross Parkway, rather than down Jane to Shoreham. Oh well, next time.

4:12 PM Aug 30th: Another great creek trail: Black Creek

Black Creek Trail

Yet again another great wooded trail. My only gripe with Black Creek -- and it applies to a number of other ravine trails in Toronto -- is that there are a number of places where you have to climb a steep grade up to a busy road, get across, and ride down a steep grade on the other side. A tunnel would be much more convenient -- and safer.

4:32 PM Aug 30th: Nasty climb:

Nasty Climb

This is the climb from Downsview Dells Park to Langholm Drive, but the picture doesn't do it justice. For starters, the first 50m of the trail from the Downsview Dells parking lot isn't paved -- it's practically marsh. Unridable. Then the climb out of the park is a killer.

4:39 PM Aug 30th: A nice, short trail between cul-de-sacs: Giovanni Caboto Park

Giovanni Cabotto Park

I'd never ridden this park before. Google Maps labels this Tavistock Park at the start, then Exbury Park further down, though the sign across from where I entered said Giovanni Cabotto. Whatever the name is, it's a nice ride, though, again, only a few hundred meters long. You come out of the woods and connect to the Heathrow and Chalfkarm Greenbelts, which are trails through standard, open parks.

5:14 PM Aug 30th: I always have trouble spotting this entrance to the Humber trail:

I Always Have Trouble Spotting This Entrance

On the Humber, you can get from Steeles to the lake entirely on paved multi-use paths, except for a 600m stretch from Fairglen Crescent to Conron Place. A combination of a steep cliff on the east bank and the Weston Golf & Country Club on the west bank has prevented the city connecting the two sections.

5:23 PM Aug 30th: The remains of Raymore Bridge, destroyed in 1954 by Hurricane Hazel, along with many valley houses:

The Remains of Raymore Bridge

This is one of my favourite "sculptures" in Toronto. It's one of the anchor blocks of the Raymore Bridge, yanks halfway out of the ground by Hurricane Hazel in 1954. The block has been etched with a drawing of the original bridge on the long side (on the right in the photo), and has had reproductions of newspaper front pages from the aftermath mounted on the short side.

Before Hazel, this flood plain had been built up with several houses. The rain from the storm raised rivers' water level by as much as eight meters, and 14 homes in this area were washed away. 81 Canadians were killed by the hurricane, and 35 of those lived just across the river from this marker, where the Raymore Bridge used to go.

After Hazel, Toronto banned building on the flood plains, which is one of the reasons why we have these great ravine parks today.

5:48 PM Aug 30th: Speaking of storms...

Speaking Of Storms

A tree knocked over in one of the recent thunderstorms, possibly the one that spawned all the tornadoes across southwestern Ontario.

5:49 PM Aug 30th: One tree knocked down the next:

One Tree Knocked Down The Next

On closer inspection, I realized that the tree in the previous photo was actually two trees: the one had fallen on the other.

6:08 PM Aug 30th: The home stretch! Hope I don't run into Caribana this time...

The Home Stretch

I return to the Humber River Bridge -- from here on home, I'm practically coasting.

6:56 PM Aug 30th: All done! ~95 km, not a bad ride.

And here's the whole thing. I'm trying out an online service called "MapMyRide" for sharing my rides. It's pretty good, but ad-heavy unless you spring for the paid membership. We'll see how it works out:

This map gives the length as 86.91km instead of 95km because I trimmed off the ends (so as not to give directions right to my house) and cut out a few wrong turns and dead ends. The "Dirt" markers are the two places where I ran into unpaved trails, and the red mountain marks the muddly climb out of Downsview Dells Park.


Anonymous said...

Google Maps labels this Tavistock Park at the start, then Exbury Park further down, though the sign across from where I entered said Giovanni Cabotto. Whatever the name is, it's a nice ride, though, again, only a few hundred meters long.

Sir, there's an Italian here.

James said...

I've corrected the spelling of "Caboto".