Friday, August 07, 2020

Biking on the Elora Cataract Trailway

You can explore an abandoned rail line turned into a multi-use pathway through nature in Centre Wellington which continues to the Forks of the Credit in Caledon - a 47km journey on a limestone covered railway bed, minus the rails. Centre Wellington includes Elora, Fergus and Belwood which are towns along the Grand River which are always worth a visit and about an 1.5 hours northwest of Toronto. The areas are very touristy and feature some fine limestone buildings, some great stores and restaurants along with the Elora Gore, the Elora Quarry and Lake Belwood. During non covid times you could go to the annual Fergus Truck Show.
Elora is the "most road trippable town in Canada" apparently.

I have passed the trailway often in my travels in the area, but didn't know too much about it. So after visiting their website I found out that it was part of a spur line built in the late 1800s by the Credit Valley Railway. The main line ran between Toronto and Orangeville while the spur line ran from Cataract to Elora. Cataract, which I never knew before, is located at the Forks of the Credit in Caledon and is named after the nearby waterfall. In 1883 the Credit Valley line was merged with the Ontario and Quebec Railway and then leased to the Canadian Pacific Railway and then, just over 100 years later the line was abandoned. Usually abandoned rail lines are offered for sale first to the municipality, then to adjacent land owners, then to any interested party. In this case the land was purchased by two separate Conservation agencies in 1993 - the Credit Valley Conservation Authority and the Grand River Conservation Authority.
Sit on the occasional bench - like this one with a view of the Grand River
With the assistance of the Province of Ontario, private donors and a number of other parties the trail was developed as a public trailway by the Elora Cataract Trailway Association. The trail is also part of the Trans Canada Trail which runs 24,000km between the Pacific, the Altantic and the Arctic Oceans. You can still sponsor some of the trailway if you have some spare cash.

From their website; "A community group, the Elora Cataract Trailway Association, has been working with the two conservation authorities to bring the project to fruition. The goal is to create a greenway or linear park through which people can explore their environment in different ways while, at the same time, encouraging the protection of natural and cultural heritage values."
Follow the trailway signs in Fergus
The Elora Cataract Trailway is free to use and the website has maps of the route along with parking locations. The trailway is about 1.5m wide in most locations, wide enough to have two lanes for biking, hiking or passing. At intersections there are gates with single wide access points, stop signs and street signs so you know where you are. In Fergus the trail takes a break from the old rail line and continues along small town streets - just follow the Elora Cataract Trailway directional signs until you pick up the trail again.
There is a great washroom in Fergus at Forfar Park. The trailway maps also indicate where there are bathrooms along the way

For this trip we wanted to bike to Elora from a point west and chose the start of Lake Belwood which is about 20km away from Elora. There are several free places to park around Smith and Queen Streets as well as a small lot right beside the trail off County Road 26. Plus there are two places in Belwood that sell ice cream, so there is that as well. This route would allow us to check out some of the lake, the Shand Dam that holds back the water that creates the lake (photo at top) is part of the trailway, pass through Fergus and puts us almost into downtown Elora with the Gorge on the far side of the main street. At the Elora Gorge park we could stop for a picnic, then head back to our starting point. Unfortunately for us we hit torrential rain on the way back so we had to pedal fast and spent less time exploring then I had wanted to do.

Monday, July 27, 2020

You Are Loved in the Distillery District

New art installations are in the historic Distillery District with signs that are under the monster spider and other places along with a row of tree stumps painted in white with words and symbols. Many of the old favourites are still in the fun bricky neighbourhood with tourists still venturing to the destination even during the times of Covid.
LOCAL under the Gooderham & Worts Limited overhead crossing
You are loved and others on do not enter signs
Believe, Dream and Relax on stop signs
The row of art trees

And some of the existing artworks that remain.
Kiss blocks
The peace symbol with sunflower decorations

Sunday, July 26, 2020

A smelly river in Rockwood Conservation Area

Go to places during the early openings of relaxed Covid-19 restrictions include nature getaways, with the top destinations being sandy beaches - were the towns don't want you to visit (including keep away from Sauble, Wasaga and Barrie beaches you nasty tourists). In the small town of Rockwood you can check out the beautiful Rockwood Conservation Area.

Views and trails in the park are lovely, you can go above the river or follow along close to the edge of the water along the pothole trail. Unfortunately as you get close to the water all you can smell is a rank, sewage smell. Algae blooms have contributed to the unpleasant odours as it rots and grows mold. We have also recently taken the kayaks to Speed River in Guelph and it too has a lot of algae, however it lacks the ripe garbage smell that overwhelms in Rockwood.
The Grand River Conservation Authority website describes the park as "Towering limestone cliffs, caves and glacial potholes, including one of the world's largest, are a few of the natural wonders at Rockwood. You can view them from hiking trails on both sides of the Eramosa River or in a rented canoe. The park's unique setting makes it a popular location for television shows, movies and photography shoots. The ruins of the Harris & Co. Rockwood Woolen Mill are fun to explore, book for photographs or other group events." The ruins are currently fenced off and cannot be accessed.
The view from the Cedar Ridge Trail


A map of the Pothole Trail

See more of the park after the jump.

Monday, July 13, 2020

The Van Gogh Picture Show in Toronto

The projection of works by the master Van Gogh fill the walls in what was once home of the printing presses for the Toronto Star at 1 Yonge Street. Now the empty space is being used for the immersive Van Gogh experience, split into two spaces - Gallery 1 for walk in viewing and Gallery 2 for a drive-in experience with 52 projectors showing 40 curated images from the catalogue of artist Vincent Van Gogh. The show continues to September 30, 2020.

Basic tickets are purchased by hourly time slot $45 weekend, $40 for a weekday slot. You enter from the main entrance on Yonge Street and exit out onto Queen's Quay and masks are required. The show takes 35 minutes and is on a loop and they let us in earlier than our start time, which probably happens when the show is not sold out. So if you arrive early, see if they will let you in.

The show is stunning. The designers highlight a section of each piece of art, isolated from the overall piece, and have animated portions of the painting. Everything moves and evolves, flashes and fades out in a continuous rotation around the entire, gigantic space. You can watch the sunrise and track across the sky. See a self-portrait with candles on Van Gogh's hat as the flames waver and come to life. You can watch from social distancing circle or climb the stairs to a central lookout for a great overall view.


Van Gogh was a post-impressionist painter who lived from 1852 to 1890 who started painting in his late 20's and cranked out most of his oil paintings in the last two years of his life. Famously the artist is the one that cut his ear off while battling mental illness and committed suicide at 37, poor and suffering from depression. His most known paintings included Starry Night, Sunflowers and his self-portraits. Swirling paint, bold colours and impressive brush strokes seem to be his style that brought him fame after his death. One of the pre-show info screens showed the only picture that he sold during his lifetime while in 1990 one of his works sold for over 100 million dollars.

From the producers, "Visitors will be immersed in Van Gogh’s works — from his sunny landscapes and night scenes, to his portraits and still life paintings. The installation includes the Mangeurs de pommes de terre (The Potato Eaters, 1885), the Nuit étoilée (Starry Night, 1889), Les Tournesols (Sunflowers, 1888), and La Chambre à coucher (The Bedroom, 1889). “Presenting cultural events during this time of COVID-19 is an incredible challenge and we are saddened to see the cultural calendar in Toronto diminished as almost all arts institutions have cancelled their events and laid off their artists and staff,” said co-producer Corey Ross. “We believe in the power of art to uplift, inspire and connect communities; and it is more important than ever to offer a creative outlet for Torontonians to escape and recharge during this unprecedented global crisis.”


Sunday, July 12, 2020

Damaged ship Alanis waits in the Welland Canal

Two ships had a fender bender in the Welland Canal on Saturday, June 11, 2020 - the Alanis and the Florence Spirit. After the captains shared insurance information (?) they were towed to separate locations as officials investigate the crash. Alanis is tied up right around the Robin Hood Flour silos in Port Colborne.

The bright red Alanis is carrying wind turbine parts heading upstream towards a Minnesota destination, Florence Spirit was going downstream with coal to Lake Ontario when they collided near Port Robinson. No environmental impact or injuries have been reported.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Toronto Honda Indy 2020 that could have been

Covid continues to cause loss of lives and impacts to health and while the world starts to open up, in stages, the major events that help shape our lives and our towns and cities remain shuttered. In Toronto all mass participation events and permits with attendance of over 250 people until July 31st and events with attendance more than 25k people are cancelled until the end of August 2020. These restrictions initially postponed the Honda Indy Toronto 2020, then based upon the scheduling of the NTT IndyCar season, the HIT2020 was cancelled. 

If it was a normal year this is the weekend the race would have happened! Setting up the 2.84 km, 11-turn race track and stands would have started early in June and from July 10-12, 2020 Exhibition Place and Lake Shore Boulevard would have been alive with the sounds and smells of high powered race cars and crowds flocking in, beginning with free entrance during Fan Friday in support of Make-A-Wish Canada. Six race series were to take part in the on track action from the top rated NTT IndyCar Series to the high jumping Stadium Super Trucks. Here are the motorsport series that had planned to participate in 2020 as described by HIT:

"The NTT IndyCar Series is the premier open-wheel racing series in the United States. It offers one of the most diverse and challenging schedules in motorsports with races held on ovals, permanent road courses and temporary street courses.

The Lamborghini Super Trofeo is an international motor racing series. Lamborghini Super Trofeo drivers compete in identical Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo Evo cars, based on the Lamborghini Huracán LP 620-2.
The NASCAR Pinty’s Series enters its 13th season and the 4th with entitlement sponsorship from Pinty’s Delicious Foods. The series features 13 events across four Canadian provinces and boasts Canada’s brightest stars and biggest talents, from multi-time champions D.J. Kennington and Andrew Ranger, to notable names like Alex Tagliani and L.P. Dumoulin.

The Road to Indy Presented By Cooper Tires features some of the best up and coming competitors as they try to reach the pinnacle of open-wheel racing America, the NTT IndyCar Series. Boasting over 100 drivers as graduates, the Road to Indy is comprised of three race series including: Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, Indy Pro 2000 Championship presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship.

The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama features semi-professional drivers racing head to head in one of the largest single-make series in North America.

Stadium SUPER Trucks feature identically prepared high-horsepower trucks. The versatile off-road trucks race on virtually any surface, and in 2019 will be featured at IndyCar venues, NASCAR races and other large events that will expose the great sport of off-road racing to the masses."

IndyCar made the decision to start the race season in June with the Genesys 300 at the Texas Motor Speedway. Scott Dixon has claimed victory in the first two races in a field watched by zero fans. This weekend the crew is at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin for a double header and for the first time this year there will be fans in the stands. 

From NTT, “It’s awesome to have the fans back,” said NTT INDYCAR SERIES points leader and five-time series champion Scott Dixon. “There are different periods throughout the weekend that you notice the fans. Without them, it’s like turning up for a test. “Luckily enough for us, we have won, so we miss that portion of it, especially at Indianapolis last weekend. When you get up on that stage for the road course, you typically see thousands of people and what I think would have been an amazing weekend for Xfinity, Cup and that whole combination. “Without fans and our partners, we wouldn’t be able do to what we love. The fans are the biggest part of what we do.” Dixon believes the return of fans the next two weekends, at Road America and Iowa Speedway, is an important step in the 2020 season. He believes INDYCAR has done an outstanding job keeping the paddock isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Trust me, all of us want is to get back to normal, but we have to make sure we do it in a way that doesn’t create any more problems,” Dixon said. Because of that, the INDYCAR paddock will be closed to spectators at Road America and Iowa. In the past, fans could stroll through the area, ride their bicycles or even golf carts and get a close-up look at their racing heroes and a photo or autograph. But several teams and drivers still want to let the fans know how much they are appreciated at Road America and Iowa."

Monday, July 06, 2020

Kilns at the Limehouse Conservation Area

As Ontario starts to open from the Covid-19 precautions one of the safer things you can do is explore the great outdoors and conservation areas are a great place to start. In the GTA you can find the Toronto and Region with places like Black Creek Pioneer Village and Heart Lake Conservation Area, Halton with Crawford Lake and Hilton Falls Conservation Area and Credit Valley with the Elora Cataract Railway and Limehouse Conservation Area.
One of the old kilns is in pretty good shape

Located at 12169 Fifth Line in Limehouse, the Limehouse Conservation Area has a great dose of nature plus bonus features of lime kilns, and a cute rock arch bridge over a babbling brook. Entrance is free and the facilities include a parking lot and at this time, no port-o-potties. The main Bruce Trail cuts through the park (white blazed section) and a Bruce side trail called the Black Creek Trail (blue blazed section).
The main trail takes you past an old mill with the arch bridge, near a restored powder magazine (photo at top), by several old kilns, through a wooden path over a small swampy area and up a broken limestone hill to the 'Hole in the Wall' area. Part of the trail is on the old Toronto Suburban Radial Railway with the long abandoned rails removed.

Industrial activity from the 1800's form the historic appeal of the conservation area. Lime kilns line a section of a limestone hill. Arched caverns, some in perfect condition, were used to fire limestone into quicklime which was used in steel making and also to produce concrete blocks. Limestone and waterfalls helped build the economy along the Niagara Escarpment.
The hill leading to the 'Hole in the Wall'

Doors Open

Scarborough Bluffs

Pride

Redball

Beaches

Graffiti

Lake Ontario

Nathan Phillips Square

Transportation