Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Trail Etiquette, Price Hikes, and Enjoying Nature

One of the reasons I started this blog was to help people enjoy natural places where they live. Hamilton has so much to offer, and for a long time, people didn't really know!

It's safe to say that people know now - and that's really good, most of the time. More people have been out enjoying the beautiful hiking and scenery in and around Hamilton.

Some of this has been controversial. Neighbours around Webster's Falls have had to deal with people having picnics on their lawns, and in an attempt to preserve the fragile landscape, the Hamilton Conservation Authority has significantly raised the price of admission (including a vehicle fee and a per person fee) making the falls inaccessible to many. It's unfortunate,  but something that I think is necessary,  at least for a while, although it's unfortunate that the easiest way to do this is across financial lines.

There has also been an increasing amount of rope rescues, as well as deaths at various waterfall sites.

Our waterfalls are part of a sensitive ecosystem that we need to be aware of, and tread lightly on. In light of the accidents, or near accidents at the falls, it is clear that there is a need for mutual respect. This is a good reminder of how we ought to relate to nature, and how taking care of it also helps us take care of ourselves.

This is a bit of a tough issue for me, because I love being fully immersed into a scene. If I see something beautiful, I want to get as close as possible to it. It's fun to explore, to try something new, or even slightly risky.

I've documented some of my recklessness in this blog. I haven't always stayed on the trail. I've gotten into some tricky situations that could have been dangerous very easily. Part of what makes waterfalls so exciting and beautiful, is just what makes them dangerous: rushing water, rocks, and heights. Part of appreciating nature's beauty is recognizing that, and our place in relation to it. Let's keep being awe-inspired by our waterfalls, but do so with the fullness of knowledge of what it is. It was there before us, and will continue on after us, so let's appreciate it respectfully, and do our best to preserve it for those after us.

Let's take care of ourselves, and the landscape we are privileged to enjoy.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Billy Green Falls and Devil's Punchbowl: New Year's Day Hike

I finally found Billy Green Falls! This is one of those falls that once you know where it is, it is impossible to miss, but my first attempt included wandering up and down the side of the highway without any luck. Hopefully this post helps you avoid being in the same situation!

The thing is, this is a waterfall that is essentially on the side of the highway, so it might not make for an amazing hike if you are looking for something longer, or to have a quiet moment to yourself. But it is nice to have the juxtaposition of trucks, buses, and snow ploughs barreling by while you are enjoying your secret, quite sizeable waterfall!

This is where the trail starts! If you are walking onto a trail and don't see a waterfall in 2 seconds, it's the wrong trail!
Luckily, there are some other waterfalls in this same neighbourhood, so even if you just park and hop out, you can still get a good amount of outdoor-walking-around-time in. I'm sure there is a way to get from other falls like Felker's or Albion Falls to Billy Green (and then on to the Devil's Punch Bowl) using the Red Hill Valley Trail, but I am not super familiar with that trail.

In fact, the first time I was trying to find Billy Green, I thought it was past a trailhead for the Red Hill Valley Trail, which was down the street on Centennial Parkway. So you could exit out there, and then walk up the street.

The best bloggers use Paint
The place where I was wrongfully searching is a good place to park though, if you are comfortable pulling off of the highway. I brought my Dad and husband Jesse to find this waterfall, and we parked on the side of Ridge Road, just past where it meets Hwy 20/Centennial Parkway. Either way, you'll be walking on the side of a highway.

First glimpse!
I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it was a lot more scenic than I thought! And it's around a corner, so you do have a little pocket of nature to yourself.

My Dad and I

Jesse being adventurous
Photo Credit: My Dad, among some other photos in this post
Jesse for scale
For once I was too uncertain to brave the ice and rocks - thanks Jesse for these closeups!

                                       The short, but rocky path.                     

 Since we parked pretty much around the corner from the Devil's Punchbowl we made a quick pit stop there as well. You can find more detailed directions or hiking info here.

Back into the world
I've often been to the Devil's Punchbowl to see it trickle down, but this visit was the most water I've seen on it in a long time! If you haven't had a chance to see it really flow, winter is a good time for that (at least before it freezes!)

winter happiness
 Bonus view of a beautiful city!

If you are looking to piece together a hike with other waterfalls, this might be a helpful link! It has the main Red Hill Valley Trail starting around Albion Falls, and if you follow that swath of trees right you will see Felker's, Billy Green, and Devil's Punchbowl. I have yet to fully explore how they are connected though! Happy winter hiking!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Dundas Falls

I'm a little hesitant for this post, since there is a big no trespassing sign at the top of Dundas Falls, and if you were to trespass it would actually be a little bit dangerous... so I'll just start this by saying I'm not endorsing climbing up around there at all. You can get a bit of a view by peeking your head in at the bottom, and you should probably not take kids here. With that out of the way, and in the effort of exploring all of the waterfalls in Hamilton, here goes.

Not only is Dundas Falls not a place to take children, but it looks like a place where sketchy teenagers go to hangout and do whatever they do. That said, it highlights something I love about Hamilton - the way that the city is built around its natural features. I love that there are so many different kinds of waterfalls, and even though this one is a little man made, its an extension of what was already going on here, and is a beautiful part of Dundas' history.

It is right next to what used to be Dundas District High School (now condos - do people actually live there?) and to get here you can drive, bike, or walk from downtown Dundas. I parked along Bond St. N, and you can also park along Woodleys Lane, especially if you are wanting to go for a longer hike. It is kind of fun seeing what is "underneath" Dundas Peak, and seeing some slightly lesser-known falls than Tews or Websters, even though they are close by.

Dundas Falls is at the top of King St. in Dundas, and is also just off of the Bruce Trail. As you are walking up to the base of the hill, you should see a river and an inlet to your right.

In this little inlet are stone walls to help against erosion of the escarpment, interesting grass species, and a little stone archway.

There is a path that takes you to the bottom of the falls, as well as the top. You can't really get a good view from the top, and also...

Peeking into the fence, you can only really see this tunnel, and getting a better view of the falls requires going down some quite steep, unguarded stairs.

From the bottom you can get a better view, although it still takes some maneuvering. Luckily the fence is falling apart, so you can get a little bit of a view.

"urban framing"

the really dangerous stairs that you should never go on.

It's still a little hard to get a good view, for these shots I mostly held my camera over the river.

my face just barely not blocking the falls...

These falls are just under the railway tracks that go through Dundas, that you can see from the top of Dundas Peak, or walk along to get to the bottom of Tew's and Webster's Falls (you can see these hikes in summer and fall). I also recently followed this even further, and it takes you to Lower Syndenham Falls and links up with other trails in the area. There are SO many trails that I'm just learning about, which is exciting! Also it helps to go off the beaten path when everyone is out trying to enjoy the beautiful fall colours (which are not featured in this post because it took me forever to put up).

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Billy Monkley Cascade for Canada Day!

It's Canada Day! I've been able to be in and around Hamilton a bit more this summer, and it has been wonderful. Biking in Toronto is a rush in itself, but I just love all the trails and trees in Hamilton. I have been wanting to explore Billy Monkley cascade for a while (ever since I saw some live music by a local band, Monkley Cascade) but usually my time spent out that way is visiting Albion Falls, or the Devil's Punchbowl. This time I wanted to see a lesser known one and it was definitely worth it - my mom came along and we had such a cute picnic!

The extent of the directions I could find were "pull into the bird sanctuary and follow the sound of water" so hopefully I can be a bit more clear, because this is definitely worth checking out. In looking up directions I came across a website that said that Billy Monkley Cascade is "sure to disappoint you when you first visit," but it is a nice, quiet little place that is really beautiful and easy to get to!

The cascade is found in Billy Monkley Bird Sanctuary, which is off of Dartnall road, between Rymal and Stone Church Rd. The sanctuary is unmarked but there is a place to pull in for parking; it was closed off today, but there was still a little area off the side of the road though that can fit a few cars. Coming off of the Red Hill Valley Parkway and crossing Stone Church going toward Rymal, the bird sanctuary will be on your left. It's a wide field with different-sized birdhouses and long grass.

After pulling in to the parking lot (or just outside the lot...) there is a path that leads into the field. Follow this and you will come to a fork in the path, and take the righthand side. This walk is only about two minutes and on relatively flat terrain - it's very accessible if you want a quick break in the woods. There are little spots to sit but you can't fit many people in here. The rocks are a little slippery but it's a great place to have a picnic by or read a book, or just sit. It's very secluded from the rest of the field, a little hidden treasure.

just happy to be here.

communing with the tree.

me and my mom!

so hidden and beautiful!
While we were picknicking there, we ran into only one other couple who were exploring waterfalls in the area for the first time! It was nice to be in a secluded area that was so serene, and easy to walk to. It was also a nice little bubble away from the heat and humidity. We also got to see a lot of birds (some taking a bath in the stream - adorable!) from the bird sanctuary.

Leaving the cascade you can explore a bit further into the bird sanctuary and the path leads on somewhere, I think toward King's Forest (which is a whole confusing network itself which I have yet to conquer). I'd like to see where these go eventually but if they are part of the Red Hill Valley Trail, they should take you in some way to Albion and Felker's Falls (which you could also drive to in about seven minutes from here).

Billy Monkley cascade is definitely worth checking out for a quiet little space to relax by, and you can also get your fill of bigger waterfalls around the corner!