Monday, July 30, 2012

Why don't I check the weather? A case study with Ball's Falls and Albion Falls.

I've learned an important lesson in my most recent hikes, and that is to check the weather! Or, at least to take the weather seriously when you do check it. The past couple hikes I have been on recently have been on complete opposite sides of the spectrum - one waterfall was bone dry, and the other was gushing a terrifying amount.

The dry one was Ball's Falls, which isn't actually a Hamilton waterfall, but is still one of my favourites in the area! The friends I went with were easygoing enough, and were not too disappointed by the lack of a waterfall, but I honestly could not believe how dry it was! There was not even a trickle, the riverbed was cracking. It was kind of cool to be able to sit on top of the cliff though, and see the rock formations. I also greatly enjoyed throwing rocks off the top - mine made the biggest splash.

This is supposed to be a waterfall...

Luckily I have some photos from a couple of years ago when my Mom and I visited Ball's Falls. We had a great day hiking and exploring fruit stands and shops in the area! It makes a great day trip (when there is water of course...), and if you are interested in old farmhouses, stables, fruit drying sheds and ploughs, it's all here, as the property used to be a little town dating back to the 19th Century. You can walk into the different buildings, and it's really cute! There are Upper and Lower falls to explore, and lots of other trails!

 I'll have to bring my friends back here another time... it is so, so beautiful!

As for the wet, wet falls I saw, Albion Falls has instilled a new respect in me for water!

I started my hike from Buttermilk Falls, and followed the stream to where it joined with the stream running from Albion. There is not much of a trail here, but it is still fun climbing over rocks and fallen trees. We headed upstream, and there is a path on the side of the river that makes for a relatively accessible hike! Halfway through it started pouring but we kept on going. It is easy to underestimate the power of water, especially when you think of something as just a regular Hamilton waterfall. I was amazed at how quickly the water rose - it was as if someone had opened a dam at the top of the falls! The pictures I have are taken within forty minutes of each other:

Doesn't that blow your mind? I would not recommend hiking by a waterfall in a rainstorm... seeing how quickly something like this can happen is chilling! That'll be my public service announcement for the day...

It is hilarious how opposite my most recent waterfall experiences have been; hopefully now that we have had a bit of rain I will be able to find something of a middle ground!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Darnley Cascade (and a bit more on Borer's Falls)

I had quite the eventful hike this weekend! My friends and I got an early start on Saturday to try and visit as many falls as we could. We started with a visit to Borer's Falls for my one friend to check it off their list of waterfalls seen. Unfortunately it was really really dried up this time. Something I didn't mention in my last post was the viewing platform that is very easy to get to. It is just off the side of the road - and if you're okay with not getting too close to the falls, this is a great way to see it! The trouble with Borer's is that the more waterflow it might have from rain, or during spring thaw would make it very difficult to get to, as the non-trail would be extremely muddy. So this platform is a great option for taking a quick peek if you're in the area, or seeing the waterfall when it's at its best, but you can't always get the best view of the falls.

After this we headed to Darnley Cascade. I've decided it's Hamilton's cutest waterfall (technically a cascade, but I won't be pedantic about it). It is very close by to Borer's, and also Webster's and Tew's if you want to get your fill! Darnley is right off the side of Crooks Hollow Road in Dundas.

There is a parking lot just before the falls on your left, if you are heading westward. You can also park on the side of the road by the Mill ruins.

The ruins are pretty cool! They're from Darnley Mill which dates back to 1813, which was among many other mills and other industrial happenings in that area at the time.

If you walk past the ruins you will come upon Darnley Cascade in less than a minute. It is a great little section of Spencer Creek which would be so nice to read a book by, or if you wanted to have a picnic by. There is really no hiking per se, so it is also great to bring kids to; they can play nearby in Christie Conservation Area after enjoying the falls!

We were looking forward to grabbing some lunch in Dundas, but when we returned to the car we found my purse missing, and a few compartments open in the car that weren't before - so lame! It did not quite taint the hikes of the day, but it was a bit unnerving. After I cancelled all my bank cards and whatnot we still got some lunch, and I soothed myself with flipping through the photos on my camera from earlier (Epilogue: I actually got my purse and wallet returned - hooray! It was found in a stolen car across crazy. Of course my cash was missing, and also my hairbrush, but my driver's license and health card were intact! What a relief). The most disappointing thing was we did not get to go to Princess Falls as we had planned... we wanted to try out geocaching for the first time! Ah well, another time!

Darnley Cascade is really cute, and so relaxing - I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It's a nice little place to stop by, and it's right by the road. We deduced that my purse wasn't taken from the parking lot near the cascade, it was taken before, so don't let my misfortune discourage you from checking Darnley out!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Great Falls...!

This was a pretty great hike. Alright, now that that pun is out of the way, I have to say it actually was really great! Great Falls (also known as Grindstone Falls) is probably one of my new favourite waterfalls in Hamilton - who knew! It's a good size, and the water flow was pretty substantial, considering how dry this summer has been!

It is really easy to get to, with a little viewing platform right there off of the parking lot. There are some conflicting directions online as to how to get there...we tried to get there off of Mill St. and that did not work (although maybe it is possible and we are just bad hikers) so I think the clearest way to get there is off of Waterdown Road. Take the 403 toward Toronto, and take the Waterdown Road exit. The Smokey Hollow parking lot will be on your left, around 2.5 km down the road, before the overhead railway bridge. And you're there!

We took a much more confusing route...which I am almost embarrassed to admit, but whatever - the directions we had found online were that the parking lot was adjacent to Mill St North...this is not the case. We parked and found a trailhead which led to some railway tracks and a stream. This was actually Grindstone stream, so we got that much right! There really was no trail whatsoever, and the stream wasn't even flowing that much to be impressive, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend this route.We arrived at the base of a bridge and on the other side we found the falls! It felt a bit lame to emerge from the forest like that, with people casually standing around on the viewing platform, but we were too excited at 'finally' finding the falls.

photo credit: Veronica Pang

photo credit: Naomi Mahaffy

A section of the Bruce Trail starts at the base of the falls, and it is a very nice hike. It's very wide, and the stream is very picturesque. There are also some other falls along that way, Lower Snake Falls and Upper Snake Falls, but the Lower falls are not very distinct so it can be hard to know whether you are actually looking at it or not. We tried comparing them against some other photos online, but it is so hard to tell!

Is this a waterfall? Who can know...
Crossing the stream

Also crossing...
photo credit: Veronica Pang

There is another waterfall that is nearby called Boundary falls that we tried to get to, but you are supposed to use Snake Falls as a landmark to cross the stream. We kept going along the Bruce Trail, watching for our cue from the stream, but no such luck! If you feel like exploring, you can find the directions to the falls here.

This whole area is a really great section of the Bruce Trail, and even if you're not looking for more waterfalls, you should definitely check it out! Great Falls is very accessible and not a long hike, so it is easy to stop in for the view and head to one of Waterdown's many trendy caf├ęs or restaurants. We decided to finish off the day with smoothies again, this time from the Brown Dog Coffee Shoppe which also featured some photos of our newly discovered waterfall. The smoothies were also extremely delicious.