Monday, November 26, 2012

Dundas Valley Hike - almost too pretty...!

This hike was such a good hike. It wasn't too chilly, there was the first snow just barely on the ground and the trails through the Dundas Valley are pretty relaxed, so it's nice to just go for a stroll around the forest. We did a modified version of this hike from Geotrail Hamilton and ended up seeing four different waterfalls and a couple historical sites as well! This hike starts you from the Hermitage parking lot off of Sulphur Springs road, but we opted for another trailhead.

We started at the entrance to the Heritage Trail across from the Ancaster Old Mill on Old Dundas Road. We followed that to the Main Loop, did a side loop on the Homestead Trail (via Headwaters Trail), went around the Main Loop to where it meets up with the Bruce Trail, followed that down past Canterbury Falls and Sherman Falls, to come out on the Old Dundas Road again. Here is a map of the route we took (we are the pink dotted line that has clearly been added in Paint):

The woods looked so awesome - you could still see the orange leaves and green moss under the little bit of snow we got, making for very dynamic forest scenery! Of course I would forget my camera, so all the pictures are from my phone. Pictures never seem to do it justice anyway and you'll just have to take my word that it was incredibly gorgeous out that day!

 The first waterfall we came to was off of the Main Loop, and is right off of the parking lot on Sulphur Springs, the Hermitage Cascade.

I am slightly camouflaged.

Taking a detour along the Homestead Trail led us to Heritage Falls (aka Griffin Falls), which I was seeing for the first time. It was in a nice little valley, but unfortunately it was pretty dried up - maybe in the spring!

Along the Main Loop we came across the Hermitage Ruins, which are pretty cool and have some interesting history (as well as some legends surrounding it!) It's a nice little interest piece during the hike, and is especially ambient surrounded by barren and creaky trees. If you want to check out another historical spot in this area, you can duck out a bit earlier along the Headwaters Trail which will take you to the Griffin House, which is a neat little piece of Black Canadian History.

The rest of the hike through the Main Loop took us through some well-maintained paths with a lot of maps along the way! They're very helpful for a low-maintenance and easily accessible hike (or bike ride!)

I really cannot emphasize how scenic this hike was! The Main Loop brought us back around to where we came off of the Heritage Trail, but at that point it also forks into the Bruce Trail, which leads to Canterbury Falls (see the link for summer pictures!) This waterfall is probably one of my favourite lesser-known ones - so, so pretty.

sometimes I even forget I'm in this picture

Following the Bruce Trail will also take you another one of my favourites, Sherman Falls. This was probably the prettiest I have ever seen it - I don't think it will ever get old!

After this we just followed Old Dundas Road to the car. The hike took us around three hours, but we went at a pretty leisurely pace and stopped a few times to enjoy the scenery. I really cannot get over how stuff like this is just in the middle of the city.

I thought I had missed the peak time for fall colours, but the leaves are just as pretty on the ground as in the trees. The Dundas Valley has great trails for winter as they are very well-maintained and fairly well-traveled so they are not too risky when it's slippery out. It's good for dogs, kids - I am practically begging you to enjoy it, so I'll just leave it at this...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Devil's Punchbowl (and Lower Punchbowl Falls)

Devil's Punchbowl is one of Hamilton's more well-known waterfalls - it's got a pretty interesting structure and is quite impressive if you can catch it at the right time! Of all of the waterafalls in the area, it seems to have the most unique feel to it, there is almost an industrial quality to whole area. There is lots of pale grey, purple and green soil, and slate rock covered in graffiti, and standing in the bottom of the gorge makes you feel like you are in a quarry.

You can get a pretty good view of the falls from the top, as there are a few lookout areas, and you can also look out over the East End of the city, which is always nice. Getting down into the gorge isn't necessarily a hike I would recommend to take children on, but it is also not too difficult. Facing the city, there is an entrance to the Bruce Trail along the right side of the brow that will take you down into the gorge. It's easily marked, and at most a ten minute walk.

This trail will take you first to the lower falls, which are pretty nice themselves! Lots of huge fallen rocks, which is always a plus.

a nice change of pace amidst the many confessions of love painted all around

I went hiking here toward the end of the summer, and mysteriously there was still water flowing over the lower falls, even though there was no water over the main falls - so if you get there and its dried up at the top, it might still be worth checking out the bottom! (I take that back. I just found the photo of me with the falls in the summer... not sure how I thought it was anything at all).

The trail gets a bit trickier past the lower falls. You have the option of scrambling along the riverbed (which is my mode of choice) or taking a trail slightly away from the river and although more established as a trail, there are still rooty areas or areas that kind of seem like they might slide down into the bank.

I had underestimated how awesome it would be at the bottom of the gorge. The falls are super tall and the gorge is so stark and empty.  It's actually a bit unnerving, because everyone standing on the edge could see me making my way down, but I knew I wasn't able to see them. It's definitely a bit eerie.

little me.

Naturally I started scaling the side of the gorge (there was a path that led up there...) but the sun had already started setting, it was slightly muddy, and I was wearing very casual sneakers, and if I fell there was no one to carry me out, so I started to rethink it. What ultimately made me abandon my increasingly steep course was deciding that had my friend Denise been there, she would most definitely be standing at the bottom of the trail shaking her head at me. I am glad I had her imaginary prudence to rely on. 

This waterfall is a Hamilton staple! You have to see it - also just down the road there is a Punchbowl Market and Bakery which I'm sure has many delicious treats to snack on while you look out over the gorge and the city.


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