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.

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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!