I went on a hike this last Sunday through Rouge Park, Toronto's largest park and the only national park in Canada to exist within city boundaries. The park follows the Rouge River valley south until it reaches Lake Ontario. The lower part of the trails are especially a hot spot for dog owners, it's not unusual to see upwards of 20 dogs out on a walk on your way through the Mast Trail.
We got to the park pretty easily by public transit. The bus that heads towards the Toronto Zoo makes a stop at Park Rd., where a paved path marks the beginning of the Orchard Trail . It leads all the way into the former Beare Road landfill which makes up the large hill on the horizon.
The stream we crossed here is named Little Rouge Creek, and eventually flows into the Rouge River proper. The plan was to follow the river valley more or less all the way down to where it opens up by Rouge Beach.
There's a lot of wildlife the moment you stray off the trails.
Covering ground when hiking off trail begins to slow, and all the things to look at only stalls it even more. Before long we met up with the official trail and picked up the pace.
It looks a lot taller when you're actually looking from the edge.
The vista is basically a must-stop along the Orchard Trail, and a great place to take a break. The sediments that make up the large outcrop in the distance were deposited during the last Ice Age by the glaciers as they retreated.
This small tree valiantly holds up against erosion all on its own. I wonder if in a few years the spit of land will be gone and the tree will be left all on its own pillar. It would sure be a sight to behold.
Another one of the iconic views along the Orchard Trail - a path lined with magnificently tall spruce and cedar trees.
Some smaller underdog deciduous trees struggle upwards to grab the remaining sunlight.
These bent maple trees are a signature sight as well, they've been around for a few years.
From Orchard Trail to Mast Trail, the named hiking routes end at the Glen Rouge campgrounds. Advertised as the only camp grounds within the city boundaries, I never quite understood why some people would "camp" not even 500 meters from residential housing tracts and major roads.
Off to the side from the campgrounds parking lot is a small unmarked opening, which leads under the roads that cut through the forest. This is the only way to stay within the park and still continue southbound.
Under Kingston Road.
This section of the trail was pretty well maintained for something that isn't entirely official. We even encountered a passerby strolling through pretty casually. The multiple overpasses seen above support the 401, and the atmosphere is actually quite nice. You can't really hear the cars.
Although the Rouge Park website advertises the Rouge Beach as part of the park, it's not really accessible through any official trails from the north. The only trail that stretches further south past the overpasses ends not even 300 meters in, making the rest of the route only possible going right through the underbrush.
It's important to keep in mind that it's actually impossible to get to the beach by following the river. I tried this route last year and it ended in a failure because the forest eventually gives away to a marsh, and the marsh gives away to just open water. Instead, it's possible to make it through towards a small path that stretches into the forest from a street named Island Road. From there it's just a hike along the Rouge Hills Drive sidewalk towards the lake.
There was this especially treacherous hole by the riverside, although luckily it's pretty obviously displayed. I wonder if it was a burrowing attempt gone wrong.
The area is full of mosquitoes and ants which leave sharp stinging bites, so understand I didn't have the luxury of taking my time to photograph this particular portion of the hike.
After a grueling foray into the forest, and then a half hour jaunt through a residential neighbourhood, this sure was a sight for sore eyes.
Pictured above: why trying to follow the river all the way is a bad idea.
The beach at last.
One of the reasons why I wanted to check out Rouge Beach is because it's directly across from the Pickering Nuclear Generation Station. I didn't even know it was there until about 2 years ago. Funny how that works, since it's closer to me than my regular school commute.
Yes, it's a laptop. Someone bought a laptop with them.
A baked potato?
Luxury bird nesting location.
A storm rolled in as were headed out from the beach. If we left even 10 minutes earlier we could've made it out completely dry. It rained, then it poured, and within 5 minutes there was thunder. An eventful (and wet) way to end an otherwise pleasant day.