Watch the world awaken

Darkness out a car window

5 a.m.

Pour the coffee

Pack the car

Hit the road jack

 

The car headlights cut through the fog

Blurred darkness

 

6 a.m.

The world begins to lighten

We pass through sleepy towns with quirky names like Tichborne and Wemyss

 

Signs never seen before

The Battle River Bison Company

10 acre hobby farm for sale

Even the wildlife sleep, save for a lone bat startled by the car headlights

 

The blanket of mist slowly lifts

Revealing silhouettes of Jack pines

Standing guard, protecting the quiet, still dark lakes

 

7 a.m.

Movement.

A few drowsy cows graze outside my car window

A light flickers in a farmhouse

Round hay bales sit forlornly in the fields

Saluted by the stands of corn

 

Daylight.

The fog persists

But another day has dawned

 

Ed.note: I wrote this poem in my head early Sunday morning driving to Ottawa for Clare’s provincial kayaking championships. I’m not a morning person, so you won’t see many “enjoy an early morning happy acts!”, but there is something special about watching the world awaken. Try it (if only once!) The trip was definitely worth it. Clare got a gold, silver and bronze medal.

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Two journeys in one

Grace and me at the top of Rock Dunder

One of my favourite seasons of the year to hike is fall.

Yesterday, my Ryerson Alumni Group hiked one of the most beautiful treks in Eastern Ontario, Rock Dunder, just south of Morton. This 230-acre property is owned by the Rideau Waterway Land Trust and rises 275 feet to a summit for a stunning view of the Rideau Canal and surrounding area. It was a former boy scout camp and has three log cabins on the trail.

We arrived just before 11 and started on the Summit Loop. The alumni magazine sent a professional photographer named Sarah Palmer to join us. A Ryerson grad, Sarah is a photo assignment editor for Macleans two weeks a month and freelances on the side. It was great getting to know her and hearing about her adventures and travels.

People at the trail summit

Even though it was unseasonably warm, the bottom part of the loop was wonderfully cool as we walked through the soft green canopy of the woods and explored the two worn log cabins used by the boy scout camp in the 80’s. Halfway to the top, we stopped for a swim and cliff jumping (well, Grace and my friend Mike cliff jumped—I chose to cheer them on from the cool water below).

The summit was spectacular—Rock Dunder definitely lives up to its reputation of being the best hike in Eastern Ontario.

At the top, we debated about taking the same trail back, or finishing the loop. We decided to complete the loop. My daughter Clare once said it’s always better to choose the path you haven’t been on before because it’s like taking two journeys in one.

For more inspiration to get you out on the trails this fall, see my blog post, Stand on a Rocky Outcrop.

Ed. note: Are you a Ryerson alumni living in the Kingston region? Join our group and follow us on Facebook to learn about all the fun activities we plan year-round.

Woman on trail
My friend Brenda at the top of the summit

Hiking group

Leave a legacy

willow trees
Trees I planted 30 years ago

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die.”

Ray Bradbury, author of Farhenheit 451

I’ve never thought much about what my legacy to this world will be. My children, perhaps. I live a small life so I highly doubt my name will appear in any history book or there will be a statue erected somewhere in my honour. I’m just one of a billion ordinary people in the world going about their ordinary lives.

Recently, I spent the afternoon in Mississauga strolling through JC Saddington Park by the lake. Many residents of Port Credit may not be aware that JC Saddington was actually a landfill site before it was converted to parkland.

I helped plant all the trees in that park as a summer student working for the City of Mississauga forestry department. The soil was clay and the conditions were terrible, but I marvelled as I strolled through the winding paths to see that the little wispy willow whips I planted more than 30 years ago had grown into beautiful graceful trees providing much-needed shade to the park goers on an unusually hot September day.

This week’s #HappyAct is to do something that will leave a mark on this world. As Mr. Bradbury said, “It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it.”

If you’re interested in planting a tree to leave a legacy, join the legions of volunteers who will be planting trees this week (September 27 is National Tree Day). In Kingston, there’s tree planting at Lemoine’s Point next Saturday, September 30th at 9 a.m. at the south entrance.

 

Stand on a rocky outcrop

Girl on mountain topAt the Summit

Is there any better feeling on earth
Then touching the sky

Clear, cool mountain air
Fills my lungs

Majestic peaks, pristine lakes and blue skies
Envelop me in a blanket of beauty

Bald rock
Worn smooth from centuries of leather boots scraping its surface

The orange berries of a mountain ash
Gleam on a stunning canvas of lush green pines

A tiny flotilla of miniature canoes and kayaks
Steam up the crystal blue waters of the Fulton lakes below

Two eagles play hide and seek in the clouds
Kings and court jesters of the mountain

Like Horton Hears a Who
We are all just mere specks on this great earth.

It is ours to cherish and protect
At the summit.

This week’s #HappyAct is to stand on a rocky outcrop. My poem, The Summit was inspired by our trip last week to the Adirondacks. The pictures are of Grace on Bald Mountain, near Old Forge, New York.

Bald mountain, New York

Make friends with fearsome creatures

rat snake in corner of hot tubLast weekend, I opened my hot tub lid to find this handsome fellow, a five-foot black rat snake luxuriating in the steam on the corner of the tub.

Later that morning, I was cleaning the chicken coop, and a garter snake wound its way from our barn to the back woods. After lunch, our resident water snake Sammy spent the afternoon with us curled up on the end of our dock. Clare and I avoided using the ladder so we wouldn’t disturb him and swam around him for the rest of the afternoon.

It was a three snake day.

Snakes are one of the most beautiful, misunderstood creatures on the planet. I remember years ago visiting a small zoo called Reptile World in Drumheller Alberta. The owner was from Australia. He loved snakes but was deathly afraid of cattle, which we found kind of funny since he was now living in Alberta.

It’s amazing how many people are afraid of snakes. In some cases, their fear stops them from doing the things they enjoy. And yet, nearly every species of snake in Ontario is completely harmless. We only have one poisonous variety, the Massassagua rattlesnake and it will only bite if threatened.

Most snakes are extremely timid, but will act aggressive if they are threatened. I’ve seen milk snakes in our garden raise their heads as if to strike when a dog is threatening them, but never strike. Some snakes will imitate rattlers by raising and rattling their tail, but it is almost always a defence mechanism and they don’t bite.

Snakes also are a sign of a healthy ecosystem. They eat rodents and can even help prevent lyme disease since small rodents can be carriers of the debilitating disease.

water snake on dock
Sammy our resident water snake

We are very fortunate to live in a region where there are many species of snakes but most are now endangered or threatened, such as the black rat snake.

This week’s #HappyAct is to not let foundless fears get in your way of enjoying the last vestiges of summer. Make friends with fearsome creatures.

 

 

Challenge a steadfast belief

Women having lunch on a patioOne of my many faults is I tend to be a bit stubborn and steadfast in my beliefs. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to challenge a bias I’ve held for the past twenty years that Hamilton wasn’t a nice city on our annual spring girls’ weekend in Dundas, Ontario.

We arrived in Dundas at noon just in time for the start of the Dundas BuskerFest. The scenic main street of this little town, only a hop, skip and trapeze jump out of Hamilton was the perfect setting to watch street performers dazzle and amaze. We had a delicious lunch in one of the town’s outdoor patio courtyards and browsed the quaint shops on the main street.

Next, we headed to our bed and breakfast, SummitHaven a charming yellow brick church dating back to 1869, lovingly restored by its owners. Our lower level suite had three bedrooms, a full-service kitchen and lovely sitting area, the perfect base for touring the area.

Summit Haven bed and breakfastThe day was too spectacular so we set out to hike and discover Hamilton’s waterfalls. I’ve blogged about how much I love waterfalls before, and had been told Hamilton was the “city of waterfalls”. In the twenty years I’ve been visiting Hamilton, I’ve never gone to see a single waterfall. We visited three last weekend.

The first one was a small waterfall at the beginning of the main trail loop in the Dundas Valley Conservation Area. The 3 km trail was a perfect length for the end of a busy day, and featured a cascade, ruins, a meandering stream and gorgeous woods.

women standing in ruinsLeslie still wanted to see more, so we drove down to Sherman Falls, a stunning 17 metre waterfall tucked in the woods across from one of the best restaurants in the area, the Ancaster Old Mill. We ended the day back at BuskerFest, watching the fire show and grand finale of all the performers.

The next day, I dragged my besties to the historical reenactment of the Battle of Stoney Creek at Battlefield House and Museum. I have driven past this park many times, but never explored it before. It’s definitely worth the visit, but especially on this day when the park was transformed into an early 19th century encampment of military soldiers.

Sherman fallsWe met the Earl of Moira, learned how to load and shoot a musket rifle, and watched the 200+ reenactors play out the battle, which was a turning point in the War of 1812 between the British and the Americans.

Our last stop was another waterfall just up the mountain—the Devil’s punch bowl. Since we were running out of time, we just hiked the short path along the escarpment, but there is a 10 km hiking trail that looked very scenic.

The best part of the whole weekend, other than seeing Leslie and Danette of course, was everything was free.

This week’s #HappyAct is to challenge a steadfast belief. It might open up your mind and world to new adventures. Thanks Leslie and Danette for another great girls’ weekend!

Plant a tree and help Forests Canada reach their Canada 150 goal

Family planting trees
Planting trees at Lemoine’s Point in 2013

Friday was Arbor Day. Clare and I celebrated Arbor Day selling seedlings at her school. This is the fourth year we’ve held this popular fundraiser and once again I was surprised and touched by the interest and support in our little community — we sold out of our 1,500 seedlings.

After travelling so much in the past month, and seeing from the skies and road how much of our land is being developed and the shrinking tracts of forests, I feel even more passionate about what we’re doing and the need to plant for the future.

Some times I think we’ve forgotten the important benefits of trees. Did you know,

  • One large tree can supply a day’s supply of oxygen for four people?
  • Trees clean our air, absorbing carbon dioxide and other harmful chemicals and releasing oxygen
  • Trees cool our planet by providing shade and through the evaporation of water from their leaves. The cooling effect of one large tree is equivalent to 10 room size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.
  • Trees create an ecosystem that provides habitat and foods for birds and animals
Clare selling seedlings for the school

The Ontario Government and Forests Ontario are inviting Canadians to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday by taking part in the Green Leaf Challenge and plant three million trees in Ontario. The Ontario government has committed to planting 50 million trees by 2025 and is making it easy for landowners to participate by offering subsidies and tax savings. Add your trees to their online counter at greenleafchallenge.ca.

Here is how you can get involved and help.

  • May 6th is Community Planting Weekend sponsored by Forests Ontario. There are tree planting “bees” happening in York Region, Windsor, Niagara Falls and Cambridge. Here in Kingston, we’ll be planting trees with the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority at Lemoine’s Point Conservation Area, starting at 9 a.m. at the north entrance off Bath Road at Coverdale. Bring boots, a shovel and gloves. All are welcome.
  • If you are a lot owner, learn more about the 50 million trees challenge and log any trees you plant on the greenleafchallenge.ca website
  • Register to become a Forests Ontario member. Receive Our Forest magazine (it’s also available online if you’re an Issuu subscriber).

This week’s #HappyAct is to plant a tree. Happy planting, everyone!