The Creek, the Cats, the Café

22 January 2014 – On Saturday, I wanted both nature and city. Thanks to the magic of Toronto’s ravines, I could have both: down the slope of a ravine into trails along a creek, back up the slope again for city pavement and its attendant delights. (Cafés, for example. With lattes.)

First, nature. I head north on Coxwell, cross O’Connor Blvd and park on the edge of Cullen Bryant Park. It is one of a series of connected parks that collectively embrace both sides of Taylor Creek as it flows across town to the Forks of the Don River, where it becomes part of the Lower Don and runs on south into Lake Ontario.

I’ll just stride through the upper park and skip on down those stairs to creek level, I think as I lock up the car. Silly girl! All that snow hides ice. Reaching the stairs without falling down even once is my first challenge. And that’s nothing — nothing, my friends — compared to all those icy snow-crusted stairs, down-down-down-down to the water.

stairs from Cullen Bryant Park to Taylor Creek

I make it. Sideways, hand-over-hand on the rail and cautious foot-over-foot on each step, very inelegant, very slow… but successful. I am proud of myself. “No winter maintenance” says a polite little notice at the foot of the staircase. Right.

It’s worth it, and not just for the (if only to myself) bragging rights. How pretty it is, looking upstream as I cross the little wooden footbridge.

Taylor Creek from footbridge below Cullen Bryant Park

I pick my way along the north side of the creek, heading west. No particular reason for the choice, just… because.

It takes some picking. In addition to no-winter-maintenance, there are great tangles of ice-storm tree branches. Like this.

Keep Right says the signs by Taylor Creek

“Keep Right,” says the blue sign; “Bike Route” says the larger green one, its arrow also pointing right. In summer, they merely show where the trail does a dog-leg. At the moment… well, it’s not like you have much choice!

So I keep right, and carry on, and soon there’s some open space, just opposite another footbridge that crosses to Coxwell Ravine Park. I don’t take it, I’m fascinated by what I find on this side.

First, a reminder that the seasons do cycle ’round, and summer comes again.

fire pit in Taylor Creek Park opp. Coxwell Ravine Park

All set for summer fire circles. A few lonely picnic tables stand nearby as well, snowy at the moment, but patient. Their time will come.

And this. A charming little wreath, carefully made and so neatly bound with criss-cross pink ribbon.

small wreath in Taylor Creek Park

The supporting branch has splintered so the wreath hangs at an odd angle, but it is still very sweet. I can’t find any identifying notice or plaque. It is just there, a quiet tribute from someone, to someone.

Not many klicks under my belt yet, but I turn back.

The going really is fairly difficult. The few other people I meet are all sturdy young guys, not an Old Wrinkly to be seen except for me, so I feel honour is satisfied and I can do the rest of my walking back up top, on city streets.

It’s only as I retrace my way that I see the big red notice: Danger, it reads, in large letters. Unsafe Conditions.

"Danger Unsafe Conditions"

Well, “unsafe” is perhaps an exaggeration, but the warning does reinforce my decision to head for the urban delights of Danforth Avenue.

So back to my footbridge…

footbridge below Cullen Bryant Park, in Taylor Creek Park

… and back up all those stairs (again sideways, clinging as I go)…

… and a bit south-west to the Danforth…

… where of course I find an alley (excuse me, an official lane just north of Danforth, Dew Lang Lane).

And “The Jazz Cats.”

"The Jazz Cats," Dew Lang Ln

Clever little beasts, don’t you think, to balance so neatly on that ledge?

I drop down to Danforth itself and, at the corner of Woodcrest, have my next happy surprise. Victor’s alphabet is surviving years and winters very nicely indeed.

Victor's sidewalk art, Danforth & Woodcrest

Victor is a sidewalk artist, someone I met more than a year ago doing a paid job on the sidewalk in front of the Red Rocket Café, and he told me then that in addition to commissioned work, he makes some artistic contributions of his own.

One is this glorious series of letters of the alphabet, found along a sequence of Danforth street corners. I’ve never found all 26 letters, I’m not sure he did all 26 — but what fun it would be, to attempt to hunt them down! (I’m only sorry I have no contact info for him, can’t even turn up an online reference.)

More joy on the sidewalk, this time courtesy of a candy store called Sugar Mountain.

Sugar Mountain sidewalk promo

See? If you just walk on by, without so much as a jujube to sweeten your path… don’t blame them. They’ve done their best to show you what’s at stake.

But I walk on by, I do, because I am looking for something else. Also visual, also on the sidewalk, but perhaps harder to find, even though I know the location: Danforth & Logan.

Perhaps harder, because its creator, visual artist Emilia Jajus, has boasted that it is “invisible.” It’s one of the painted traffic signal boxes now appearing around town, but while others are painted to jump out from their surroundings, Emilia says she painted this one to disappear into its surroundings.

And I swear, I approach the street corner with dancing eyes, muttering I’d feel too stupid for words if I couldn’t find the thing, and then I am stunned that — for a moment — I really can’t find it. Good grief.

But then I see it. And laugh. And sketch a salute to Emilia, whom I met (and photographed) when she was transforming the Bell equipment box next to the Parliament St. branch of the Toronto Public Library.

Emilia Jajus signal box, Danforth & Logan

It’s perfect. The lower grey stripes mimic Danforth Ave. behind it, then the upper portion captures the street scene beyond — Yogurtys façade, plus the fire hydrant and red Canada Post box.

Oh, Emilia. Good for you.

And then, café time for me. I’d had a familiar old favourite in mind, but am suddenly taken with the very inviting Leonidas outlet just on the edge of the parkette here at the corner.

my latte in Leonidas, Danforth & Logan

I have a terrific latte, just look at that, and a crunchy-flaky almond croissant. Bliss.


  • Taylor Creek Park – various sites to be had, but the Ontario Trails Council has good info and photos as well  –
  • Emilia Jajus – various good pages, but click on Murals for photos showing how she created this particular signal box, plus other projects including the Bell equipment box mural I mentioned next to my library branch –
  • Leonidas Chocolates (Canada) – coffee, as you’ll see, is just a sideline; the big main deal is wonderful confections in chocolate  –
Leave a comment


  1. Love Jazz Cats! Really nice walk in the snowy woods, too! ~SueBee

    • It took me a while to notice the musical instrument — I just saw funny cats and only saw the whole design when I got quite close, and wiggled to a different spot among the parked cars

  2. Great walk and brave you with that never melting ice – do you wear spikes or yak tracks?? I don’t venture out without them these days or without my hiking poles. By the time I’d finished your blog-walk I too felt like one of those yummy coffees – thanks!

    • I keep forgetting my poles (though I doubt they’d help a lot on an icy slope), and I do think about buying some cleats. A woman entered a shop I was in wearing a pair and she swears by them: got them at MEC (Mountain Equipment Coop), and is very smug because she bought last year when prices were lower. They’re probably worth it, at any price.

  3. DJ

     /  23 January 2014

    Laughed and laughed at the Sugar Mountain street sign – I’ve noticed these signs are increasingly clever. Living in winter ice-bound Ottawa, I keep my Lee Valley Tools snow cleats permanently attached to walking boots. I had the best possible advice on the best cleats: my post-person!

    • well yes, it may be time to Think Cleats for my boots here in Toronto — glad you laughed at the Sugar Mountain sign, it broke me up (and made me, in vain, try to remember the wonderfully outrageous signage for the Tobermory candy shop…)

  4. bobgeor

     /  27 January 2014

    Really great read. The more I think about the city motto “City Within A Park”, the more I like it. The duality and interconnectedness just gets me. I haven’t ventured through any ravines in the winter, so this is a good look into the good and bad into doing that. Thanks!

    • oh, good for you, “duality and interconnectedness” — exactly the characteristics, and so succinctly expressed! (now get out there and march around. with cleats & poles!)

  5. What an amazing contrast between the snow free streets and the ice clad ravines. Almost as though going down to the river you’re going down into other world! Very brave of you with no cleats, but I’m sure it was a good work out for your thighs and upper arms 🙂

    • It is an amazing contrast, always an amazing contrast. Bobgear in his comment below phrased it well: the “duality and interconnectedness” of our ravines and their surrounding cityscape. I was extremely careful in that descent but looking back on it, also very stupid to take the risk.


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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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