The Moccasin Trail to Magic

16 July 2015 – Sudden decision: back to Moccasin Trail Park, first visit in almost two years. So here I am, car wheels neatly positioned in the P-for-parking lot and my own sneakered feet at the magenta you-are-here star.

East Don Trail map in Moccasin Trail Park

The park and its trails are part of the East Don Trail, following the river on down toward Lake Ontario. I’m happy to walk by water, this warm day, but happiest at the thought of all the art I will meet en route in these tunnels and pedestrian underpasses.

See the line-up, there on the map? Through the Don Valley Parkway underpass on that red ribbon of trail, on through the CN Rail underpass; then south at the T-junction to reach the CP Rail underpass, and, after re-crossing the Don, a second trip beneath the CN Rail tracks.

I am not put off by the DVP underpass. This is the ugly bit.

DVP underpass

it’s all magic after that.

Starting with the first CN Rail underpass, visible from the DVP and known for some four decades to passing motorists as the Rainbow Tunnel.

Rainbow Tunnel (CN rail underpass)

The flange was first surreptitiously painted by a teenager to honour an older friend, who died in a DVP crash. It had a long history of official disapproval, neglect, public love and eventual official restoration. I blogged about Rainbow Tunnel after visiting the site with artist Tom Linardos, who helped lead the Mural Routes project that cleaned and painted the interior (not part of the original artwork).

It’s all holding up beautifully, I am so relieved to say, still bright with scenes that draw on nature and the topography all around. In a fanciful way, mind — take this little bridge, with happy couple on top and fox and fish beneath.

inside Rainbow Tunnel

Just before the T-junction I take a decidedly unofficial side path through the woods right down to the water’s edge. Where I disturb a great Blue Heron, who flaps off all powerful wings, neck and trailing legs.

Back up to the official trail, right at the T-junction. I look back down the river, think I can see exactly where I emerged from the trees to startle the heron.

East Don River, from a wetlands on the trail

I know what’s coming next! (After Tom Linardos danced me through the tunnel that September day, he brought me on down this trail — which I also blogged about, a few days later.)

I’d like this soaring great CP Rail bridge just fine for its own sake, all that geometry made tangible.

CP Rail bridge over the East Don

It’s a working train track.

CP Rail warning sign

And it has an entirely unnecessary, entirely wonderful, pedestrian underpass beneath the trestles.

CP bridge pedestrian underpass

Each segment of the handrail is a work of art.

Like this.

segment of CP underpass

All around, wildflowers.

I smile foolishly at this tableau at the corner of the little footbridge over the Don. I could be in remote countryside somewhere, cicadas singing, but I’m not; I’m in downtown Toronto.

wildflowers by the Don

Back across the Don, continuing south with the trail; knowing I’m about to go under the CN tracks for a second time. The first time gave us the Rainbow Tunnel. What could match that?

pedestrian underpass, CN Rail bridge over the East Don


Another pedestrian underpass, this time with rocks suspended to remind us of various flood years along the Don. The rocks’ heights are symbolic, artistic; attractive in groupings 

trio of the rocks

and, individually as well.

one CN Rail bridge rock

I turn back soon after, linger again a moment amidst the CP Rail bridge strutwork …

CP Rail bridge

and head for the car.

I am cranky, as I go, that there is no signage to credit the artists who created these metal-work underpasses.

But I am thankful that Toronto, like many other cities, finds ways to use its own topography to preserve nature as part of our urban identity.




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  1. What a wonderful mix of nature and urban infrastructure. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Love this! I have always wanted to walk/bike this but have been too much of a scaredy-cat to go alone! Thanks for this!

    • I go there by day of course, but always feel (& am) perfectly safe. You meet grannies with toddlers in strollers, people with dogs, all peaceful… So do pay a visit!

  3. Thanks. I enjoyed this. It’s nice to share journeys.

  4. Loved it all – especially the rainbow tunnel entrance and the rock display for flood levels. Clever and both so fitting.

  5. bobgeor

     /  19 July 2015

    That piece about the Don flooding is really cool. Have to check that out.

  6. What a terrific railroad bridge!

    • Oh I’m so glad you like it. I am always entranced by those soaring great bridges, seen from the ravine below


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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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