All Bike, No Hike

29 September 2015 – The plan was bike AND hike: bike to Leslie Spit, hoof around, bike home. But then I just plain got seduced by our expanded, enhanced city bike path system — and kept going.

Many downtown bike lanes are now physically better protected from cars, and more visible — especially at intersections.

intersection coding for bike lanes

Not going to miss that, are you!

I have extra opportunity to appreciate the improvements, since I decide to visit Mountain Equipment Co-op before my circuit east, which adds a whole westward loop to the outing. No purchases at MEC (but what fun looking), and then I head south on Spadina — walking the bike this stretch, no bike lane here & traffic is crazy.

I’m practically engulfed by Blue Jays baseball fans (the team is hot), all in their fan T-shirts & caps and spouting sports stats as they go.  Including, I swear, two 8-year-olds swapping RBI numbers…

I reach the lake and join the Waterfront Trail at Spadina Quay Wetland.

gate into Spadina Quay Wetland, from Lake Shore Blvd West

Once a tiny parking lot, now a tiny wetland, it grows shaggier & better every year — for human visitors on the boardwalk above, as well as lake life (including impressive Northern Pike) in the waters and vegetation below.

I dismount & walk through it for a moment, of course I do, noting how many boats still crowd the marina — dramatically set off by the disused but heritage-protected 1928 Canada Malting Co. silos just beyond them to the west.

marina in front of Spadina Quay, looking west

The wraps only came off this stretch of redesigned waterfront this summer. We’re all still getting used to widened sidewalks, more amenities, and a silky-smooth, resurfaced bike trail. Lots of people are here, enjoying the day. Serious cyclists (sleek bikes & sleeker outfits) are outnumbered by happy plodders like me — and being darn patient with us, I might add.

Walking gives me more human interaction; cycling, even at my pace, gives me the bemused feeling of watching a video unroll just there, to my right, lake-side.

Look! Big red Muskoka chairs, two guys, two dogs, right here at the Simcoe Wave Deck.

at the Simcoe Wave Deck

After that brief stop, I roll on for a while. Past HTO Beach, past Harbourfront, past the ferry docks, past Yonge St. and Sugar Beach and new condos…  I pedal, and the waterfront “video” continues to roll past me on my right.

I almost feel guilty: this seems so fast & easy, compared to walking! But note the “almost.” There’s a stiff east wind blowing, and I’m pedalling into it face-on.

South on Cherry St., into the Port Lands, still following the Waterfront Trail, and then a stop at Cherry Beach.

I stop for this. Para-sailing. Dancing 21st-c. arcs of high-tech materials, framing the 1930s lifeguard station below.

on Cherry Beach

I watch them for a while, turn to get back on my bike, back on the eastward trail — and then see Dennis.

I only learn his name is Dennis when, intrigued, I wheel myself over to his spot under the trees, where he is preparing his craft, and himself, for an afternoon of wind-surfing.

Dennis the wind-surfer

“I’m still learning,” he says. “Every time I go out, I learn more.” Big smile. “Great weather today — good strong breeze.” Yes, I reply, with feeling. “Usually when it’s from the east, the weather is bad, but look, pure sunshine.” He reaches for his wetsuit, and I carry on down the trail.

Just to the north, the Port Lands — once very gritty and toxic-industrial, now rapidly changing but still pretty industrial. There, the other side of the trees, trucks rumble. Here, it’s Trail and trees and lake.

I pass the Outer Harbour inlet, just west of Leslie Spit.

west of the Outer Harbour

Around the next curve on Unwin Ave, with trees and woodland thick on the south side toward the water, but the old power station and some industry now visible to the north.

Also visible, the monument I first noticed in 2012 and have stopped to honour ever since.

monument o Leanne Freeman, on Unwin Ave.

 

It stopped my breath, the first time I saw it. Simpler then, just the stone marker and a few ornaments, to honour a young sex trade worker, murdered in 2011. Canadians were becoming uneasily aware, just then, of how many young women were disappearing, dying, as if they were disposable, of no account. We began — so belatedly — to recognize them, and protest their deaths.

Now, three years later, her memorial bears more tributes than ever. It speaks for all the Leanne Freemans, and people respond. A young cyclist is standing there when I stop. She asks me the story; I tell her; her face is sad and still. Then we both nod gently, and ride on.

Another few minutes, and I am at the Spit.

Which I am not going to show you now! It deserves its own post. And will have it. (Now you know what’s coming next.)

showing Port Lands and Leslie Spit

Meanwhile, this is a handy map. Not just of the Spit — so ridiculously like a webbed goose foot, at the end of a lanky goose leg — but also of my route on the Trail either side.

See? Follow the left-hand yellow line east on Lake Shore Blvd. to Cherry St; south to the lake and Cherry Beach, with its para-sailers & Dennis; then through the woods on east to that circled bit, with first the Outer Harbour inlet and then Leanne’s memorial … and here we are at the Spit.

Now turn your back on the Spit and follow the right-hand yellow line north on Leslie Street up to Lake Shore Blvd — but instead of following the Trail on east along Lake Shore Blvd., turn west with me on the purple line as I head back downtown & home.

Alas. That narrow purple line, so clear on the map, is one devil to find in reality! Leslie St. around Lake Shore Blvd is still a forest of construction, blockages & detours, with hand-lettered signs tacked up to guide us through the maze.

Cyclists and pedestrians travel in confused little convoys; it’s thanks to the leaders of my particular convoy that I suddenly find myself where I want to be — on the north-west corner of Lake Shore & Leslie, wheels set for the trail that will take me west again.

It’s very prettily set up — once you find it — with large mosaic tiles underfoot to mark the intersection.

Lieslie & Lake Short Blvd East

We’re on a ribbon of green space now, with car traffic to the south and railway tracks to the north.

heading west beside Lake Shore Blvd East, near Leslie

But in between, very peaceful. Some benches along the way; some archival photos displayed on pillars, for pedestrians and curious cyclists.

I turn north on a bike route along the west shore of the Don River, stop for a moment to decide whether I’ll carry on beside the river or instead veer through West Donlands Park.

I opt for the river route.

bike route north along the Don River, near West Donlands Park

I don’t know it yet, but that cyclist is about to do me a huge favour.

Moments later — having worked hard to push his bike up the bike channel in the long flight of access steps to Queen Street — he generously bounds back down, offering to take mine as well. I am quick to accept. The incline looks, and is, scary-steep.

At the top he says, panting slightly, “I don’t know who designed this. But it’s awful!”

He’s right. So many improvements in our bike paths. And a few still needed.

.

 

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Wow! Good for you!

    Reply

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  • WALKING… & SEEING

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

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    "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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