Danger at the Cliff Edge

11 May 2016 – Never mind “Into the Woods” and “Into the City,” my friends — that’s for sissies. If you want a little excitement in your life, just go dance with the cliff edges.

warning near Sylvan Park, Scarborough Bluffs

Never mind the cliff edge. By now, the Tuesday Walking Society itself is tempted to collapse, from sheer frustration.

First, we take ourselves all the way east into Scarborough (for downtown girls, a thrilling adventure in itself); then we struggle to find parking anywhere near the launch point for the Doris McCarthy Trail down through Gate’s Gully, since everything on the closest residential street has been commandeered by a film shoot; then we discover our ultimate parking success is irrelevant since the Trail is temporarily closed, due to a washout; then we drive on, hoping to find another launch point for this assault on the Waterfront Trail and the Scarborough Bluffs, in whatever combination may offer itself …

You get the picture.

But we persevere, and we succeed, and soon we are parked on another tucked-away Scarborough residential street above the Bluffs. Where to our joy we discover a sign pointing to Sylvan Park.

And another sign warning us about those cliff edges.

warning sign, near Sylvan Park

The “I [hemp] TO” is a sticker, some marijuana-lover’s addition to the warning. You may disregard it, though perhaps loving Toronto in that particular way could add a new variable to your cliff-edge experience.

We don’t add that variable to our experience. We are sufficiently taken with the challenges of finding our way via streets & connecting pathways to the park.

Where, indeed, we are at cliff’s edge! Albeit behind a fence.

view east from Sylvan Park

Photos never show you the drama of the vertical drop. Please note the teeny-tiny size of those human beings ‘way below, and be suitably impressed.

Not a large park, but secluded, very pretty, and quite rightly equipped with benches from which you can admire the views eastward & westward along Lake Ontario.

view east from Sylvan Park

Phyllis points across the fencing toward the west side of the park. We note the concrete slab where a bench used to sit — but has prudently been withdrawn, from a collapsing edge.

abandoned bench slab, facing west

Not that teenage boys care about collapsing edges. (Though one does seem to care, if only slightly, about the click of my camera.)

Right, fine, that’s Sylvan Park. Now what?

A pleasant dog-walking man gives us instructions on how to get ourselves over to Guildwood Park and, with some bushwhacking luck, find a switchback path down to those beckoning trails ‘way below at water’s edge.

His directions are good, we navigate farther east, park again & start walking across Guildwood Park on its upper level.

Spring is jumping up all around us. With baby-bronze leaves just starting to unfurl …

new leaves, Guildwood Park

and pretty yellow, if anonymous (to us) wildflowers …

wildflowers, Guildwood Park

and wetland bits, especially welcome this dry spring.

standing water, Guildwood Park

And — of course! — more dire warnings about collapsing cliff edges.

Guildwood Park warning sign

We are becoming connoisseurs of these warning signs. We agree this one wins the award for Most Dramatic Imagery.

We find & scuffle on down the switchback trail, knees bent, leaning slightly back on our heels, and arrive still upright at the lake.

Where we look up at those much-touted cliff edges, now towering over us.

Scarborough Bluffs, from base of Guildwood Park

And agree, that yessir, they obviously can suddenly collapse. Those pretty turf edges are curling out into empty space, aren’t’ they?

We follow the gravel path on toward the east …

path east, below Guildwood Park

and spy one sole inuksuk.

How odd that he is the only one, given all the breakwater rubble lying around.

inuksuk, below Guildwood Park

He isn’t really that wonderful, either, but I find I am very protective of him. He is doing his best.

Phyllis admires a spider web, whose “best” — given its fly-count — is clearly very good indeed.

spider web, below Guildwood Park

The flies undoubtedly admire it rather less.

We begin chattering a bit about when to turn back. Will there be some logical point at which to about-face?

And then it presents itself: the end of the trail.

trail's eastern end, below Guildwood Park

Back we go. And climb back up the cliff. And do not fall over the edge.

And reward ourselves with fine coffee, back in town.

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  1. Yikes! Cliff edges like that are freaky!

    • Do your cross-border interests extend to art exhibitions? If so, you may have caught the big Lawren Harris show (“The Idea of North”) at either the Hammer Museum in LA or currently in Boston, or catch up with it as of July at the AGO here in Toronto. Co-curated by Steve Martin, a big Lawren Harris fan, & Andrew Hunter of the AGO and a curator at the Hammer; perhaps a first look for many Americans at this icon of our Group of 7; will be repositioned & expanded for the AGO show.

      • Hi, Penny, yes about art exhibitions and the Group of Seven and Lawren Harris in particular, both of which/whom I’ve posted about before. I think it’s great that the Harris exhibition is making the rounds in the states and will expose more people to his terrific art.

  2. You have amazing perseverance! I guess when the Walking Society plans a walk – nothing can stand in the way! Good on you!

    • Well, we’d taken ourselves all the way east into Scarborough, & we knew there had to be other ways to be above & below those bluffs. But still …thank you.

  3. How did I miss this post? I love the bluffs. My father worked at what was the old meteorology building at the end of Brimley (not sure) where the Catholic mission is and not far from the old Hunt Club (my first job was as a server).
    I loved the wildness of them and the fact that houses would seem to creep closer and closer every year. The spit and the other breakwaters were built to slow the erosion. (It was a foot a year when I was I kid). But as a kid, given the supposed stability of middle class suburban life I thrilled at nature gobbling it all up indiscriminately! 😉

    • Oh, you really know the area! Well, Phyllis & I will be there again later in the summer, we have our hearts set on that Gate’s Gully walk

  4. This is funny because we encountered the exact problem in the winter. We took TTC all the way to the entrance of Gate’s Gully only to find out that trail is closed. We managed to find a way to Sylvan Park and walked to Guilwood Park through residential areas. The path down to the lake (where you walked) was too slippery to go down that day. It was just too muddy to try. Well, we will just have to go back to Gate’s Gully in the summer. Slyvan Park offered a great view of the lake! My post is here about this trail. https://popointoronto.wordpress.com/2016/02/24/scarborough-2016-02-21/

  5. A wonderful entertaining post – thank you Penny. I looked at the photo taken from above and yes it did give an idea of height – did I spot a minute person down below.
    Lovely to see all the new green on trees and bushes and were the flowers celandines?

  1. Salute to Spring | WALKING WOMAN

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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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