In the fall, every bright, sunny day feels like a gift. And as October nears its end, I become acutely aware that each of those days may be the last one before the temperatures drop, before it rains, before the snow falls. Not that I don’t like rain or snow. I enjoy being outside in any weather. But sunny skies are always a cause for celebration. So yesterday I decided to take advantage of a glorious fall day and headed to High Park.
High Park is 399 acres of nature right in the middle of Toronto filled with large green spaces, hiking trails, picnic areas, sports facilities, Grenadier pond, numerous streams and waterfalls, a dog park, playgrounds and even a small zoo. That is why, High Park is often a destination of choice for people seeking a nature retreat amidst a busy city. It becomes particularly busy in the spring when people flock here in large numbers to see the famous cherry blossoms (To see pictures of High Park in the spring, check some of my posts on Random|Pix). Little as I like crowds, it is exciting to see people getting so excited about nature. In October, High Park looks different from its airy, boisterous, cherry-blossomed self but it is no less beautiful decked in its best fall attire.
Since this time I didn’t have kids with me, I decided to forgo the usual playgrounds-zoo route and explore some of the park’s hiking trails. High Park is, of course, no wilderness. I could still hear the traffic, especially every time I got close to large streets lining the park’s edges, and condo towers were clearly visible on the southern side of Grenadier Pond. But as I got off the beaten track and headed deeper into the park, the noise slowly subsided. Since it was still very early in the morning, the park was pretty empty except for a few joggers and dog walkers.
High Park has some elevation changes so I got a bit of exercise scrambling up and down steps and hills, and skipping over streams and logs. And since I knew that regardless of which trail I took I would eventually get to the road, I could just follow any path I wanted without the fear of getting lost.
Part of my way lay along Grenadier Pond, a home to many different species of birds. I only came across mallard ducks in large numbers, a lot of them one-legged, heads under wings, still dreaming their wonderful duck dreams.
One of the ducks was different though. Back at home, I checked my bird guide and concluded that it was a redhead.
I then came across an unusual giant tree that turned out to be dawn redwood. It is the last known living species of Metasequoia, and is often called a living fossil. At one point, it was thought to be extinct until some remnants were discovered in China in 1941. Since then, I has been cultivated around the world in parks and botanical gardens but remains endangered in the wild thanks, of course, to human activities.
At one point, I ended up near the Children’s Garden and Teaching Kitchen. Lots of fun eco programs for kids are offered here, including camps and birthday parties. Our son actually celebrated his 11th birthday here with a cooking party. It was a blast, not to mention delicious. I meandered through the garden. It was empty for the most part, except for some leftover kale and hot peppers, but it was easy to imagine all the bounty and goodness that children grow here in the warmer months.
Eventually, I found my way back to where I started. It was not a particularly thrilling or exotic hike but it was a great adventure close to home filled with glowing autumn foliage, the rustling of leaves under my feet and the earthy smell of fall. I should do more of those!