Waterfalls and Christmas lights

This weeks road trip was another visit to Hamilton.   Most Canadians seem to think of Hamilton as a terrible place to visit and think of it as a very industrial place, for some reason, the fact that it has over 100 waterfalls and countless beautiful trails and hikes seems to have escaped them.   

A Welsh, a Scot, a Manc and myself hired a car and after a few dramas with the car hire, we were on our way.  The days agenda:  Waterfalls, Niagara on the Lake, Niagara Outlet Mall and then off to see the Christmas lights at Niagara Falls.

Felkers Falls was our waterfall feature for the day.  6m wide, 22m high and linked to the Bruce Trail.  The woodland was orange and crunchy with all the trees looking bare.  The beautiful autumn colours of last month have gone and are yet to be replaced with snow.  Luckily there was water in the waterfall as I remember visiting Devils Punchbowl in the summer and it was dried up.  We decided to trek to the bottom of the waterfall.  This involved some off the beaten path, Bear Grylls style climbing and outdoorsmanship.  We made it to the bottom and I was able to climb in behind the falls and stay completely dry.  

Just near Felkers Falls was Little Davis Falls.  An 8m wide, 3m high trickle of water ‘cascading’ over some steps in the rocks.

The climb out of the canyon we found ourselves in was entertaining to say the least.  At some points, our feet just slid on the mud and we could only pull ourselves up with the tree roots.  Needless to say, due to this, there are some muscle aches throughout the group today.  The slope was steep and we were low to the ground and covered in leaves when we made it to the top and climbed back over the barrier.  Perfect timing to drive to Niagara on the Lake and see the sunset over the water.  Unfortunately, it began to rain and the clouds got together to ensure our visibility of the sun set was at zero. 

To the mall!  I do love the Niagara Outlet Mall, but I also have a severe self control problem.   We all know how much sugar I can put away, think of that same level of self control when I am in a mall offering me 80% off designer hand bags.  I came away with moisturisers, candles and other body products from Bath and Body Works.  Making a decision proved impossible, so I just bought a range.  I dont think I will need to buy body scrub, moisturiser or scented candles for six months.  Unfortunately, we did not think through our hiking gear and walking around Kate Spade carrying handbags to choose which one was quite ridiculous when we noticed that in addition to fairly ridiculous attire there were leaves and bits of undergrowth stuck to us.  Yes, I bought the handbags.  No, I couldnt decide.  No, I didnt need them.  No, I couldnt afford them.  Yes, they are beautiful.  Yes, they will last forever.  Yes, they smell of leather.  And I actually got $495 total discount due to the incredible savings.  It would have been rude not too.  The others bought winter boots and trainers and we headed back to the car for the next adventure in our day out.  

Niagra Falls has a Winter Festival of Lights.  It was beautiful, even in the rain.  It was late and raining, which made the roads quiet so we could crawl along looking at the lights like little children with our noses pressed against the car windows.  Well, not me, I was driving, and getting very distracted from the road!  There were moose, bears, nativity scenes, swans, trees, snowflakes, mounties, inukshuks.  My favourite display was the light show on the Toronto Power Generating Station.  It was fantastic.  The building lit up in different colours and then multi colours all changing in time with the music.  The music was tuned to a radio station so we could listen to it in the car as we drove past.  It was playing Carol of The Bells.  I found a clip of the show here.

The journey home began with a mandatory Wendy’s.  Who doesn’t love a square burger?  Lets be honest, it was a double, with a side of poutine.   We headed back to Toronto singing Christmas songs – Michael Buble started us off and we then moved on to the Wurzels.  It was a happy journey and makes me smile thinking of it now.


Collingwood Scenic Caves and Suspension Bridge, Blue Mountain and some waterfalls

I lost one friend on Sunday night when he went back home to the UK, but another one flew in on Saturday night to keep me occupied.  This one is here to stay in Toronto for the next year, so a girls roadtrip was on the agenda.

We rented a car and three of us headed just over two hours north to Collingwood for a spot of touristing at the Scenic Caves.  It was grey, rainy and miserable most of the way up there, but luckily the rain stopped when we arrived.  The woods were pretty and it was quiet with hardly anyone else on the trail.  Probably for the best as we were not keeping the peace – talking non stop after not all seeing each other for months.  The caves were fun to explore with stories about the beliefs of the native people that once lived there.  There was a rock marked called Ekarenniondi where it said they would ‘draw the brains out of the heads of the dead and keep them’.  This was to remove memories so they would not recall their past lives or those left behind.  There was another spot called Suicide Point.  Legend says that there was a woman who once fell in love with a man from another tribe, he was thrown to his death here by her own jealous tribe and she later killed herself in the same spot. 

The views when we first got to some of the check points on this trail were obscured by mist, but as we were leaving, the mist cleared giving us pretty views for miles towards Georgian Bay.  The leaves are gorgeous colours as Autumn is developing and the drive up all provided us with bright multicoloured foliage.

After the trail, where we realised we are all hideously unfit!, we stopped to take hundreds more photos and for me to feed the fish/ seagulls.  We had a little potter about in the children’s playground, saw numerous carved wooden animals and checked out the thanksgiving displays that seem to be cropping up throughout Canda ready for next weekend.

Our next destination was the suspension bridge.  This was at the same site as the caves.  At the highest point, the suspension bridge puts you at the same height as the Eiffel Tower.  I have to say, this felt a lot safer than the Eiffel Tower!!  I was more than happy to jump up and down and run around playing on this bridge feeling it sway and wobble, whereas the Eiffel Tower felt far scarier and was a much more sensible affair.  We were up in the trees with the lovely colours.  I would love to visit here every week for the next two months and watch the colours gradually change as winter approaches.  

With plenty of daylight hours to savour, we drove ten minutes to Blue Mountain.  This is where I came to ski in Feburary, so it was interesting to see the contrast between then and now.  I definitely preferred it covered in snow.  It is so cosy in the winter and the slopes look scarier covered in snow.  We plan to return and get out on those beginners slopes.  I intend to master the hardest one this time without quite so many impromptu sit downs.  Blue Mountain was followed by a drive out to Wasaga as one of my chums hasn’t seen the beach there.

Our final two stops before heading back to Toronto were two waterfalls.  I think it has become apparent from my adventures that I do enjoy a waterfall.  I think I still have over 90 to discover in Hamilton alone, so I have lots to keep me occupied.  We went to Walters Falls a little West of Collingwood and Inglis Falls, a little further west again.  Walters Falls was pretty, but you couldn’t see much from the top.  I had the bright idea of a solo adventure to the bottom, ending with muddy knees and hands after skidding down and crawling up a bare muddy slope determined to get my photo from the bottom.  Right now, I think it was totally worth it.  I might feel some of those slips in the morning and change my mind. One final scenic destination to take some snaps at Inglis Falls and we headed home.  Unfortunately, there was no pretty sunset to be seen above the trees as the mist was descending again.  Wendy’s chicken nuggets and square burgers saw us through the last legs of the journey and our day of adventuring had to come to an end.

Roadtrip seeking waterfalls

Tuesday arrived.  Me and my friend from Manchester decided to book a car and go out for the day.  We were hoping to go to Kingston Penitentiary for a tour, but unfortunately, they were sold out.  Plan B.  We headed for Hamilton: The city of waterfalls.  We began the day with the breakfast of Kings, McDonalds, and headed out of Toronto. By the time we got to Hamilton, the heat and humidity were stiffling.  The first stop was Devils Punch Bowl.  Obviously, we picked a waterfall that ended up having no water!  It was still great to see and we trekked down to the bottom.  Our navigational skills turned the 10 minute walk into one that lasted around an hour and involved crossing train tracks, touring through a graffitied tunnel, climbing up steep banks, over rocks and eventually running accross someone’s garden to find our way back on the right path.There was a shop near the top of the waterfall without water where we got ice poles, cold drinks and baked goods.  The feeling of joy at those cold lemonades is something that will stay with me forever.

Next stop.  Albion Falls.  Loved this waterfall – it even had water in it.  We climbed down to the bottom again, took our shoes off and paddled in the water.  It was so refreshing in the heat, we could have stayed there for hours.   This one is right by the road and well worth a visit.

By this point conversation had turned to our next stop and we decided to head to Niagara Falls as Steph hadn’t seen the falls at night and we both fancied pancakes at IHOP for dinner.  But first, the outlet mall.  The Quicksilver shop blows my mind when I go there with goods less than a quarter of the price they would be in the UK stores.  It is insane. I got a bit delirious.  Kate Spade had a sale on on top of the outlet discount and I decided to spend some of my birthday money on a handbag and some earrings.

Unfortunately, as we left the outlet mall, we checked the IHOP opening times and they all closed except the one just over the border in America.  Unfortunately, without passports , the pancake dream left us and we went to Wendy’s – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Who doesn’t love a square burger?!

We saw the falls with the projected on to them at night and had a walk around the shops and arcades.  We had a selfie with a giant plastic moose, and oh how we giggled when we looked in the midget maker mirror!  Dairy Queen all round and time to head back to Toronto.  After a brief brush with the law on the way home where it was apparently deemed necessary to ask if I actually had a driving licence following a slight issue in the headlighting department, we made it home safely.  The walk home was humid and raccoon filled.  Sleep came quickly.

Hiking in Hamilton:  Webster’s Falls, Tew’s Falls and Christie Lake

What better way to spend a Bank Holiday Sunday than on a roadtrip with one of the original Brits.  Trusty Zip car booked, plan of action in place and off we went to Hamilton.  First stop: Taylors Tea Room.  I heard that they do a Devonshire cream tea.  We bought ours to go, and extra bottles of cream.  Such a quaint little tea room with super friendly ladies working there.  Looking forward to going back again in the future and taking the time to sit and enjoy some tea and cake.  The scones were delicious and the cream was gloriously thick and rich – a delight after a year with no clotted cream in my life.  I dont understand why its not a thing in Canada.  The Devon cream came in jars that I have never seen in Devon and was made in Wiltshire, but it was still a tasty English start to what would turn out to be a very (apart from Tims) English day. 
 English treats bagged up, we set off for the trails for a spot of hiking.  Walking boots on and Webster’s Falls was the first bit of water on our adventure.  A pretty waterfall, nothing spectacular.  We headed off towards Christie Lake following the Spencer Adventure Trail.  The trail started off with scenic bridges and grassy areas and continued along by the water through woodland and grassy banks and fields.  We got to the Christie Lake dam and as we stepped onto the bridge, stunning views of the Lake appeared in the sunshine.  The weather was great and the water looked sparkly and picture perfect.  We walked around the Lake and past a big field that reminded me of home.  The whole walk was so incredibly English.  It reminded me of Burrator Resevoir and the Devonshire countryside.   

 We ate our cream and scones by the water and headed back to the car park to do the trail on the other side. 

The other side of the trail started off with another waterfall – Tew’s Falls, below.  I loved this one.  

 After seeing Tew’s Falls, we followed the trail until we reached Dundas Peak with views out over the landscape.  Our total walk was just over 10 miles.

   Our next stop was Hamilton to visit the first ever Tim Hortons for a much needed cup of tea.  There was some rather pricey merchandise and a little museum upstairs.  I enjoyed a mooch around the mini museum taking a walk down Tims memory lane.  It was a cute idea and nice to mark the beginning of such a massive part of Canadian culture.  It is a shame that the original building was knocked down and replaced with such a modern one. 

On the way back from Hamilton, my fellow Brit and I stopped off in Burlington for a spot of dinner.  After a day in what felt like the English countryside, we headed for a British pub called The Queens Head.  The most British pub I have encountered so far!  The server was friendly with an infectious laugh and the whole place had a friendly feel.  The menu test was passed – they had pies, bangers and mash and other stodgy favourites.  The biggest challenge was passed…. Shepherds pie was marked as Shepherds pie! Canadians dont seem to differentiate between Cottage and Shepherds pie and will call a pie with cow in it, Shepherds.  This bugs me. a lot.   

  We had some food and took a stroll around Burlington as dark was setting in.  We walked along by the water and on the pier before it was time to head home. 

What a great day out!  There is no room for complaints when your day has all these views rolled in to one roadtrip.