Part 13: Old Guelph Road to Highway 5
Date: Monday 30 July 2018
Start: Old Guelph Road, Dundas
End: Highway 5 (Dundas Street), Burlington
Distance covered: 12.2 km
Total distance covered: 158.7 km
148. It’s hot, humid, and hazy. We’re near the point where Dundas, Waterdown (both in the City of Hamilton) and Burlington (in Halton Region) meet. We have to cross Highway 6, which mounts/descends the Escarpment in one fell swoop. This section of Hwy 6, which connects the parallel east-west freeways 403 and 401, is one of the busiest in the province. We hope eventually to be reunited with this same Hwy 6 in Tobermory, the northern endpoint of the Bruce Trail. I doubt it’ll be quite so wide or busy up there!
149. I gather that before 2007, Bruce hikers had to run for their lives through gaps in Hwy 6 traffic. This newish pedestrian tunnel doesn’t attract very sophisticated street artists, but at least it offers us safe passage.
150. A generation ago, Waterdown was a small village on Dundas Street (Highway 5). No more: its current population is about 45,000 and growing fast. This is partly thanks to its proximity to Aldershot GO station, from which commuters can get to Toronto’s Union Station by train in 70 minutes. From the Trail, we can see some of the big box stores that line Dundas Street and that back onto the edge of the Escarpment.
151. We are climbing up the very picturesque, narrow, rock-strewn valley gouged out by Grindstone Creek. This stream empties into Hamilton Harbour about 5 km downhill from here, after passing through a wetland maintained by the Royal Botanical Gardens of Ontario.
152. Oh dear! Here in Waterdown is the first “You Are Here” sign we’ve seen, and it looks as if we really haven’t made much progress at all. I estimate that by the end of today’s hike we’ll have covered a mere 17.5% of the Trail. Well, at least we are now in double figures, percentage-wise! And a sobering footnote: if we drove by car non-stop along Highway 6 from here to Tobermory it’d be a 288 km trip and would take less than 4 hours. On foot by the Trail we still have 740 km to go and, if we’re lucky, it’ll take us no more than a couple of years!
153. We are approaching the Great Falls at Smokey Hollow, Waterdown’s major waterfall on Grindstone Creek. This Falls eludes all but the most dedicated photographer at this time of year thanks to the dense vegetation surrounding it. Smokey Hollow is supposedly so called because of the number of industrial plants that once gathered around the waterfall. The first of these, a saw mill, was in place by 1805; none has survived to the present.
154. A monarch butterfly settles by the Waterdown wayside. The favourite butterflies of North Americans, monarchs are famous for their 3,000 km pilgrimage south in the fall to a favoured site near Mexico City. A different generation makes the return odyssey in the spring. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed, and it’s their colourful caterpillars, not the butterflies themselves, that feed off milkweed leaves. Monarch butterflies get nectar from a variety of plants: this one is resting on a thistle. After suffering a precipitous decline during the last two decades, the monarch population has rebounded a little recently. (We have seen quite a few recently along the Trail.) This may be the result of concerted human efforts to save an iconic species.
155. This weird looking overgrown earthwork is a spillway or swale over a recently constructed storm sewer. Evidently its function is to channel runoff from the top of that hill down towards Grindstone Creek. The Trail runs along the right side of it.
156. When we get to the top of the hill, we can see why such drainage might be necessary. A huge new subdivision, looking to be well over 100 hectares (one square km) in extent, is under construction on the flat area to the southeast of Highway 5. These new giant villas, all closely packed together, are separated from the Trail by a stormwater pond.
157. Meanwhile, just a few metres away from the pond, and with the Trail running right along the chain link fence, are idyllic suburban backyards like this one. Well, idyllic if you don’t mind a view of a giant construction site …
158. The view from Kerncliff Park in Burlington gives us the reverse angle on what we saw three hikes ago, when we were on the Trail over Hamilton’s East End. The narrow triangle of water with its base at left is Lake Ontario, separated from Hamilton Harbour (right centre) by the diagonal of the Hamilton-Burlington Beach Strip. The arch marking the summit of the Burlington Skyway bridge is at left centre, and to its left are the two tall piers of the lift bridge over the Burlington Canal. A line of tall transmission towers follows the course of the beach. What all this signifies is that we have rounded the western tip of Lake Ontario and are now preparing to head north!
159. Nowhere yet have we seen new development impinge more radically on the Escarpment and the Trail than at Waterdown. But a narrow strip of beautiful forest remains to enclose the Trail as it runs along the edge of the Escarpment. We gladly lose ourselves in these woods until it’s time to emerge onto busy Highway 5.