Part 16: Crawford Lake to Kelso
Date: Monday 13 August 2018
Start: Crawford Lake Conservation Area
End: Kelso Conservation Area
Distance covered: 15.2 km
Total distance covered: 201.8 km
188. Viewed from Crawford Lake CA, the Nassagaweya Canyon is a narrow, U-shaped, thickly wooded valley separating the main Escarpment from the Milton Outlier. (Rattlesnake Point is the southeastern end of this Outlier.) The Canyon was created by pre-glacial erosion, but the last ice age left a huge deposit of sand and rock at the bottom of the canyon. “Nassagaweya” derives from the Mississauga First Nation word nazhesahgewayyong. This means “River with Two Outlets,” though which river it refers to is not clear.
189. We have just negotiated the most difficult section of Trail so far, and we were going down, not up! As we descended from Crawford Lake CA into the Canyon, the Trail became a slimy cascade of loose rocks, more like a steep stream bed than a Trail. This image is taken from the bottom of the Canyon looking up, but no photo can do justice to the full horror!
190. Perhaps this Side Trail sign will prove our point! However, as Bruce Trail purists/completists, we never take the “easy way.” We don’t believe in easy ways.
191. We walk on the shoulder of Appleby Line for a spell. We’ve already remarked on the correlation between the opulence of the local property and the relegation of Bruce hikers to the shoulders of public roads. A huge McMansion looms by the roadside, with six garages on its lower level! … but wait! While the house is almost complete, even down to the matching bas reliefs on the gable ends, it has been abandoned and roughly boarded up against trespassers and animals. Someone ran out of money, credit, or both.
192. We have met surprisingly few fellow Bruce hikers so far, so it was a delight to encounter these four ladies and learn a little about their journey. Representing several generations of First Nations women, they are on an epic Water Walk north along the Bruce Trail. Their aim is to draw public attention to water as a precious, vulnerable resource. They’re carrying a container of water from their start point, the Niagara River, and plan to empty it into their end point, Georgian Bay. Water is the most essential part of the human diet, but clean, fresh water is everywhere a threatened commodity. Women are traditionally water-providers in most human societies. Water Walks now take place all over the world, calling attention to the long distances that many of the world’s women must walk to collect unpolluted water for their families. We wish this quartet the very best in their endeavour!
193. A mayapple (Podophyllum), also known as wild mandrake or ground lemon, is a native North American plant, easily identifiable from its low-growing, umbrella-like leaves. The flower appears in May, but the fruit doesn’t appear until late summer, i.e., around now. That fruit, which resembles a small apple, is only edible when it turns yellow, like this one. All the rest of the plant is poisonous. The mayapple has many traditional medicinal uses, including the cure of warts. Animals quickly devour the ripe fruits, so we were quite lucky to see this one.
194. Even if you are Canadian you may never have heard of Milton, Ontario. Named for the poet of Paradise Lost, it was a village of fewer than 10,000 souls as recently as fifty years ago. But in the 1980s it became the fastest growing community in Canada, and now it boasts a population of over 110,000. Kelso CA is in Milton, and what we can see here from the edge of the Escarpment is part of a huge business park surrounding Highway 401 northwest of the town. Milton seems destined to swell to fill in with lowrise development the entire area between Mississauga and Oakville. The views from Kelso and Rattlesnake Point will soon be entirely urban. Paradise Lost indeed!
195. The erosion of the water-soluble dolostone cap of the Escarpment often produces surface karst features, namely sinkholes and caves. Here at Kelso these features can be found right at the edge of the Escarpment. We spotted some young people about to descend into one of these caves. We warned them not to get into the same predicament as the boys of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach, rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand in an arduous three-day operation that had the world biting its nails in July 2018. They assured us that they’d be just fine.
196. The Escarpment Trail at Kelso includes this bald clifftop, and is supposed to be for hikers only …
197. … but nowhere in this park is entirely cyclist-free …
198. … for sadly, the trails at Kelso have been handed over to mountain bikers. Sections of the Bruce are now bike trails called “Martin’s Mayhem” and “Broken Spokes.” We see mainly respectful groups of kids being taught how to ride the steep terrain safely. But because there is no segregation between the bike and hiking trails, some bikers don’t anticipate hikers nor warn them before they whiz past. You can see the problem in the spatial relation between the customized wooden bike ramp and the Bruce blazes in the image above. Given that we had to pay $12 to park one car at our Kelso end point, our recommendation to hikers is: avoid the Bruce through Kelso unless you are an end-to-end completist, like us.
199. Near the foot of the Escarpment at Kelso, a colourful patch of five-petalled phlox in various hues: white through lavender to purple.
200. Kids on a mountain bike course are gathering at the foot of Kelso.
201. We can’t expect to photograph many birds on the Bruce. There are plenty of birds in the woods, of course, but they hear us coming a mile off and make themselves scarce. That’s because we are two oldish guys who clomp and chat and keep our eyes fixed on our feet so we don’t trip over rocks or roots. It’s a nice surprise, then, when we’re about to cross this covered pedestrian bridge over the railway at Kelso and hear the loud twittering …
202. … of a pair of barn swallows that have made their nest by the elevator inside the bridge and are sitting on a pipe conversing loudly with one another. The male is on the left, his red belly indicating that he’s one of the North American subspecies of this widely distributed bird. Both sexes have the classic forked swallow tail.
Go to Part 17: Kelso to Speyside