Part 1: The Hamilton End (February)
The Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail is a multi-use pathway connecting two cities in southern Ontario, Canada. It follows the course of an abandoned railway. The trail is well-drained and without steep gradients, and motorized vehicles are banned. You can bike it, ride a horse along it, snowshoe it, or ski it, depending on the weather. I’ll be walking it in short sections at different seasons of the year. The photos in this section were taken in late February.
This is the official map, giving the length of the trail at 32 km. Hamilton (pop. 537,000) is a large city at the western end of Lake Ontario. It was known for its heavy industry, especially steel-making, but is now exploring new post-industrial roles. Brantford (pop. 100,000) is a smaller city on the Grand River. It’s known as the place where Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, and as the hometown of Wayne Gretzky (b. 1961), Canada’s greatest ice hockey player.
I live near Hamilton, so I’ll be starting there and walking west. The official map tells you that the Hamilton Trailhead is on Ewen Road. But a better place to start is 2.2 km east of there, at the end of Studholme Road off Aberdeen Avenue. For a start, there’s a large, free parking lot!
This section, technically the Canadian Pacific Link Trail, is nicely paved. You can walk or bike right into the parking lot of a large supermarket. So it’s popular with students from nearby McMaster University.
Academic proximity might explain the philosophical turn of the local graffiti.
There are also several “fitness stations,” surely intended to make you feel physically inadequate.
Ignore them, and peek into the yards of houses backing onto the Trail. Maybe you’ll find such things as this ancient gnarled willow …
… and these cedar waxwings looking for berries left over from the Fall.
Finally we reach the official Trailhead …
… here on Ewen Road in west Hamilton.
And this time we’ll continue only as far as the rail bridge over Main Street West, where we can watch the traffic start the long climb up the Niagara Escarpment towards Ancaster.