Monday, April 27, 2009

Falls of water, falls of rain

Quite the storm on Saturday. Had no idea. Even though I was out in it at the time.

I'd made plans to hike with P-Doug up an abandoned road near Georgian Bay. The plans were tentative because his wife has been having some heart trouble and the scheduling of her surgery was kind of up in the air. There was every possibility she'd be discharged on the weekend, so I wasn't sure which day – if either – would be convenient for him to make the trip.

Saturday, as it turned out, was good for him in terms of the timing, but not the weather. Looking at the radar, he determined that a set of thunderstorms passing through to the north would make the trip to where we'd been considering going ill-advised. He suggested instead something down here in the south, where the weather promised to be more even. He told me he'd been interested, for some time now, in having a look at a pair of falls in the Dundas area. So he met me at my place and we set out in my car for Spencer Gorge Conservation Area.

We took our time getting there. I bailed off the 403 at Dundas Street (Highway 5) and we took that across Halton and into Dundas. Just a few minutes past Highway 6 we found our turn, and made our way to the gorge. I was surprised, when we got there, that we had to pay $5 (either to park or to get in; it's not really clear which). It was a nice trail, right at the lip of the gorge. The rustic wooden rail fence that ran along the edge in places struck me as a half-hearted effort determined to provide safety in some places while entirely trusting to the fates in others... I was reminded of the contractor my parents hired many years ago to build our cottage... he had a binge drinking habit, and his efforts varied wildly from consummate professionalism to weeks of couldn't-give-a-damn neglect. Seems to me you build a fence to keep people from falling in, or you don't. The half-measure seems worse than nothing because it seems to suggest you're safe wherever there's no need for the fence, which I don't believe was the case at all... but anyway, not to obsess here...

It was wonderfully sunny when we got there, and probably the first genuinely "summery" spring day we've had this year. The bare trees put the lie to the notion, but the heat was in evidence anyway. The first falls we came to were Tew's Falls. They are very nearly the height of Niagara Falls (not surprising since they go over the same escarpment), but the amount of water falling over them would take half a minute to fill a bathtub. It's clear they've been something much more substantial in the past, though. We didn't linger long since there wasn't much to see, and we didn't have the right angle to see it anyway. We moved along, heading down the trail toward Webster's Falls a half kilometer away.

The place got busier the further we went. We came to an open area where there must have been three dozen people picnicking and chasing around. There were some interesting sights along the way. One family seems to have built a home right at the edge of the gorge... we were essentially hiking through their front yard. There's also a little place where they've gathered four or five headstones of people who died around and just after the time of Confederation, and they've pressed the stones into cement to preserve them. It was a nice little display and I regret now that I didn't photograph it. That's uncharacteristic of me.

Webster's Falls were, for me, the real show. We glimpsed them first through the trees that lined the lip of the gorge, and I remember remarking to P-Doug at the time that it's a real shame the approaches to Niagara Falls weren't left as natural. You could square the majesty of Niagara if only it still looked as it must have when the first French explorers were shown it by Natives in the 1600s. Even then, there've been some changes to the vista. Most notable among them is the arched stone and mortar footbridge over whichever river, creek, or stream it is that engenders the falls. I shot it from a few different angles as we made our way around it. On the far side is an access to the base of the falls that P-Doug was keen to attempt but I wasn't. I was lugging about ten pounds of stuff in my back pack, my sandals don't have much of a grip to them, and it was a long way down and a long way back up. I suggested to him that if he did give it a shot, he should take my camera (having left his behind) and see what he could get down there. Turned out to be a pretty good idea because some of the best shots of the day came from his trip. For myself, I stayed at the top in the shade of a tree, back to the stone bridge, listening to music on my media player.

P-Doug eventually made his way back up but missed me and orbited for a bit before finding me, verging on dozing. He'd taken some fine shots, as I said, and made a little movie of himself announcing his triumph over the "128 stairs" up and down, and his intention never to do so again. The long and the sort of it is I'm glad he went, and glad I didn't. :)

By then we were both pretty hungry. The air being full of the smell of hamburgers being grilled didn't help. I was interested in hiking a woodland trail north of Milton, and we have a favourite pub thereabouts, so we left the park and headed north. One pitcher of beer, one Ruben sandwich, and one chicken curry over bowtie noodles later, we were ready to hit the trail. But by then, the northern sky was darkening – and surprisingly rapidly. I was convinced it was passing through north of us and pressed on. When we reached the trail, there were already dots of rain, but we trotted in. We headed off trail to a patch of trees with some shelter, but by then the rain had really picked up. I'm not one to complain, myself; under the right circumstances, I like being out in the rain in nature. I indulged myself by setting my clothes aside and sitting under a tree. The rain was cool but not cold; it was brisk but not uncomfortable. A mighty wind was stirring the heads of the trees above us but there was barely a breath of it at ground level. Lightning flashed and thunder rolled; it was spectacular. At least, for me it was. I don't think it was quite P-Doug's cup of tea. He stood in the rain alongside, and we commented back and forth on the show. He didn't complain or hustle me along but he was really just biding his time. As the rain eased up we wandered among the trees a bit. He was gracious enough to leave it to me to suggest we head back, and so I did... we were there about half an hour.

When we got back to the car it was his turn, and he put his wet clothes in the back, as did I. I had the impression we were just going to let them dry out a little but it turned out he had every intention of returning to town that way. He's bolder than me; I redonned my clammy shorts for the trip, sitting on the tarp I had in my backpack. He draped half of it across himself and away we went.

The wind and rain were with us all the way back. I thought they'd be north of us, but the storms had made their way right down to the lake. There was a time issue involved in getting P-Doug back to town to visit his missus, so we skipped going back to my place to pick up his car and simply headed back to his place, where he picked up the things he needed and we went to the hospital for a visit of an hour or so. Afterward, we ate in a pub local to my place (another pint, another chicken curry), and we parted after the long, sunny walk and brief, wet wanderings, with P-Doug vowing that Sunday would be BBQed hamburgers day for him. :)

1 comment:

Jim Grey said...

Well! This explains your recent Flickr adds!