Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Humber summer numbers

I actually did a fair amount of exploring on the Humber the latter half of the summer, but I never bothered to blog about it. I suppose now that the summer's over and it can all be more or less consolidated, it might make sense to do so.

The first place was a gap I noticed in the road grid where it seemed to me a road might once have crossed by no longer does. Such places are endlessly fascinating to me; the idea that people could once travel somewhere we no longer can always makes me a little wistful. I like to go to places like that and look for hints of bridges — or much better yet, bridges that still exist but are now closed to vehicle traffic — and try to picture it as it once was. The gap in question was where one of concession lines meets the West Humber River.

I went out there on a rainy morning towards the end of July. The closed part of the concession there is not very long... it only takes about five minutes to reach the river, if that, at least on the north bank. Where the road meets the river, there was no hint of its south leg on the opposite shore. The was certainly no hint of a bridge, though with such lightly-travelled roads, it's always possible that modest wooden structure was utterly erased by the floodwaters of Hurricane Hazel in October, 1954, and simply never replaced. I decided to take a little time and wander the river itself, so I stepped into the water and headed a little east. I found this beautiful little spot, a kind of a pool created by forest debris, possibly accumulated on an old beaver dam, and I found a fallen tree to settle down on. I guess I spent about a half an hour there before I started wondering about the road at the other side, and I headed back to the car to make my way over. Funny how it goes... the far side I wanted to explore was probably not 150 feet from where I first came down, but I probably had to drive two or three miles to get back to the heights on the other side.


The roadway down on the south side was a lot more substantial. It made a long, sweeping curve down to the river, and took about ten minutes to follow down. Despite the fact that on either side, the road came clear down to the river bank, there was no hint anywhere that there'd ever been a way to cross in a car. The two parts didn't seem to meet up.  There must have been a gap of something like 50 to 100 feet between them... not impossible to bridge, but possibly more than people wanted to be bothered with. Still... if you weren't going to cross the river... why build roads right down to it in the first place? I can't make up my mind if there were ever a bridge there or not. Anyway, the principal discovery of the trip was that tranquil pool further east. I came back to it with P-Doug the following weekend and we explored. In the middle of the water a bit further east we found something that was like a natural pagoda, a sort of little sitting area made up of towering old trees, open at the top. The warm sunlight streaming down made it a wonderful place to sit and soak; the water was three to four feet deep but traveled through it so slowly it was nearly becalmed. It was a perfect place in nature and I'll never forget it.


The next spot was quite a bit closer to town; a conservation area up in the northwest end. The valley walls there are short, but steep, and that made it a real challenge for us to get to the river. Once P-Doug and I were at the river, the only way to get around, at least initially, was via the river itself. But, as before, it was several feet deep, so we stripped below the waist and followed the river along till we could trek across the forest floor, taking shortcuts from one bend in the river to the next. After a while we came to a fantastic sandy landing opposite a steep bank. We spent an hour or more in the sunny water before retiring to the shady bank. Again, it was a sweet slice of nature. The only note detracting from it was the faint but ever-present sound of the nearby highway traffic, not quite a mile off.


The final spot was back to a place on the river we've been a dozen times before, except we travelled beyond it to a new location through the woods. We went nude hiking into the hills there a few years ago and decided to do it again, this time making our way through the woods to the river on the far side of the bend. The hills in question are on a peninsula that's practically rendered an island as the river bends back upon itself. We carried our clothes across the river and stowed them on the peninsular side, then started the climb. I'd actually done this by myself a few weeks earlier when we'd been there but he had elected to stay and soak in the river on the near side. Retracing my route, we reached the place we got to the first time, at the heights, and travelled beyond it. On our way down on the far side, we came across this strange landing in the woods make up of trash and abandoned furniture. It looked for all the world like a long-abandoned spot for teenage make-out parties. We looked around it for a few minutes in curiosity before moving on to make our way down to the river. I showed him the bleached fallen log on the opposite bank that I'd forded to and sat upon in the sun. This time, it was his turn to cross over and to wander the river there; for myself, I reclined in the sun amid the long grass. He satisfied his curiosity for the river and joined me in the sunbathing spot after about half an hour or so, and we just whiled away the early afternoon there. Eventually we wandered back into the forest and up the hill, down the other side to find our stowed clothes (funny how different landmarks look from the forest instead of the river...), and headed into the nearby town to liberate a few beers from imprisonment in cold, dark kegs. It more or less represented the end of the summer, but a summer spent enjoying nature while in a matching  state is one well-spent in my opinion. :)

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