When I descended the steps at the beginning of a three-hour trek from Taylor Massey Park to the Don River Valley, a multitude of surprises awaited me.
Along the trail, I discovered green palaces reflected in the creek, a memorial bench wreathed in spontaneous wildflowers, animal sculptures carved from a fallen tree, and the sight of a chipmunk fleeing to its burrow.
The first trail marker for the Lower Don appeared after an hour and fifteen minutes of walking. This was exciting because I had never witnessed the transition from Taylor Massey Creek to the Don River before.
Much as I love the sheltered flow of a woodland creek, the impact of seeing the waterway expand and deepen in capacity astonished me. My chest expanded, my breath deepened, and I felt freer, bigger, and more open.
Ten minutes into the Lower Don section of the walk, I noticed a short dirt trail leading to a lookout on an elevated bank. With my camera looped around my wrist, I fell into a reverie while looking at the opaque water and began to daydream about the Missouri River (my home river). Suddenly, a very large pink and white fish jumped high above the surface and made a flamboyant splash upon re-entry.
I was so startled that I almost dropped my camera. However, I wasn’t upset in the least, for it was a privilege to have been shaken up by that feisty fish. Its breathtaking leap made me feel alive and gave me hope for the health of the river.
Tired but refreshed by so much beauty, I continued the journey, noticing a family of geese, graffiti murals at base of soaring bridges, and an artist painting a shimmering river portrait in olive green, brown, and ocher.
Near the end of the hike, I encountered historic Todmorden Mills at the base of a very steep incline up Pottery Road. I had almost reached the top of the hill, panting from exertion and the extreme heat, when the final surprise of the day greeted me: a Dairy Queen right at the summit!
In my personal history of ice-cream consumption, no plain vanilla cone has never tasted as good as the magical one purchased on Pottery Road that afternoon. It was the perfect ending to an adventure made possible by Toronto’s generous creeks, powerful rivers, and unpredictable wildlife.