We left the house at 08 43 this morning. Cai and Fergus were each wearing their harness. This harness, originally bought for use in the back seat of the car, has a large D-ring at the foot of the loop through which the seatbelt is threaded, just behind the shoulderblades. To each D-ring was clipped an end of the double leash. The double leash consists of two 14-inch straps and one 18-inch strap attached to a central metal ring. The longer length is the leash’s hand grip, while the other straps terminate in clip hooks. Boots laced, gear on, leash in place, away we went.
The plan was to walk to that nice park in Rosedale for some off-leash fun. Well! The off-leash fun lasted less than five minutes, before a local resident warned me that the City has changed its mind, and this park is no longer leash free. On went the double leash again.
The nice thing about this park — for about eleven months of the year — is that it abuts a ravine walking trail. The one month of the year in which this is not a nice thing is the one in which the snow has gone and the ice remains. Snow makes for good traction; ice doesn’t. This morning, the beginning of the trail combined the best challenges of a skating rink and a ski jump.
But what the heck.
There are two ways to get onto this trail, called “Milkmen’s Road”, from the park: through the north side of the fence, or out the front gates and up the street about 50 paces. Since the path through the fence is a short, sharp drop, I opted for the other connection, which begins as a wide, gentle roadway slope.
It still wasn’t easy; the dogs were raring to go, and impatient with their two-legged companion. By reaching for saplings and keeping one foot on bare ground as often as possible, however, I managed to get down to a place where a side trail has been etched through the snow. The snow at this time of year is about as yielding as cold pahoehoe, but at least the path was level until it reached the creek fence, at which point I had some chain linking to cling to as we made our way down to join the main path again.
When we came to the signpost at the bottom of the slope, I opted for the Moore Park Ravine trail. This brought us to the Brick Works, home of the very nice Dogpatch doggie park. Instead of entering the off-leash area, though, we wandered the paths of the Brickworks park together. I saw half a dozen birds and only two people! Sweet serenity.
The Don Valley Brick Works is a former quarry with cliffs on three sides. We wandered up a path to the top, and from there watched a Red-tailed Hawk leave a branch and circle over the grounds below. There’s something magical about watching a bird in flight from such a height; maybe it’s easier to imagine myself flying too.
Back down in the lower area there are walkways looping around a set of ponds. I have seen a muskrat here on a summer’s day, so this morning I looked for push-ups, and finally found one.
Our last loop of the park took us along the western edge, above which the Moore Park Ravine trail continues. This quarry wall gets a lot of runoff — there were great thick icicles lining most of it — and includes a culvert which diverts Mud Creek and, in the Spring, provides a small cascade. At the foot of this frozen cascade this morning, some of the ice was slushy. I scrabbled at it with my bare hand, and Fergus and Cai drank their fill. Then we headed for the metal staircase that would take us back up to the Ravine trail.
When we arrived back at the point on Milkmen’s Road that we had earlier skipped, I was doubly glad we had detoured. It was solid ice. Nevertheless, instead of going offtrail to the right to repeat the detour, I decided to go offtrail to the left, climbing straight up the side to the recently leash-free dogpark. (Perhaps on our next walk I should bring water for myself, crazy old Coot hen.) Fergus lost his footing and slipped once, but I never did, and not once did I let go of the double leash. When we got to the dog park we were about 20 brambly paces from the side entrance. So I skipped over the low fence, grabbed one dog by the harness and then another, and popped them into the park with more ease than moving a hay bale.
We got home at 10 37, six minutes short of three hours of adventure. The pupsters drank some water, chewed a steer-stick snack, and are still sleeping off the hike five hours later.
Now that’s a walk.