Upper Canada Heritage Trail

Upper Canada Heritage Trail in Niagara-on-the-Lake

The first leg of the Upper Canada Heritage Trail looks like many other rail trails.

Upper Canada Heritage Trail in Niagara-on-the-Lake

The majority of the trail runs beside Concession 1 and passes numerous orchards and vineyards.

Risa attended a meeting in Niagara-on-the-Lake last weekend and I tagged along for the drive down the QEW so that I could take a walk down an old railway, now the Upper Canada Heritage Trail. It travels about 11 km from the Bruce Trail west of Queenston down to the Waterfront Trail on Lake Ontario. Combined with the first few kilometres of the Bruce Trail from Queenston Heights and the General Brock Trail along the Niagara River, it constitutes a day-long hiking loop over mostly easy terrain. The UCHT would definitely be the quieter side of the loop, especially at this time of year.

Risa tossed me out of the car at the trailhead at York Road and Consession 2 and told me I had three and a half hours to get to Fort George or I’d be walking all the way home. The terrain was about what you’d expect in a rail trail: mostly flat, mostly straight, and mostly running behind farms. A portion of the trail just north of York Road was completely washed out: about 20 metres of the raised railbed had collapsed into a jumbled mess of trees, dirt, and rocks below. The resulting hole is navigable on foot with sturdy boots and a bit of care, but don’t expect to pass with your bike or horse. Several large potholes and a subsiding trail leading up to the washout hint that much more of the old railbed here is probably going to collapse in the near future.

The long middle stretch of the trail runs dead straight and flat beside Concession 1 and is a pleasant walk alongside a quiet country road lined by numerous vineyards and orchards. Autumn is usually my favourite time to go hiking but this portion of the trail would probably be much nicer in the late summer with the sights and smells of all the fruit coming into season.

Upper Canada Heritage Trail in Niagara-on-the-Lake

The third section of the trail curves up through suburban Niagara-on-the-Lake heading toward downtown. It feels like more of an urban rail trail, with numerous well-kept backyards opening right up onto the trail. Just imagine having a section of the Bruce Trail literally outside your back door. This section is also home to the most interesting sight on the trail, a long stone wall. It looks long abandoned and neglected at first, but it does still separate private homes from the trail. Numerous sections have fallen down and been replaced by ugly wooden or chain-link fences,  while another portion would have fallen over if it weren’t propped up by three large metal beams.

The trail ends at the Waterfront Trail, a short walk away from downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort George. All in all, it’s a nice walk, if not a challenging hike.

Follow the yellow (asphalt driveway)

Driveway painted yellow

Driveway painted yellow

When they’re located on a high-speed rural road a couple of kilometres away from any real landmarks, homeowners can sometimes have difficulty giving directions to visitors not familiar with the area. Some try to use distances in minutes or metres (“One minute south of Bailieboro on 28,” “four and a half kilometres north of County Road 9,” and so on), but such measurements tend to be either imprecise or inconvenient. Others put up their own landmarks to guide visitors: lawn ornaments, rock gardens, and flagpoles are among the more common examples. But some homeowners take a more direct route when it comes to giving directions: there’s just no mistaking “turn at the giant yellow driveway” for some other location.

(Freshly painted starting three weeks ago, as seen on County Road 28 about two kilometres south of Bailieboro, or twelve minutes north of the Transformers. Look for the giant yellow driveway.)

Autobots, roll out!

It’s hard to imagine something more impressive than the sight of a Transformer, Bumblebee, standing at the side of the road in Port Hope:

Bumblebee guards the road

 

Fortunately, you need only turn your head to see something far more impressive:

Optimus Prime stands guard

Primitive Designs in Port Hope always has something unexpected on display for passers-by on County Road 28. Last year, it was a Toronto Moose. This year, a two-storey-tall Optimus Prime and his merely human-sized companion, both made of car parts, grace the store entrance. An employee hinted that more may be on the way for next year. A fellow gawker was standing there all agog, barely able to string together a coherent sentence while standing in Optimus Prime’s shadow.

I can’t really say anything else other than to get thee on a day trip to Port Hope post-haste to check them out. The amount of work that went into them is incredible, as seen in this detail from Optimus Prime’s leg:

Detail of Optimus Prime's leg at Primitive Designs

Doll on a dock

Doll on a dock

Is that a rod in your hand or are you just happy to see me?

People put the darnedest things on their docks. I hope he’s just holding the broken end of a fishing rod and not, uh, well, um, whatever it is that boys do when they pack up their satchels to spend a solitary afternoon by the river…

Animal relief area

Animal relief area sign

Where to go when you need to go.

The best thing about this sign tacked up to a post by one of my neighbours isn’t that it continues the local tradition of telling dogs where to go or that it’s bilingual (for French poodles, natch) or that it carries itself like an actual official notice. No, the best thing about this sign tacked up to a post by one of my neighbours is that it points to his neighbour’s driveway and away from his own garden. Release the hounds!