Saturday, 31 March 2012

Paris to Cambridge

No, this post is not about places in France nor Great Britain - it is about a hike between two communities on the banks of the Grand  River in Ontario. Once upon a time a tram line ran between one of the towns that is now a part of Cambridge and a port on Lake Erie. When the tram line was abandoned, the rails and ties were removed and the remainder became a well maintained bicycle and hiking route. Following the organized hike through the Rouge River Valley I joined another Out and Out Club hike from Paris to Cambridge.

On all hikes outside of the Greater Toronto Area, hikers who don't drive take the transit to a designated station where those with automobiles pick them up and drive them to the trail head for the hike. For this hike that was just outside the town of Paris.

It was a Saturday in April and, as it was a 'late spring' that year, the hike began in a snow covered area but ended where the snow had all melted. There were  16 of us (I am not in this photo as I was the one who took it), the route was along a level path so, for the first 'major hike' of the season, the walk was easy. Actually, this photo was taken at the midway point of the hike - at the hamlet of Glen Morris where we had stopped to eat our sandwich lunches.

When we began the hike near Paris, the route was snow covered with evidence that a number of people had hiked it since the last snow fall.

The hike was along the banks of the Grand River which is one of southern Ontario's major streams.

In the photos of the Rouge River hike - and the photos of all the hikes of which I will be blogging after this one - the 'Hike Master' was Jack Candido. However, the hike master for this annual walk was another Jack. That is him in the foreground of the photo taken on a weir which crossed the river - following photo.

We enjoyed a very pleasant picnic lunch at Glen Morris and then continued on to Cambridge. As we went along we saw less and less snow until there was none. You will have noticed that the vegetation is almost entirely deciduous trees. Later in the spring - and through the summer - that would have made for a leafy bower along the route. Nice - except that the mosquitoes would have been out and very voracious!

Prior to going on all of the hikes, the Hike Master chooses a pub or restaurant at or near the trail head where we gather for a meal before returning to Toronto.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Columbia, Missouri

My partner, Ric Reed, is a person who does not walk to the rhythm of anybody's drum. From what he has told me of his growing up years, he - being the youngest - had to go along with family schemes. For instance, his paternal grandfather  - while a physician and the County Coroner - was a railway buff and enlisted the other members of his family to be involved.

At the time that railways were changing around North America and the railway hub in Pine Bluff, Arkansas was being phased out, Dr. Reed promoted the idea of refurbishing old railway cars and operating 'scenic railway tours' through the Ozarks. Ric was forced to be a part of this and he hated it.

Therefore, when it came time for him to enter university, he went against the family tradition of being a 'Razorback' (a student at the University of Arkansas) and opted for the University of Missouri instead.

That university is situated in the city of Columbia near to the center of the state. Coming from a home where church involvement was part of life, he sought out his 'House of Faith' there.

After a year or so he was selected to be an exchange student at the university in Puebla, Mexico and moved there. A week or so after his arrival, on a Saturday, he was walking in the city square when he was hit and badly injured by an out-of-control taxicab. His injuries were so severe that there was doubt as to whether he would survive. His Dad flew down to be with him and rode with him on a special flight to Houston, Texas where he received the medical help needed for his survival.

Once back upon his feet he returned to the University of Missouri, went to the Newman Center (where, he has said, he received the spiritual help that he needed). Through that experience he converted to Roman Catholicism and became  involved with that worship community. Ric is quite gifted, musically,  and the Newman Center had attracted a number of very gifted musicians who welcomed Ric and his talent among them.

When he left university to work in the IT field, he maintained his connections there and returned every Easter to donate his musical gifts. We met in January, 2001 and, at Easter, he returned to Columbia. The following year he took me along with him.

While I had been through Missouri - at least parts of that state - on the crazy trip to and from the Awards Night in Hollywood, this visit to that part of the state was a new experience for me.

Each of us flew to St Louis where we were booked on the shuttle van up to Columbia. Air Canada had one flight a day from Toronto to St. Louis and on a smaller regional aircraft. We arrived at around the same time and then had a wait for a couple of hours before we could take the shuttle van.

I was surprised by how small the St. Louis airport was (the amenities - especially for food - were appalling). The area where we had to wait for the shuttle was near the luggage carousals. While we
waited we saw the same family (a mother, two sons and young daughter) pass us a number of times. The boys were wearing 'Mickey Mouse' hats so I guessed that they were returning from Disney World in Orlando. Finally the woman stopped to apologize - the reason that they were passing so frequently was that the little girl was positive that I was Santa Claus!

Eventually our shuttle arrived and we were on our way along I-70 to Columbia. Ric's long time friend, Larry Coleman, met us and took us to his home - a nice bungalow on the eastern edge of the city.

Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter were spent at the Newman Center which - as the photo shows - is large and modern. Also, there is a lovely stained glass window in one of the walls.

I met some wonderful people that weekend - except one. She had met me and we had chatted and, thereby, she discovered that I am not a Roman Catholic. At the services where Ric was involved in the music program, I sat near there. However, at the Holy Saturday service, he was asked to oversee the lights and soundboard equipment which were at the back of the far side seating. When it came time for communion, I went forward with Ric behind me. As I approached this woman - who had the host - she turned her back on me. Ric saw the snub and was livid vowing never to return there. Others of his friends witnessed the snub and understood his reaction.

A few months ago one of the women in the music ministry at that church passed away and Ric flew there to be a part of her memorial. That has been the only time that Ric has been there since 2002.

Other aspects of Columbia intrigued me. One was the local squirrels - they are larger than the ones found here and their fur is a combination of grey and red (the indigenous ones here are black although larger greys are now migrating here from further south).

Much of the below surface material around Columbia is limestone in which water has cut caverns and tunnels. We visited a couple of those.

This one is called "The Devil's Ice Cave"

                                           Ric standing in front of the Visitors' Information board.

                               Ric walking through a cleft that was too claustrophobic for my liking.

                                                           Sitting in one of the caverns

On Easter Sunday afternoon Larry drove us back to the airport in St. Louis. As it so happened, the Air Canada plane from Toronto had developed engine problems and there was a delay of a number of hours before a replacement could be flown in. In the interim I struck up a conversation with a man who lived with his wife in a small town up towards Columbia. He was a software developer who worked for a company in Toronto and had been home for the weekend.

As this was not too long after 9/11, airport security was pretty tight and individuals were singled out from among the waiting passengers for a thorough screening. This fellow said that, although he was clean cut, Caucasian and dressed neatly, he was always singled out. Sure enough - he was again!

At Pearson this fellow offered to give me a lift downtown in the airport limo he was hiring. I reached home much quicker than usual thanks to him!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Toronto Z00 - Part 2

Continuing on with a tour of the zoo, the following photos were all taken by me during more than one visit. I guess that one could say that this is more a photo album than a blog. - although I will leave some comments.

Again, there are pavilions representing the various areas of the world with the appropriate wildlife housed in each one. In a sense, the entire zoo is laid out in a gigantic circle. When the zoo first opened to the public there was a monorail which circled the park and from which patrons could hop off and on at will, That route, upon leaving the 'Main Station' descended into the Rouge Valley stopping at the station there and then climbed back up to circle the African Savannah exhibit, then Eurasia, Oceania and Australasia. One day there was an accident when a train failed - as did the emergency stopping device - and it rolled back down the slope crashing into the train behind which had stopped at the Rouge Valley Station. A few people were injured but, thankfully, not seriously.

However, that put an end to the monorail and now there are 'bus trains' circling the grounds but NOT going down into the Rouge Valley - that is now a hike for the hardy.

Now I will post some photos from other exhibits. The grounds are landscaped - as an example, a forsythia bush.

An African elephant. The Toronto Zoo had a herd of them but. through deaths and trades with other zoos, there are only three left and, any day now, there will be none.

Bob Barker - the former games show host - is a huge fan of elephants so he is arranging that the remaining elephants in the Canadian zoos be transferred to an elephant sanctuary in California.

Just recently I saw a video clip of a small group of elephants arriving at that sanctuary. As they were being unloaded into a holding area, another elephant began trumpeting and came running over to the fence separating the paddocks. She recognized one of the arriving elephants from somewhere else in her life  - who knows where? They say that elephants never forget.

 A Barbary sheep. As I mentioned in my initial blog, the grounds of the Toronto Zoo are huge and so there is room for imaginative 'creations' to the landscape. The Barbary sheep is standing on the man made 'mountain' - as are the aoudads in the following photo.

The above photo is of a dhole - I cannot remember of which continent it is a native. I believe that it is a member of the canine family.  

All along the east side of the zoo grounds are large paddocks. The following are photos of some of the animals who live there.

This is an oryx.

A bactrian camel. Camel rides are available at the zoo - mostly for children.

Where Santa leaves his reindeer during the off season!

Barbary apes which live around Gibraltar - the only members of the primates native to Europe.

Przelawski horses - native to Poland. As you can appreciate from this photo - they have a fairly large pasture in which to roam and graze.

This is a snow leopard - native to Siberia. Sometimes the animals are just too pooped to pose!

Macaque monkey - native of Japan.

Sumatran tiger

Cheetah - the fastest creature on earth - isn't it?

King and Queen of the zoo

From the rear end it is hard to decipher whether this is a rhino or a hippo!

A giraffe of course!

Mother Orangutan and baby

Playful gorillas

Those two were having too much fun for there to be only one photo!

  An ostrich - what else?

A llama


I have no idea as to the name of this strange bird!

There are many many more animals than the ones which I have depicted and it would take many albums to show them all.

One of my visits to the zoo was when "The Lion King" was a huge hit. I walked through the African pavilion behind a woman and her young son. The meerkat and the warthog enclosures were virtually across the way from each other and, at each exhibit, she sang the song associated with those animals in the show.

If you should come to Toronto for a visit, I will be happy to go to the zoo with you!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Toronto Zoo - Part 1

I must confess to being conflicted . I love animals and I enjoy seeing them - but I am becoming more and more bothered by zoos. Early on the Toronto Zoo was a relatively small grouping of animals kept in an enclosure in a park located in the Cabbagetown neighborhood of the city. About 30 years ago the GTA gained ownership of a number of acres in the Rouge River Valley located in the eastern part of the suburban Scarborough area. When I moved here in 1989 the new Toronto Zoo was open and operating and it was - and is - magnificent. Many of the animals are kept in spacious paddocks and each of the geographical areas of the world has its own huge climatically controlled facility where the proper foods are prepared, nurseries are established and folk can view God's creatures in conditions as near as possible to the area from where they originated. Also, the display areas have not remained static but have been renewed and updated.

The photos that I am using to illustrate this blog were taken - largely by myself - during a number of visits over the years.  By the way, not owning an automobile and depending upon public transit, a trip to the zoo takes about 90 minutes in each direction.

                                                  Komodo Dragon - Australasia

My last visit there was during a visit by Ric in April 2010. At that time, the arctic exhibit had just been renovated while the African Pavilion was undergoing renovations. The following photos are just a sample of the large number that I have. Upon entering the grounds of the zoo one of the nearest groupings is  Australasia  and, next to it, is the Arctic tundra area. Those areas are where this tour begins.


                                                                  Tree Kangaroo

Next to the Australasia exhibit is the newly renovated Arctic tundra exhibit. When we finished looking around there Ric commented, "This is the most unzoo zoo that I have seen!"

                                                                 Arctic Fox


                                                                    Arctic Wolf

                                                                Snowy Owl        


                                                                     Polar Bear

                                           Other American  Wildlife includes a Wild Turkey


                                                     Woodchuck (aka 'Groundhog')

                                                                    Canada Lynx

                                                             Cougar (aka 'Puma')



Before closing this section I will warn of adult content. It was April 16 when Ric and I visited the zoo in 2010. Because of getting up and out late - plus the long transit ride to the zoo - it was late afternoon and the gates would close at 6:00 PM so I suggested that we cut short our visit. However, Ric wanted to see a grizzly bear. The Canadian exhibit is down in the bottom of the  Rouge Valley - quite a hike from where we were so I suggested that we skip that part? No way! So down the long roadway we went, At the bottom we made a u-turn towards the grizzly exhibit but no animals were in sight. Just as we were about to depart a grizzly sow came lumbering around the corner at the far end. Behind her came the huge boar with mating on his mind. Part way towards us he mounted her but that did not work. She continued ambling in our direction and he mounted her again completing the act to our utter astonishment. These are the two photos which I took. 

We are very curious to know if we witnessed an actual impregnation but know of no way to satisfy our curiosity.

I will continue with blogs about the Toronto Zoo.