Friday, October 21, 2016

Perpetual autumn

The slowness with which autumn announces itself has always been a source of comfort for me.  As someone who resists most sources of change, the gradual transition from summer into fall is appreciated.  Leaves change colour slowly; fall one at a time.  The temperatures drop gradually, and the transition feels almost seamless.

Restoule Provincial Park
There are a lot of emotions associated with autumn.  In Western societies it is tied with new beginnings - new school year, new clothes, new life adventures.  I used to always be excited for the beginning of fall - it seemed to be the one time in the year where changes were welcome; expected.  even outside of school, autumn seems to have always brought life changes: new jobs, new choirs, new homes.

This time of year is not devoid of reflection, though, and this year I seem to feel it more poignantly.  I've been reflecting on relationships and friendships that have faded.  I have been framing my particular life as sort of a perpetual autumn - the springs of new growth and opportunities and summers of full friendships and adventures inevitably lead to fading and changes.  Very little, however much I love and am fulfilled by it, seems to remain for any significant length of time.

These losses necessarily bring sadness - as if I woke up one day and all the leaves had fallen off the trees over night.  (But really I just perhaps wasn't paying attention).

But sadness is not always bad.  It is what I weave into my singing, my work, my words, my art.  I have learned to embrace it, instead of fight against it.  I have learned sadness is not something to necessarily fear.  It is a journey.  And sometimes there are new springs and summers on the other side of that journey.

In the meantime, I go on autumn adventures.  Ontario is a beautiful place to explore, and even if you never leave this province, you still won't have time to experience all of its magic.

Every fall, I go on many autumn road trips.  There's a lot of spectacular places to be discovered just an hour or two out of Toronto.  Recently we drove up to the Cheltenham Badlands.  This beautiful feature of the landscape is actually the result of human activity (over-farming).  This kind of geologic area is rare, especially in Ontario, and is under protection.  Fences have recently been erected around the area, and police often patrol the road that goes by it, preventing people from stopping the way they used to.

However, if you're up for a 20 minute walk, the Badlands can easily be seen by parking your car on the side of Chinguacousy Road (we used the part of it that is north of Old Baseline Road) and walking back down to the Badlands.  (There is also a small area of exposed badlands along this road as well).
Chinguacousy Road

Cheltenham Badlands

From the Ontario Trails website: “Badlands” is a geologic term for an area of soft rock devoid of vegetation and soil cover that has become molded into a rolling landscape of rounded hills and gullies.  Such areas are rare in Ontario and this is one of the best examples. They exhibit the reddish hue of the Queenston Shale that forms them; the iron oxide in the shale produces this colour. The narrow greenish bands that can be seen throughout the shale are due to the change of red iron oxide to green iron oxide brought on by the circulating groundwater.

Forks of the Credit Provincial Park
One of the loveliest drives in autumn that is relatively close to Toronto is Forks of the Credit Road.  This windy road goes through gorgeous trees of all kinds of changing colours.  If you want more of a walk, get off at the similarly named Provincial Park.  If you're lucky, you'll still find some wild apples on the trees along the trails.  Even in the rain, it can be a beautiful place to visit.

Higher Ground Coffee
After your drive and/or hike in the Forks of the Credit area, don't forget to make a stop at Higher Ground Coffee - a cute little coffee shop with delicious baked goods and plenty of coffee, tea, and hot chocolate options.  The seating and art are cozy and welcoming.
Higher Ground Coffee

Other places that I really love exploring are old cemeteries.  Ontario has so many of them, little plots tucked away on side country roads.  The one pictured below was especially curious - all from the 1800's, mostly very young children or infants.


And then, of course, there's fall camping.  You can use this handy website to watch the fall colours report across the province, and plan your hiking or camping accordingly.  This year, we tried out Silent Lake, and were not disappointed.  They do canoe rentals right up until Thanksgiving long weekend, and the paddling is simply spectacular.  The sweetly named lakes (Silent Lake, Second Silent Lake, Quiet Lake, and Lost Lake) live up to their names (no motorized watercraft is allowed here) and you can paddle the day away to your heart's content.

The drive to Silent Lake

 And of course, what would an autumn adventure be without delicious harvest food?  During one of our road trips, we stopped at Spirit Tree Estate Cidery and purchased pumpkin bread, pumpkin scones, apple-cinnamon buns, butter tarts, pumpkin beer, and some pork-apple burgers to barbecue back home, so we could take a little of autumn home with us.
Neat sink/tap in their bathroom

I always make a point to immerse myself in autumn this way.  Embrace the falling leaves, the end of harvest, the misty days.  Despite the accompanying myriad of feelings, this slow tumble into winter is one of my favourite times of year.


  1. It all looks so beautiful. And those pork-apple burgers sound delicious!

    The kids and I visited the Badlands in South Dakota in June 2015. It was our first stop at a national park on our big road trip out west (of Ohio). Nathan and I loved it. Ash... no so much (it was hot and she stayed in the air conditioned car). But it was indeed beautiful and colorful, like your pictures. I had no idea why they called them badlands. We visited, walked around, took pictures, but in general didn't read signs or take tours. So, your explanation of the colors was interesting! :)

    1. They were very delicious indeed - topped with thin apple slices, cheddar, and shallots. Divine! I'd love to see other badlands in other places. Really a cool feature. It's like looking at another planet!