How the Halton Parks 150 Hiking Challenge Made My Summer (1)

Since I moved to Oakville over two years ago, I’ve tried to take advantage of the great outdoors as much as I can. It helps that I live so close to Lake Ontario for lovely summer strolls. But I also discovered the Halton Parks, a collection of seven conservation areas along the Niagara Escarpment. A couple of my previous posts talked about my experiences at these parks, such as Hilton Falls and the Nassagaweya Canyon, and my newfound love for hiking. This year, they launched a hiking challenge (or trail running or mountain biking or rock climbing, depending on your sport of choice) called the Halton Parks 150, in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday. My quest to complete the challenge took over my summer… in a really positive way! Continue reading

Hiking the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail

This weekend, Joe and I took on our greatest hiking challenge yet: the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail. The trail connects Rattlesnake Point and Crawford Lake parks by leading you across the valley between them. The Conservation Halton website lists the trail as 7.2km one way — except you have to go back, too! It’s also the only trail on Halton’s roster with a “Difficult” rating. After all the hiking we’ve done over the past couple of years, and with a beautiful weekend ahead of us, it was time to take the plunge. Continue reading

5 Reasons to Love Fall

Fall is my favourite season. Hands down, no doubt about it. I know a lot of people associate fall with the stresses of returning to the daily grind, whether that’s school, work, or some other exhausting routine. But for me, the positives outweigh all of the downsides. So even if I’m jumping the gun a little bit, that’s why I get so excited when September rolls around!

Sweater Weather

Winter is freezing cold, spring is rainy and unpredictable, and summer is scorching hot and humid. Fall weather, especially early fall, can be refreshingly chilly and sunny — making it a perfect time to break out those sweaters I haven’t worn in months. I personally love the feeling of wearing light layers outdoors. Fall is also great for getting some outdoor exercise and sight-seeing (without getting too sweaty).

Energy and Anticipation

Whether or not you’re currently attending school, fall represents a second chance at a “new year”. With summer over, it’s a time to buckle down, reorganize your life, and focus on your priorities or create some new ones. I’ve found that the “back to school” buzz is what energizes me as I align myself with my goals for the season.

Fall Colours

I live in Ontario, Canada, which is known for its beautiful fall colours.

 5 Reasons to Love Fall - Fall Colours

 

It’s a great time for a hike to take in the natural sights!

The National Novel Writing Month

Let’s face it: in spite of the lovely weather and colours in September and October, the atmosphere in November is usually pretty dismal. So it’s a perfect time to hole up indoors and write a novel!

I’ve discussed the National Novel Writing Month before, and I definitely will again. As a brief summary, though: you write a 50,000-word novel in November. Simple, right? If you’ve ever wanted to write a book and just need a kick in the pants to get it done, NaNoWriMo is for you. Stay tuned for more posts on this writing marathon, and check out the website to sign up and access resources.

Pumpkin Spice Lattes!!!

…Just kidding.

As a devout Tim Hortons junkie (and employee), the Starbucks PSL doesn’t have a particular hold on me. However, hot drinks in general are a huge plus for me as the seasons change. When summer gets unbearably hot, I’ll partially transition to iced coffee or the occasional frappuccino (yes, that one’s from Starbucks). But it’s always half-hearted, and I can’t wait to warm my hands and my heart with tea, coffee, or espresso drinks.


In short, I am so glad it’s September, because it means fall is upon us!

What do you love about the autumn season?

3 Reasons Hiking is my Favourite Hobby for Exercise

Today I took what feels like a big step towards a balanced lifestyle: I officially purchased my Conservation Halton membership for the coming year. It covers admission to 7 large parks in my area, which are all great for hiking. The cost was just under 50 bucks, and it actually included a discount for new members that I hadn’t anticipated. It’s also good for a full year from the date of purchase, so my trip to Hilton Falls last week was just an added bonus!

It may not seem like much, but for me, it’s part of a journey to find a healthy hobby that I can stick to (maybe, sometimes). As you may know, when it comes to how I spend my personal time, I am both picky and a flake. It is extremely hard for me to motivate myself to do something “fun” when I no longer find it fun. The problem is that I will then gravitate towards the hobbies of lowest effort — namely, Netflix and eating. That’s not good, for obvious reasons. I’ve put some thought into why hiking is a great option for exercise and adventure.

Reason 1: Concrete Goals and Achievement

Now, I’ve mentioned that I do have a Fitbit, and while I have been making a conscious effort to get more steps in a given day, I’ve really struggled with getting out there and walking when there’s no destination in mind. Sure, I could walk around the block, but where’s the fun in that? For a while, I started coming up with actual errands I could run. That soon devolved into long walks for shopping and Tim Hortons. I do get exercise on those walks, but these destinations derail my other goals in terms of spending and eating habits, respectively. It comes down to my need for a real, tangible goal.

Luckily, I’ve found that hiking specified trails actually meets that need. Unlike neighbourhood walks, with their many routes and shortcuts and undefined length, trails are colour-coded and measured for you with ranges of difficulty. There’s also often a reward at the other end, such as a waterfall, in the case of my visit to Hilton Falls last weekend. This type of goal-setting is a lot healthier, I think, than going for a long walk to get a Pulled Pork sandwich from Tims. (I’m addicted, can you tell?)

Reason 2: No Expectations

Gyms scare me. I’ve been to the gym a grand total of, what, four times in my life, and I have no clue what to do there. Not only that, but honestly, the fear of comparison and judgment is crippling. The fact that you have to pay for them is an added barrier that helps me justify not going. I’ll admit, I do regret not taking advantage of the free gym membership that came with my tuition at Queen’s. Maybe someday I’ll conquer this fear…

 

I love that there is such a broad spectrum of people that go hiking. All ages, all levels of fitness, all walks of life. Of course, there are the hardcore hikers with their brand-name outfits and equipment, but I’ve never noticed a hierarchy in the Halton parks, especially with the numbers of families and young children out there every weekend. It’s immediately comfortable for anyone to start anywhere.

Reason 3: The Great Outdoors

First of all, there are the perks from being outside in general: sunshine, fresh air, relief from your stir-craziness. When you head a little further north (from the GTA, anyway) and check out a conservation area, you get the added benefits of exposure to wildlife, tranquil bodies of water, huge thriving forests, and other experiences you’re just not going to get at home. I mean, being able to feed a chickadee out of my hand at Hilton Falls made my weekend. I’m looking forward to seeing more, doing more, and learning more at Halton’s parks over the coming year.


I used my membership for the first time today by visiting Mountsberg Conservation Area, and, weather permitting, I’ll check out Crawford Lake next weekend.

How do you stay active?

hiking at hilton falls

One of my favourite things about living in Oakville, just west of Toronto, is the wide variety of outdoor spaces. Not only is Lake Ontario a literal five-minute walk from my house, but there are also a dozen parks and green spaces surrounding the suburbs, including seven Conservation Halton parks along the Niagara Escarpment. Up until today, I had only visited one of those seven parks. But today, Joe and I worked up the courage to get outdoors (for once) and go hiking at Hilton Falls!

hiking at hilton falls - breakfast

Tim Hortons = non-negotiable first stop.

It’s a pretty straightforward drive up to the park. And by straightforward, I mean that the directions are simple, not that the roads themselves are straight. Because they’re not, especially going up the Escarpment. If you’ve ever been up the side of a moderately big cliff, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

hiking at hilton falls - curve ahead

Yeah, no kidding.

Hilton Falls, like the rest of Conservation Halton’s parks, has a reasonable entrance fee. To our surprise, though, the fee included a little Ziploc bag of birdseed! Whatever could it be for? (Heavy foreshadowing.)

The park features a number of trails of varying lengths. We chose the one that led to the titular Hilton Falls, about 2 kilometers in. Piece of cake, right? Well… it seemed to have slipped my mind that while Oakville has no snow whatsoever in today’s 8ºC weather, other locations might not be so fortunate. In short, the paths were covered in slush and I was wearing the wrong shoes.

hiking at hilton falls - wet feet

Very sneaker. Many puddle. Wow.

My soaking wet feet put a damper on things, but not for long. Once we reached the top of the first ridge, Joe and I decided to test out the birdseed, first on the ground, and then even from our hands. And wouldn’t you know – it worked!

 hiking at hilton falls - joe's chickadee hiking at hilton falls - chickadee

Needless to say, I was quite thrilled by this discovery. It turns out that feeding the birds is one of the hallmarks of a visit to Hilton Falls. We even met a man halfway down the trail that had been feeding the birds and educating hikers about them for over a decade. He let us know that the birds are most active in winter, so if you want to experience this for yourself, keep that in mind.

Another highlight from our walk was another animal, though not the kind you would expect in a forest: the domestic rabbit! Who knew people take their rabbits hiking?

hiking at hilton falls - Emma the Rabbit

Friends, I’d like you to meet Emma the Rabbit! That’s one of her owners in the background.

The falls themselves ended up being mostly obscured by a layer of snow and ice, but you could still see and hear the water flowing beneath. It wasn’t that spectacular, truth be told, but the overall atmosphere was nice. The nearby picnic area and fire pit was a good place to kick back and relax before hiking back to the entrance of the park.

 hiking at hilton falls - waterfall hiking at hilton falls - fire

There were also a couple of water features that we saw on our way out, which, I imagine, would be very nice in the spring or summer.

 hiking at hilton falls - reservoir  hiking at hilton falls - creek

In all, we got two hours of fun, exercise, and new experiences for about the cost of a single movie ticket! It’s a great way to spend an afternoon. Our next step will be to buy the Conservation Halton membership — and to get me some hiking boots…

What are your favourite hiking spots?