The East Don Trail goes by a few names, each having something to do with its layered history. Entering from Wynford Drive, the path begins with a long corridor and a steep enough descent.
It’s not long before a railroad – the Canadian National Railway, to be specific – runs its course overhead. Under it, there’s an installation by Robert Sprachman entitled ‘High Water Mark’ which presents a message about the Don’s changing water levels over the years.
Not a short while later, another towering railway intersects the way. This is the Canadian Pacific Railway. It’s the same one that stretches to British Columbia and the same one that was promised to the province in exchange for joining Confederation. It started operation in Toronto in 1884. On the other side, there’s some more art.
Past those, there’s a man made wetland. I’ve seen them in other Toronto ravines. They’re meant to ranaturalize the spaces with birds and other wildlife.
Speaking of, as I’m examining it, a smiling traveler alerts me that it’s my lucky day: the heron is out! I have a long look at the spot he points me to, but there’s no heron. Darn.
The path splits off and I make a left, passing a bridge over looking the Don. This leads to the famed Rainbow Tunnel, a Toronto landmark in my eyes. Anyone that uses this stretch of the Don Valley Parkway, which opened here in the 1960s, knows the Rainbow Tunnel.
The inside is immaculately painted with streetscape and winter scenery.
There’s a second tunnel too that passes under the DVP, although this one is less ornate. It does offer some political insights, though.
Past the tunnel is the Moccasin Trail. I’m not sure about its naming, but it’s here I pause to have my lunch as I watch as joggers traverse the path.
Circling back under the tunnels and over the bridge to where I came from, there’s a staghorn sumac to greet me.
As the path curves with the river on one side and fortifying armor stone on the other, this might be a good time to mention that the East Don Trail bookends the Charles Sauriol Conservation Area, a natural preserve that stretches from Lawrence Avenue to the Forks of the Don.
Its namesake was a fierce environment advocate who actually had a cottage at The Forks. Sauriol’s story and the grand story of the Don is recounted in excellent detail in Reclaiming the Don by Jennifer Bonnell, which is a 2015 Heritage Toronto Award recipient. (And while I’m plugging books, Jason Ramsay-Brown’s Toronto Ravines has a great chapter on the East Don Trail.)
A highlight of the trail is a tranquil little rest stop overlooking a pond. There’s a couple of few bird-themed markers leading up to it.
To add to the name game, this part of the East Don Trail is known as Milne Hollow or Milneford Mills, a one-time 19th century industrial community. Two Heritage Toronto plaques tell the story of the area’s rise & fall.
My mind draws comparisons to Todmorden Mills further down the river. It too was a former industrial community with mills running along the Don. Both sites have been renaturalized too. But whereas (some of) Todmorden’s structures survive, there’s practically nothing left of Milne Hollow.
A short while later, at the end of the trail, a long green pathway leads to the Milneford farmhouse, one of the last historical remnants of Milne Hollow. It’s looking worse for wear, and, because of it, is surrounded by chain-link fence. The Gothic Revival house dates back to about 1865 and is undergoing restoration (I hope). Perhaps its new life will it see as a community museum, in the same vein as Todmorden Mills.
Old Lawrence Avenue winds up to the main street and is my exit point on this hike. This excellent Urban Toronto piece recounts its past as the original route of Lawrence Avenue, including the original bridge that spanned the Don.
Note: These adventures were had late September.
3 thoughts on “Scenes From East Don Trail”
Great to see your account of a trail I also love, adding your perceptions & info to my own. (I swear, one of these days we’ll smack into each other, walking the same path at the same time…)
Stranger things have happened…I’ll keep my eyes on the lookout! Thanks for reading.