The Journey is the Point

Like me, Daegan loves exploring. While mine often is on a larger scale, by bicycle, or even planes and trains, his preference is to look at the world through a macro lens, carefully exploring by foot, the forests and ravines surrounding our own neighbourhood. Often, on his walks he’ll find signs of previous occupation: a dump filled with bottles from the 1930’s, an abandoned cabin, a stone fireplace standing alone in a forest. And then, after that he returns home and tries to find his discoveries on aerial photographs from the 1940’s and 1950’s.

On Sunday we have a plan to go together to explore the ravine. The ravine extends for several kilometres in every direction so we have a lot of choices. Finally, I have an idea. We need a destination and food always provides a good one. Several kilometres to the east of here is a place that is known for their many varieties of delicious samosas. Looking at the maps, it seems that if we navigate properly we can get within a 15 minute walk of the store by walking through the ravine. It’s settled then. We have a plan – and out the door we go.

There are several “official” ways to get in the ravine – paths and roads entering the park with clear signage. But Daegan’s been going there for quite some time and knows other ways as well. And so, after crossing over a bridge, we crawl through a hole cut into a chain link fence next to it, slide down the steep embankment and are soon on a narrow path.

In addition to the paved paths in the ravine popular with many cyclists and runners, there are many more kilometres of mountain biking trails like this one used by mountain bikers, hikers, and trail runners. I know this particular trail, having run on it myself just a few days before.

The trail takes us along the side of the hill, parallel to the river until it eventually turns downward in to the bottom of the ravine and to one of the paved paths. This one will take us across the river and the railroad tracks and eventually get us to a path that will take us to Scarborough, the next borough over where we will find our snack.

It’s not as easy as it looked sitting at my desk looking at maps, though. We make some false starts down several trails before heading back next to the rail line where we find a site partially blocked off for construction where a new bridge has been installed and a gravel road waits for asphalt to be applied, no doubt after the pandemic is behind us. We see a few people taking the bridge and heading north along the new path and as it heads in the general direction we’re wanting to go, we decide to join them.

As a fence blocks off the front of the bridge, only a few cyclists bother to haul their bikes around the bridge support to get on to it and so there are very few cyclists riding along the path. And so we have the path mostly to ourselves. In the distance we can hear the highway and a bit of city sounds but we can also hear lots of birds and even a few insects. On our right side is a steep hill leading up to a distant residential neighbourhood. On our left is the Don River and beyond that another hill leading up to another neighbourhood.

Soon the gravel road peters out and we lose the trail. It’s not clear where it goes so we follow a narrow footpath to a nearby train trestle. A path leads under the bridge but that ends. Another path leads over the tracks and we follow it on to another mountain bike trail. We pass a few folks, mostly families exploring the trail on mountain bikes before realizing that we were lost. Consulting the map I see we turned the wrong way at the railroad trestle. So back we go through the trees and back to the trestle.

Daegan looks at the map on my phone and decides that we need to cross the trestle and so we make our way across. The train line is almost completely unused as the commuter trains that run on it barely run on weekends anyway – and that was before the pandemic when their frequency was significantly reduced.

We cross the bridge, looking down between the railroad ties at the river below. The wooden path on the right is sturdy and we feel completely safe. The railing, on the other hand, appears to be more for show as the wood has almost completely rotted.

On the other side we struggle with the maps some more finally deciding to turn up the very steep hill next to the tracks. At the top we find another mountain bike path and a lovely view.

Back in to the forest we go to a path that goes parallel to the rail line, winking in and out of existence. Eventually there is just a barely visible depression in a field of tall grass and flowers that suggests a path.

Having lost the path we look around to see if there’s any other option to bring us toward our goal. Finally we see a small path leading back down to the railroad tracks and so we follow them for a while. And then, after about ten minutes of walking we see a road heading off to the east. This is likely the road we were waiting for and so we head toward it only to find the way blocked by a seven foot high chain link fence whose gate is chained and padlocked shut. This one is quite new and has no holes cut in it for easy passage. We see that a sign is visible on the other side and, opening the gate as much as the chain allows we see two signs. The first is a sign telling people to keep out (oops! There were no signs or fences where we went down to the tracks!) and another with a phone number for a suicide crisis hotline indicating a sadder reason why someone might find themselves on our side of the fence.

Not wanting to go back, Daegan sees that the bottom of the fence is relatively high. As he’s thin, he lies on his back and pulls himself under, getting back up on the other side and brushing the dirt off his jacket. Even if I were thin enough that looked a bit claustrophobic and so I go the other way. I toss my backpack over to Daegan and then scale the fence, jumping down on the other side. And now we’re on the side of the fence where we want to be – and the signs also want us to be.

Now we’re on a proper road that leads up out of the ravine. Near the top we find ourselves in a construction site with massive earth moving machines and huge dump trucks. On one side is a large chain link fence with three rows of barbed wire on the top. I worry that we may have to backtrack again if we’re unlucky as neither of us is going to get over the barbed wire easily.

As we go further, another fence appears on the right. This one encloses a massive power substation humming with energy. That direction is out as well. If there’s a locked gate at the end of this road we’ll need to turn back.

Fortunately, though, we are lucky and soon find ourselves back in civilization on the road we were aiming for just a few blocks north of where I thought we would be. No problem, we head toward our destination.

Finally, we make it to our destination.

There’s a lineup outside when I arrive and it takes a bit to actually get to order. Inside there are several different varieties waiting in a hot table. I order twelve samosas (6 veg, 6 non-veg), and two cold drinks and am really surprised to pay $18. But perhaps it will be worth it. And so, Daegan and I take our snack to a shady spot under a nearby tree where we sample them.

The verdict? OK. Just OK. As you can see they are relatively small, and even a little overdone. Filling was a bit skimpy and not so flavourful. At nearly $1 per samosa I was pretty disappointed in the quality. But having walked most of the afternoon, we both found them satisfying though I think we were happier with the cold drinks than anything. My feeling is that, in the end, these were far inferior to the 3 for $1 veggie samosas you can find at the mithai shop literally across the street from our apartment.

In the end, though, it should be as clear to you as it is to us. This trip was only ‘going for samosas’ in name. Its purpose was exploration and that was a raging success. As we walk home we talk about how we did the same sort of thing in New York City. We walked from Brooklyn to Queens to get to an Indian restaurant only to find that it didn’t look good at all when we arrived. However the trip itself was fantastic. We resolve to find some more great destinations in the future to lead us on more adventures.

For the curious, here is the route we ended up taking – 16 km or a little over 10 miles. Click on the photo for more details.

14 thoughts on “The Journey is the Point

    1. Thanks! I’m really amazed at how accessible nature is from here. If I traveled the same distance southwest of here I would be in the middle of the city.

      And yes – so expensive even for here. And not all that good either.

    1. Thanks! We’re lucky to have space like that so close by. And yeah – graffiti in natural spaces is generally not good – I do like coming across an interesting mural under a bridge now and again. But even with pieces like this one, it’s nice, but it would detract from the surroundings if the entire retaining wall along the several km of trail were like this.

  1. At some point I got really scared ………but realized that nothing worst will come up as you have written the post, means you are alive 😀
    Thanks God you were both safe.
    That samosa doesn’t look good, sorry to say that.

    1. Isn’t that funny how stories do that? I have that same experience in storytelling shows. Or when reading Trevor Noah’s book, “Born a Crime” in which very early on he talks about “that time my mother pushed me out of a moving car” and I got so worried even though clearly he is writing books and hosting TV shows to this very day!

      But really, we were always completely safe. We’re in one of the safest cities of its size in North America and even the trains have almost completely stopped running. So the worst thing we were at risk of was eating a disappointing samosa.

      Which, yes, no need to apologise – it really was not good. I realize now what it reminds me of: It is like one of those frozen snacks heated in the oven. But with enough imli sauce it was fine 😀 .

      But that’s an interesting thing about Canadians, I think. I notice that sometimes their preferences are not always for the best of any world’s cuisine. The pizza in Toronto is endlessly disappointing, the food in “Canadian-Chinese restaurants” is filled with sugar and bears no resemblance to what you might find in a more traditional Chinese restaurant. Indian food is hit and miss here. Downtown it is generally just OK. Spice/chilli levels are very low because many here can’t handle it. There’s more oil and the dishes are mostly the same. But venture out in to the suburbs where rents for restaurants are cheaper and there are more new Canadians and you’ll find things are totally different. “Sweet and Sour Chicken” is replaced by “Sichuan spicy boiled fish, and you can find undhiyu and bajra ki roti. And sometimes you’ll even find interesting combinations like “pav bhaji dosa”.

      So even though we have some poor quality restaurants trying to make something that appeals to as many people as possible we’ve also got enough people who have moved here from all different parts of the world that really delicious food from so many different countries is easy to find. (And for people like me who love to cook the grocery stores have the ingredients too!)

      Oh look at me – I almost wrote a whole other entry in this comment. 😀

    1. Yes – everything moved online for the end of the semester and it’s all done now. Next year it will likely be online as well – at least for the beginning. The nice thing is that May through August the government is giving all post-secondary students $1,250/month ($1,750 if you have dependents) to make up for the fact that part-time jobs will be more scarce. So that’ll help him quite a bit.

      He doesn’t post a lot online but sometimes here: https://www.instagram.com/daeganlunsfordofficial/?hl=en – and he sometimes does stories with some of his other artwork. For example, scratch board work is one of his biggest passions and it is really lovely. I hope he shares more of it online.

      1. Critiques must be challenging on line. Thanks for the Instagram. I am fascinated with scratch boards, but have only seen one at my grandchildren’s house.

      2. Fortunately there were only a couple left. I think they were all on Zoom and he adapted really well to it. Like us, I think he is having a similar time of being *more* socially active when it only takes getting on Zoom than when it took riding across town for an hour to meet someone for a coffee. It’s funny like that…

  2. Some memorable moments there with Daegan. I am sure you will recall these kind of days with utter fondness in your later years. I for one, would have loved to do something like that. Back in my hometown, I used to indulge in such activities along with my cousin, we still do it whenever I am there. But not to this extent as this is way more adventurous. Love Daegan’s spirit of exploring places by foot. And, the rewards are the interesting discoveries he makes.

    1. Definitely – we plan to do many more like this – especially as long-distance travel, even to far away towns in our own country or even province is still a far-away thought.

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