Albion Falls and Buttermilk Falls along the Bruce Trail

Today we decided to hike the sidetrail of the Bruce that takes you past Albion Falls and Buttermilk Falls. We had already hiked the Bruce proper through the King’s Forest but wanted to do this stretch just to see the falls.

Problems at the Falls

In our hike last month we had passed the Red Hill Creek that this waterfall feeds. I wanted to go up river, towards where I knew the waterfall was, but there were signs posted for $10 000 fines if you passed a certain point. This time round there were signs posted everywhere at the top of the waterfalls too.

After doing a bit of research I soon found out why. While trying to take pictures, or just exploring the falls, several people have been seriously injured or died. In one incident last year 1 man died and 2 people needed to be rope-rescued by firefighters. It can take up to 30 firefighters, a dozen EMS workers and police officers, four hours to conduct a single rope rescue. Each rescue costs the city roughly $5 000.

So understandably you can’t get very close to any of the Falls in Hamilton any more.  I had seen so many cool pictures of people right under Albion Falls. We, however, enjoyed them from afar.

Albion Falls

Albion Falls Hamilton Ontario
Albion Falls, Hamilton Ontario

Other than being the second worst falls in Hamilton for people injuring themselves at, its a pretty straightforward 19 m cascade waterfall. I think it would be better right after some rain or during early spring with all of the snow starting to melt.

You get good views from both platforms, albeit a little far away.  There are benches if you want to sit and relax and enjoy a cup of tea. I wish I had my other camera and my zoom lens for a better shot, but phone camera it was.

Map of trails around Albion and Buttermilk Falls
Map of trails around Albion and Buttermilk Falls

The sidetrail continues past Albion Falls, along the top of the Escarpment, to Buttermilk Falls.

Buttermilk Falls

Unfortunately this falls was a let down. It wasn’t really flowing at the time and because of some serious overgrowth you couldn’t see much of it.

Buttermilk Falls Hamilton Ontario
Buttermilk Falls

Possibly with more rain or spring runoff there would be a better falls but I don’t think this one is worth making a special trip for.

The Bruce Trail Iroqouia Section: Buttermilk Falls to Kennilworth Stairs

This part of our hike included a sidetrail to get onto the Bruce Trail Iroqouia section from Buttermilk falls. You’ll see the blue blazes showing the trail from the Falls that leads through the woods along the top of the escarpment running parallel to Mountain Brow Blvd.  You’ll hit a crossroads which directs you left, to the Rail Trail, or right, down the escarpment and meeting up with the Bruce. This is the trail we were following when the rain caught us and we turned back, not knowing how close we were.

Bruce trail sidetrail near Mountain Brow Blvd.
Heading down the Escarpment

At the base of the escarpment the trail comes out of the forest and into open meadow running along the King’s Forest Golf Course border.

Sunny open stretches running beside the King’s Forest Golf Course
Sumac thicket

Wildflowers and Mushrooms

This section of the trail had an abundance of wildflowers and butterflies, especially in the sunny areas. We saw swallowtails as well as tiny blue butterflies/moths. I thought they would be easy to identify but there are several small blue guys in Ontario so I’ll have to try and get a picture for a better identification. There are about 750 species of butterflies recorded in Canada.  Each time we head out there’s something new to discover.

greater celandine, spreading dogbane, wild grape, herb robert
1) Greater celandine, Chelidonium majus 2) Spreading dogbane, Apocynum androsaemifolium L. 3) Wild grape, Vitis riparia 4) Herb robert, Geranium Robertianum
1) Alsike clover, Trifolium hybridium L. 2) Common Fleabane, Erigeron philadelphicus 3) Wild phlox, Phlox divaricata 4) Unsure? Milkweed or Joe Pye weed possibly
1) Viper’s Bugloss, Echium vulgare 2) Black Locust, Robinia pseudoacacia 3) Wild Violet, Viola odorata 4) Wild Columbine, Aquilegia canadensis
Top left clockwise to bottom left 1) Possibly Fairy Ring Mushroom 2) Unsure 3) Unsure 4) Possibly Ink cap or Shaggy Mane 5) Unsure

There’s quite a bit of red, iron rich, soil exposed here, giving the Red Hill Valley its name.

So Many Stairs

This route continues to run parallel to Mountain Brow Blvd, and part of the Rail Trail, with stairs leading up or down in a couple places accessing Greenhill and Fennel Ave. As we rounded the Escarpment heading northwest we hit our first set of stairs at the Kennilworth Access.

Kennilworth Access – 387 stairs
Panorama from the stairs

At this point the trail runs high enough to get an overview of King Street East.

Books I Want to Read

Monarchs and Milkweed: A Migrating Butterfly, A Poisonous Plant and Their Remarkable Story of Coevolution by Anurag Agrawal

The Monarch: Saving Our Most-Loved Butterfly by Kylee Baumle

Part 2 Kennilworth Stairs to Cliffview Park

RBG Laking Garden Irises and Peonies

We went to see the Laking Garden irises this morning, not realizing it was going to be so hot. Why do I never check the weather?

RBG Laking Garden entrance

It was 31 degrees in the shade, my friends, and the Laking Garden is laid out like an English garden – very open and very sunny!


RBG Laking Garden knot hedges

But it was beautiful!!!

Tree Peonies

We knew the irises were blooming but were completely surprised by the tree peonies. The front entrance was covered with pink, white, red, and yellow blooms.

Tree peonies RBG Laking Garden RBG Laking Garden tree peonies

Irises

The irises blew us away. Everyone’s used to the typical purple variety found in most gardens but the colors here were incredible. The collection contains at least 1068 types of iris of which over 600 are of the tall bearded class. The Tall Bearded collection shows breeding trends from the 1920’s to the present day featuring both heritage and modern cultivars. There are also Standard Dwarf Bearded irises and Intermediate Bearded Iris.

Irises at the RBG Laking GardenRBG Laking Garden irisesRBG Laking Garden irises spring 2018

You will also find Siberian, Spuria and a modest selection of Species Iris. The genus Iris  is thought to contain up to 300 species of which nearly all are distributed in temperate Northern hemisphere zones. They are found mainly in semi-desert or cold rocky mountainous areas of Eurasia and Asia but can also be found along grassy slopes, meadowlands and riverbanks. The Blue Flag Iris is a native wildflower of Ontario and grows in wet areas.

RBG Laking Garden irisesIrises are named for the Greek goddess of the rainbow

There were also some nice shady sections in the garden to escape the heat. It looks like the hostas here will be quite lovely this summer.

Pagoda behind the peonies at the RBG Laking Garden Hostas in the shade at the RBG Laking Garden Trails at the RBG Laking Garden

Marsh Wren at Bull’s Point

A sighting for a marsh wren popped up at Bull’s Point in the RBG Cootes Paradise Sanctuary so Josh and I decided to try and see it.

Bull's Point Trail, Cootes Paradise, Hamilton

Unfortunately it was a little late in the day and very hot so most of the birds were pretty quiet. Marsh wrens sing more often at dawn and dusk.  We did see a caspian tern, mute swan, and heard a virginia rail.  Along the walk we heard several warblers and had a lovely close sighting of an indigo bunting.

The Birds of Cootes Paradise Marsh, Hamilton

The Marsh Wren at Cootes Paradise

Marsh wrens nesting at Bull’s Point is an indicator of the marshes good health. Restoration efforts, including keeping carp out of the bay, have helped to increase the vegetation required for these birds. RBG staff also try to increase the native species by planting seedlings and fencing off certain areas to protect fragile plant life.

RBG Cootes Paradise Sanctuary, Hamilton

The boardwalk through the Marsh is an excellent spot to try to see the wrens. Because they spend the majority of their time in the cattails, being a ground forager, getting above them gives you a better chance of a sighting.

Marsh Walk, Cootes Paradise, Hamilton

They have more than 50 variations to their song and some males will sing right though the night.

Birding on the Marsh Walk trail, Cootes Paradise, Hamilton

Trail system RBG Cootes Paradise Sactuary

If you would like to hear the Marsh Wren’s song and see pictures of it check out BirdNote’s page here.

 

What’s blooming now at the Arboretum? Lilacs

There are so many beautiful lilacs blooming at the Royal Botanical Gardens Arboretum today. If only pictures could smell!

Katie Osborne Lilac Collection

This collection is named after the wife of Colin Osborne as a memoriam.  There are over 745 plants in the dell and surrounding area making it one of the more diverse lilac collections in the world. Thanks to the informative displays we learned that around 21 different species occur in the wild, originating in Asia and Europe. All those lovely lilacs I saw as a child growing “wild” in the ditches are offspring of imported plants.

Press on any picture to see the full size image.

Color classification is established by the Wister Code, named after John Wister. The color catagories are

  • I. White
  • II. Violet
  • III. Blueish
  • IV. Lilac
  • V. Pinkish
  • VI. Magenta
  • VII. Purple

The flowers are also classified as either Single – with four petals, or, Double – with more than four petals.

So my classification for the lilac below would be D3 (Double, blueish). I’m probably wrong though.

Double blueish lilac at the Katie Osborne Collection, Hamilton

Purple cut leaf lilac at RBG Arboretum, Hamilton
Cut Leaf Lilac

The Cut Leaf Lilac is an unusual variety that I had never seen before. I loved the airy nature of the plant compared to the typical dense lilac bush.

Breeders like Victor Lemoine, Manitoba-born Frank Leith Skinner, and Canada’s first female hybridizer, Isobella Preston, have all contributed to the wide variety of bloom size, shape, color, and, of course, scent. The dell was incredible today with the symphony of colored blossoms and individual perfumes.

More information about color classification and identification can be found on the Royal Botanical Garden website.

Red Hill Trail from Mud Street

This morning was misty and wet from all of the rain the night before. Later on there’s the chance of rolling thunderstorms and … more rain.  We hoped to hike a stretch of the Red Hill Trail to the Bruce trail before we got soaked.

Red HIll Valley trail view

The mud along the Red Hill Trail is sticky and slick. Hikers should be extra careful after it’s rained. We noticed many that were out had poles to stabilize themselves.

Decent on Red Hill Valley trail

The trees looked extra moody with a slick of rain on them. This misty light made the green of the new leaves really pop.

Rain wet tree

Once we got down the first hill the terrain leveled out. The trail follows alongside the creek that Albion Falls cascades into. There are several little waterfalls along the route.

Waterfalls, Hamilton Waterfalls, Red Hill Valley Trail

Erosion along the creek bed has left the roots of the trees exposed. Its a reminder of the communication network hidden beneath the soil. Suzanne Simard does an excellent TED talk explaining how trees communicate.

tree roots along Red HIll Valley trail

mini waterfalls along creek

Birding

No trip along any of the trails is complete without a little birding. We had a perfect sighting of an indigo bunting. They are such stunning birds!

birding hamilton, along the bruce trail

It’s amazing how many of the creatures inhabiting the forest, not 10 feet from us, are completely unknown to us. The more we get to know the plants and birds and butterflies the more in awe we are.

There is so much to see if we just decide to look.

Bruce trail in King's Forest

Our intentions were to get to the Escarpment Rail Trail parking sidetrail and take the Mountain Brow side trail back. This meant a nice loop where we would get to see Buttermilk and Albion Falls. Not having a phone with data on it meant we didn’t realize we were almost there when the rain came. We turned around instead and hightailed it back to the car, making it just in time. Heavy rain poured down on us as we drove home.

red hill valley trail to bruce trail

Bruce Trail Invasive Species

We have loved being within walking distance of the Bruce Trail.

stretch of the Bruce Trail
The Bruce Trail app

 

When we first were looking at it I really wanted to thru hike it a la Big Three – the Appalchian, Pacific Crest or Continental Divide hikes.  There’s something so lovely about the idea of just walking for months on end.  Ok, maybe you don’t agree with me, but I’m serious. Unfortunately life kind of gets in the way.

So we’ve been doing the Bruce in stretches because something is better that nothing. There are so many beautiful and interesting things along the way. But there were quite a few things we were unaware of and didn’t expect.

Invasive Species

I was surprised at how many people who live along the Bruce Trail just dump their lawn clippings and thinned out garden plants along the trail. They’re probably thinking that its all plant life and its nature so it doesn’t really matter. But unfortunately this had contributed to the rise of invasive species along the trail systems.

invasive species vinca, greater periwinkle
Invasive Periwinkle along the Red Hill Valley side trails

Periwinkle (vinca minor) has a lovely purple flower and is an excellent spreading ground cover in your garden.  But it is also miraculously resilient. When you decide you don’t like how much its spreading and throw it in the woods it just keeps on groing in its new habitat. English ivy and gout weed will do the same thing.

What can you do about these invasive species?

Effective management of invasive species does not include chucking them in the woods. In most cases, if you don’t have time for intensive management, it’s better not to plant them at all.

Instead you can purchase native or non invasive species. These will grow better and support the local habitat instead of destroying it.

Also if you find invasive species on your hikes you can report it using the Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711. Or use the app EDDMapS Ontario.

 

P.S. If you want to read an incredibly lovely blog about thru hiking the Hayduke Trail grab your warm beverage of choice, find a comfy spot, and start at the beginning of Catherine Cook’s adventure here.

P.P.S. Her post on the pole of relative inaccessibility was mind widening and unforgotten.

Bruce Trail from Felker’s Falls

We did a small stretch of the Bruce trail this afternoon.

Bruce Trail maker, sign, badge

We started at the Felker’s Falls entrance. There’s a parking lot there for anyone who needs to drive here. Fortunately we’re close enough to walk.

Felkers Falls

Wildflowers

There were so many spring wildflowers blooming along the way.

spring wildflowers along the Bruce trail

Violets, apple blossoms and trilliums were everywhere. There are also quite a few I don’t know so I’m going to have to find out what they are. We also saw a coyote maybe 50 feet away from us, and he was beautiful.

Woodland and Kippax Gardens

Kippax Garden

Virginia bluebells were everywhere.

This garden opened in 2008 when more than 14,000 perennials and grasses were planted. Helen M. Kippax, the garden’s namesake, was one of the founding members of the Canadian Society for Landscape Architecture.

It is a display of the beauty and sustainability of native plants including more than 130 native species. The design, inspired by local plant communities such as prairie, oak savanna, Carolinian forest, and wetland pond sits on about one acre. Instead of individual plants the focus is on plant communities and a more sustainable approach to garden layout.

virginia bluebells in the Helen M. KIppax garden

Woodland Garden

From the Kippax Garden you can enter the Woodland Garden.

paperbark maple in the morrison woodland garden RBG
Paperbark Maple

There is one particularly stunning magnolia tree in the middle of the Morrison Woodland Garden. It was exploding with blooms.

Magnolia at RBG

Helleborus in the Morrison Woodland Garden
Helleborus
starbust magnolia in the Morrison Woodland garden
Starburst Magnolia

There were also some incredible tulips in the scented garden.

tulips in the scented garden RBG lost a tree at RBG Magnolia in the Morrison Woodland Garden tulips at RBG

Unfortunately RBG lost some beautiful pine trees in a recent windstorm. They were huge and wonderful, and now only one is left.

Cherry Blossoms and Magnolias at RBG

We found a profusion of magnolia blooms at the RBG Arboretum today.

Bugs on magnoliasMagnolias at RBG ArboretumRBG Arboretum Cherry Blossoms and Magnolias

The cherry blossoms weren’t at their peak by the time we came. Someone mentioned that with all the wind and rain they didn’t last as long this year.

Cherry blossoms at the RBG Arboretum

There were also three different colors of Eastern Redbud blooming. It is considered a native species because of one recorded observation on the south end of Pelee Island in 1892 by the Canadian botanist John Macoun. The species name, canadensis, is the Latin form of Canadian.

Redbud trees blooming at the RBG Arboretum

The Starburst magnolias are definitely our new favorites. This species was introduced to the United States in 1862 by Dr. George Robert Hall. It comes from the Ise Bay area of central Honshū, Japan’s largest island. It has a much more delicate flower that some of the other larger, showy, pink blooms.

Starburst Magnolia

There are also two lovely sycamore trees that have huge branches dipping down and touching the ground. This American sycamore is from the 1940’s when the arboretum was opened.

There is a sycamore tree in Windsor that is 225 years old, with branches that are 120 years old. It has been recognized as an Ontario Heritage Tree. Some sycamores have been known to live 500-600 years.

Forests Ontario has an interactive map where you can search Heritage Trees all over Ontario.